at the Birmingham Hippodrome
Reviewed by Susan Turner
Where does the glory fall for Birmingham Royal Ballet’s new production of Cyrano? Is it with choreographer David Bintley for crafting what is sure to run and run, or with composer Carl Davis for the terrific score, or with Robert Parker for creating a classic title role and dancing with that huge prosthetic conk?
The trio shared the honours before an appreciative audience at Wednesday’s premiere with Bintley looking relieved, perhaps at having pulled round what has been the bete noir of his career, and an ecstatic Davis taking bows alongside the principal dancers.
Bintley ought to be very pleased with his brand new ballet telling the story of a 17th Century triangle of love, confusion and heartbreak between Cyrano de Bergerac, Christian de Neuvillette and the Lady Roxane.
His original version – for the Royal Ballet 15 years ago – was not a success, due largely to an undistinguished score, a flat non-dancing finale, and Bintley’s attempt to "put everything in"of the complicated narrative. By his own admission, it was not a happy time for him at the Royal (he left the company soon after) and the failure of Cyrano added to that negativity.
But after numerous false starts to remake his ballet, here, at last, is the version he surely wanted to make in the first place.
Davis’s commissioned score fits the piece like an elegant 17th Century Frenchman’s favourite glove. An old hand at composing for ballet and for film, Davis has created a theatrical piece that takes in all the romantic, comic, military and tragic nuances of the plot.
And Parker is Cyrano, his dramatic ability and charismatic stage presence – not withstanding his fine dancing – at the fore. Cyrano may be a romantic hero with many faults but Parker’s use of sign and body language to depict the complexities of his character is faultless. With one foppish turn of the wrist, he could have the audience reaching for their cheque books to fund a nose-job.
The ballet’s structure, costumes and about five per cent of the choreography are all that remain of the original. This time, Bintley has given Cyrano and Roxane, and Christian and Roxane exquisitely tender pas de deux, created a lump-in-throat ending and inserted some macho sword fighting and spectacular pyrotechnics.
There are many typical touches of Bintley humour too. The bakery scene is of particular note with the pastry-gobbling Duenna, deliciously portrayed by Marion Tait, and Cyrano’s pal Ragueneau, is danced with great aplomb by Christopher Larsen. The balcony scene is another highlight with Cyrano secretly miming seductive moves to Christian as he woos Roxane, while Cyrano’s scene where he dons a glass bowl and pretends to have fallen from the moon, has the audience in stitches.
Running time: Two hours, 50 minutes. Until February 10.