DanceNorth East & YorkshireReview

Northern Ballet: Casanova – Lyceum Theatre , Sheffield

Reviewer: Sheila Stratford

Writesr: Ian Kelly and Kenneth Tindall

Music : Kerry Muzzey

Choreographer & Artistic Director: Kenneth Tindall

The spellbinding character of Casanova, a person not afraid to be himself, a polymath, a writer not just an infamous womaniser is portrayed magnificently in this Northern Ballet production of Casanova. First premiered in 2017, it was Kenneth Tindall’s first full length ballet. As choreographer and scenario writer he worked closely with biographer Ian Kelly to create the ballet. Taken from Casanova’s own memoirs it is based on the story of his life and the women in his life. Varied scenes provide opportunities for leading female roles and the corps de ballet to interpret the narrative.

The first act is set in 18th century Venice at the time of enlightenment and tension between society, church and the Inquisition. Giacomo Casanova is training to become a priest when he is given a forbidden book, is seduced by two nuns and forced to leave the church. He joins a group of musicians as a violinist and is captivated by a cellist Balletti. Senator Bragadin is entranced with Casanova, sharing his philosophical and forbidden works. When Casanova aids the Senator’s recovery after a stroke, the Senator declares him his heir. Casanova’s position in society rises and the voyeur Cardinal de Bernis arranges a planned seduction by his lover. At the end of Act One, Casanova is imprisoned by the Inquisition.

Act Two opens in Paris, Casanova has escaped from prison. At the gaming tables he is noticed by Madame de Pompadour, a kindred spirit and benefactor. Casanova revels in his sensual life and is enthralled particularly by two women, Bellino and Henriette. It is in Henrietta he feels he has finally met his perfect partner and when she is forced back to her abusive husband Casanova is desolate and contemplates suicide. Casanova is a great intellect, musician and writer and desperately wants to be recognised for his writing, not only his prowess as a lover. Finally, it is his writing that saves him.

When Casanova was premiered in 2017 Joseph Taylor, was the principal soloist. In this revisited, restaged production he is again Casanova. He brings such remarkable, grace, stamina and strength to his performance. The emotions he is able to display are captivating. The intimate scenes with Manon Balleti (Sena Kiano) and Bellino (Abigail Prudames) are playful and sensual, and with Henriette (Saeka Shirai) so tender and passionate. The prowess and beauty of the female soloists together with Joseph Taylor are breath taking.

The scenes with the corps de ballet are both dynamic and exquisite. The Seminarians and Servants of the Inquisition cleverly manoeuvre altar rails around the set, their formalised arm movements portraying the ritual of prayers in close synchronisation. The guests at the Masquerade Ball simply glide across the stage. The entanglement of legs and arms as Casanova dances with the courtesans and gamblers all add to this great performance. The ballet simply flows. The musical score composed by American Kerry Muzzey is not typically 18th century or indeed classical but the music is made up of a wonderful mix of melodies that carries and informs the narrative. It is at times haunting, dramatic and intimidating.

The set and costume designs by Christopher Oram, are superb. Towering columns in Venice transform into opulent gold and mirrors in Paris and Versailles. This together with the lighting design by Alastair West has created a rich, gilded, mystical environment, and yet at the time of the Inquisition the set transforms into a dark and menacing place.

This ballet is certainly not to be missed. It is a feast for the eyes and danced with such sensual beauty, strength and energy.

Runs until 26 March 2022

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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