OPERA AND BALLETCategory: Theatre
The premiere of a new three-act ballet is always a great occasion at Covent Garden, and Frederick Ashton’s new work, Ondine which the Royal Ballet presented on 27th October, was no exception. Mr Ashton freely adapted the scenario from the story by Friedrich de la Motte Fouque. The music by Werner Heuze was specially composed, and the composer also conducted, receiving a big ovation.
On the whole, although there was some beautiful dancing from Margot Fonteyn (ideally cast as the water spirit Ondine) and Michael Somes as Palemont, the ballet proved to be more in the nature of a mime-drama in which the scenery and costumes by Lila de No- bili and the lightning by Michael Northen proved to be of paramount importance.
In other words as a spectacle Ondine was enchanting, and even in one of the most effective scenes, the shipwreck, pure dance had a very small part to play. There are only five characters in the story.
Ondine is certain to prove popular as a fairy tale spectacle, but cannot be compared with the great classical ballets as a dance medium.
The Flying Dutchman and Samson
Sadler’s Wells opera opened its new season with an excellent production of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman, on 31st October. Imaginatively staged and directed by Dennis Arundell, with first rate decor by Timothy O’Brien (one admires his work more and more), and attractive costumes by Anthony Boyes, the opera proved to be one of the best all-round performances to be seen in London at present.
Alexander Gibson drew some magnificent playing from the orchestra and David Ward sang the title role with distinction. Harold Blackburn (Daland) and William McAlpine (Erik) were also outstanding and the only disappointment was the singing and characterisation of Elizabeth Fretwell: as Senta she was rather strident and much too down-to-earth.
On 15th NovemberCoventGar- den presented Handel’s dramatic oratorio Samson, produced by Herbert Graf with setting and costumes by Oliver Messel. The occasion proved (apart from some fine singing by Jon Vickers in the title role) memorable only in the third act, which was beautifully handled, and on the arrival of Joan Sutherland who sang “Let the Bright Seraphim” with truly noble Handelian line. The less said about Elizabeth Lindermeier (miscast as Dalila) the better.