The Royal Ballet’s latest double bill pairs George Balanchine’s Ballo Della Regina from the 1970s with the early 19th century La Sylphide by August Bournonville. Together they provide very considerable value to audiences - the Balanchine is a sparkling display of virtuoso dancing while Bournonville’s La Sylphide offers both dancing and drama in the form of the story of the luckless James who chases after an imaginary women rather than settle for a more ordinary flesh and blood girl.
Steven McRae (James) and Alina Cojocaru (The Sylph) in La Sylphide from Ballo Della Regina and La Sylphide at the Royal Opera House Photo: Tristram Kenton
Steven McRae and Alina Cojocaru are extremely well matched as James and the Sylph. Their dancing and acting are supreme and they engage with each other on stage in a way that is wholly convincing - even in a fairy story set in a fantasy Scotland in the early 19th century. McRae’s performance was especially good, conveying both loyalty to his fiance Effie (Emma Maguire) and his fascination with the unattainable Sylph. The entire cast is strong, with special mention to Valentino Zucchetti as Gurn who eventually wins the spurned Effie. He is a first artist, but his performance was of a more experienced dancer. Kristen McNally was perhaps a little mannered in her portrayal of the witch/old woman Madge.
Opening the evening was the irrepressible Marianela Nunez, who dazzled in Ballo Della Regina. Its upbeat mood may give the impression of it being merely light and fluffy, but this underplays the sheer difficulty of the steps which challenge the most able ballerinas and are great to watch.