Serenade / Sweet Violets / DGV

I do like my ballet triple bills at the Royal Opera House. The programmes are so varied that I am never bored, and if I dislike one production, I always fall in love with at least one of the others. My most recent trip was to see the Serenade / Sweet Violets / DGV programme.

Serenade dates from 1934 and was the first work by choreographer George Balanchine to be created with American dancers. It has a dreamy quality, emphasised by the background, which suggests moonlight.

Sweet Violets was what originally attracted me to this programme. Liam Scarlett based it on the Jack the Ripper murders, the Camden Town murder of 1907, and on the painter Walter Sickert, who developed an obsession with the murders. The plot is very hard to follow, but the scenery, designed by John Macfarlane, is wonderful and the dancing sublime. The music, too – Rachmaninov’s Trio élégiaque – is highly suited to the piece, with its dark, unsettling undertones.

Concluding the trio was DGV: Danse à grande vitesse, a lighthearted ballet by Christopher Wheeldon. Michael Nyman’s score, originally composed to commemorate the inauguration of a French high-speed railway line, is energetic and exciting, and the piece ended the triple bill on a high.


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