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May 30, 2013 / magickittenblogs

Raven Girl and Symphony in C at the Royal Opera House

If you’re looking for a sophisticated, cultured evening out that’s also not too hard on the purse, you could do worse than to take in a ballet from the slips of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.  Yesterday, fellow blogger Terri-Jane and I watched a mixed programme, Raven Girl and Symphony in C, for just £6 a ticket, and we had a great time.

Raven Girl Cover

I hadn’t heard of Raven Girl until recently, but Terri-Jane is a huge fan of Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveller’s Wife, who created this original fairytale specifically for the ballet.  Before she moved into longer prose writing, Niffenegger created graphic novels, and this, plus her dark sensibility for fairytales and identity crises, really intrigued me.

The weather in London was dreadful yesterday but we still had a lot of fun browsing the stalls and shops around Covent Garden – we popped into Joy and admired some of the vintage-styled ladieswear.  There was a flowered maxi-dress that I really loved, although the rain wouldn’t have made it a practical choice!  We also discovered the Moomin Store – so cute!  I’ll definitely be going back there…  After a bargainous dinner at Carluccio’s – incredibly good value set menu – we headed back to the Opera House to take our seats.

As I mentioned, Raven Girl was written specifically with the idea of the creation of a ballet in mind.  It’s performed by the Royal Ballet, adapted, directed and choreographed by Wayne McGregor, with music composed by Gabriel Yard, probably best known for the score of The English Patient.  The story is really moving, with very traditional elements of fairytale – growing up, transformation, love – but also very modern elements, for example ideas about evolution and experimentation which reminded me of Frankenstein.  The raven as a character clearly has a number of different cultural ideas linked to it – wisdom, death, even eternal life – so it’s a great choice that comes with so many possibilities.  It was also a great choice for a ballet.  I don’t know if you’ve ever seen nature documentaries of ravens ‘tumbling’ but clearly Niffenegger and Wayne McGregor have; the raven dance sequences were extraordinary.

Stylistically, Raven Girl hangs somewhere between Romantic storytelling, with relatively naturalistic movement, and very modern – the music and graphics projected on the transparent screen also wove between traditional and really unusual.  The music contrasts very lush, orchestral sections, as we see the fairytale family growing and the story line progressing, with extremely sparse sections of wind and rhythmic sound, as the ravens dance in front of their cliff face.  The set and costumes designs were also very sparse and monochrome, but really effective, focussing all our attention on the dancers.  Particularly creepy are the sack-headed townsfolk who appear once Raven Girl makes her way out into the world.

Raven Girl grows wings

The show really was incredibly beautiful, dark, and grown up, reminding me in places of the sensibilities of Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty.

After a half hour interval, and a glass of lovely house rose in the bar, we returned for the complete contrast of Symphony in C; composed by Bizet and choreographed by George Balachine, this was real tutu-and-tiara.  There’s no story line, just movement interpreting music, with a black and white colour scheme.  This time, though, the women wore shining white with sequins and the men black velvet and tights.  I have to say, this probably wasn’t as much my kind of thing, but it was really accomplished and very sweet!  A really lovely way to round off the evening.  I’ll certainly be ordering a copy of Raven Girl for a little bedtime reading.  Once upon a time…

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