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Your Reaction: Rhapsody / The Two Pigeons live in cinemas

What did you think of the live cinema relay of these two Frederick Ashton ballets?

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

27 January 2016 at 4.34pm | 82 Comments

What did you think of Rhapsody / The Two Pigeons?

The next live relay of the 2015/16 Season will be The Royal Opera's La traviata on 4 February. Find your nearest cinema and sign up to our mailing list.

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

27 January 2016 at 4.34pm

This article has been categorised Ballet and tagged by Frederick Ashton, cinema, Rhapsody, Rhapsody / The Two Pigeons, The Two Pigeons, your reaction

This article has 82 comments

  1. jayne ruscoe responded on 26 January 2016 at 10:42pm Reply

    Rhapsody was mesmerising. Feet were merely a blur x 2 pigeons was truly enchanting. I cried at the final scene as the 2nd pigeon was reunited x

  2. Patrick Buckingham responded on 26 January 2016 at 10:50pm Reply

    Rhapsody was quite simply superlative. All of the dancers were on cue but Steven Macrae stood out for me in a part that must be fiendishly difficult to learn and enormously satisfying to dance. I am convinced that Ashton would still be surprising us were he still choreographing today.

    Two Pigeons continues to charm. I was much impressed by Fumi Kaneko's Gypsy Girl whose performance I enjoyed as much as Laura Morera (who she replaced and who I saw in the role in the last run).

    More Ashton repertoire is most certainly in order. Can I make a piea for Cinderella for Christmas 2016?

  3. Cecile Gillard responded on 26 January 2016 at 10:51pm Reply

    Magical evening #ROHAshton lyrical music and dancing, great character acting and interpretation - enjoyed it greatly, thank you! Watched at a cinema in Bristol. Almost danced my way home!

  4. Stuart dixon responded on 26 January 2016 at 10:55pm Reply

    The whole company danced wonderfully,principals, ladies and gents alike all on top form and let's not forget the orchestra and pianist in particular. Cheering in the cinema. Can't wait for the matinee on Saturday with frankie.

  5. Margaret Lawrance responded on 26 January 2016 at 10:58pm Reply

    McRae and Cuthbertson superb, technically brilliant dancing. Sir Fred will be well pleased. Two Pigeons an absolute masterpiece, uplifting and enchanting. Wonderful to see Lesley Collier coaching.

  6. Susan Priestley responded on 26 January 2016 at 10:59pm Reply

    Both new ballets for me. I thought the pace and athleticism of Rhapsody was truly amazing. Natalie O and Steven McR a perfect pairing!
    And Two Pigeon was delightful. Again Lauren C, Vadim M and Laura M an exciting a trois. Ashton has much to be admired for in portraying the bird like features of the steps without overdoing it.
    Full marks to the orchestra!
    Darcy is so engaging it's like having a friend in the ROH.

  7. craig responded on 26 January 2016 at 11:26pm Reply

    First time watching ballet in a cinema. Both performances left me with a smile on my face. Charming and engageing and a thoroughly brilliant night.

  8. Chris Topintzis responded on 26 January 2016 at 11:39pm Reply

    Both Ballets so beautiful and so different. .. Dancers especially Vadim and Stephen magnificent...Lauren so exquisite...Music to die for ....Thank you everyone for a fantastic evening...

  9. Joan Hopton responded on 27 January 2016 at 12:33am Reply

    One of the best and most memorable ballet evenings I've enjoyed in a very long time. The contrast of styles in the 2 ballets were extraordinary when you realised they were both choreographed by the same person. the word 'genius' is very overworked but it certainly apples to Sir Frederick Ashton. It could also apply to the wonderful interpretation of his great works given by all the dancers tonight. Steven Mcrae was outstanding and breathtaking. Baryshnikov himself could not have performed the role better. Osipova was brilliant too and certainly seemed to have mastered the amazingly fast footwork. In 2 Pigeons Vadim lit up the stage with his beautiful, lyrical dancing and wonderful smile. Congratulations to Lauren, Fumi and Ryo as well for an unforgettable evening. I hope we don't have to wait too long for the dvd, I've got withdrawal symptoms already!

  10. Jakegee responded on 27 January 2016 at 12:43am Reply

    A wonderful evening's entertainment with both 'Rhapsody' and 'The Two Pigeons'. However, having seen both casts live at the Royal Opera House, tonight's cinema relay confirmed my opinion that Francesca Hayward and James Hay gave a much superior performance in 'Rhapsody'. Francesca's fluency and obvious enjoyment of her role far exceeded Natalia Osipova's rather strained and sometimes 'twitchy' performance. Her face looked stressed, with a rather forced 'grimace' of a smile and at times a 'sucking lemons' expression, which, particularly on her 23rd Jan performance, gave the impression that she is not happy in her dance at present.

    With both casts, the five young couples have demonstrated the strength of the up and coming young dancers in the Royal Ballet. I particularly enjoyed Tristan Dyer, Luca Acre and Marcelino Sambe. It's great to see that young talent being nurtured by the company.

    'The Two Pigeons' is such a delight! Both tonight's cast and the Alexander Campbell & Yuhui Choe cast were sublime! Having seen it on stage on four occasions, I feel sad that I have no more tickets booked!! Christopher Carr is owed a huge debt of gratitude for his endeavours to revive this wonderful piece for our enjoyment. The live relay gave us the advantage of seeing how great is the acting ability of Royal Ballet's team of dancers, in addition, of course, to their technical capabilities. Thank you, Kevin O'Hare, for bringing back 'The Two Pigeons' after such a long absence.

  11. Patricia Casselden responded on 27 January 2016 at 3:09am Reply

    I don't like ballet in two dimensions -"tv/big screen " but if it encourages people to go and see the REAL thing I'm not complaining. If anyone can persuade people Steven McRae & Natalia Osipova in Rhapsody should. I saw them in the Opera House last week - that's the only way for me - they were fantastic.

  12. Lucia responded on 27 January 2016 at 6:21am Reply

    Two wonderful ballets, which were both new to me. The two pigeons is now my favorite ballet! Absolutely love it! Rhapsody is also so wonderful and I was so happy to see my two favorite dancers Natalia Osipova and Steven McRae dancing together. So I would love to see it again on dvd. I hope you will publish it. Thanks for such an amazing evening and I'm looking forward to the next time. Greetings from Germany!

  13. Vivien Winterburn responded on 27 January 2016 at 9:29am Reply

    Wonderful evening as ever - enjoyed Two Pigeons - very impressed with Fumi
    Kaneko as gypsy girl and the doves of course but for me the highlight was Rhapsody - absolutely mesmerising - Natalie beautiful and Steven amazing performances

  14. Nick B responded on 27 January 2016 at 11:37am Reply

    What an amazing evening! Mesmerising from start to finish. The RB really are superb in every department. Rhapsody fantastically danced. Two Pigeons wonderfully danced and acted. Orchestra brilliant. Christopher Carr is inspiring at reheasals, striving for perfection and getting it!
    Will there be a DVD?

  15. Joe Brand responded on 27 January 2016 at 11:56am Reply

    Another ballet relay spoiled for me by Ross Macgibbon's directing. He seems to think one goes to the ballet to watch the dancers from waist upwards - with occasional glimpses of feet and legs which is what really matters. Close-up shots seemingly on the stage which just become a fuzzy whirr, shots from beneath. If Ashton creates geometric patterns, they are meant to be seen, each dancer in relation to the others not a selected one or two in closeup (usually of the upper torso). People appear, as if at random, in different parts of the stage and one never sees how they got there - even in a pas de deux. Ballet was never meant to be seen like this. Ashton's overall concept in Rhapsody was simply ruined. The superb performers were compromised and Ashton must have been spinning in his grave. And the lighting! Pigeons was in gloom almost throughout. Watch a Bolshoi broadcast and note how it's lit. Covent Garden productions used to be lit properly for relays What's happened? As someone who saw the original casts of Pigeons this was a dreadful disappointment - though not on account of the performers..

    • Chris P responded on 31 January 2016 at 6:37pm

      Just returned home from local cinema showing 'encore' of Rhapsody/Two Pigeons. I would totally agree with Joe Brand's words re the directing of the relay. Slightly spoiled the afternoon as it has on other relays. But, Steven McRae is my hero, absolutely fantastic. The whole programme was wonderful. Forgot about the rain and wind outside. We will be back for Giselle and hope for improved direction. Did anyone else besides my friend and I notice Osipova's tiny near trip up? Living 'up North' with very little chance of going to the ROH these cinema relays are much appreciated.

  16. Rita Taylor responded on 27 January 2016 at 12:19pm Reply

    What a sublime evening with Rhapsody and Two Pigeons. Steven McRae was superb - a combination of technical perfection with spiritual interpretation. Eagerly awaiting the DVD now.Watched in Hull where we take full advantage of the opportunity to see top ballet and opera performances even though we cannot often access Covent Garden. And we get Darcy!

  17. Nathalie Dejong responded on 27 January 2016 at 12:27pm Reply

    Last night performance of Rhapsody was fantastic and Stephen McRae was absolutely outstanding! I really enjoyed the Two Pigeons too. A great evening! I saw it in a cinema in Belgium and it made fancy a trip to London to come to see the Royal Ballet on the main stage!

  18. David Allcock responded on 27 January 2016 at 12:31pm Reply

    Fantastic footwork and musicality in Rhapsody danced to Rachmaninov's Variations, beautifully played by Robert Clark.
    The Two pigeons a real treat that had us both with moistened eyes by the end.
    Please issue a DVD of these.

  19. I just loved these two ballets, especially TWO PIGEONS. The human dancers were so accomplished, the costumes were beautiful, especially those gipsy skirts and the avian cast members performed beautifully. I also loved the interval chat, Leslie Collier and Alfreda Thorogood were terrific and interesting and above all I marvelled at the ability we have now to share such evenings with thousands of others all over the world. THANK YOU, ROH! Will go to Giselle and Frankenstein, too.

  20. Nicola responded on 27 January 2016 at 1:44pm Reply

    Adored both ballets. McRae and Osipova fabulous in Rhapsody, although generally neither are favourites of mine - but wow!

    The Two Pigeons was sublime; funny, sweet, emotional and so moving. Vadim's smile and sheer presence lights up the stage, and Lauren as the young girl was just perfect. And what a wonderful actor Vadim has become. It goes without saying that his beautiful, lyrical dancing was exquisite.

    A DVD - please!!

  21. daphne strand responded on 27 January 2016 at 2:12pm Reply

    I saw several performances of"Two Pigeons" in the 1970's and , now that I no longer live near any large centre, it is wonderful to see that it features in the programme of relays from ROH. The entire cast was superb. Steven Mcrae was tremendous in "Rhapsody". An enchanted evening.

  22. William Swales responded on 27 January 2016 at 2:29pm 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 variation’ started. As the notes of Paganini’s wonderful rhapsodic theme was played in reverse order 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.

    Anita Ekberg famously said ‘Commoners seldom understand films (also read opera and ballet) – with ‘La Dolce Vita’ (The sweet life) it’s in your face.’ – and in ‘The two pigeons’ we see Anita Ekberg’s astute observation staring us right in the face with critics and public describing this deeply moving piece as ‘sugary sentimentality’.

    Not so - for here we see an artist full of his own self-importance wishing to go on an ego-trip painting a portrait of his woman, while his lady 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-importance and 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 runs off with a fiery feisty woman who ‘plays’ him for her own gain and he becomes ‘entangled’ in a web of sex and violence while the forlorn woman who loves him pines away.

    Thankfully the fool’s bitter experience brings him to his senses, and after finally realising on which side his bread is buttered; and where his best chance of happiness lies; and what he has given up to pursue ‘greener grass’; the crestfallen dejected fool returns – ego deflated - to apologise for the error of his ways – in the hope of ‘making a fresh start’.

    But what was truly wonderful was the fact that his wise woman 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 KNOWS 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 places it where it belongs – in the past – as we were treated to the clever juxtaposition of the woman embracing her beloved while the dove recovers its composure and preens itself; and the allegory between the doves and the woman as she tentatively ‘flaps her wings’ like a sobbing child to say ‘I forgive you - let’s start again’ - as the male dove flutters onto the chair to join HIS woman - spoke out the SEMIOLOGY of the doves – her beloved has left ‘Pandora’s box’ – and the doves bring HOPE!

    THAT dear reader is what this beautiful ballet portrays – so ignore all of the crass remarks about the story and the performers – performers who ‘gave their all’ to EVERYONE last night – and SOME!

  23. Enobarbus responded on 27 January 2016 at 2:41pm Reply

    Rhapsody was a revelation: an endlessly inventive marriage of music and movement: Ashton at his very best. Ensemble numbers not always as precise as they should be but two impressive and delightful soloists. I saw Two Pigeons in Cambridge 30 years ago and was disappointed by the revival: stage too crowded at times, some of the gypsy scenes mere fillers and very poor lighting. Too often the camera work loses any sense of symmetry and pattern by using inappropriate close ups: the essence of Ashton's choreography is design. Fumi Kaneko utterly charming. Evening tarnished by inept, patronising presentation: What Do You See?. And as for Darcey and her sidekick: please look at how the Bolshoi manages similar broadcasts. No dumbing down there!

    [Edited by a moderator to conform to Community Guidelines]

  24. elleG responded on 27 January 2016 at 2:52pm Reply

    Last night's performance and relay was a wonderful way to celebrate Vadim Muntagirov's Critics' Circle Award as Best Male Dancer. He was out of this world in the beauty of his dancing and the touching reality of his characterisation and we are so lucky to have him dancing in the UK. I echo the remarks above thanking Kevin O'Hareso much for bringing Two Pigeons back into the rep. It's been great.

  25. Janet McNulty responded on 27 January 2016 at 3:21pm Reply

    It was a huge treat to see Alfreda Thorogood chatting to Darcey and Ore in the interval. I know it is not one of the recorded highlights but it would be so lovely if this clip could be made available.

    I enjoyed the performance very much (although I prefer watching a performance in the theatre) and it enabled me to see dancers in a cast I haven't booked for.

  26. Valerie Knight responded on 27 January 2016 at 3:23pm Reply

    I have waited about 30 years to see Two Pigeons and now I've seen it twice - at ROH on Sat evening and in the cinema last night. I knew I'd love it and hope for a DVD - please!
    I enjoyed both casts - loved Valentino Zucchetti in Rhapsody with Yuhui Choe. I agree with comments by Joe Brand above re close ups. Apart from Rhapsody, the first act of Two Pigeons was spoiled for me by the camera switching about from one person to another instead of seeing both The Boy and The Girl and their interaction in the same shot. After all the pre-performance talk of Ashton's Brilliant choreography and amazing steps it would have been nice to see it all at the cinema! Would still like a DVD though! I loved the partnership of Lauren C. and Vadim. And may we have Two Pigeons again next season and also Onegin?

  27. Amanda Harvey responded on 27 January 2016 at 3:23pm Reply

    What a wonderful evening, the dancing superlative but the pigeons stole the show for me. All that passion going on and in the same shot the one pigeon was more interested in investigating and cleaning his armpit!!!!

    I did though find the constant changing of camera view a bit distracting constantly having to refocus on the action.

  28. adrian burley responded on 27 January 2016 at 3:24pm Reply

    I presume I can comment because I was lucky enough to go to the performance. One of my top two ballet performances so far-don't bother with which one was best. Stephen McRae phenomenal. Natalie Osipova has presence. Went to see Two Pigeons again to see Fumi Kaneko-superb. Two Pigeons wholly delightful. Entire performance pure magic.

  29. françois responded on 27 January 2016 at 3:44pm Reply

    Absolutely unforgettable Rhapsody! I've seen it now 4 times with Steven McRae and he is absolutely extra-terrestrial in this ballet! And the Adagio variation with Natalia Osipova was so moving!
    I hope you will deliver a DVD of this production, McRae's Rhapsody has to remain in the memory of the Ballet history (I've also seen the alternative cast Hay/Hayward, which had very good qualities, but seriously with McRae we are just on another planet).

    As for the Two Pigeons, though I preferred the more idiomatic cast with Choe-Campbell that I saw two weeks ago, Cuthbertson and Muntagirov were excellent, as was the outstanding Fumi Kaneko too.

    Globally thousands of thanks to the Royal Ballet to have broadcast this performance, where the company was at its best, extremely brilliant, as was the orchestra (and the pianist!) too. And congratulations to the cameramen and sound engineer, who did a fantastic job.

    Now just a wish regarding the live cinema: please, please, do not cut the curtain calls! It seems to be a new habit this season to cut them in order to advertize the next performances, but curtain calls are part of the experience and help us to progressively switch from the dream of the performance to concrete reality... Now the sudden cut of the curtain call with the sound of the voice of Darcey Bussell to inform us about the next live performances is rather a shock, we would so much prefer to remain in our dream, looking at the curtain calls until they progressively cease. If you wish to advertize the next live cinemas, please do it at the end of the interval, not at the end of the performance during the curtain calls.

    • Jakegee responded on 27 January 2016 at 4:57pm

      Yes, I would like to echo your comment above! I was very irritated by the interruption to the curtain calls by Darcey. It was unnecessary to intrude at that time to promote the next relays. Please, in future delay until all bows have been taken. Much as I enjoy some of the interviews during intervals, I do find Darcey's gushing quite annoying, and particularly when she cannot even name the dancers correctly, as with Vadim Muntagirov last night. Not very professional.

  30. Alice Wheeler responded on 27 January 2016 at 4:19pm Reply

    A truly wonderful evening.Steven McRae superb in Rhapsody. Pigeons was delightful, that final pas de deux moved me to tears. Please could we have a DVD?

  31. Anna responded on 27 January 2016 at 4:32pm Reply

    This was the first time that I have seen Vadim dance and I will certainly make sure it is not my last!

  32. Pam responded on 27 January 2016 at 4:45pm Reply

    What can I say that hasn't already been said? What a fabulous, glorious evening and what superb artists - the soloists, the corps de ballet, the pianist, the orchestra; the various interviews during the course of the evening were fascinating. There are no superlatives to describe my joy at last night's performances. Like an earlier writer I do love attending ROH, however, I live in sw Wales so that is now possible too often and thus the live streaming is an acceptable alternative. However, please, please, can the director use fewer close up shots. If I was there in person I would be looking at the full stage and that is what I would prefer to do during the streaming. Apart from that minor criticism, keep up the magnificent work and I look forward to Giselle in April.

  33. Jackie Miller responded on 27 January 2016 at 4:50pm Reply

    Absolutely loved both the Two Pigeons and Rhapsody last night both performances were mesmerising. Altogether an enchanting evening.

  34. Fiona Dunn responded on 27 January 2016 at 5:14pm Reply

    A wonderful evening at the Light Cinema in Wisbech. The two ballets were new to me, and I loved both of them. The Corps in Rhapsody were mesmerizing, and to see all the dancers in close-up was truly amazing. (Olivia Cowley's stood out for me.) I had never seen Vadim Muntagirov before (apart from "Afternoon of a Faun"), and his dancing and acting are first rate. He also has great charm, and is extremely likable. I would wish to echo the remark above about Darcey Bussell being so engaging, and that it is like having a friend at the ROH. She is always such a pleasure to watch and listen to, and the broadcasts would not be the same without her. (I did feel that the lighting could have been much brighter in both ballets. Surely an Artist's studio for painting would be full of light, not dingy and murky?)

  35. Pam Courtenay Smith responded on 27 January 2016 at 5:55pm Reply

    Not seen either ballet before - the whole evening was a joy, a brilliant evening - my daughter and I watched the transmission from one of our local Island schools, and I think the whole audience was mesmerised by the stunning pas de deux in Rhapsody. Many, many congratulations to absoutely everyone at the ROH involved with these two ballets. Much looking forward to future events.

  36. Paul responded on 27 January 2016 at 6:56pm Reply

    Rhapsody was stunning, and the slow movement was very touching with Natalia Osipova's emotional response to the music.There were superb performances by all, especially Steven McRae.

    The Two Pigeons, came as a slight disappointment on screen, having seen it on stage recently. The stage seemed very dark, and we couldn't always see what was going on. After the sheer excitement of Rhapsody, it seemed to drag on in Act I with an excess of charm. Act II however was stronger, with a superb pas de deux to end.

    • Sarah Walsh (Cinema Account Coordinator) responded on 28 January 2016 at 9:33am

      Dear Paul,

      Please can you let me know which cinema you saw Rhapsody/Two Pigeons at? Some cinemas use the incorrect projector settings (unfortunately) which causes the darker parts of the screen to appear even darker thus making it difficult to pick out the action, as you mention.

      Kind regards,


  37. W J Owen responded on 27 January 2016 at 7:14pm Reply

    I'm so glad I went to see this in the cinema ( Fact Liverpool) last night. The dancing was great. McRae was absolutely fantastic in Rhapsody- there were gasps in the audience when he did those final jumps. I love Osipova and her footwork was fantastic but I did think she was a bit stiff and not relaxed in her role.
    2 pigeons was sweet and the 2 pigeons stole my heart. I did miss Laura Morera though. Fumi Kaneko danced beautifully but Morera must have been made for that part. I hope she recovers quickly .
    I was disappointed at the dumbing down of the presentation , however. First of all, the male presenter is clearly totally out of his depth and knows nothing of ballet. Why not leave it all to Darcey or get a male presenter who knows something about ballet. Whilst Darcey is not very good with the autocue, I don't mind as she really knows her stuff. When she ad libs, she is great . Just leave her to it. Also, the interval presentations were lacking in content and I got sick of the adverts. Someone described the presentation as patronising and I would agree. Why couldn't we have had a film by Darcey about Ashton and his style? It would have been great. Please don't dumb down in the presentation. Your audience is not stupid. We welcome the opportunity to learn.

  38. Joyce responded on 27 January 2016 at 7:23pm Reply

    Charismatic, engaging performances with simply sensational dancing of the highest level to choreography that is truly genius and to music that is just sublime!
    Perfect partnership choices. Well done Royal Ballet and Christopher Carr I salute you!!!

  39. Tatjana Boleslawski responded on 27 January 2016 at 7:30pm Reply

    Steven McRae is the true heir of Mikhail Baryshnikov whose birthday is today! (01/27). Always was my favourite dancer but alas he is 69 now. Finally there is light at the end of the tunnel!
    (We watched in Fuerstenfeldbruck near Munich/Bavaria)

  40. Fiona Reed responded on 27 January 2016 at 8:49pm Reply

    Watched Rhapsody and The Two Pigeons in Berwick upon Tweed. The Two Pigeons a lovely ballet, Lauren a delight as always. But Rhapsody, wow! Natalia Osipova and Steven McRae at the height of their considerable dancing powers. Does it get any better - No it does not! Superb! I hope there will be a DVD. Looking forward to Giselle and Frankenstein.

  41. Joan Hopton responded on 27 January 2016 at 9:36pm Reply

    Have already commented on the 2 wonderful ballets and stunning performances but I wanted to especially echo the comments made previously about the dim lighting. It does spoil your enjoyment if you are constantly trying to pick out dancers and their movements in the gloomy light. Fumi and Ryo especially with their dark clothes and hair were difficult to see on occasion. I'm sure with todays modern technology it should be possible to strike a happy medium between satisfying the theatre audience and the many thousands watching at cinemas all over the world. I mentioned this after a previous relay (unfortunately the problem seems to occur with monotonous regularity) and the person from the ROH who replied said she would pass it onto the relevant production staff but nothing seems to have changed. Apparently in previous decades when recording was taking place the theatre audience was informed that the lighting would be different and theatre tickets would be slightly cheaper. If it's not possible to adjust the lighting for a couple of performances per relay perhaps this is a solution. There is always a backup performance recorded in advance of the live relay. You would think anyone watching this would realise how dark it appears on the screen and amend it but it never seems to happen. Come on ROH, we want to enjoy every aspect of these wonderful productions without having to peer through the gloom to do so.
    Having said all this I still want the dvd! Any idea when it may be available?

    • Sarah Walsh (Cinema Account Coordinator) responded on 28 January 2016 at 9:30am

      Dear Joan,

      Thank you for taking the time to send us your comments. Please can you let me know which cinema you saw Rhapsody/Two Pigeons at? It sounds to me that the cinema had one of their projector settings inputted incorrectly making the dark parts of the stage appear much darker than in reality. This is something we've noticed happens quiet regularly with certain cinemas and we are working on making our cinema instructions clearer so as to prevent this happening. If you let me know which cinema you attended then this would be good opportunity for me to take it up with them and ensure this doesn't happen in future.

      Kind regards,


  42. Janet Parcell responded on 28 January 2016 at 12:26am Reply

    The whole evening was sublime. The dancing was stunning throughout and my husband and I wept with emotion at the end of the Two Pigeons. I last saw the Two Pigeons in 1964 with Lynn Seymour and Christopher Gable and this revival is truly wonderful. We loved the close-up facial expressions at key dramatic moments [that a theatre audience would invariably miss out on] but we both felt that there were a few too many close-ups, particularly in Rhapsody, where shapes and patterns are important. I simply want a view of the whole stage from the best seat in the house most of the time. We really appreciate the other 'extras' of a live cinema relay such as Darcey and the interval interviews. We would love to see the full cast lists [for example who was the gypsy boy?]. The whole evening was a magnificent advert for the UK and we eagerly await more of the same, thank you ROH!!

    • Sarah Walsh (Cinema Account Coordinator) responded on 28 January 2016 at 9:36am

      Dear Janet,

      I'm delighted you and your husband enjoyed the broadcast so much. We provide all the cinemas with cast sheets for each of our events so I'm sorry that you didn't receive it on Tuesday. If you let me know which cinema you attended I'll be happy to follow up with them to make sure they distribute them the next time.

      Kind regards,


  43. Margaret responded on 28 January 2016 at 10:48am Reply

    A wonderful evening of dancing. Rhapsody was magnificent, especially McRae. Enjoyed Two Pigeons having already seen it at the opera house. I do have to agree with Joan that the lighting needs attention. It was quite dark in the gypsy scene and it made it difficult to see the dancers. We also had problems with Nutcracker, although the previous Carmen mixed bill was better at the cinema than at the opera house.
    I have also looked at 2 DVDs of Fille, the one from the live screen has some dark patches (in the final scene) which are not present in the older version - have lighting policies changed?

  44. Patricia Berry responded on 28 January 2016 at 11:09am Reply

    I seem to be a lone voice in wondering if McRae and Osipova knew the title of the ballet they were dancing. Yes, technically wonderful but where was the spirit of Ashton. The piece is called Rhapsody not let's have a competition to see who can spin fastest. There is always a sense of competitiveness in McRae's dancing and Osipova is still very Bolshoi. If only you had relayed the other cast.... However I do appreciate the screening of programmes which don't have the popular appeal of the big traditional ballets.

    • Jakegee responded on 28 January 2016 at 5:56pm

      As in my first comment on this blog, Patricia, I totally endorse your comment re "Rhapsody", As many have said here (and even in the press reviews!), the Francesca Hayward and James Hay performance was much more fluent, with a true partnership of Principal Dancers, and the same wonderful Corps de Ballet. I felt Osipova was not at all comfortable in her role. The issue of the DVD has now been announced, and sadly I presume we will have to see the Cinema relay cast - how much better it would have been with the 'alternative' cast.

  45. William Swales responded on 28 January 2016 at 1:52pm Reply

    Digital screens/cameras currently only have 100 nips (light intensity levels) to play with, whereas in the ‘real world’ the eye/brain can resolve over a million nip levels – from seeing images a little above ‘pitch’ black to having to squint because the light is so bright. - so a compromise has to be reached that permits the ‘real’ levels of brightness to be compressed (squashed) onto the current digital media capability to maximise the ‘brightness to contrast ratio’ without losing detail.

    This is achieved by altering the ‘gamma’ (brightness curve) by using the ‘contrast’ to electronically set the low-lights to ‘blacken’ the blacks without losing detail in the shadows, and at the same time, using the ‘brightness’ to set the high-lights in order to enrich the highlight details (within the limitations of a 100 nip capture card) without ‘burning out’ the whites.

    Unlike analogue cameras – where you have full control of everything – digital cameras ‘average out’ the light levels, which gives a very ‘flat’ looking image that lacks energy and ‘vitality’. A ‘colourist’ – a person who utilises software to create the ‘colour space’ that the director desires – will ‘set’ the gamma and ‘tweak’ the contrast, chroma (RGB levels), and brightness settings to give a reasonably ‘accurate’ representation of what the audience experiences in the auditorium.

    This ‘gamma tracking’ must be achieved for every single camera capturing the imagery and this takes expertise and a considerable amount of time and trouble to achieve it – and an uninformed/unskilled projectionist at the receiving end will mar ALL of this effort by not correctly setting up the graphics card in the required manner.

    This is akin to watching a digital TV that is incorrectly ‘set up’ – and then complaining that there is a lack of ‘low-light’ detail, or the picture looks ‘milky’ and washed out.

    This is NOT the fault of the cinematographer - the person responsible for the ‘look’ and the ‘framing’ of the shots - nor is it the fault of the colourist – the person for ensuring everything is visible and coloured the way the director has requested - it is the fault of the PROJECTIONIST setting up the LOCAL display medium – so the BEST way to resolve the issues stated in this blog is not to bleat on at ROH, but to bang on the doors of your local cinema and COMPLAIN to the management that their projectionist is failing in their duties.

    The same is true of your TV – don’t simply select ‘cinema’ or ‘vivid’ as if you were driving an automatic car - open the ‘settings’ menu and set it up properly by turning off the colour saturation; adjusting the brightness and contrast to give a clear sharp monochrome (black and white) image that shows ALL of the detail from black through white; and then adding in the ‘colour saturation’ so that the flesh-tones look ‘right’ – you will be so glad that you did.

  46. Wiliam Woolhouse responded on 28 January 2016 at 5:15pm Reply

    To Sarah Walsh Cinema Account Coordinator.
    With regard to the Lighting at this relay of Rhapsody and Two pigeons.The stage was so dark we could not see any pigeons at all.
    This is endemic in the Castle Theatre Wellingborough.We had the same problems with Manon,Romeo and Juliet,and the Nutcracker.Opera productions as well.Please make sure that this does not occur at La traviata Feb,and Giselle in April.I hope that you will contact the management of The Castle Theatre to make sure this does not happen again in future broadcasts.
    It spoilt the evening for us,reliving memories of David Wall and Alfreda Thorogood as the young couple way back in the 60s.What a sad loss David wall has been to Ballet.We adored him.

    • Sarah Walsh (Cinema Account Coordinator) responded on 28 January 2016 at 5:40pm

      Dear Mr. Woolhouse,

      Thank you very much for bringing this to my attention. As some people have noted on this blog the fact that you couldn't see the finer details of the production (including the lovely pigeons) is down to an incorrect Gamma setting on the projector and is something that is very easily rectifiable. I'm getting in touch with the cinema today to make them aware of your comments and to remind them of our setting guidelines and am sure that all will be well for La Traviata. Again, thank you for getting in touch as without comments such as yours, we often wouldn't be aware of such instances occurring.

      Kind regards,


  47. Wiliam Woolhouse responded on 28 January 2016 at 6:07pm Reply

    Dear Sarah,
    Thank you for your comments.I hope that my Local Theatre will take action.
    We all know what Act II of Giselle is like in
    regards to Lighting.I would like to see all of those ghostly willis,not just the ones in the front row of The Corps De Ballet.
    Yours Sincerely
    William Woolhouse.

  48. Stuart Dixon responded on 28 January 2016 at 6:22pm Reply

    Well, William, that is the most amazing review of a ballet performance I have ever read. Perhaps the ROH could ask you to pop round to the cinemas and sort the projectionist out, at the same time could you come and sort out my T.V. as well. Seriously, William, I had no idea that it is so complicated.

  49. Joan Hopton responded on 28 January 2016 at 9:01pm Reply

    Hi Sarah
    My normal cinema is the Odeon, Riversway, Preston, Lancashire. I am going to see the Encore at the Vue, Southport this Sunday so will let you know if the lighting is also poor there. However, I do think there is a general tendency today in ballet productions for poor or atmospheric lighting (depending on how you interpret it) and I do think production designers and lighting engineers need to think of more ways to produce atmosphere than a dark stage.

  50. Margaret responded on 29 January 2016 at 10:54am Reply

    Dear Sarah

    I am not sure if it is the cinema or the lighting in the opera house to blame for the darkness we experienced for this performance and others eg Nutcracker. Perhaps you could check out our cinema in Farnborough, part of the Vue chain.

    • Sarah Walsh (Cinema Account Coordinator) responded on 29 January 2016 at 2:30pm

      Dear Margaret,

      This is likely to be the result of incorrect projector settings being used in the cinema - I'll certainly follow up with Vue and get this rectified for our next screening.

      Best wishes,


  51. William Swales responded on 29 January 2016 at 12:36pm Reply

    @ Joan Hopton Your remark (quote) ‘there is a general tendency today in ballet productions for poor or atmospheric lighting’ (unquote) is so not true. Have you watched Carlos Acosta’s game-changing version of ‘Don Quixote’? or Frederick Ashton’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’? or ‘Alice’s adventure in Wonderland’ (both featuring Lauren Cuthbertson and Sergei Polunin)? or ‘A winters Tale’?

    With regards to (quote) ‘production designers and lighting engineers need to think of more ways to produce atmosphere than a dark stage’ (unquote), the stage lights suddenly dimming – with a ‘colour shift’ towards the ‘blue’ end of the colour space - denotes a ‘defining moment’ (turning point in a story) is about to take place.

    We see this in the prologue of ‘Don Quixote’ when Don Quixote is having nightmares about the Spanish Inquisition turning up to take him away as he lays on his death bed, and his ‘guiding spirit’ Dulcinea makes an appearance to reassure him that all is well – the defining moment being that Don Quixote makes up his mind that he will not die a thankless death in his bed – and he chooses instead to carry out one final quest.

    We see this again when the Don and Sancho make their entrance and join in the merriment. As the Duke reaches forward to grasp the hand of Kitri, the Don imperially brushes the Duke aside (which infuriates the duke because he cannot wait to get his hands on his ‘prize’) and takes the hand of Kitri – and they begin to dance a courtly GAVOTTE – the semiology of the gavotte indicating the regal imperialism of both the Duke and the Don – which also pays homage to Louis the XIV of France – the ‘Sun King’ (the sun is the symbol of the ‘divine feminine’) - a king who sought to spread, and succeeded in spreading ballet right across the world.

    This seemingly innocent scene is the beautiful ‘defining moment’ when the Don discovers what his final quest is to be – and as the lights dim to denote we have entered into the METAPHYSICAL world, we see time momentarily freeze and Dulcinea appear. Dulcinea then uses mime to explain to the Don that ‘the girl that you are dancing with is to be subjected to and undergo a forced marriage ‘against her will’ (one of the many allegories), and is in dire need of your help’.

    Aside from the wonderful mime as Dulcinea explains the situation to the Don (and to us), look out for how the Don releases Dulcinea’s spiritual hand – and takes the hand of Kitri (played by the fabulous Marianela Nunez) – and the lights come up and the dance continues as if nothing has happened as we leave the fleeting spiritual metaphysical world and return back to the physical world. It is magical.

    With regards to (quote) ‘more ways to produce atmosphere than a dark stage’, (unquote) there are many many methods deployed to create atmosphere without resorting solely to lighting

    - through the music (consider when the cello starts (denoting hope) during the pas de deux when the prince first encounters the Swan Queen and she tells him of her horrifying plight;

    - through the use of the ‘lite-motif’ (recurring theme) to represent each character;

    - through the method of playing the strings ( for example the sound goes very thin and sounds eerie when the bow is drawn across the strings close to the bridge);

    - through the ‘up-stage’ appearance of the antagonist (Swan Lake);

    - through the sudden and dramatic appearance of the sylph in ‘Les Sylphide’ (achieved using ‘Peppers ghost’);

    - through dramatic actions such as when Giselle convinces some of the Willis to throw away their mantle of hate; forgive their oppressors; and return to the grave and ‘rest in peace’ as what they are doing does not serve any purpose – and half of them move to join Giselle, while the other half remain with the Queen of the Willis because they are frightened of her – but show their contempt by only raising their arms to reject Giselle when the FIRST maiden timidly, tentatively and cautiously raises hers – and the ‘Mexican wave’ effect informs us of this.

    Then we have the mime and dance elements:

    Ballet uses mime to tell the stories; indicate drama; and express emotion. To get you ‘up to speed’ so that you can better immerse yourself into this fabulous art form – an art form that speaks to us like no other - here are a few mine postures you will see to express feelings.

    - Swirling the hands around each other whilst raising the arms high into the air is an invitation to dance
    - A pas de deux (dance for two) is a dance to express love and adoration
    - A female performing a solo dance following a pas de deux represents elation (I cant believe he loves me)
    - A male performing a solo dance following a pas de deux represents jubilation (she wants me) and triumph (she is mine forever)
    - A pas-de trey (dance for three) shows a misunderstanding or an entanglement is taking place that is possibly scheming and underhand
    - A pas de quarto (dance for four) shows something joyous and is taking place.
    - Encircling the face with a hand depicts ‘smile - you are beautiful’
    - Crossing the arms over the chest with the palms facing inwards means ‘I love you with all of my heart’
    - Looking directly at the heroin with arms wide open and palms facing outward says ‘come to me – I am yours forever’
    - The heroin placing both arms on the hero’s shoulder says ‘I trust you and I have faith in you’
    -The heroin falling backwards for the hero to catch her says ‘I trust you implicitly and I unconditionally give myself to you’
    - The heroin curtseying to the hero (or the audience) or the hero bowing to the heroin (or the audience) demotes respect and sincerity
    - Leaping across the stage denotes ecstasy
    - Pirouetting across the stage denotes happiness
    - Leaping onto the shoulders of the hero denotes commitment
    - Pointing to the ring finger indicates events relating to marriage
    - Clasping the hands in front of the body to plead (say ‘please’ or ‘beg’) shows submissiveness and terror
    - Facing the audience and sweeping the arms above the head in a wide arc denotes paradise
    - Opening outstretched arms from the front to the side with the palms facing upwards says ‘why?’
    - Waving outstretched arms from the front to the side with palms facing downwards says ‘no’ or ‘never’ (a refusal to yield to an influence)
    - Raising an arm high into the air with the palm facing inwards says ‘come to me’
    - Raising the arm high into the air with the palm facing outwards says ‘stay away’
    - Extending the arms straight in front of the body then lowering them downwards, and crossing them at the wrist with clenched fists facing downwards in front of the body, signifies ‘skull and cross-bones’ to signify events relating to ‘death’ (‘I will kill you’ or ‘you will die for this’)
    - Tapping the side of the temple in quick succession says ‘remember what I said’ or ‘think what you should do’ (use your head for goodness sake) – as seen in ‘Sleeping Beauty’
    - Holding the right arm high in the air with two fingers resting on the palm and the index and big finger placed together and pointing upwards, with the left hand on the chest (heart) says ‘I swear’ (I promise)
    - A palm-out hand masking the face indicates that the person is afraid
    - Looking directly at the hero with a palm-out hand masking the face indicates to the hero that the person is afraid of someone who is present
    - Looking sideways towards the antagonist (enemy) with a palm-out hand masking the face and the other arm fully extended with palm facing towards the antagonist indicates to the audience that they are terrified of the antagonist
    - Having the back to the protagonist (hero) whilst pushing arms backwards to resist an embrace expresses doubt
    - The prince forcibly placing the arms of the heroin onto her chest both dominates her (which she craves) and also enforces the message that he is serious (which he is)
    - Stepping away from the hero and opening her arms as the prince attempts to caress her is to show defiance; and to cruelly tantalize and taunt him
    - Offering a hand and then withdrawing it as it is about to be received is to show contempt
    - Holding up the hand to the side of the mouth with palm facing away from the mouth to whisper (gossip) shows deceit

    As illustration, ‘The fairy doll’ (now restored and released on ‘Kirov Classics’ DVD and BluRay) is a short light-hearted ballet that uses the ‘Pas-De-Trois’ as its principal feature throughout to depict ‘competitiveness’. Set in ‘fairyland’, watch the fun unfold as we see two poiret (‘clowns’) both amorously competing for the same girl.

    Here you will see ALL of the aspects ‘come together’ – from the plaintive trumpet denoting sadness, loneliness, and longing, to the breathtaking dancing by the ‘fairy’ ballerina and her two amorous ballerinos.

    Events to look out for include: what happens when the flirtatious fairy presents each amorous poiret with her ‘heart’ (mock; disappointment; and ridicule); what happens when each poiret asks the fairy for a kiss (one – just one – go on - right here - on the cheek); what the fairy asks each of them to do to earn her kiss – each poiret prompting the other to ‘go first’ so as to seize the opportunity to outclass their rival; and what happens when each poiret closes his eyes and bows down to worship the beautiful fairy – only to find that she has ‘disappeared’ when each one opens his eyes again – hilarious.

    And so you see dear lady, there is much more to creating drama, tension, and mood than a reliance on the lighting.

    That said – the lighting has a BIG role to play to create the chiaroscuro that makes the imagery ‘leap off the page’; and set the ‘mood’ – be it a joyous occasion or a moonlit reverie as we enter the metaphysical world.

    Go watch the scene in Act 2 of Carlos Acosta’s ‘Don Quixote’ when the dying Don has his ‘out of body’ experience and the long-dead Dryad maidens come back to thank him for his chivalry in ‘writing wrongs and saving women’ – exquisitely depicted by ballerinas performing steps that take YEARS of dedication to master and more years of dedication and refinement to PERFECT – it is SPELLBINDING.

  52. Diane Lutz responded on 29 January 2016 at 3:33pm Reply

    Both ballets were absolutely mesmerising and magical. Just loved both of them.
    Thank you, thank you!

  53. John Denton responded on 30 January 2016 at 8:59am Reply

    Why the need for spoilers, both oral and visual, in the introduction to the pieces? Absurd.

  54. William Swales responded on 30 January 2016 at 10:45pm Reply

    @ Stuart Dixon

    Hi Stuart

    That was very kind of you to make a positive comment on my review of the two ballet pieces – thank you.

    What motivated me to post a second blog on this blogspot was to enlighten yourself and others to the fact that poor projection of the ballet’s streamed by ROH (and others) was marred by the failure of the local projectionist to correctly set-up the local display medium – and not the fault of ROH.

    That said, the misdirected complaints to ROH have had a positive effect in as much as ROH will carry more weight to deliver a reprimand to rectify the situation than a member of the public acting on their own, and ROH have very kindly taken it upon themselves to do so on our behalf (a big shout of thanks to ROH) - and ROH are now in the process of resolving the issues in an amicable manner – no doubt also refining their instructions to cinemas to make it crystal clear as to WHY it is IMPERATIVE that the projectionist adjusts the gamma (‘Y’ signal) to the gamma specified so that the display medium accurately tracks and accurately reproduces the video information sent to every cinema.

    Although I have given a ‘hint’ at how to set up a digital TV in my blog on that subject – I shall give some pragmatic guidance in a mo – but before that, so that you and others who are very kindly taking the time to read this, I want to quickly delve into the ‘complexities’ so that you may have a better comprehension of what is taking place when you adjust the settings on your TV.

    Are you sitting comfortably?

    Then I shall begin.

    All colours we observe are the colours ‘reflected’ off objects that we look at – the colours that we DON’T see - because they are ‘retained’ by the object - are the ‘true colour’ of the object.

    James Clarke Maxwell established that ALL perceivable colours entering our eyes are a mixture of just three ‘primary’ colours – red; green; and blue – and when these three colours are mixed in explicit proportions a SPECIFIC colour ensues. To illustrate:

    If we mix RED light with GREEN light we get YELLOW

    If we mix RED light with BLUE light we get MAGENTA (the Lilac Fairy (Hope) would love it I am sure)

    If we mix GREEN light with BLUE light we get CYAN (turquoise)

    A ‘Colourist’ will change the overall ‘colour space’ by varying the percentiles of red, green, and blue levels to achieve the ‘hues’ of colour that give the ‘look’ that the director wants. This must be set up on every camera; every monitor; every VDU; and on the mixing desk that sends out the ‘mix’ to the cinemas.

    From this, you can appreciate that if a camera facing the stage (say) displayed a ballerina wearing a GREEN dress; and the BLUE level in a second camera was set higher than the ‘stage front’ camera - what we would see is the green dress suddenly turn TURQUOISE (green + blue = turquoise) and then turn GREEN again – depending upon which camera was ‘in play’ at the mixing desk.

    A similar situation would arise if a camera facing the stage displayed a ballerina wearing an ORANGE dress; and the GREEN level in a second camera was set higher than the ‘stage front’ camera. What we would see is an orange dress suddenly turn YELLOW (red + green = yellow) and then turn ORANGE again – depending upon which camera was ‘in play’ at the mixing desk.

    EVERYTHING has to be set right – every camera; every monitor; and every VDU – and it is the ‘Colourist’ and their technical team who put in all of this effort so we can enjoy stunning performances from the very best the world has to offer – so a BIG shout for the COLOURISTS.

    The CINEMATOGRAPHER is responsible for the camera angles and the ‘framing’ of the shots – and to really do ballet justice the cinematographer must have the skill to choreograph the cameras to deliver the best possible ‘live’ experience as the action unfolds.

    Jack Cardiff – the man who changed cinematography forever through his appreciation and use of ‘colour space’ – and worked with notable such as Marlene Dietrich; Marilyn Monroe; and Audrey Hepburn – encountered this ‘camera choreography’ problem of knowing when to capture the corps de ballet – and from where – a high vantage point or a low one - and when to ‘go in close’, when he shot ‘The Red Shoes’.

    The work – now fully restored by Martin Scorsese and available on DVD and BluRay in the ROH shop – is a masterpiece that has stood the test of time – not just for Jack Cardiff’s transformational use of ‘colour space’ – the first person to ‘think’ in this way (he used the palette of Goya and worked closely with the set designers and costumers to achieve the ‘Red Shoes’ ‘look’ – and he used the palette of Van Gogh to illustrate the delusion; disenchantment; and frustration of the nun in ‘Black Narcissus’) but also for his use of ‘camera choreography’ (camerography) to best convey the ballets as they unfolded - including creating the illusion that we are looking through Moira Shearer’s eyes as she ‘spots’ her eye as she pirouettes.

    This is a skill that today’s cinematographers need to embrace and two films that illustrate this are two Powell and Pressburger classics ‘The Red Shoes’ and the ballet-opera ‘Tales of Hoffman’ – also featuring Moira Shearer - both now available fully restored by Scorsese. Another example of good camerography is the newly restored ‘Kirov Classics’. Shot in the nineties it is stunning and a joy to watch - largely thanks to the efforts of the cinematographer.

    Back to the plot. How BRIGHT we perceive the colour is determined by the GAMMA CURVE. Think of this as akin to a volume control on an amplifier – without expensive sophisticated software you cannot change the ‘mix’ of the instruments – but you CAN change the AMPLITUDE (loudness).

    If the amplitude is set too LOW then you cannot HEAR the LOW VOLUME information; if the amplitude is set too HIGH then you will overdrive the amplifier and the LOUD parts will become distorted.

    In GAMMA terms, if the ‘Y’ (gamma) is set too LOW then you cannot SEE the LOWLIGHT information; if the gamma is set too HIGH then you will overdrive the graphics card and the BRIGHT parts will become distorted – they will ‘wash out’.

    It is the job of the local PROJECTIONIST to ensure that the ‘Y’ is set correctly.

    So – if you are still awake and still reading – hear are some GUIDELINES to set up your digital TV. These are NOT ‘set in stone’ but they should set you on the right track.

    The LIGHT INTENSITY is controlled by the BACKLIGHT setting. You want as much light as you can get out of the TV so set this to MAX as a starting point.

    I shall now give START-POINT settings that will APROXIMATE the gamma curve to get you a pretty reasonable picture (the mathematical readers amongst us will recognise the Y curve).

    In the advent that you do not have access to a graphic of a ‘Test Card’ – such as the BBC ‘Test card F’, that you can display on the TV screen, play the HIGHEST quality DVD/BluRay that you own – one with lots of LOWLIGHT detail.

    Set the CONTRAST to 95%. Adding more contrast will ‘blacken’ the LOWLIGHTS and lose ‘lowlight detail’ (great for ‘Film Noir’ buffs - where you only want to see the glint of the knife and a flash of a face) – less and you will ‘milk out’ the LOWLIGHTS and the picture will look ‘flat’ – no better than a picture taken on a mobile phone.

    Set the BRIGHTNESS to 70%. Adding more brightness will ‘wash out’ the whites – less and the OVERALL IMAGE will darken – and the LOWLIGHTS will disappear.

    Set the COLOUR to 55%. Adding more will make the colours ‘vivid’ – less will make the image look ‘insipid’.

    Set the SHARPNESS to 22% - adding more will overdrive and eventually fry the display – great if you wish to change your technology on a fairly regular basis – adding less will ‘soften’ the image and female newsreaders will look like forties glamour stars.

    Remember these are START values and they are for GUIDELINES only.

    It is up to YOU to take note of all of your settings BEFORE you alter them so that you can go back to where you were if you don’t like the ‘realness’ of the imagery; and it is up to you to find your OWN personal preferences from the START values - within the limitations of your own technology – without cooking the display.

    The quality of the resultant picture will depend on the display technology – eLEDs on Sony TVs are the best there is at present if you are looking to upgrade; LED TVs come next; and plasma displays are at the bottom in terms of the quality of the imagery (which is why plasma technology is as cheap as chips).

    Once you have set up the imagery to your liking, play Carlos Acosta’s ‘Don Quixote’ – preferably on BluRay. This has a HUGE dynamic range – particularly in the ‘live guitarist’ ‘gypsy camp’ scene in act 2 – and if you can see all of the LOWLIGHT detail and the image looks ‘crisp’ and ‘natural’ then you have done your job well.

    Take care; enjoy tweaking; and have fun.

  55. Stevie responded on 31 January 2016 at 10:53am Reply

    Excellent performances with one unfortunate slip/trip by Osipova in a slower cross stage movement when she appeared to stub her foot on the stage and recover very quickly. These things happen, but editing it out should be looked at if this version is to be put out on DVD and Blu- Ray. It didn't reduce the enjoyment of the overall show, but not something that performers would wish to see recorded for posterity. After all, she got all the difficult bits right.

  56. Jane Cameron responded on 31 January 2016 at 7:38pm Reply

    I loved both ballets : Ashton is a genius ! The dancers were amazing.......but so were the two fantails. Please tell me how you were able to get them to behave so ...impeccably !!!
    Thank you for cheering up a dreary winter afternoon with such a delightful programme.

  57. Marian Sheath responded on 31 January 2016 at 7:40pm Reply

    Comment for Cinema coordinator. I was also disappointed at the quality of the cinema particularly in Two Pigeons which was very dark. I saw this at the Cineworld cinema in Newport, Isle of Wight and there seemed to be big problems. Unfortunately I missed the interview with Alfreda Thorogood as we had sound only and the screen was completely blank. The screen remained blank for at least 10 minutes into the second act of Two Pigeons. However, I was lucky enough to see the performance at ROH matinee on 23 January. So fantastic to see Two Pigeons again after so many years. I can remember seeing the wonderful late Paul Clarke in this role in early 70s. Brought back a lot of wonderful memories as I was a great supporter of the RB Touring company. Thanks for bringing this back - it is such a joy.

    • Sarah Walsh (Cinema Account Coordinator) responded on 1 February 2016 at 10:22am

      Dear Marian,

      Thank you for your comments which Cineworld Isle of Wight also reported to us. The high winds and stormy weather at the time of the broadcast, unfortunately, impacted on the visuals.

      Kind regards,


  58. Amy Addison responded on 31 January 2016 at 7:59pm Reply

    My mum and I had a fabulous afternoon watching the second screening at Ilkley Cinema today, we feel like we have been to the Royal Opera House and been sitting on the front row! Beautiful productions, and the outstanding performance of Lauren Cuthbertson took our breath away. A pleasure to see the RB back in Ilkley, thank you and looking forward to Giselle xxx

  59. Manon1753 responded on 31 January 2016 at 10:47pm Reply

    Caught up with this well-planned double bill, which I first saw last autumn - at the Opera House, with Monotones instead of Rhapsody. This time, I was in a central london cinema with about 20 people present. Location for the Encore had been difficult to find on the internet, and there was no indication anywhere outside or inside the cinema building that this, or any other ballet, was to be shown. So publicity could be improved all round.
    The two contrasting ballets had been well chosen. Rhapsody was spectacular in the best sense of the word: musical, fast, light, stylish and exhilarating. And whereas the dancers took my breath away, they appeared to be able to keep theirs - a miracle.This is the first cast I see that matches Collier and Barishnikov, without just imitating them. McRae's superb lines, timing, control and stage presence, show his is at the top. Osipova's fleeted footedness (if such a word exists) suits this ballet extremely well. I am pleased that this pair have been "preserved" in this ballet, if not for eternity, at least for the near future, because that will allow me to send this DVD to a pianist friend and Rachmaninov fan abroad. Ashton has a way of listening to music and translating it into something that can be seen. all of his own. The corps was in superb form. And I do like the new costumes. Compliments too to the orchestra, its conductor and Robert Clark at the piano. It must be very difficult to play for dancers whom you cannot see from your orchestra pit.
    2 Pigeons was and were charming, but there were dull moments. Cuthbertson better than in the autumn. It was a delight to be able to see her, and Muntagirov's, fine acting - long live the cinema broadcasts!
    But, I do have a problem with the current trend in in dark settings. The recent Act III of Swan Lake had me desperately trying to see what was going on. And the gypsy camp in 2Ps was no better. In fact it was even worse. It also seemed to be more difficult to see it at the cinema than in live. Is that possible? Can something please be done to make this sort of scene easier to view? Otherwise, brilliant camera work.
    Very touched by Alfreda Thorogood's courageous account of how she and her husband, David Wall, met through this ballet.
    2Ps is not a great work - but it is charming and ought to be dusted down and trotted out once in a while, for it is part of the Ashton heritage and that can only live if all of it is known, seen and handed down to the next generation of dancers and pigeons.

    • Sarah Walsh (Cinema Account Coordinator) responded on 1 February 2016 at 10:27am

      Hello there,

      I'm glad that you enjoyed the screening so much! We have recently become aware (due to comments such as yours) as to the darkness of some of our broadcasts when they are viewed on a cinema screen. The major impacting factor seems to be an incorrect projector setting (the settings we ask cinemas to use are slightly different to your average Hollywood film, for example) and we are working very hard to ensure that all the cinemas who screen our relays are aware of the impact of these settings being even slightly off. Please can you let me know which cinema you saw the Encore at and I'll be happy to follow up with them directly?

      Kind regards,


  60. Manon1753 responded on 1 February 2016 at 11:12am Reply

    "Vue, Islington."
    Which, incidentally and very confusingly, is also described on the internet as "Vue, Camden." For the avoidance of all confusion, it is the Vue off the Angel tube station.
    Thank you for taking up this issue. I've just been reading the earlier responses from the ROH, very detailed, very informative and proof that you were taking this problem seriously.

  61. So I was not the only one to spot Osipova's slight stumble - barely visible. I don't see why it should be cut out for the DVD. The steps are so fast and she recovered superbly. All the comments have been interesting. Regarding the lighting, I don't think we should complain so much. These are performances for the Opera House audience and we should just be thankful for what we can see. Aren't we lucky, we who live in the sticks, to be able to see these excellent performances even if we do miss out on the patterns of the corps de ballet.

  62. Jakegee responded on 1 February 2016 at 2:44pm Reply

    I would be grateful if you would also contact Vue Cinema, Carlisle, regarding the settings for projection. I have commented on this site in the past about the darkness of the screen there, eg in parts of "Nutcracker", "Swan Lake" etc.

    I always come to the ROH to see a live performance prior to the cinema relay, so that I enjoy the great benefit of some of the close-up shots demonstrating the wonderful acting abilities of our superb Royal Ballet dancers.

    Having seen "The Two Pigeons" from the Orchestra Stalls on four occasions, I particularly noted that, near the end of Act Two, Scene One, when the 'pallisade' was pulled across the stage, it was scarcely discernible on the cinema screen. Indeed, most of the Gypsy Camp scenario was much darker than when seen live. Those darker areas on the cinema screen have a 'smokey' dull appearance.

    I would appreciate if you would contact Vue, Carlisle regarding this issue. I have mentioned it politely to staff before now - perhaps too politely, since the situation seems to have not improved!! Thank you!

  63. Rachael responded on 1 February 2016 at 4:06pm Reply

    FAO Sarah Walsh Cinema Account Coordinator.

    As highlighted by Joan Hance in a post on the "Your Reaction: Rhapsody / The Two Pigeons 2016" page, darkness on screen is also an ongoing issue at Salisbury Odeon.

    I saw the Live relay on Tuesday, where darkness was an issue - though it wasn't as bad as in some previous live screenings.

    I also saw the Encore on Sunday (in a different screen at Salisbury Odeon) where as well as the darkness issue again, this time there was also a focus issue on distance shots (close ups were ok).

    At £18 for a standard seat & £19.60 for a premiere seat (adult), I've now started to only see a select few of the ROH Live screenings each year because the picture is so often not of a satisfactory quality.

    From speaking with the Salisbury Odeon Duty Manager on Sunday & also on previous occasions, I understand Salisbury Odeon feel they are following the instructions given to them by ROH to the letter. Clearly, something is going wrong here.

    Would it be possible to publish your detailed instructions for cinema projectionists online? So that in the event of ongoing issues, I could print these off & give them to Salisbury Odeon myself or point them to the webpage. At least I'd then know the projectionist had got the most up-to-date ROH information/instruction.

    Perhaps others would appreciate being able to do the same too.

    Many thanks.

    • Sarah Walsh (Cinema Account Coordinator) responded on 2 February 2016 at 10:26am

      Dear Rachael,

      Thank you for taking the time to share your comments. We are in the process of establishing the current situation at Odeon Salisbury.

      I'm sure that you, and other members of our audience, will understand that I cannot publish broadcast information online. This is simply down to ensuring the security of our broadcasts. Please rest assured though that we are doing our utmost to ensure all of our broadcast information is as clear as possible and that your comments on Odeon Salisbury have been raised with them.

      Kind regards,


    • Rachael responded on 2 February 2016 at 2:50pm

      Dear Sarah,

      Thank you for your response. I hadn't appreciated there would be security issues with publishing instructions for projectionists.

      I do hope ROH & Salisbury Odeon are finally able to resolve the projection issues, so that the picture quality does justice to the ROH's excellent productions.

      Many thanks again, Rachael

  64. The screen was dark too at the Odeon Uxbridge. Would be grateful if you could check this out.

    • Sarah Walsh (Cinema Account Coordinator) responded on 2 February 2016 at 10:17am

      Hello there,

      I will check in with Odeon about this today but I must stress that the colour issue being described on this blog is very noticeable as a technical fault rather than just being "dark" so I want to make the distinction between a scene being dark because that's the way it was designed and a scene being almost incomprehensible due to incorrect screening settings. That said, I'm happy to confirm what happened at Odeon Uxbridge.

      Kind regards,


  65. alan hayes responded on 2 February 2016 at 10:49am Reply

    I very much enjoyed both ballets with Opsipova quite outstanding in Rhapsody.

    The ballet relays are excellent , but why is it necessary to add anyone to the excellent Darcy Bussell to do the presentation and interviews. What did her male presenter add on this occasion , apart from a series of lame attempts to be funny and his lack of knowledge about ballet?

  66. Stuart Dixon responded on 2 February 2016 at 4:40pm Reply

    Dear Mr Swales,

    Thank you for your copious notes regarding both film history and digital TV settings. I have copied and pasted your article to a word document so I can use it in the future. Thank you very much. Your lesson on film history is also very well made. I was a student of film many years ago and very familiar with Jack Cardiffs' work. I attend the BFI regularly and very much enjoy all the "old" movies.

  67. S White responded on 4 February 2016 at 12:44am Reply

    I saw the programme in the Odeon Epsom which also suffered from the too dark problem.

  68. pauline owren responded on 6 February 2016 at 12:46pm Reply

    I have seen most ballets, but rhapsody I have never been so enthralled STeven McRae has got to be the most wonderful dancer of this era, in romeo and Juliet he was fabulous but rhapsody will live with me forever. Thank you so much. Pauline Owen

  69. Lynne responded on 6 February 2016 at 9:06pm Reply

    I see it has already been mentioned, but I thought I'd add that I too saw the 'encore' screening at Vue Islington and agree that it was very dark, especially in Two Pigeons, so much so that when Vadim was coming down the stairs in the final scene, initially we could only see a white shirt and a while pigeon! I hope you can contact them to sort out the problem, as I've already booked to see the encore performance of Giselle there, and fear that Act 2 could be a bit of a trial if the problem isn't dealt with. Otherwise, I loved watching the ballets again on the Big Screen, and can't wait for the DVD!

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