Kenneth MacMillan: A National Celebration review at Royal Opera House, London
Kenneth MacMillan was a master storyteller. Even a plotless one-act ballet like Concerto shows how skilled a choreographer the former Royal Ballet director was.
Performed by Birmingham Royal Ballet, one of five companies participating in this celebration of MacMillan’s life and work, Concerto is a meticulous interpretation of Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No 2. Various formulations of pas de deux, soloists and corps de ballet are masterfully conducted to highlight the multiple layers of Shostakovich’s score.
The principals, particularly Momoko Hirata and Tzu-Chao Chou, are superb. Though MacMillan’s choreography is challenging, both technically and musically, their movement remains lively and exact. Throughout, the company are on form, filling the stage with a sea of brightly coloured costumes. It’s a joyous, sunshine-filled opening to this mixed bill.
Le Baiser de la Fee is a one-act ballet that’s seldom performed. Despite a score by Igor Stravinksy, it’s not one of MacMillan’s most exciting works. Choreographically he takes a simpler approach, leaving plenty of space for the dancers to develop their characters. Scottish Ballet does not quite manage to fill that space, although the young lovers and the corps keep things lively through some long-winded scenes.
The bill closes with Elite Syncopations, MacMillan’s frolicking ode to ragtime. Skin-tight unitards and jauntily tipped hats in bright, candy colours are the perfect complement to a work filled with light-hearted quirks. Flicks, parallel knees and tilted hips are teased into the classical style evoking the roar of the 1920s. Artists from all the five companies come together and the soloists shine. Kitsch it may be, but it’s a showstopping way to close this unique evening.