Tag Archives: Sergei Prokofiev

REVIEW: Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Following on from the critically-acclaimed new work, The Red Shoes, Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures delve deep into the back catalogue to 1997 to revive their much-loved production of Cinderella.

Re-set to World War 2, Cinderella and her shell-shocked, RAF pilot beau, meet and part during the horrors of The Blitz. The familiar elements of the story remain: the ‘wicked’ step-mother and (not so wicked) step-sisters (with a few step-brothers thrown into the mix), and while there’s no Fairy Godmother, there’s the (somewhat malevolent) platinum-haired Angel, whose sinister presence punctuates the action. Instead of facilitating the fairy-tale ending, it feels more like manipulation. The setting, and Bourne’s handling of it, perfectly encapsulates the fragility of love during wartime.

As ever, Lez Brotherston’s design is stunning, from bombed out buildings, the London Underground, the (ball substitute) evening at The Café de Paris, The Embankment to Platform 12 at Paddington Station, each element is breath-taking. The limited colour palette of greys, and blacks is darkly atmospheric and draw the eye to key features of the narrative: Cinders pure white dress, the red cape of a Red Cross nurse, it is a masterpiece of theatre design. It perfectly reflects Britain in its ‘darkest hour’. Paul Groothuis’ sound and Neil Austin’s lighting design only add to the magic.

Sergei Prokofiev’s haunting score has been edited down in Acts 1 and 2, but remains intact for Act 3. The music written contemporary to Bourne’s re-setting of the story adds a dimension of authenticity to the production. The two together a match made in heaven. It just feels right, and draws on Bourne’s own love for classic black and white movies and their music.

As with much of Bourne’s work there’s always humour to light the darkness. Including the foot-fetishist step brother, and a myriad of tiny details in both setting and action, that will raise a smile.

It’s hard to find fault in any aspect of this production, the dancers led by Ashley Shaw and New Adventures favourite Dominic North as Cinders and her Prince, are exquisite and unlike many Ballet companies, their acting ability and deftness at conveying the emotions of the story, not only match their dancing abilities but are head and shoulders above their contemporaries. Liam Mower as always leaves his mark as the Angel, as does Anjali Mehra as Sybil the exquisitely clad and coiffed, Step Mother.

With the now legendary Swan Lake to tour again next year, one can only wait with bated breath to see what new adventures are next for Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures. As ever, there are never enough superlatives for this incomparable company – simply unmissable.

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: The Fiery Angel (Scottish Opera Sunday Series) – City Halls, Glasgow

Masochistic obsession, black magic, demons, mass possession, exorcism, skeletons, nuns, appearances from Faust and Mephistopheles, it’s no wonder Sergei Prokofiev’s The Fiery Angel, often called lurid and sensationalist, is seldom staged. This latest production in The Sunday Series from Scottish Opera sees the work given a stripped back concert style treatment and it’s all the better for it.

Rehearsal for The Fiery Angel
Photos by Julie Howden

While lacking a set, it lacks for nothing else. The principal cast is largely made up of native Russian speakers and some fellow Eastern Europeans and is supplemented by current students of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland opera school. The expertise with the language is partly the reason for the quality of this production, that and the considerable singing and acting skills of its principal players. Russian soprano Svetlana Sozdateleva is fine-voiced and gives a convincing, emotive performance throughout as the mentally unsound Renata, as is Azerbaijani baritone Evez Abdulla as Ruprecht and Russian tenor Dmitry Golovnin as Agrippa von Nettesheim, though it must be said that at times they, and their fellow singers find it hard to be heard over the outstanding orchestra (itself swelled in number by students from the Conservatoire), who, under the commanding baton of Mikhail Agrest, have rarely sounded more powerful.

Rehearsal for The Fiery Angel
Photos by Julie Howden

For all its, quite frankly insane subject matter, the score is an absolute winner: powerful, hypnotic, dissonant, majestic, bold and gripping.

Every aspect of this largely concert hall venue is utilised well: singers enter through the auditorium, sing from the balconies, orchestra stalls and act out the considerable drama in an arrangement of simply staged, but hugely effective scenes.

An absolute triumph for both Scottish Opera and The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and a fantastic opportunity to hear Prokofiev’s masterpiece sounding at its best.



REVIEW: Scottish Ballet’s Romeo & Juliet – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

This article was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/scottish-ballet-romeo-and-juliet-kings-theatre-glasgow/

Music: Sergei Prokofiev

Choreography: Krzysztof Pastor

Design: Tatyana van Walsum

Often credited as the most inventive full length ballet ever created, Scottish Ballet returns with vibrant re-interpretation of the much-loved classic Romeo and Juliet.

From Sergei Prokofiev’s 52-piece score and William Shakespeare’s original narrative, Polish choreographer Krzysztof Pastor and dramaturg Willem Bruls have “pruned discretely” many of the incidental numbers and a few of the most familiar characters from the piece: there’s no Paris, no Nurse and no Escalus here, instead the focus is firmly placed on the central story of the ‘star cross’d lovers’ and their warring families. Set in the 30s, 50s and 90s, this revival of the pair’s 2008 production asks the audience the question: “are they the same lovers in every era or a new generation suffering the same old problem?”

In any narrative ballet the movement must tell the story and in trimming the extraneous distractions Pastor infuses the work with greater passion and realism and heightens the tension throughout. Credit must be given to the impressive realism with which Pastor has imbued the fight scenes, something which is often lacking in classical interpretations of the piece.

Erik Cavallari (Romeo) and Sophie Martin (Juliet) reprise the roles created on them in 2008 and both retain the same passion and focus for their characters. Martin skilfully develops Juliet from impetuous teenager to grown woman during the course of the ballet and Cavallari is a noble and dignified Romeo: both remain utterly captivating throughout. In support, Victor Zarallo has many scene-stealing moments as a mercurial Mercutio as does Christopher Harrison as a powerful Tybalt and Eve Mutso and Owen Thorne make a suitably regal, elegant and imposing pair as Juliet’s parents.

From the earthy toned costumes of the Montagues to the Fascist black-shirted Capulets to the series of projected backdrops that move from Mussolini’s 1930s through the la dolce vita 1950s (there’s more than a whiff of that other famous Romeo and Juliet adaptation West Side Story in this sequence) to Berlusconi’s 1990s, there’s much to please the eye and plenty of subtle detail, but those looking for a romantic ivy strewn balcony are in for a disappointment, replaced as it is by a minimalist, aluminium lift-like structure.

Special mention must be made of the impeccable playing of Prokofiev’s beautiful, soaring score by the orchestra of Scottish Ballet. The score sounds as fresh as the day it was written and there is a genuine spine-tingling, hairs on the back of the neck moment as the first notes of the Dance of the Knights ring out from the orchestra pit.

This is a sure-fire hit, sparkling with life and suffused with drama and with Prokofiev’s exquisite score and Pastor’s highly inventive choreography you won’t fail to be captivated from start to finish.

Runs until 26 April then touring
Image: Andrew Ross