Cape Town City Ballet's revival of Raymonda, last danced to Norman Furber's choreography by the former CAPAB Ballet Company in 1996, provides balletomanes with another opportunity to see international stars on the Artscape stage this year.
Thanks to CTCB's continued collaboration, over several decades, with dance companies abroad, this production of Raymonda stars The Royal Ballet first soloists Hikaru Kobayashi and Valeri Hristov in the roles of Raymonda and Jean de Brienne at two performances (their final is on Wednesday), international freelance artist (formerly of English National Ballet) Trevor Schoonraad as Abderam and Norwegian National Ballet principal Dirk Weyershausen as Jean de Brienne in three performances each.
Weyershausen partners Laura Bosenberg as Raymonda and Schoonraad alternates with Xola Putye and Ivan Boonzaaier. The third partnership in the lead roles comprises Kim Vieira, formerly of The Dutch National Ballet, and Daniel Szybkowski.
A special occasion indeed
With accompaniment for Alexander Glazunov's Opus 57 by the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Allan Stephenson, it's a special occasion indeed. Interestingly, he also conducted the CAPAB Orchestra for this ballet in 1989.
First presented under Marius Petipa's choreography for the Imperial Ballet in St Petersburg, Russia, in 1898, Raymonda's story has been interpreted by top ballet companies around the world. The work was incorporated into the CAPAB Ballet's repertoire in 1977, with choreography by Alfred Rodrigues and designs by Peter Cazalet. In 1980, Furber's re-choreographed version was added to the repertoire. According to the programme notes, the current production has been reproduced from videos taken in the 1980s and '90s, with the help of Nicolette Loxton and Keith Mackintosh, who regularly danced the roles of Raymonda and Jean de Brienne at that time.
Abduction from the royal palace
The ballet is set in Hungary and centres on Raymonda's abduction from the royal palace by Sultan Abderam and her rescue from his harem by her betrothed, Jean de Brienne. The Act One pas de trios in which Abderam conjures up De Brienne to confuse Raymonda into succumbing to his will and the Act Three grand pas by Raymonda and De Brienne are the most memorable choreographies in this work. Putye could have performed even better as Abderam if he was carrying less weight, but the execution of his steps was, nonetheless, competent and his partnering of Kobayashi considerate and reliable.
Meanwhile, Hristov's prowess is easily notable in Act One and fully unleashed for the Act Three grand pas. Surefooted, confident and technically accomplished, he's a pleasure to watch. Hristov danced for Pact Ballet in the 1990s before moving to Japan and later joining Pacific Northwest Ballet as a soloist. He's been a member of The Royal Ballet since 2002 and was promoted to first soloist in 2006.
Light and dainty
Kobayashi was the first Japanese national to be admitted at the Paris Opera Ballet School, where she studied from 1992 to 1995. During her career, she has danced for the Jeune Ballet de France, the Zurich Ballet and The Dutch National Ballet. She joined The Royal Ballet as a first artist in 2003, was promoted to soloist in 2006 and first soloist in 2009.
Kobayashi's characterisation of Raymonda develops as the ballet unfolds. Her solos are as light and dainty as the accompanying flute and piano notes and her pointe work is poised perfection. However, she really comes alive in the grand pas with Hristov. When they're performing together, everything else pales into insignificance.
* Raymonda is on until 1 September with performance on Wednesday and Friday evening at 7.30pm and Saturday at 2pm. Ticket prices range from R100 to R250. Booking is through Computicket or Artscape Dial-a-Seat on +27 (0)21 421 7695. ** Casting Wednesday: Hikaru Kobayashi, Valeri Hristov, Xola Putye, Angela Hansford; Friday: Laura Bosenberg, Dirk Weyershausen, Trevor Schoonraad, Kirstel Jensen; Saturday: Kim Vieira, Daniel Szybkowski, Ivan Boonzaaier, Lauren Rogers
Debbie Hathway is a specialist dance writer and critic for the Cape Times and Bizcommunity's BizLounge. She's a former writer, columnist and critic for the Weekend Argus, Cape Argus and Daily News Tonight.
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