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BWW Review: ROYAL BALLET LIVE: WITHIN THE GOLDEN HOUR, Royal Opera House

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Find out what we thought of the Royal Ballet's latest gala

BWW Review: ROYAL BALLET LIVE: WITHIN THE GOLDEN HOUR, Royal Opera HouseBWW Review: ROYAL BALLET LIVE: WITHIN THE GOLDEN HOUR, Royal Opera HouseThis latest gala from the Royal Ballet had been planned to be performed in front of a live and appreciative audience, drinking in their first in-person, post lockdown performance. Alas, the stars did not align, but the tenacity of the Opera house team means this "all guns blazing" display is still a joy to watch online.

Christopher Wheeldon's Within the Golden Hour takes centre stage, but the luxury programming does not start there, as we are served countless star turns and party pieces. The resident dream-team of Marianela Nunez and Vadim Muntagirov make light work of the explosive Le Corsaire pas de deux, Natalia Osipova's unique interpretation of The Dying Swan and the world premiere of Valentino Zucchetti's Scherzo proving a decisive display to showcase the strength in the full company.

Francesca Hayward and Cesar Corrales were denied their debuts as Odette and Siegfried in Swan Lake this Spring, but audiences are treated to the Act I pas de deux that tracks their first encounter here. It's a delicate and almost careful showing. Hayward is timid, stealing the occasional glance at her Siegfried but nothing further is built upon. Technically the partnership is tight and everything is very nice to look at but it's nothing to match the giddy heights of their Romeo and Juliet pas de deux from a past production.

In contrast, there are some powerful performances and inspired castings. Akane Takada and Alexander Campbell are dreamy delights in Frederick Ashton's Rhapsody. Takada is undeservedly not normally one to attract opening nights and the big occasions, but her technique is exquisite as she leaps elegantly into her partners arms, exhibiting admirable core strength and grace.

Cathy Marston's In Our WIshes, seen in a previous gala, was also offered up again here with alternative casting. Romany Pajdak and Calvin Richardson gave intense performances in this story of a troubled relationship. Pajdak highlights her skill as a gifted actress, her torment visible (an advantage of streaming being the close-up camera work) while Richardson is a strong, slightly menacing presence. The tension between the pair makes for a great watch.

Still, there is more before the main event has even begun. Experienced Principals, Laura Morera and Federico Bonelli deliver a soaring bedroom pas de deux from Manon. While Anna-Rose O'Sullivan and Marcelino Sambe continue to charm as they deal effortlessly with the pinpoint precision of Balanchine's Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux.

How fitting that the central couples in Christopher Wheeldon's centre-piece, Within the Golden Hour, should glow so luminously on stage. Enhanced through costuming featuring flecks of gold from Jasper Conran and a score from Ezio Bosso, it's a sumptuous treat that allows its dancers to luxuriate in atmospheric and varied sections of choreography. Fumi Kaneko and Reece Clarke are the most eye-catching partnership with Kaneko's beautiful line and Clarke's strong, secure partnering.

Without a single weak link in the chain, the Royal Ballet seem to have benefited, in anything from their time away from the stage. There is a tangible hunger in the virtuoso jumps and leaps from the men while the women are serene and considered in their multi-faceted roles. You'll be hard pushed to find room for improvement.

Royal Ballet Live: Within the Golden Hour is available to view online until 13 December for £10.


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From This Author Vikki Jane Vile