Birmingham Royal Ballet: Cyrano @ Sadler’s Wells, London

performed by
Robert Parker, Elisha Willis, Iain Mackay, Dominic Antonucci, Christopher Larsen, Chi Cao, Marion Tait, Valentin Olovyannikov, David Morse, Jonathan Payn, Victoria Marr, Momoko Hirata

directed by
David Bintley
Created in 2007, with music by Carl Davis and choreography by David Bintley, Cyrano is the second of two works that the Birmingham Royal Ballet has brought to Sadlers Wells this week, the first being a triple bill of works entitled Quantum Leaps.

Based on Edmond Rostands play, Cyrano de Bergerac, of 1897, the ballet focuses on the hapless figure of Cyrano (Robert Parker).

Cursed with a long nose that thwarts his attempts to win Roxane for himself, he nobly helps the young Christian de Neuvillette (Iain Mackay) to woo her, even to the extent of constructing love letters for him.
This is a masterful and intelligent production that is only occasionally let down by some clumsy staging. The Birmingham Royal Ballet may not enjoy the same standing as Covent Garden, but it possesses fine dancers in its own right. It is a shame, therefore, that the sometimes cluttered sets, full of visual distractions, suggest that not enough faith is being put in the performers. In the first fairground scene, despite some splendid turns, the numerous figures milling around on stage create a rather amateurish air, and less would most certainly have been more.

Similarly, the set of Act Two, where Cyrano succeeds in thwarting the villain, the Comte de Guiche (Dominic Antonucci), demonstrates the worst type of literalism. Not only does the Georgian house with classical portico allude to absolutely nothing, but it is not even in keeping with the ballets setting of seventeenth century France. Other sets fare better, but it is only the bakers shop at the end of Act One that truly charms.

The dancing, on the other hand, remains consistently strong and Parker is a captivating Cyrano. He cuts cleanly through the air, and utterly convinces, whether he is fighting a jocular duel, bursting into rage as he despairs of his ugliness, or subsequently resigning himself to his lot with grace. As Roxane, Elisha Willis is a petite dancer, but possesses both an elegant step and a remarkable ability to cross a large area with her movements.

The corps de ballet provide fine support and excel, in particular, when smaller groups dance as bakers showing off their goods, soldiers making merry, or nuns supporting Roxane in her grief. The most effective aspect of the ballet, however, is the way in which both the basic story and the sub-texts are made easy to grasp simply through the gestures and steps. The plot revolves around the words contained in love letters, and yet the silent performances are enough to make it obvious that Cyrano can speak these romantically whilst Christian struggles to blurt them out.

There are many moving moments, such as when Roxane cradles the prostrate Cyrano in a tableau reminiscent of Michelangelos La Piet , whilst Carl Daviss delightful score and Wolfgang Heinzs generous conducting of the Royal Ballet Sinfonia also contribute handsomely to this hugely enjoyable evening.

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