We are delighted to feature below a guest blog by ballet enthusiast and Professor of Culture & Communication Nelida Ferraz, who attended the Royal Opera House Gala in Rio de Janeiro’s Theatro Municipal last week.
Last week, audiences at Rio de Janeiro’s Theatro Municipal were reassured of the city’s resurging cultural landscape in a brief 3-day residency from principal dancers of the Royal Ballet. They were joined on this tour by the young artists from the ROH’s Jette Parker program, with the British conductor Dominic Grier doing his best with the theatre’s ailing local orchestra. The theatre had previously partnered up with artists of the Royal Ballet in 2011 – on that occasion a smaller group led by Thiago Soares – but this time the project was slightly more ambitious: to showcase the company’s international repertory and style, to inspire local young dancers and singers, and to foster a renewed interest in these two art forms, which are crying out for more incentive in Brazil.
Audiences were given the opportunity to reconnect with locally-bred talent, ex-Theatro Municipal dancers Roberta Marquez and Thiago Soares, and to welcome their Royal Ballet colleagues Marianela Nuñez, Leanne Benjamin, Sarah Lamb, Edward Watson and Steven McRae. Even though the programme alternated opera extracts (sadly not on par with the quality of the ballet performances on display) with dancing, the latter dominated the evening in all senses. Alongside traditional gala showstoppers like The Sleeping Beauty wedding pas de deux (danced by the fizzy pairing of Marquez and McRae) and the Black Swan pas de deux (Nuñez and Soares pulling all the stops), we were treated to a contemporary selection of works that included Wheeldon’s After the Rain and Wayne McGregor’s Qualia, as well as extracts from two MacMillan ballets: Manon’s bedroom pas de deux (Edward Watson and Sarah Lamb) and Requiem (the Pie Jesu, admirably danced by Leanne Benjamin).
This was a perfect gala mix as it exposed local audiences, who are used to more traditional fare like Don Quixote and The Nutcracker, to the variety of styles performed internationally. The audience let it show how much they approved, responding with enthusiastic applause for the dancers. The collective feeling was that the dancers left us wanting more – and what a shame the balcony scene from Romeo & Juliet had to be scrapped last minute due to an indisposed McRae – with the public speculating when the full company would finally return (seemingly, 2015). After all, their last visit “au grand complet” was in 1972, back in the days Margot Fonteyn was still the company’s leading Aurora.