Ballet review: The Dream/Song of the Earth (Royal Opera House)
Royal Opera House, London, WC2
Performance date: 2 February 2012
Rating: **** (out of 5)
Review by: Alexa Williamson
As usual, The Royal Opera House presents a beautiful two-piece production that had the entire audience enthralled from start to finish.
Choreographed by Frederick Ashton and arranged by John Lanchbery, The Dream brings to the stage, in dance, William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream – in which an argument between the fairy king Oberon and fairy queen Titania makes for a beautiful and fascinating story and ballet. And with the music – the Overture, Scherzo and Wedding March – by 19th century German romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn, one spends approximately an hour in artistic bliss as the dance, costumes, sets, lighting and music are absolutely stunning to experience.
Who could not love being brought in to a magical wood where things glitter and sparkle and there is much dance and merriment going on on a Midsummer’s eve? This is what is happening in The Dream, where the happiness, vibrance and excitement of the piece are owed to everyone on stage (including famed ballet dancer Alina Cojacaru, who was in last year’s Swan Lake ), behind stage (including designs by David Walker and lighting director John B Read) and in the orchestra (conducted by Barry Wordsworth).
Song of the Earth, in contrast to the elaborateness of The Dream, is minimal but also touching as we experience the passionate and slightly pained music of Gustav Mahler brought to the stage as well and a premise of Chinese T’ang dynasty poetry showing the “transience of life”, especially “through the interactions of the Man, the Woman and the enigmatic Messenger of Death”. However, this show pales in comparison to The Dream, which is rich with splendid costumes and sets, as the stage of Song of the Earth is bare and the costumes are very minimal. But, the choreography (Kenneth Macmillan) and beautiful work of the dancers save the piece. Song of the Earth is pretty, but probably would not have made it to the main house if not for its partner piece The Dream.
So, both make for an exciting trip to the Royal Opera House, but if one falls more in love with The Dream than Song of the Earth it is understandable as fairies and beautiful dancing are always likely to steal any show. Hurry and fly to the box office to get your tickets before The Dream and its amazing sets, costumes and dancers are gone!
Royal Opera House London – official site