Two weeks ago the Royal Ballet announced it’s 2018/19 season and I’ve decided once again to go through the upcoming rep, give my thoughts and any dancers I’ve love to see cast in the upcoming ballets.The season starts a little later than most, in October, with Mayerling. The ballet was on stage not more than a year ago (as of today) so its quick return is a surprise, but (and I’m just speculating), maybe Edward Watson wants to retire on it? I wasn’t much impressed by the ballet as a whole, although I love MacMillan’s works usually, but…
Débuts? – Francesca Hayward as Mary Vetsera, Reece Clarke as Crown Prince Rudolf (though not together as there’s quite a height difference)
Returns? – Thiago Soares as Crown Prince Rudolf
Once Mayerling concludes its performances, Natalia Makarova’s La Bayadère takes to the stage. The only opportunity I’ve ever had to watch this ballet was when the Mariinsky toured to London in 2017, but I purposely avoided seeing their production as I was put off by the others I saw (Don Q, Swan Lake and a triple bill) and didn’t want to be turned off – its fate rests with the Royal now.
Débuts? – Yasmine Naghdi as Nikiya, Beatriz Stix-Brunell as Gamzatti, Joseph Sissens as the Bronze Idol
Returns? – Marianela Nuñez as Nikiya (and Gamzatti, please?), Marcelino Sambé as the Bronze Idol
And then, into the first bill of the season, a triple bill featuring Infra (Wayne McGregor), Symphony in C (George Balanchine) and The Unknown Soldier (a new work by Alastair Marriott). I’m not a great fan of McGregor’s works, so I’ll go to see this with an open mind, but keep my personal expectations fairly low. In honesty, Carbon Life and Chroma are the only two of his pieces that I found tolerable.
As for Balanchine, I’ve not seen many of his ballets; Jewels was great in some parts and dull in others, but Tarantella was a delight in every way as was the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux. I’ll give Symphony in C more than a fair shot to impress me (especially if I get to see the likes of Hayward, Sambé, Mayara Magri or Joseph Sissens cast in some principal role).
Connectome remains the only work by Marriott that I’ve seen and it was the saviour in a double bill alongside McGregor’s Raven Girl. Again, I’ll give it a go.
Then we’re into December and we all know what that means – The Nutcracker. I was seriously holding onto the rumour I’d heard that Ashton’s Cinderella was going to come back this Christmas, but alas we are stuck again with this one. There isn’t much more I can say about Nutcracker, God knows I probably will write another review saying the same things I’ve said a million times over.
Débuts? – Anna-Rose O’Sullivan as the Sugar Plum Fairy (and/or Rose Fairy) alongside Marcelino Sambé as the Prince (unless Marcelino gets to début with Hayward as his Sugar Plum)
Returns? – Francesca Hayward as the Sugar Plum Fairy alongside Steven McRae’s Prince, that would be a dream….
Luckily this time round, there will be a triple bill between performances of The Nutcracker. The bill features Ashton’s LesPatineurs, MacMillan’s WinterDreams (MacMillan) and Robbins’ TheConcert. I’ve never seen either of these so I look forward to (hopefully) wonderful surprises.
Then comes the return on one of my all-time favourites, The Two Pigeons. Ashton’s two-act ballet is one I was hoping to see and while I’m sad it isn’t in a double bill with his Rhapsody (another absolute gem) I am thrilled to see it return.
Débuts? – Francesca Hayward as the Young Girl (although to see her as the Gyspy Girl would be quite interesting…) and Joseph Sissens as the Young Man and (together please?)
Returns? – Laura Morera and Mayara Magri’s Gypsy Girl as well as the Alexander Campbell/Yuhui Choe Young Man/Girl combination. Their frequent pairing is one I sorely miss.
Two Pigeons is featured in two double bills, one with Liam Scarlett’s Asphodel Meadows and the other with a piece by Scarlett on the Royal Ballet School. Again, I have never seen this Scarlett piece, but I enjoy his works and look forward to it.
Carlos Acosta’s Don Quixote makes a welcomed return in February. It was last seen in January 2015, and three years on there is a lot of new talent in the company, and with over a dozen performances I hope to see at least two or three new Kitri/Basilio pairings.
Débuts? – Francesca Hayward/Marcelino Sambé – following the electric partnership they began with La Fille Mal Gardée in 2016, Hayward and Sambé are long overdue for a reunion (even if it isn’t a favourite ballet of Hayward’s) – he was injured for the better part of the this season.
Beatriz Stix-Brunell and Mayara Magri as Kitri and Joseph Sissens and Benjamin Ella as Basilio – maybe a Magri/Sissens cast?
Returns? – Steven McRae as Basilio (with special chaînés in there please?) and Iana Salenko as his Kitri, Claire Calvert’s Mercedes and of course, Marianela’s Kitri.
Frankenstein by Scarlett also makes a return. It wasn’t given many positive reviews at it’s premiere, but it is probably my favourite full length of this century.
Débuts? – Yasmine Nagdhi as Elizabeth, Thiago Soares as the Creature
Returns? – Steven McRae as the Creature – obviously.
And then, my absolute love, the only ballet (second only to Sleeping Beauty) that I could watch on repeat for the rest of my life, comes back. MacMillian’s Romeo and Juliet will have over two dozen gorgeous performances from March until June. To say that I am excited is an understatement. I will literally be there for every single one (unless something really crucial prevents this).
With this many performances I hope that Kevin O’Hare gives ample opportunity to the young talent in the company as he did the last time with now-principals Hayward and Naghdi as well as soon-to-be principal Matthew Ball.
Débuts? – Marcelino Sambé as Romeo (I will hurt someone if this doesn’t happen – it’s long overdue) alongside Hayward as his Juliet (again, if this doesn’t happen I will hurt someone).
Anna-Rose O’Sullivan as Juliet (the only way I won’t hurt someone is if she débuts alongside Sambé) and Hayward is cast to dance alongside Joseph Sissens in his début as Romeo (although he could make a good Mercutio).
Reece Clarke as Romeo alongside Yasmine Naghdi’s Juliet. After watching Clarke develop over these past seasons, I think he and Nagdhi would make quite a pair – don’t kill me, but I’m still not convinced by the her partnership with Matthew Ball (Natalia Osipova can have him for this run of R&J)
Elizabeth Harrod as Juliet – I know it’s a long-shot but I can imagine that she and real-life husband Steven McRae would break hearts in these roles. Please make this happen, Harrod in a principal role is long overdue.
Benjamin Ella would also make a fine Romeo with Akane Takada as his Juliet in a double début.
Returns? – Francesca Hayward and Yasmine Naghdi’s Juliets, Steven McRae’s Romeo and it would be a treat to see Roberto Bolle guest as Romeo alongside Marianela’s Juliet.
*Sidenote: Can I please just cast this season’s R&J? PLEASE?
While R&J pops up here and there, another triple bill begins – Wheeldon’s Within the Golden Hour returns (a huge thumbs up from me), a new work by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and the return of Crystal Pite’s Flight Pattern (and here, I’m sorry again, but I would rather see something else).
And to close the season a triple bill. Ashton’s A Month in the Country, which I’ve seen only twice when it was last on stage in 2014, The Firebird, which I’ve never seen, and, again, Balanchine’s Symphony in C, considering we’ll be seeing it twice it best be good!
No expectations on casting here as I’m not familiar enough with the ballets, but I’m sure the right people will get the casting (ok… maybe Mayara Magri, Claire Calvert or Beatriz Stix-Brunell as the Firebird?).
And with that, the season will be over and there’ll be another exciting one on its way. Leave your comments and thoughts on the season in the section below.
Be sure to check out the website of the Royal Opera House for more details on tickets and casting when they become available 🙂
[Featured image: Laura Morera as Gamzatti in La Bayadère. Photo: Alastair Muir (2013)]