The Two Pigeons is a love story told in Ashton’s inimitable style, with humour, lightness of touch and supremely eloquent choreography.
Drawing his inspiration from a fable by La Fontaine about two pigeon lovers, Ashton developed a story about two very human lovers in 19th century Paris. The young man, a Painter, is restless and abandons his lover, The Young Girl, to follow his infatuation with a gypsy woman. Of course, life with the group of gypsies is not all he had dreamt of, and he returns to his true love a chastened and wiser man.
Throughout, the travails of the lovers are shadowed by two live pigeons that fly onto the stage, either as a pair or singly, to denote the various stages of the affair. As the ballet ends with the lovers reunited sitting lovingly on a chair, the pair of birds fly in and perch above them.
A risky proposition, that; but Covent Garden is by now well-used to having live animals on stage, from Peregrine, the hugely popular white pony in La Fille Mal Gardée, to Henry, the Springer Spaniel in Le Nozze di Figaro, plus assorted chickens, a donkey and a horse in the current highly realistic production of the opera Carmen.
Ashton’s choreography for the lovers is tender and wistful, contrasting with the exotic and colourful scenes in the gypsies’ camp; the role of the Gypsy Woman provides a sensual and suggestive tour-de-force for a good character dancer and contrasts wildly with the gentler, rather dove-like nature of the Young Girl’s dancing.
Music is by the French composer André Messager adapted by Ashton’s regular collaborator, John Lanchbery; designs are by Jacques Dupont.
Rhapsody is a one-act, non-narrative ballet on Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini. Premiéred in August 1980, it was Ashton’s 80th birthday tribute to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, a personal friend of the choreographer’s.
With a small cast of six dancers backing a lead couple, it is a virtuoso showpiece with feats of technical athleticism for the men and very fast and light footwork for the women; but it also includes moments of playful lyricism as dictated by Rachmaninov’s sublime music.
It was created on Lesley Collier and Mikhail Baryshnikov, and its 1980 premiére marked Baryshnikov’s last guest appearance with the Royal Ballet.
Added sparkle will come from the presence of the technically breath-taking Natalia Osipova, Returning from the injury that kept her off the Covent Garden stage for the whole of the Autumn period, she will dance her scheduled dates on 20th, 23rd and 26th January.
This double bill is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the Royal Ballet’s season and we’re delighted to recommend it. We do, however, stress that you should check with the box office for probable cast changes.
Live Cinema Relay 26th January.
|What||Royal Ballet: Rhapsody/Two Pigeons|
Royal Opera House
Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
16 Jan 16 – 30 Jan 16, 19:30 or 19:00 Sat mat 12:30 or 14:00
|Website||Click here to book through the ROH website|