Friday, 7 June 2013

Les Vêpres siciliennes changes at ROH

The Royal Opera House has announced a change of choreographer for next season's Les Vêpres siciliennes. This production would have been a highlight of the season because it would have brought together both the Royal Opera House and the Royal Ballet plus stars from the Danish Ballet, with which Kaspar Holten had connections in Copenhagen. They've been looking for a major collaboration like this for years. It would have been spectacular.

Verdi's Les Vêpres siciliennes would have been an ideal vehicle because it centres round a long ballet which is integral to the opera. The music itself is glorious. Verdi's Four Seasons might not be as famous as Vivaldi's but it's extremely well known - it's even on Youtube.  You can't have half an hour of abstract music in an opera, and the ballet reflects the composer's original intentions. If we care about Verdi, we need to hear more than the usual blockbusters. In this Verdi centenary year it's good to focus on Verdi's music in wider context.  One of the top Proms this summer will be Viva Verdi on 20/7 where Antonio Pappano will conduct an unusual Verdi programme.

"There will still be a strong element of dance in the production, however no longer featuring Artists from The Royal Ballet, The Royal Danish Ballet and students from The Royal Ballet School", says the ROH press release. The new choreographer is André de Jong. 

Being a music person, I don't know much about the dance background but Judith Mackrell, a dance critic does. Read her article here.  The choreographer who is leaving is a well-known dancer Johan Kobborg, the partner  of Alina Cojocaru, who announced recently that she's leaving the Royal Ballet at the end of the season.  Dancers don't have long shelf lives and need to make the most of their careers and good for them.  According to Mackrell,  Kobborg is "about to turn 40 and while still a dancer of intelligence and style, he's at the age when the range of his repertory has inevitably begun to diminish. He's also begun focusing on choreography – with a handful of short ballets to his name and a new production of Giselle" in New Zealand. 

"The Royal haven't ignored Kobborg's skills, commissioning his perfectly pitched production of August Bournonville's La Sylphide back in 2006. But the opportunities for him to create new work for the company are very limited. Already the Royal has its resident choreographic triumvirate (Wayne McGregor, Christopher Wheeldon and Liam Scarlett) to accommodate, along with Alastair Marriott, Kristen McNally, and a new generation of choreographic associates. Faced with such a crowded marketplace, it's not surprising that Kobborg is looking for projects elsewhere, and would ideally like the chance to direct a company."

When the Royal Ballet and the Royal Opera House merged, there were those who said that it would be hard to balance the two halves of the house at Covent Garden. Perhaps they were right.

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