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Your Reaction: Rhapsody / The Two Pigeons 2016

What did you think of The Royal Ballet's Mixed Programme of works by Frederick Ashton?

By Rose Slavin (Former Assistant Content Producer)

18 January 2016 at 3.16pm | 21 Comments

Press reviews:
Londonist ★★★★★
The Stage ★★★★★
Arts Desk ★★★

What did you think of Rhapsody / The Two Pigeons?
Let us know via the comments below.

Rhapsody/ The Two Pigeons runs until 30 January 2016. Tickets are still available.

The mixed programme will be broadcast live to cinemas around the world on 26 January 2016.Find your nearest cinema and sign up to our mailing list.

By Rose Slavin (Former Assistant Content Producer)

18 January 2016 at 3.16pm

This article has been categorised Ballet and tagged Ashton, Ballet, by Frederick Ashton, Mixed Programme, Production, review, Rhapsody, Rhapsody / The Two Pigeons, Social Media, The Two Pigeons, twitter

This article has 21 comments

  1. Coppelia responded on 18 January 2016 at 6:47pm Reply

    A magical mixed bill, I really enjoyed it. Hay/Hayward were a stunningly gorgeous partnership in Rhapsody and Choe/Campbell were so heartbreakingly touching and funny in Two Pigeons. I love the Quality Street colours of Two Pigeons and the gold and Olympian-like design of Rhapsody. Can't wait to see it again in the cinema.

  2. Valerie Knight responded on 18 January 2016 at 9:20pm Reply

    Looking forward to this mixed bill at ROH on Sat eve and again at cinema in Dorchester next week. Judging by above comments if there are any Principal vacancies they should be filled from within the Company.

  3. Rob G responded on 19 January 2016 at 9:17am Reply

    Are the RoH planning a release of a dvd? I see that there are three filming sessions being done. Can I suggest they go for the release of the Hayward/Hay/Choe/Campbell version. I know that the other cast has more star quality but these four performers are perhaps more natural Ashton dancers. Plus we have had enough Osipova dvds already?

    • Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media) responded on 19 January 2016 at 11:55am

      Hi Rob,

      There are cameras in the auditorium on these dates due to the live cinema relay on 26 January. Cameras are in performances on the other two dates to rehearse for this live relay (checking camera angles etc).

      A DVD/Blu-Ray release has not been confirmed but as ever, if it is, details will be announced on these pages.



  4. Rob G responded on 19 January 2016 at 12:25pm Reply

    Okay thanks. Hypothetically then it would be disappointing if there were a dvd that we could have another Osipova/McRae Ashton performance rather than some young UK dancers Hay/Hayward who perhaps are better exponents of that style. Also Lauren (while I adore her, absolutely the best Juliet) is not the strongest Ashton dancer especially when compared to Yuhui.

    Anyway all hypothetical - but it would be nice to get another Ashton dvd!

    • Robin Smith responded on 25 January 2016 at 12:25am

      Steven McRae was superlative in Rhapsody this Saturday afternoon (Jan 24) and Osipova a delight. I doubt you will be disappointed.

  5. Howard responded on 19 January 2016 at 4:27pm Reply

    A great combination for showing off Ashton brilliance. Rhapsody with Francesca Hayward and James Hay was wonderful but Two Pigeons remains my favourite and I cannot agree with those critics who deride the work with words like sugary and sentimental. That’s just why I love it! Choe, Campbell and Mendizabal seemed hand-picked. (Oops – of course they were.) Loved the bit where the Young Man is desperately trying to paint Gypsy Girl while she’s dancing after refusing to paint Young Girl when she moved! Campbell’s compelling stage presence and confidence in both acting and dancing were special and his jetes and pirouettes in his gypsy camp solo electrifying.
    I agree with Rob G above. It would make a refreshing change to see this cast in the cinema.

  6. Jakegee responded on 20 January 2016 at 1:32pm Reply

    First, I want to say that I enjoyed this combination much better than I enjoyed "Monotones I and II" with "The Two Pigeons", which I saw twice in November.

    "Rhapsody" with James Hay and Francesca Hayward was fabulous ..... in fact superlative!! They both danced with supreme professionalism, so much so that I hope to see both soon promoted. The performance was also a wonderful showcase for the young Corps de Ballet, especially the males, Luca Acre, Tristan Dyer, Marcelino Sambe, Benjamin Ella, Kevin Emerton and Nicol Edmonds. Such precious young talent being nurtured within the company.

    I again loved "The Two Pigeons" with Yuhui Choi, Alexander Cambell and Itziar Mendizibal equally as I enjoyed it in November with Vadim, Lauren Cuthbertson and the wonderful Laura Morera. I again congratulate Christopher Carr for the sterling work he has put into the revival of this wonderful Ashton piece.

    Like some of the commentors above, I would prefer to see the Hay / Hayward cast, who were filmed on Saturday, on a DVD, rather than Osipova / McRae. I feel Osipova and Matthew Golding, both of whom lack facial expression and acting ability, are being over-hyped by Royal Ballet, when there is so much fresh young talent available within the company. Encourage them!!

  7. A magical matinee of gorgeous dancing in Rhapsody and hugely entertaining dance and acting in The Two Pigeons. McRae and Osipova were fleet footed and expressive in Rhapsody while Cuthbertson, Muntagirov, Kaneko and Hirano were on top form in The Two Pigeons. I must also mention the soloists and corps who were brilliant in both, particularly Marcelino Sambe, Yasmine Naghdi and Romany Pajdak- Ashton ballets depend so much on a committed and confident ensemble. I wish I had enough time in my schedule this month and next to watch this gorgeous double bill again....oh, about three more times Can this be repeated next season? PS I like these original Chappell/Ashton designs the most out of the three Rhapsody has had in the last 20 years (glad the arm bands and headbands from the 80s have gone though).

  8. Marian Mulady responded on 24 January 2016 at 5:51pm Reply

    Could not agree more that Campbell/Choi /Mendizabal made a perfect combination in "Two Pigeons".Preferable to the "starry cast".I did not see Hay/Hayward in "Rhapsody" but McRae brought the house down in the performance I did see.I also agree about too many Osipova dvds.There are other talents at Covent Garden just as enjoyable to watch,and keep.

  9. Jules responded on 25 January 2016 at 12:08am Reply


  10. Mary Dovey responded on 26 January 2016 at 11:16pm Reply

    Just seen the live relay. Two fabulous Ashton ballets . Steve McRae outstanding in Rhapsody.
    Saw much more detail than I get from my usual place in the Amphitheatre .

  11. Daphne Currier responded on 26 January 2016 at 11:41pm Reply

    Loved tonights live screening of Rhapsody and Two Pigeons. The pianist was a great part of the pleasure in Rhapsody .Spectacular leaps from Mc Crae. Lauren Cuthbertson had great acting ability as well as grace and humour. Muntagirov was expressive and had great stage presence . So grateful we can watch this down in Devon where we do not have many opportunities to enjoy ballet.

  12. James Black responded on 27 January 2016 at 6:31am Reply

    Greatly enjoyed the cinema relay last night, although I'd agree with many of those writing above that the matinee cast of 16 January (who were, I believe, filmed if only as a practice run) were possibly even more idiomatic with Hayward, Mendizabal and Campbell really outstanding. Mind you, MacRae was astonishing last night and Cuthbertson and Miuntagirov very touching. Some wonderful interval footage too and how lovely to have Alfreda Thorogood there to reminisce. My only quibbles were some of Darcey's pronunciations and a slip in the edits at the end citing "Principle" (sic) rather than "Principal Coaching."

  13. William Swales responded on 27 January 2016 at 10:45am Reply

    Oh joy and wonder to behold in last nights ‘live cinema’ presentations of Frederick Ashton’s ‘Rhapsody’ and ‘The two pigeons’. Royal Ballet you have done it again – beautiful understated sets; stunning chiaroscuro lighting; fabulous costumes; astonishing choreography; spell-binding music; breathtaking dancing; and mesmerising story-telling all melded together to deliver humbling, awe-inspiring rhapsodic expression and tense drama filled with gripping action and fabulous artistic expression that was utterly POTENT in its execution.

    For me, ‘Rhapsody’ was akin to George Balanchine’s ‘Jewels’ - presenting the opportunity to showcase the astonishing virtuosity of the dancers AND the orchestra – and what jewels we have in Natalia Osipova, Steven McRae, and Robert Clark.

    As the fabulous dancers and our amazing corps de ballet delivered a flurry of frenzy and excitement to Rachmaninoff’s augmented fifths and diminished ninths – Robert Clarks’ stunning execution reminiscent of Julian Lloyd Webber’s ‘game-changer’ rock version Webber recorded in the seventies - ‘the eighteenth’ started. As Paganini’s wonderful rhapsodic theme was played in reverse and the strings soared, Natalia Osipova and Steven McRae delivered one of the finest pas-de-deux I have ever had the joy and pleasure to witness. The moving spirituality between the dancers and the pianist just blew me away. If ‘Oscars’ were to be awarded for ballet then these three gifted artists would steal everything. Thankfully we had a short break to recover our composure.

    Having seen the virtuosity of our Royal Ballet through Frederick Ashton’s visionary choreography, the next – and obvious – thing to do was to showcase their story-telling capabilities – and Frederick Ashton’s ‘The two pigeons’ was the perfect choice, for here we see an artist full of his own self-importance wishing to go on an ego trip painting a portrait of his muse, while his muse wishes him to share the spiritual joy of life with her – as he completely misses the point and bullies his beautiful muse into ‘sitting just so’ so that he can capture her on canvas to show how marvellous he is at daubing – while she playfully seduces him to let him know that life is fleeting and that there is much more to life than just painting; and we could be snatched away at any moment; and that there is a time and place for everything – and now wasn’t the time to paint. Even when her friends came round to visit and he is surrounded with beautiful intelligent women, he was still pre-occupied with his own self-indulgence – what is the matter with the man!

    But then it got worse as the fool’s mind strayed from his daubing; his muse; and his senses, and he ran off with a fiery feisty woman who ‘played’ him for her own gain and he became ‘entangled’ in a web of sex and violence while the woman who loved him pined away. What a prat.

    Thankfully the fool’s bitter experience brought him to his senses, and after finally realising on which side his bread was buttered; and where his best chance of happiness lay; and what he was giving up; the crestfallen dejected fool returned to apologise for the error of his ways.

    But what was truly wonderful was the fact that his wise muse never once said ‘you have made your bed – now go and lie in it’; or ‘don’t come crying to me over your filly-folly’; or ‘serves you right you loser’; or ‘I told you so’ – no – because the wise, smart, street-wise woman KNEW that her beloved had learnt his lesson and that saying such things would only add insult to injury and not serve any purpose – and instead this wise woman set the fool’s foolishness behind him and placed it where it should be – in the past – as we were treated to the clever juxtaposition of the woman embracing her beloved while the dove recovered its composure; preened itself; and set the world to rights; and the allegory between the doves and the woman as she tentatively ‘flapped her wings’ to say ‘let’s start again’ as the male dove fluttered in to join HIS woman spoke out the SEMIOLOGY of the doves – her beloved has left ‘Pandora’s box’ – and the doves bring HOPE!

    MAGNIFICENT! Royal Ballet – you are in a class of your own and NOBODY comes close!!

    AFTER THOUGHT: I find the 21st Century approach of streaming live performances of top-class artistes from famous venues from all over the world to bring the very best talents the world has to offer directly into cinemas is both fabulous and amazing; and seeing our wonderful Royal Ballet is testament to how one can see stunning performances performed by the best companies in the world for little more than the price of a cinema ticket.

    Sadly - although feature films are released barely weeks after their debut in cinemas so we can all enjoy our ‘faves’ while they still have ‘resonance’ in our minds; this does not seem to be the case with the ‘live cinema’ events – the production companies preferring to ‘hold back’ the BluRay or DVD release for often as long as a YEAR (yes really) if at all - and so the ballet and opera companies throughout the world seriously ‘miss a trick’ in lost revenue.

    Let us hope that RB will have the good sense to release this wonderful ‘live cinema’ version on BluRay soon. If RB price it right – as the film producers do – and – just like the producers of feature films – release it within WEEKS of the ‘live cinema’ event - RB will earn more in DVD and BluRay sales than from cinema ticket sales because it will sell in its MILLIONS and return RB (and other companies with nonce who ‘follow suit’) a tidy profit – whilst also bringing joy to MILLIONS of us who are deprived of such wonderful art on TV.

    The whole cinematic experience brings an entirely new perspective to breaking down ‘the fourth wall’ and the popularity throughout the world of the ‘live cinema’ experience is forcing unimaginative playwrights with nothing to say and talentless hammy performers with nothing to offer to ‘up their game’ or be faced with scratching out a pointless living playing in quarter-full dank dark theatres - bringing a long overdue good scolding.

    Sadly, because people are ‘spoon-fed’ a diet of hammy soaps; pointless ‘reality shows’; and ‘purposeless’ illogical feature films, the majority of people who go to the live streamings stare emotionless at breathtaking performances performed by the very best artists the world has to offer, like dogs staring at the traffic - and do not clap.

    It is sinful! What is wrong with these people?

    I think Sir Arthur Conan Doyle puts it beautifully. When Doctor Watson asks Sherlock Holmes why he admires Moriarty, Holmes replies: ‘Talent instantly recognises genius – but mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself’.

    William Swales

  14. Veronica Sharpe responded on 27 January 2016 at 11:07am Reply

    Really in seventh heaven after Rhapsody and wondered how I would enjoy Pigeons after 30 years. No need to worry, it was brilliant. Also down in Devon. What a pleasure for us London exiles.

  15. daphne strand responded on 28 January 2016 at 11:42am Reply

    It would be good to hear that a DVD of the programme will follow soon !

  16. joan Hance responded on 29 January 2016 at 4:20pm Reply

    Just wish I could have seen it from another cinema. Odeon Salisbury screening hopeless. Only foreground dancers could be seen at all, background a complete brown murk. What do other people find from their cinemas? I have complained before about this cinema, but it never gets any better - but it is just down the road!!!Blu ray PLEASE

    • Sarah Walsh (Cinema Account Coordinator) responded on 29 January 2016 at 4:28pm

      Dear Joan,

      The murkiness you describe is down to an incorrect projector setting. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I'll raise with Odeon in the hope that it will be rectified in time for La Traviata.

      Best wishes,


  17. Stuart Dixon responded on 30 January 2016 at 5:57pm Reply

    Just home from the principal dancer free matinee performance and what a performance. We have some wonderful talent in the company and they shone brightly today. Francesca and James started proceeding off in the most fantastic way. Francesca has got music in her veins not blood and it pours out of her, pure quality with James partnering her perfectly. What a shame if this has been captured on film but will not be added to the DVD. Can you imagine this alongside Natalia's and Stevens interpretation. Not to left behind Beatriz and Matthew then blazed in Two Pigeons. She was playfull, cheeky and finally utterly broken hearted all in about 15 minutes, what talent. Matthew too danced sincerely and with great care for her which she showed by the presentation of a flower from one of her bouquets. What a great way to start a Saturday and the full house showed their appreciation.

  18. s.kershaw responded on 15 February 2016 at 11:55am Reply

    Great to see these two wonderful Ashton ballets again. Pity about some of the casting. What an opportunity to promote more than one young couple who by the way were brilliant There were two home grown dancers as "friends" who would have made great Young Girls.

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