Ballet for Children / The Royal Ballet

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Joby Talbot

Ballet in 2 Acts

Alice – Lauren Cuthbertson
Jack / Knave of Hearts – Sergei Polunin
Lewis Carroll / White Rabbit – Edward Watson
Mother / Queen of Hearts – Zenaida Yanowsky
Father / King of Hearts – Christopher Saunders
Magician / Mad Hatter – Steven McRae
Duchess – Simon Russell Beale

Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House Orchestra
Barry Wordsworth, conductor
Christopher Wheeldon, choreography

Bob Crowley, designs
Nicholas Wright, scenario
Natasha Katz, lighting design

Recorded live from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 9 March 2011.

- Cast Gallery
- Documentary – Being Alice

Picture format: NTSC 16:9 anamorphic
Sound format: LPCM 2.0 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish
Running time: 120 mins (ballet) + 30 mins (bonus)
No. of DVDs: 1 (DVD 9)

R E V I E W:

A stimulating production.

It is a brave company that is prepared to take such a surrealist novel and turn it into a stage show. Where film can provide the visual trickery necessary to give visual magic, theatre machinery is cumbersome and pedantic in comparison. Yet the development of technical resources and video projection can help. With ballet, a large part of the stage must be kept free of obstructions to allow ballet routines to progress unimpeded.
To then faithfully transfer to a video medium without high level on-line visual trickery may not ideally help the viewer. So how then has Covent Garden fared in bringing about a stimulating production?

Very well, in fact. The prologue where Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) is taking photographs of the family group works excellently. It is set in a realistic deanery garden. Bob Crowley’s backdrop painting in faded Victorian hues is in keeping. In this opening scene we are introduced to the personalities that later appear as stereotypes in the fantasy world Alice uncovers. The only odd thing in a private deanery garden is having a nurse wheel a perambulator across the stage as if in a busy street.

Some of the settings contain more subtlety than might at first sight be noticed. Monotone backdrops, the Cheshire Cat and a paper boat are styled on the engravings found in Carroll’s first edition book. As the ballet progresses the settings become more flamboyant and graphically modern.

Particularly stunning is the Playing Cards scene. Choreography and costumes strike just the right note. A clever routine with a segmented Cheshire Cat allows believable animation.

As one might expect, the dancing is up to the exacting standards of the corps with a Covent Garden reputation. The problem of having Alice change size was well contrived and Lauren Cuthbertson’s acting is excellent. The character of the White Rabbit is extremely officious throughout I noticed, yet pales before the bombastic pomp of the Queen of Hearts (Zenaida Yanowsky).

The orchestra plays well under the secure direction of Barry Wordsworth, a conductor not seen enough of nowadays. Talbot’s music has facets of talent and although classical harmony is mainly maintained, it is heavy, strongly percussive and is often reminiscent of the fight scene of West Side Story. One could hardly call the music melodious which is a pity as it misses out in appealing to the younger generation for whom the story is intended. I find the scoring unnecessarily heavy and is an ill fit with the elegance of classical ballet choreography.

The DVD is divided into play chapters, and contains a gallery photographs of the key dancers. It has the bonus of a well compiled and informative BBC documentary ‘Being Alice’. In it we see the planning, realisation and execution of the staging through the eyes of the principal dancer, Lauren Cuthbertson. Subtitles are provided in English, French, German and Spanish. In-depth background production notes with synopsis by David Nice are written in English, French and German.

-- Raymond J Walker, MusicWeb International


Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky

"One of the very best seasonal treats for children and adults alike, the Royal Ballet’s Nutcracker is a handsome, magical, thoroughly traditional rendering of ETA Hoffmann’s immortal if deeply strange story." -- Sunday Express

This all-time ballet favourite, in which young Clara is swept into a fantasy adventure when one of her Christmas presents comes to life, is at its most enchanting in Peter Wright’s glorious production – as fresh as ever in its 25th year. Tchaikovsky’s ravishing score, period designs by Julia Trevelyan Oman (including an ingenious magical Christmas tree), an exquisite Sugar Plum Fairy (Miyako Yoshida) and chivalrous Prince (Steven McRae), the mysterious Drosselmeyer (Gary Avis) and vibrant dancing by The Royal Ballet make for a captivating performance. Filmed in High Definition and recorded in true surround sound.

The Sugar Plum Fairy – Miyako Yoshida
Nephew / Nutcracker – Ricardo Cervera / Steven McRae
The Prince – Steven McRae
Drosselmeyer – Gary Avis

The Royal Ballet
The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Koen Kessels, conductor

Peter Wright, choreographer and director
(after Lev Ivanov)

Recorded live at the Royal Opera House, November and December 2009.

- Cast gallery
- Rehearsing at White Lodge
- Peter Wright tells the story of The Nutcracker

Picture format: NTSC 16:9 anamorphic
Sound format: LPCM Stereo 2.0 / DTS 5.0
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Menu language: English
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish
Running time: 127 mins
No. of DVDs: 1


Peter and the Wolf, Prokofiev’s musical fairy tale, has been delighting children since 1936. Nearly 60 years later, in 1995, the young choreographer Matthew Hart created a witty choreographed version for the Royal Ballet School with designs by Ian Spurling. Described as ‘an utterly delightful ballet and a perfect showcase for the younger students,’ by the Royal Ballet’s Director, Monica Mason, it was staged again and recorded for this DVD.

"...Matthew Hart’s Peter and the Wolf is one of the most beguiling children’s ballets around.” - The Telegraph

Matthew Hart, choreographer
The Wolf – Sergei Polunin
Grandfather – Will Kemp
Peter – Kilian Smith
Duck – Charlotte Edmonds
Bird – Laurine Muccioli
Cat – Chisato Katsura

The Royal Ballet School
Royal Ballet Sinfonia
Paul Murphy, conductor

Recorded live at the Royal Opera House, 16 and 18 December 2010.

- Cast gallery
- Documentary feature on rehearsing Peter and the Wolf

Picture format: NTSC 16:9 anamorphic
Sound format: LPCM 2.0 / DTS 5.0
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Menu language: English
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish
Running time: 38 mins
No. of DVDs: 1

This enchanting DVD captures 2011’s Christmas performance from the students of the Royal Ballet Lower School. All of the cast seem to be of primary school age, with the adult dancers Sergei Polunin and Will Kemp brought in as the Wolf and Narrator. Matthew Hart’s realisation of Prokofiev’s score as a ballet had first been seen in 1995 and it works very well indeed. Hart says in a short extra film that one of his aims had been to get as many dancers as possible onto the stage. He provide roles not only for the principal characters but for the corps as the physical elements of the story: dancers embody the hunters, the grass of the meadow, the waves of the pond, the trees of the forest and the wall next to Peter’s house. The choreography is simple without being simplistic and Hart tells the story very well. The principals are all extraordinarily proficient for their age, particularly the three girls playing the bird, duck and cat, who have the flexible movement of their creatures down to a T. Kilian Smith’s Peter is brave and likeable, while Polunin’s wolf embodies the sinister characteristics of a pantomime villain with that extra bit of danger. Will Kemp doubles as on-stage narrator and as Grandfather. The bright primary colours of both set and costumes work very well, and the only piece of staging is a bulky frame which is used for the tree, covered in graffiti about the story. The orchestra plays very well and the 5.1 surround sound brings the story to life. The only thing I missed, compared to an audio only recording, is the sense of intimacy with the narrator, something necessarily lost in a production such as this one, but if you don’t mind that then you’ll enjoy this very much. If you know some children who enjoy dancing, or if you want to get some children interested in dance for the first time, then this is especially for you.

-- Simon Thompson, MusicWeb International


Frederick Ashton (the other major choreographer of the second half of the 20th century) created his ballet Tales of Beatrix Potter for the camera in 1971 (still available on DVD). In 1992, Anthony Dowell created a stage version for the Royal Ballet, revived in 2007 and filmed during the subsequent performances. David Nice’s essay in the accompanying booklet tells us much about the score, “composed” by John Lanchberry using Victorian waltzes and ballads and excerpts from various 19th-century ballets (Minkus, Glazunov), as well as his own version of La fille mal gardée , to all of which Ashton choreographed a number of gems, at the same time parodying the 19th-century classics in solos and pas de deux.

It is difficult to comment extensively on the individual dancers, as the animal masks by Rostislav Dobujinsky entirely cover the dancers’ faces. But through movement, gesture, and even posture the individual roles are neatly characterized, from the footwork of Gemma Sykes’s Jemima Puddle-Duck to the exuberance of Zachary Faruque’s Jeremy Fisher or Steven McRae’s Squirrel Nutkin. Jonathan Howells has a difficult task, succeeding the choreographer himself as Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, but is almost as eloquent, although expanding Ashton’s few little movements into a full-length solo calls for too much repetition of the steps and attitudes. The adaptation was no simple task, as the film shows us Beatrix Potter herself in between the dance episodes, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle strolling through the English countryside before starting her solo; but Dowell has eliminated that aspect and gives us a pure dance spectacle that is a delight from start to finish. And it must be exhausting for the dancers who must perform in real time. The Royal Ballet Sinfonia under Paul Murphy offers a sparkling rendition of the composite score that equals Lanchberry’s version for the film or even the LP that was released in the 1970s. For those unfamiliar with the children’s classic, a brief synopsis will fill you in, but this is, in any event, an instant classic for the young at heart.

FANFARE: Joel Kasow

Mrs Tittlemouse: Victoria Hewitt
Johnny Town-Mouse: Ricardo Cervera
Mrs Tiggy-Winkle: Jonathan Howells
Jemima Puddle-Duck: Gemma Sykes
The Fox: Gary Avis
Pigling Bland: Bennet Gartside
Pig-Wig: Laura Morera
Aunt Pettitoes: David Pickering
Mr Jeremy Fisher: Zachary Faruque
Tom Thumb: Giacomo Ciriaci
Hunca Munca: Iohna Loots
Peter Rabbit: Joshua Tuifua
Squirrel Nutkin: Steven McRae

SUBTITLES: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian

Product Description:

  • Release Date: November 13, 2012

  • Catalog Number: OA 1096BD

  • UPC: 809478010968

  • Label: Opus Arte

  • Number of Discs: 4

  • Composer: Joby Talbot, John Lanchbery, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Sergei Prokofiev

  • Conductor: Barry Wordsworth, Koen Kessels, Paul Murphy

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Royal Ballet Sinfonia, Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra


  1. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

    Composer: Joby Talbot

    Ensemble: Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra

    Conductor: Barry Wordsworth

  2. Nutcracker, Op. 71

    Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

    Ensemble: Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra

    Conductor: Koen Kessels

  3. Peter and the Wolf, Op. 67

    Composer: Sergei Prokofiev

    Ensemble: Royal Ballet Sinfonia

    Conductor: Paul Murphy

  4. Tales of Beatrix Potter

    Composer: John Lanchbery

    Ensemble: Royal Ballet Sinfonia

    Conductor: Paul Murphy