is spectacular. The Prince of the Pagodas is one of
Britten’s finest scores. It is difficult to believe that this
is his only full-length ballet, so confident is the writing,
so masterful the pacing. Perhaps the performance contributes,
for the dedicated playing from the ROH orchestra is truly
outstanding. Try the entrance of the suitors to almost impossibly
delicate writing in the strings.
is difficult to imagine a more appealing fairytale than this
… and yes, there’s a lovely happy ending. The star of the
show is the Princess Rose, danced faultlessly by Darcey Bussell.
Her problems include a jealous half-sister (Princess Epine)
who, because she is accorded less of the Kingdom than Rose,
makes much mischief. A salamander-Prince provides the key,
his transformation mirroring the transformation of the State
and all around.
is difficult to take one’s eyes of Bussell’s movements, so
graceful are they. She has an elegance that seems to reflect
Britten’s score. The applause at the end of the Act 3 Scene
2 duet between Rose and her Prince is thoroughly deserved.
In fact tenderness underpins the entire production.
The production is by Sir Kenneth MacMillan
and is simply glorious. ‘Enchanting’ hardly covers it, for
this is a true fairy-tale – we are left to make our own minds
up about any sub-contexts. Within this setting, attention
can be truly focused on the dancers. The Emperor (Anthony
Dowell) is particularly characterful. Fiona Chadwick is eminently
believable as the ‘bad’ half-sister, Princess Epine.
provides a magical score. CD collectors may have the Chandos
disc of the excerpts (extracted by Donald Mitchell and Mervyn
Cooke) conducted by Leonard Slatkin (CHAN10111); or maybe,
indeed, Knussen’s recording of the complete score on Virgin.
But really the only way to do it is to see it.
documentary - longer than I expected! - is actually a fascinating
biog of MacMillan.