The Royal Opera House is currently host to three very different ballets. On the main stage, there is a double bill of Anemoi, Valentino Zucchetti’s wind-inspired short work, alongside The Cellist, Cathy Marston’s moving piece based on the short life of Jacqueline du Pre.
Anemoi is light and breezy, named after the Greek gods of the winds. The ballet was created during the Covid pandemic, using the youngest and newest members of the company and it certainly has a bright, youthful exuberance about it. Set to music by Rachmaninoff, on a bare stage with only a sun moving slowly across the backdrop, the choreography allows the dancers to shine. They zip through the steps with gusto – the men are particularly impressive, and the two pas de deux have a quiet, compelling beauty.
Marston’s The Cellist is a more mature work, dealing with the meteoric rise and tragic fall – due to multiple sclerosis – of Jacqueline du Pre, one of the foremost cellists of the twentieth century. Created originally on Lauren Cuthbertson and Marcelino Sambe, the performance I saw featured Mayara Magri and Calvin Richardson in the leads. Richardson lacks the liquid quality of Sambe’s dancing but brings his own intensity to the role of the Instrument – a cello animated with its own feelings. Magri was particularly impressive in the final part of the ballet when she is distraught at her failing body’s inability to play her beloved music. Marston combines classical vocabulary with more contemporary movements: knees are bent, feet are splayed out. It is an incredibly moving work and the audience is left stunned as the curtain descends.
In the Linbury Theatre – that little gem of a theatrical space in the depths of the Royal Opera House – there is the new production of The Limit. It is the first full-length work by principal character artist Kristen McNally and takes as its inspiration Sam Steiner’s play, Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons. It considers what happens when people are limited to the number of words they are allowed to speak per day. It is a sometimes funny, sometimes painful mixture of dialogue, dance and music.
The luminous Francesca Hayward and Alexander Campbell have a lot of talking to do as their relationship shifts through the course of the work. There is the novelty of having dancers speak (sometimes a little too rapidly), but the dancing does not really add much to the piece. In a story about words, the movements seem strangely irrelevant. Who knew, though, that Alexander Campbell could sing so well?
Anemoi/The Cellist is at the Royal Opera House until 2 November
The Limit is at the Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House until 28 October