Birmingham Royal Ballet at Birmingham Hippodrome

THE PRODUCTION WAS WONDERFUL, AND SO WAS THE MUSIC

TCHAIKOVSKY'S NUTCRACKER
Birmingham Royal Ballet Sinfonia at Birmingham Hippodrome *****

Birmingham is so blessed, having two great orchestras, and both of them within days of each other delivering wonderful accounts of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker.
I was impressed with the CBSO's symphonic reading under Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, but tonight in a packed and rapt Birmingham Hippodrome I was equally impressed with the freshness and joy of the playing of the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, halfway through a season's run of this enchanting production of the ballet, but performing with no sense of routine staleness.
Philip Ellis was conducting on this occasion, and somehow he made the string complement sound more richly-cushioned than the numbers in the line-up implied. Woodwind solos were lively and eloquent (perky piccolo and gurgling clarinets to the fore), horns effortlessly noble in the magical Waltz of the Flowers, and there was a tambourine-playing tour de force in the Trepak.
And this orchestra and its conductors are able to create something symphony orchestras would struggle to do: there was a flexibility of phrasing here, allied to the expressive movements going on up aloft onstage. The players could see nothing, but they could feel the ebb and flow, channelled through the modest but so crucial baton of Philip Ellis.
Ballet without a live orchestra loses a huge dimension. I don't want to hear anything with canned sound. This was an experience which all of us present will never forget.
Christopher Morley

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