Saturday, 4 February 2012

Sleeping Beauty

There is a post I've not yet finished about reaching financial goals.  It's a difficult one to write but I'll get there eventually.  In any case, I am slowly coming to the point of 'spending out', having reached a particular goal.  Aside from travel, I've held myself in relatively tight rein since retiring four years ago and now I'm considering things on which I would quite enjoy spending money. 

One of them was this very occasional opportunity of seeing a ballet.  Bill wasn't fussed about seeing the Scottish Ballet perform Sleeping Beauty.  He found another dance company he wouldn't mind seeing and I bought tickets for that instead.  However, I came to realise (it was the purple velvet in the advert above and reading about the costumes) that I'd given in to him when I still really wanted to see that ballet. 

The picture on the screen looks down Grey Street with the Theatre Royal on the left.

 The only ballets that normally come to Newcastle are The Nutcracker and Swan Lake and I've seen them plenty, thank you (I've actually danced to the music of Swan Lake, though I have NO talent whatsoever).  Bill and I once saw the Northern Ballet company do Dracula and it was so stunning it pretty much had a cult following.  We'd also seen a Russian ballet that was well danced, but the poverty of the troupe was evident:  the costumes weren't well matched, the sound system played a tinny recording, the male lead was (I kid you not, he had belly) built like a ballet-dancing truck driver.  One had to feel for them.

I had an idea and I almost left it too late, but providence was with us.  When on our day out (Monday) Vivien and I stopped for a cup of tea I floated the question of whether she might like to go to the ballet with me.  I knew that like me, she'd taken ballet lessons as a child.  Haste doesn't begin to describe her reaction as we made a bee-line for the box office at the Theatre Royal.  As it happened, there were only two seats available at the Thursday matinee (my preferred time) and they were in the centre of the back row of the Grand Circle (about as good as you could want).    They had just been returned.  We snapped them up!

Vivien was fizzing with excitement and so was I!  We couldn't wait to tell our respective partners the news.  She, having read the fine print, later emailed me to point out that our tickets would cover our Metro travel into town for two hours pre- and post-performance, so we met for lunch and had a coffee after.

The Theatre Royal, Newcastle upon Tyne

It was beautiful and perfect.  I brought binoculars and looked through them once.  The costumes were just as dazzling and luscious up close as one might hope, but I couldn't follow the story, so I put the binocs away.  The dancers started out in long Victorian looking gowns, top coats and tails in the beginning, but in the latter half the ladies switched to sort of 1940's cocktail dresses for the wedding scene, and the set included a rather art deco light suspended (or was it a lighting effect?) from the ceiling.  The faeries were decked out in feathered skirts.  The evil faery's bodice looked nearly as though she was topless and her two henchfaeries had Martian-like heads. 

About half way down Grey Street.

We were introduced to the Prince on a hunt in the forest.  He was wearing a purple (the colour of royalty) and green (associated with the country and upper classes) plaid velvet tail coat with green socks that imitated green Wellington's (I'm given to understand that black Wellies are working class).  In any case, only the upper classes hunt (well, they did before it was banned).  He did a rather odd dance I thought with the (male) Blue Bird (with blue hair) who showed him Sleeping Beauty's castle, but never mind.  Maybe the bird had to drag him towards the castle?  The dance just after The Kiss, when she wore a lovely knee-length floaty gown was completely exquisite.

Theatre Royal at night

I loved that the cast was so large, we counted about 34, half men.  I loved that all the toe shoes matched the dresses:  black, red, green, turquoise, mustard, lavender you name it (I only ever had pale pink shoes; it won't surprise you at all to read that I still have them).  I loved that there was an orchestra tucked under the stage playing Tchaikovsky's score.  I loved that they could do the hand-holding turns (my ballet terms are long forgotten) in spite of the large disc of a hat worn by the 'mother of the bride'.  I loved it that the father of Sleeping Beauty was a black man and that at least two of the other dancers were Asian.  I loved that they all seemed to have parts (perhaps even lines) when they weren't dancing, as they clearly stayed in character and formed an important part of the scenery.  I loved it that Vivien sat in a chair donated by Lady Irving and I turned out to have the one labelled Sir Miles Irving.  We both loved the lush red velvet and gold braid, ivory walls and and sweet cherubs of the newly refurbished Theatre (for its 175th birthday this year).  Sadly, most of my inside photos are rubbish.  However, I found a couple of external snaps of the Theatre Royal and Grey Street (as pictured on the stage screen) that I took in 2009.  

Grey Street at night.

If you hurry, you might be able to watch a trailer of Sleeping Beauty.

Do you love the ballet?


Anonymous said...

I do enjoy ballet, yet it has been years since I have attended a performance. How lovely you did so!

BigLittleWolf said...

What fun - and gorgeous pictures! (I used to enjoy going to the ballet, but it's been soooooo many years.)

I have a recollection of seeing the Bolshoi - in Russia - a lifetime ago. It was the USSR then.


LR @ Magnificent or Egregious said...

Sounds magnificent!

I attended my first ballet in November (The Nutcracker) and it was absolutely exquisite. It is an art form best appreciated live.

Rick Stone said...

"Do you love the ballet?" In a word, NO. But, surprisingly I do enjoy musical theater. As previously blogged, I had bought tickets to Lyric's "A Christms Carol". Since Jo passed on before the play I took her niece. Now this month I have tickets to "My Fair Lady" being done by a local repretory company. (Same friend who stared as Scrooge will be starring as Henry Higgins.) I'll be taken Jo's niece again, who is now referred to as my third child.

Live theater is great but I would probably have to pass on the ballet, although I've been told that Ballet Oklahoma is one of the better companies in this country.

Shelley said...

Ilegirl, It's been years since I've been and I've missed it!

BigLittleWolf, Glad you liked the photos. I bet the Bolshoi will have been pretty amazing.

LR, I totally agree, it's just not the same on film, though it is nice to see the costumes. I may have to drag Bill down to Leeds or up to Edinburgh sometime in the near future to see more!

Rick, I would agree that Ballet Oklahoma is probably of quite high calibre, having in the past had such greats as Maria TallChief and Yvonne Chouteau. Ballet isn't for everyone of course - judging from the audience at the Theatre Royal I'd say it was an 'old lady' thing! I think most folks can find some sort of live performance they can enjoy...and just remember you are 'supporting the arts'. Mom used to save up and buy us season tickets to the Mummers Theatre now and then. It was practically the highlight of her whole life those nights out. I wish I'd taken her to see more things like that when I got older...too busy with work and step kids, I guess.

Anonymous said...

I have not been to a ballet in years. DH, like your husband, categorizes it with opera...and thus, it is not worth the effort to convince him to go. I watched the trailer for this...and I would have to say that you were very lucky to snag the tickets and to have an enthusiastic companion.

Carolyn said...

What a wonderful experience! I just adore the ballet... How lucky that you could get such good seats, and with a willing and enthusiastic friend!
In answer to your comment: well, it does get cold here in Perth in my opinion, but I suspect not as cold as the UK :) Also, I have been dyeing, with an "e". Dying without the "e" is not something I am planning to do for quite some time yet....

Shelley said...

Terri, What was funny was that both our husbands said, 'Well, I would have gone with you.' However, there were remarkably few men in the audience, maybe 10-15%. I might have to agree with your husband about the opera, though I would try it once. I have heard some street performers in Covent Gardens and once in Liverpool and the sounds they could make were out of this world, not at all like on TV. Opera may well be like ballet, best enjoyed live.

Carolyn, Yes, that is an important 'e' isn't it!! I was just being lazy, not looking it up. And yes, I'm thoroughly enjoying Vivien's willingness to join me in having 'adventures'.

Beryl said...

I love the Ballet and Opera. This was one area where Seattle did it right. I think finding mostly women in the audience was probably due to it being in the afternoon. I am curious about the Mummers Theatre you mentioned? We used to go to a nearby town every winter solstice for The Revels, which was a Mummers type of thing. I would love to find something close in Oklahoma.

Shelley said...

Beryl, I've done some research and it sounds as though the Mummers Theatre became Stage Center and then was flooded in 2010, so I'm not sure where theatre happens in OKC now. In any case, Tulsa has always been very cosmopolitan (well, by heartland standards anyhow - there was always plenty of oil money there) and I would be amazed if you couldn't find lots to see through the Tulsa Arts Council. I've just checked and found opera and ballet companies in both Oklahoma City and Tulsa...not bad for a state with only 3 million people.

Rick Stone said...

Live theater is alive and well in Oklahoma, both in OKC and Tulsa. Although the old Mummers have been gone for many years there are numerous theater companies to take their place. Lyric in OKC is pretty much year round since they refurbished the old Plaza movie theater (NW 16th) for their winter shows. City Rep is a company exclusively for members of the Actors Equity Guild (live theater union). Pretty much any part of the city now has professional and amateur companies. AND like you said both cities have ballet and opera companies. In addition to all this are the schools (both college and HS) that do productions during the school year. OCU has one of the most respected schools of music and drama in the nation as does OU. Of the several Miss America's who came from Oklahoma most of them came through the OCU School of Music including Jane Jayroe and Susan Powell. (Powell went on to do opera on Broadway in NYC.)

Susan Tiner said...

I do the ballet but we rarely attend live performances, or dine out, or any number of other things people do for entertainment. We don't even have cable TV. Instead we scrimp and save so every couple of years we can travel to Europe. It's hard sticking to financial priorities!

Shelley said...

Susan, We rarely do any of these things either and we don't have cable TV; never have. However, I've just reached a major financial goal and we're loosening up a bit, ie making the house a bit warmer than in previous years. In fact, I'm having to cast around for what to save up for next. I will continue to save and invest, but given that we manage to do quite a bit of travel based on our current lifestyle (mostly funded by Bill, as travel is just about his top priority), I do think my usual level of scrimping might be a tad excessive. I've always been a bit single minded when it comes to money and Bill is generally frugal by nature, so I don't see us waltzing around to restaurants and theatres most weeks, but now and again it is fun. Too often, and I think it becomes a bit boring. Well done on sticking to your priorities! Where in Europe do you like to visit?

Anonymous said...

I went to see it in Edinburgh, I absolutely loved it, an evening at ballet is such a wonderful night out. I can't wait for their upcoming production of A Streetcar Named Desire, I think it's the first time it has been performed as a ballet.

Anonymous said...

Oh an luckily my hubs loves the theatre, ballet and opera!