Royal Ballet revives fabulous Firebird at Covent Garden

Jan 8, 2013

The Firebird, danced to Stravinsky's extraordinary score, returns to London 100 years after premiere

Tristram Kenton/Royal Opera House

What you need to know
The Royal Ballet is staging a revival of Sergei Diaghilev's The Firebird at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. The ballet, featuring a score by Igor Stravinsky, first premiered in London 100 years ago.

The Firebird takes elements from several traditional Slavic folk tales to tell the story of a prince who is helped by a magical bird after he spares its life.

The Royal Ballet's production uses costumes and sets from the avant-garde artist Natalia Goncharova, which were created for the Ballets Russes production of 1926. The Firebird is staged with two shorter works Raymonda Act III and In the Night and runs until 11 January.

What the critics like
The excitement of seeing The Firebird never lessens, says Debra Craine in The Times. That extraordinary Stravinsky score, Goncharova's exotic folkloric designs, and Michel Fokine's exuberant choreography make this a "fabulous, full-bodied" dance work.

The Royal's birds understand this mysterious creation perfectly, says Louise Levene in the Daily Telegraph. Ballerina Itziar Mendizabal brings an "alien wildness" to the lead role of the Firebird, alternating with the "equally impressive" Mara Galeazzi. Male leads Bennet Gartside and Edward Watson both play the prince with great
panache, culminating in a "glorious closing tableau".

The evocative sound of the overture of Stravinsky's Firebird emerges from the bowels of a very Russian soil, says Judith Mackrell in The Guardian. The music trills and sparkles with inhuman melody conjuring up "magisterial dancing" from the cast in "an exceptionally well rehearsed revival".

What they don't like
Casting is less sure-footed for the shorter works in the second half, says Louise Levene in the Daily Telegraph. In the Night "lacked oomph" and the Raymonda ensembles "need a lot more salt and pepper (and rehearsal)".

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