The Royal Ballet’s 2016/17 Season

Earlier today the Royal Ballet announced their 2016/17 Season and I’ve decided to expand on it by giving my thoughts on what’s in store for the company for the next year!

Frederick Ashton’s La Fille Mal Gardée will start the season on September 27th.  At 56 years, Fille is probably one of Ashton’s most popular ballets, and while I think it has its moments – from its funny chickens to one particularly gorgeous promenade in arabesque – it fails to strike me.  With that said, it is expected that there will be a few débuts in the lead roles of Colas and Lise and it would be a treat to see Francesca Hayward début Lise this season – though, in all fairness, it would be a treat to see her perform the lead in every ballet.

Sadly, Fille takes control of the main stage for a dozen performances over the course of a month.  However, upon its departure audiences will be treated to a revival of Kenneth MacMillan’s full length Anastasia – a ballet with which I am unfamiliar.  I am certain that I will enjoy it, though, as I am yet to see a MacMillan piece that doesn’t leave me wanting to see it a thousand times more.  After a breathtaking début as MacMillan’s Juliet, I hope to see Yasmine Naghdi given the chance to perform the title role.

Cutting in just at the end of Anastasia’s 10 performances is a triple bill by Wayne McGregor, who celebrates 10 years as Resident Choreographer with the company this year.  It will feature the return of Chroma and Carbon Life – both of which I have never seen – and a new, yet-to-be-named piece.  The triple bill will see only 5 performances over the course of 9 days.

Then comes in the staple production of The Nutcracker.  Undoubtedly one of my least favourite ballets, I am disappointed to see it return once more – though not surprised.  While it sells well and does feature a majestic Act II pas de deux, over two dozen performances of something that Covent Garden sees every year is quite excessive.  Alas, I can only pray that we will see some upcoming talent dancing the roles of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Her Prince such as Hayward, Naghdi and Soloists Marcelino Sambé and Nicol Edmonds.  A saving grace here would be to recruit some guest artists such as Roberto Bolle or Evgenia Obraztsova for a couple performances just for some of us who have seen the ballet more times than we can count on our fingers and toes!

Luckily though, The Sleeping Beauty cuts its way onto the stage a mere 4 days before Christmas and runs for 25 performances until March.  Beauty is my favourite ballet and I hope that with that many performances there will be at least eight sets of casts. As far as débuts are concerned Hayward, Naghdi and Sambé would be gorgeously cast as the leads as would Guest Artist Iana Salenko, First Soloist James Hay and Soloist Fumi Kaneko.

Returning on 21 January is McGregor’s 2015 Woolf Works.  In all honesty, I did not enjoy this the first time round and can’t see myself going to more than one performance.  Though it will be wonderful, as always, to see the legendary Alessandra Ferri once more.

Then, another triple bill – The Human Seasons (David Dawson), After the Rain (Christopher Wheeldon and a new piece by Crystal Pite.  I am unfamiliar with both the first and last piece and their choreographers and am sad that After The Rain is coming back for a second season – while it was interesting at times, it did drag.  I do hope, and don’t doubt, that a fresh couple will get to dance the lead.

George Balanchine’s Jewels – a ballet in three acts: Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds – returns for the month of April.  I saw the Bolshoi’s production back in London in 2013 and while Emeralds and Rubies did not strike me, Diamonds was stunning.  I have no doubts that Marianela Nuñez will get to dance the lead – I will be devastated if she doesn’t!  It would also be great to see the likes of Mayara Magri and Claire Calvert given some more prominent roles in the feisty Rubies.

Once Jewels has ended, MacMillan’s Maylering will jump to the spotlight for 10 performances.  I have never seen the ballet, but have only heard great things.  As a MacMillan ballet it would be wonderful to see Naghdi début, maybe alongside a début by Steven McRae, whose Romeo was a dream!

Following is not another triple bill, but a quadruple one – Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude (William Forsythe), Tarantella (George Balanchine), Strapless (Christopher Wheeldon) and a new Liam Scarlett.  Never have I seen the first two but the third was disappointing to say the least and I am not at all looking forward to its return. As for the new Scarlett, I am excited – I have seen a couple of his works and they are all very thrilling and have me on the edge of my seat waiting for his production of Frankenstein next month.

The season will wrap up with a triple bill of Ashton’s The Dream, Symphonic Variations and Marguerite and Armand.  I have always wanted to see the first and hope that, if she gets to dance no other Ashton this season, Hayward is given the chance to dance Titania – her petit and fairy-like stature practically scream for her casting.  As Oberon, Hay would fit quite nicely and as Puck, undoubtedly Sambé and fellow soloist Luca Acri.  While I did see Symphonic Variations back in 2014, I can hardly recall it and I have never seen the this but, once more, I have heard people raving about it so I am sure it will be one not to miss!

And, that’s that! The season seems to be, for the most part, a very exciting one and I hope to see very many débuts! It is probably quite clear who my favourites are but, let’s be honest, we’ve all got them!  In all fairness, before anyone becomes confused, I’ve only done main stage performances by the company – there are a few other bits and bobs around the Clore, the Barbican and whatnot.

Be sure to check out the website of the Royal Opera House for more details on tickets and casting when they become available.

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