The Dream – Brett Chynoweth, Kana Jones and Adam Bull.

The Australian Ballet are currently performing two major Ashton works as part of its 2023 season.

MARGUERITE AND ARMAND is intimate, powerful and passionate. THE DREAM is a far more traditional work.

For the first work,  the curtain opens to reveal Cecil Beaton’s seemingly simple sparse. glowing set for MARGUERITE AND ARMAND. The swirling, passionate music by Franz Lizst accompanies Marguerite’s last breaths. The 1963 Ashton work is ever associated with Fonteyn and Nureyev and there have been scant revivals since 2020.

Through a series of flashbacks we follow the piteous tale of Marguerite, a celebrated Parisian courtesan, now on her deathbed from TB, and her memories of her tempestuous great love for Armand. There is fabulous partnering and difficult flying lifts in the swirling, passionate pas de deux for the pair. Ashton’s choreography is ornate and demanding.

For the cast I saw – Valerie Tereshchenko is splendid as Marguerite, delicate yet powerful and strong,  sophisticated  and full of ardour for Armand.  We see her recall  meeting Armand when they have only had eyes for each other, then their separation, his public humiliation of her, and their brief rapprochement. Dashing Maxim Zenin as Armand was terrific with his work featuring spectacular jumps and a long , fluid line .

If we shadows have offended …after interval came THE DREAM, choreographed by Ashton in 1964, with a corps de ballet of fluttering fairies (‘ I do believe in fairies, I do believe in fairies’), a one act distillation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, to the famous music by Mendelssohn, with quick interpolations by  the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs. Ashton’s choreography for this work is far more classical with seeming allusions to Giselle for the fairies .

It has a terrific verdant woodland grove gauzy set for the mix ups and machinations that take place through the play.

Benedicte Bemet as Titania and Joseph Caley as Oberon were quite good but perhaps lacking a little in regal authority over their large corps de ballet of fairies.

We see four friends – a pair of blithe, true loves Hermia (Isobelle Dashwood) in pink, and Lysander(Joseph Romancewicz) contrasted with the quarrelling couple Helena (Katherine Sonnekus) and Demetrius (Jake Mangakahia).We follow Oberon’s interventions with Puck and the magic flower so Oberon can obtain the changeling, currently tended by Titania, he desires.

Cameron Holmes as Puck was outstanding, fluid and flying with prodigious leaps and turns and yet a soft, clean line and technique.  

Luke Marchant as Bottom, with his tripping pony-like pointe work(a feature of this ballet) was charming and polished, delighting the audience.

A great double bill to intrigue the audience and send them home pleased.

The Australian Ballet in THE DREAM/MARGUERITE AND ARMAND runs at the Joan Sutherland auditorium Sydney Opera House 10-25 November 2023 

Running time allow 2 hours including interval