David Sumbler’s Weblog [2]

April 28, 2009 at 8:57 am (David Sumbler's Weblog, Music) (, , , , , , , , )

John Hull as Solor & Keiko Amemori as Nikiya in La Bayadére (Photo: Bill Cooper)

John Hull as Solor & Keiko Amemori as Nikiya in La Bayadére (Photo: Bill Cooper)

Last time I wrote we had not yet started the spring tour.  Now we have already done five weeks touring, performing the Mixed Programme and Swan Lake.

The Mixed Programme really was mixed for the orchestra.  One of the pieces, A Simple Man, was an old favourite for some of us who have been in the orchestra for a number of years – four of us actually took part in the first performances as well as the recent ones.  Copland‘s wonderful Appalachian Spring (the music for Angels in the Architecture) was new for us as an orchestra, although almost everyone knew it and had

Keiko Amemori in Angels in the Architecture (Photo: Bill Cooper)

Keiko Amemori in Angels in the Architecture (Photo: Bill Cooper)

played it before elsewhere.  La Bayadère, on the other hand, despite being the oldest of the three pieces by far, was known to hardly any of the orchestra members.  The style of the music, though, was immediately familiar to those of us who can recall performing NBT’s production of Don Quixote.  Both pieces were written by the 19th century Russian composer, Minkus.

Mention of A Simple Man reminds me of something that happened when the show was still fairly new, in the late 1980’s.  Princess Margaret was Patron of NBT at the time, and sometimes used to come to performances at the Theatre Royal in Bath.  She would stay with her friend Jeremy Fry, who lived at a nearby village – in a converted brewery!  Usually there would be a party at his place after one of the evening performances.

Workers - A Simple Man (Photo: Bill Cooper)

It was in the early stages of one of these parties, when many of the guests had still to arrive, that I noticed a lady standing on her own at the opposite end of the room from where most of us were gathered in a huddle.  Being a sociable sort of person I decided to go and talk to her.  She had her back to me as I approached so I did not immediately recognize who she was.  It was only after a few moments of conversation that I realized I was talking to Princess Margaret.  I asked her if she had enjoyed A Simple Man.  In true diplomatic fashion she did not give me an answer, but asked what my opinion was.  I told her that I thought that the music was very good, but that I had not yet been able to see what was happening on stage.  She suggested that this must make it difficult to play, since I would not know exactly what mood we were trying to convey when I have a solo.  (I thought this was extremely perceptive of her.)

The funny thing was that nobody else would come near us, probably doubtful whether it was right just to come up and talk to her, even at an informal party.  Equally, I hardly felt I could abandon her to go and talk to somebody else, so our conversation went on for a very long time, before I (or she) was rescued by her friend asking her to come and take her place in the kitchen for the meal.  Even then, she refused to go the first time she was asked, and he had to come back and ask her a second time!

Back to the present.  After five performances in Leeds of the Mixed Programme, we had Swan Lake to prepare.  This was a revival of a show that we last performed just a few years ago.  We had six hours rehearsal for the orchestra, followed by two dress rehearsals with the whole company.

Scene From Swan Lake (Photo: Bill Cooper)

This production of Swan Lake (the fourth that NBT has done in the years that I have been in the orchestra) is somewhat unusual, not just in some of the details of the scenario, but also in the selection of music.  All of the music is by Tchaikovsky, but as well as a lot of the original music for Swan Lake, we also include parts of his 3rd orchestral suite and one movement of the 5th symphony.  The latter starts with a massive horn solo.  When we did the show a few years ago our principal horn player was John Thornton, who always played the solo beautifully.  Soon after we had stopped touring Swan Lake John left to go to the Hallé Orchestra.  He spent a few years there, but recently decided that he would like to rejoin the NBT Orchestra – just in time, as it happens, for the revival of Swan Lake.

Swans - Swan Lake (Photo: Bill Cooper)In a symphony orchestra the principal horn would only have to play that solo for one performance, or possibly two or three concerts in a week.  Few could do it flawlessly seven or eight times a week, week after week, but John can manage it!  We really are very lucky to have him.

Musicians in ballet orchestras have mixed feelings about Swan Lake.  On the one hand, we all recognize that it is one of the finest ballet scores ever written, with probably the most brilliant musical ending of any.  The reason for the mixed feelings is that it is also just about the most exhausting piece to play of any – particularly the last few pages, where everybody is playing high and loud for ages.  This is doubly, or perhaps quadruply true for us, because we are such a small orchestra (only a couple of dozen of us).  Swan Lake ideally needs an orchestra three or four times as big.  But we are used to trying to make ourselves sound several times our true size: most people, even colleagues from other orchestras, who have heard the NBT orchestra without knowing its size are astonished when they find out how few of us there actually are.

Now we are about to revive Wuthering Heights, followed a couple of weeks later by Romeo & Juliet.  Next time I write, I’ll let you know a bit about how it is going from the orchestra’s point of view.

Juliet and Paris from Romeo & Juliet (Photo: Merlin Hendy)

Juliet and Paris from Romeo & Juliet (Photo: Merlin Hendy)

Juliet Wuthering Heights (Photo: HANSON)

Wuthering Heights (Photo: HANSON)

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Swan Lake Cast List – Sheffield

March 25, 2009 at 3:26 pm (Artist's News, Casts, General Information) (, , , , , )

The Swans Dance - Photo: HANSON

The Swans Dance - Photo: HANSON

Please Note: All casts are subject to change without notice.

Tue 24 March (eve)

Anthony – Kenneth Tindall
Simon – Christopher Hinton-Lewis
Odette – Keiko Amemori
Odilia – Martha Leebolt
Mother – Nathalie Léger
Father – Steven Wheeler
Young Anthony – Thomas Aragones
Brother – Ben Mitchell

 


 

Wed 25 March (eve)

Anthony – Yi Song
Simon – Darren Goldsmith
Odette –
Jessica Morgan
Odilia – Victoria Sibson
Mother – Nathalie Léger
Father – Steven Wheeler
Young Anthony – Brice Asnar
Brother – Ben Mitchell

 


 

Thu 26 March (mat)

Anthony – Tobias Batley
Simon – David Ward
Odette – Martha Leebolt

Odilia – Georgina May
Mother – Hannah Bateman
Father – Darren Goldsmith
Young Anthony – Thomas Aragones
Brother – Ashley Dixon

 


 

Thu 26 March (eve)

Anthony – Christopher Hinton-Lewis
Simon – John Hull
Odette – Michela Paolacci

Odilia – Keiko Amemori
Mother – Dreda Blow
Father – Steven Wheeler
Young Anthony – Brice Asnar
Brother – Ben Mitchell


Please Note: All casts are subject to change without notice.

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Farewell Steven Wheeler

March 24, 2009 at 3:04 pm (Artist's News, Casts, Company News, General Information) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Steven Wheeler with Charlotte Talbot in A Streetcar Named Desire and Steven as the Wardrobe Master in A Midsummer Night's Dream

Steven Wheeler with Charlotte Talbot in A Streetcar Named Desire and Steven as the Wardrobe Master in A Midsummer Night's Dream

This week Northern Ballet Theatre is performing Swan Lake and the Mixed Programme at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield.

Steven as Lord Capulet with Chiaki Nagao as Juliet in Romeo & Juliet

Steven as Lord Capulet with Chiaki Nagao as Juliet in Romeo & Juliet

It is a week tinged with sadness as we say farewell to a popular and much loved character. Senior Artist Steven Wheeler gives his final performances with NBT after 17 years with the Company.

His very last performance will be as Man in a Quandry in Gillian Lynne’s remarkable production, A Simple Man on Saturday evening.

After joining NBT in 1992 Steven has created many unforgettable roles, audiences have particularly enjoyed his portrayal of the Wardrobe Master in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a role that he refers to as his alter ego. Most recently Steven created the role of Hamlet’s Father in David Nixon’s Hamlet, and the Marquis in Cathy Marston’s A Tale of Two Cities.

He says; “I’ll miss the camaraderie of the dancers. We are one huge family and I think that shows on stage.”

David Nixon says: “I would personally like to give my thanks to Steven for the contribution he has made to the Company and for his many memorable performances.”

Steven’s parting message to you is: (Tongue firmly in cheek) “Don’t stop supporting NBT just because I’m not here. There are many other fabulous dancers to support. But seriously, thank you for all your support over the past 17 years, it’s been amazing.”

We’ll all miss you Steven and we wish you the very best for the future. Send your messages for Steven by emailing media@northernballettheatre.co.uk or post them at www.ballet.co.uk and click on NBTtalk.

NBT’s dancers add their tribute to Steven

“My top memory of Steve has to be my first years in the Company when we toured together in my old mini. Two of the tallest guys in the Company driving round in a tiny car with our bags must have looked a sight!
I’ve known Steve since I was eight and spent my entire dancing life with him so it is going to be really strange not having him around. His knowledge of NBT shows will be greatly missed.”
Darren Goldsmith, Leading Soloist

“Steven Wheeler is an amazing person to work with. He is very professional and will always give 100% in each performance (even if it is show 110!). He is also a very caring partner in pas de deux and will always make the girl look good even if he is uncomfortable. Every girl’s dream. Steven is one of my favourite people to work with.”
Ginnie Ray, Junior Soloist

“I think I was lucky to have joined the Company at the same time as Steven so I could spend a lot of time with him. He has been so helpful; when I joined the Company 17 years ago he helped me so I didn’t feel lost. We have had a great time working together and I will miss him so much but I wish him all the best for the future.”
Hironaio Takahashi, Principal Artist

“Steven came to Japan with Hiro and I for our wedding, he was our best man. He helped me chose my head-dress and Hiro’s suits. Steven has always been reliable at work. If he was playing my father, such as Lord Capulet in Romeo & Juliet, his acting and timing were perfect so I could therefore perform my role perfectly. He is so considerate and professional on stage, making sure that I looked good out there.”
Keiko Amemori, Principal Artist

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Swan Lake Cast List – Leeds

March 3, 2009 at 3:13 pm (Artist's News, Casts, General Information, Tour News) (, , , , )

The Swans Dance - Photo: HANSON

Please note: All casts are subject to change.

Wednesday 4 March (Eve)

Anthony –  Kenneth Tindall
Simon – Christopher Hinton-Lewis
Odette – Keiko Amemori
Odilia – Martha Leebolt
Mother – Nathalie Léger
Father – Steven Wheeler
Young Anthony – Thomas Aragones
Brother – Ben Mitchell


Thursday 5 March (Mat)

Anthony Christopher Hinton-Lewis
Simon – John Hull
Odette – Michela Paolacci
Odilia – Keiko Amemori
Mother – Dreda Blow
Father – Steven Wheeler
Young Anthony – Brice Asnar
Brother – Ben Mitchell


Thursday 5 March (Eve)

Anthony Tobias Batley
Simon – David Ward
Odette – Martha Leebolt
Odilia – Georgina May
Mother – Hannah Bateman
Father – Darren Goldsmith
Young Anthony – Thomas Aragones
Brother – Ben Mitchell


Friday 6 March (Eve)

Anthony Tobias Batley
Simon – David Ward
Odette – Martha Leebolt
Odilia – Georgina May
Mother – Hannah Bateman
Father – Darren Goldsmith
Young Anthony – Thomas Aragones
Brother – Ben Mitchell


Saturday 7 March (Mat)

Anthony Christopher Hinton-Lewis
Simon – John Hull
Odette – Michela Paolacci
Odilia – Keiko Amemori
Mother – Dreda Blow
Father – Steven Wheeler
Young Anthony – Brice Asnar
Brother – Ben Mitchell


Saturday 7 March (Eve)

Anthony –  Kenneth Tindall
Simon – Christopher Hinton-Lewis
Odette – Keiko Amemori
Odilia – Martha Leebolt
Mother – Nathalie Léger
Father – Steven Wheeler
Young Anthony – Thomas Aragones
Brother – Ben Mitchell

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Next Season Online

October 7, 2008 at 10:26 am (Tour News) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Northern Ballet Theatre  National Tour 2009

Just a note to say that the Tour pages on www.northernballettheatre.co.uk have been updated with the latest details and information about next season’s productions…

Tour Map

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