Cape Town City Ballet, Artscape, RAYMONDA, Norman Furber, Marius Petipa, Alexander Glazunov
16 years since it was last seen on stage in Cape Town, Cape Town City Ballet has brought RAYMONDA back to the Artscape for a short winter season. It is a beautiful production of a ballet that is infamously light on narrative and heavy on dance, which makes for an evening of some first class performances and some frustration when it comes to experiencing the piece as a complex and compelling piece of storytelling.
RAYMONDA premiered in 1898 with choreography by Marius Petipa to a lush score by Alexander Glazunov. This particular version was created by Norman Furber for the CAPAB Ballet Company in 1980 and has been recreated by Elizabeth Triegaardt from videos taken during the 1980s and 1990s. The Furber scenario departs somewhat from the original. In this version, Raymonda (Hikaru Kobayashi/Laura Bosenberg/Kim Vieira) is still betrothed to Jean de Brienne (Valeri Hristov/Dirk Weyershausen/Daniel Szybkowski), who is off fighting in a war for the King of Hungary (Johnny Bovang). The Saracen knight of the original ballet, Abderahman, becomes a mystical sultan, Abderam (Xola Putye/Trevor Schoonraad/Ivan Boonzaaier), who like his equivalent is besotted with Raymonda.
More dramatic changes follow. In the original, a spirit known as the White Lady brings about an elaborate vision in which Raymonda is shown the fantasy of the life that awaits her with Jean and subsequently awakens to see the face of Abderahman, who then attempts to abduct her. (I have sometimes wondered to what extent this fantasy sequence influenced Agnes De Mille's dream ballet in OKLAHOMA!, the 1943 musical by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, which similarly shows its heroine caught between two opposing suitors. While vision scenes are prominent in ballets of the period, they are more often than not from the male perspective. That this vision is from Raymonda's perspective makes me wonder whether there is some link here.) In this version, the mysticism is provided by Abderam himself, who conjures up a vision of Jean, which lays the foundation for an exquisite piece of choreography in which the pair vies for her affections. This being a vision, Abderam has the upper hand and it is not long before he abducts Raymonda, taking her to his palace with the suddenly returned Jean in hot pursuit.
The second act of the ballet takes us to a location that remained unseen in the original ballet, Abderam's harem, where a second love triangle develops. Although Raymonda makes her distaste for Abderam clear, his hitherto favourite concubine, Semiramis (Angela Hansford/Lauren Rogers/Kirstel Jensen), is consumed by jealousy as she is pushed to the sidelines in favour of Abderam's new conquest. Jean arrives to rescue his beloved, challenging Abderam to a duel that proves, as in the original, to be fatal for the sultan. This leads us back to more familiar territory for the final act of the ballet, during which Raymonda and Jean's wedding is celebrated.
Born and bred in South Africa, David has loved theatre since the day he set foot on stage in his preschool nativity play. He graduated with a Master of Arts (Theatre and Performance) degree from the University of Cape Town in 2005, having previously graduated from the same university with a First Class Honours in Drama in 2002. An ardent essayist, David won the Keswick Prize for Lucidity for his paper "Homosexual Representation in the Broadway Musical: the development of homosexual identities and relationships from PATIENCE to RENT". Currently, he teaches Dramatic Arts at a high school in Cape Town and also freelances as a theatremaker and performer. |