Review: Tchaikovsky Classics

Carlos Acosta and Tchaikovsky combine at Symphony Hall, watched by Simon Hale.

“This is how the magic begins,” announced Birmingham Royal Ballet director Carlos Acosta as he welcomed a full-house audience to a special evening of music and dance at Symphony Hall.

The dance legend was referring to the great ballet scores and instrumental pieces of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and their performance as his legacy by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia behind him under the conducting direction of Paul Murphy. With BRB’s dancers lending their performance talent in full costume on the bare stage to scenes in the three Tchaikovsky ballets – all Peter Wright productions – the programme of Tchaikovsky Classics showed that the magic still works.

A rousing start with the Polish dance-form suite Polacca led to four blissfully coordinated Cygnets (Olivia Chang Clarke, Rosanna Ely, Reina Fuchigami and Rachele Pizzillo) dancing the first of two scenes from Act II of Swan Lake.

The second scene saw Céline Gittens and Yasiel Hodelín Bello dance a stunningly expressive Odette and Prince Siegfried pas de deux, with harpist (Sue Blair) and violinist (Robert Gibbs) playing demanding full scales to perfection.

Gibbs, the orchestra’s leader who like his fellow musicians is more used to performing out of view from beneath the stage, followed with a masterfully performed solo from the ballet’s rarely performed Russian Dance. After that the students at Birmingham’s Elmhurst Ballet School demonstrated what they could do – and their ability shone through with their charming performance of the Garland Dance from Act I of The Sleeping Beauty.

Principal Tzu-Chao Chou showed his technical excellence in Prince Florimund’s solo from Act II from the same ballet before a bird-like Enrique Bejarano Vidal and an equally magical Sofia Liñares made their colourful roles in the pas de deux, solos and coda from the Bluebird and The Enchanted Princess their own.

A thrilling performance of the orchestral tone poem Marche Slave, written for a Red Cross benefit concert in aid of wounded Serbs in the Serbian-Ottoman War, and conducted on his Sinfonia debut by Yi Wei, BRB’s Constant Lambert Conducting Fellow, left the audience at the interval in rapturous mood.

The opening Polish-dance continued after the break with a fine rendition of the Act III Polonaise from Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin, and then the gorgeous Act II grand pas de deux, solos and coda for the Sugar Plum Fairy and Prince from his ever-popular Christmas ballet, The Nutcracker. Miki Mizutani and Max Maslen complemented each other perfectly in the piece, the former clearly exuding supreme confidence in her partner during the challenging lifts, holds and dives, and in herself with her heart stopping spins.

An exotic escape to Rome provided the inspiration for Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio Italien, played by the Sinfonia with gusto to Murphy’s expressive direction. It remained for Yu Kurihara and Lachlan Monaghan to conclude the programme with a thrillingly captivating ‘black swan’ pas de deux from Act III of Swan Lake, with the famous thirty-two fouettés involving quick whipping pirouette-like movements on one leg among the supreme highlights of a magical evening.

Birmingham Royal Ballet will deliver an introduction to The Sleeping Beauty at Bristol Cathedral on Tuesday, April 9th and perform the full Peter Wright production at Bristol Hippodrome from Thursday, April 18th until Saturday, April 27th. For more information and booking details, click on

Pics – Caroline Holden.