The Cellist at the Royal Opera House Online
Philip Feeney’s beautiful, soulful music accompanies Cathy Marston’s magnificent choreography in The Royal Ballet’s The Cellist in a moving tribute to Jacqueline du Pré – known as one of the greatest cellists in history, whose career ended prematurely because of illness.
Marston’s first work for the Royal Opera House is this filmed version of the ballet’s debut in February 2020. After an introduction by ROH’s Director of Ballet Kevin O’Hare, The Cellist opens with the exquisite, stirring sound of piano and cello amid an evocative, dimly lit gathering of dancers and a passionate solo by “The Instrument” – the remarkable Marcelino Sambé.
A telling of du Pré’s story through dance, this compelling piece begins with her childhood (Emma Lucano) discovery of cello music, her infatuation with it, her subsequent fame as a young woman (Lauren Cuthbertson), her marriage, and the illness that so tragically prevented this brilliant artist from continuing the profession she adored, depriving the world of an extraordinary talent.
With innovative, ingenious choreography, the performance melds sublime classical ballet with intriguing theatrical components. Props and dancers are used to form objects, such as a record player for du Pre’s first exposure to her beloved instrument. The Stradivarius she acquires is personified through Sambé and the love felt by the musician for her art is reciprocated by the cello, which has its own soul and connection to its player.
The use of ballet as a translation for other elements is masterful. This includes the characterisation of the cello, the creation of human props and the interpretation of one art form as another: in a concert hall, strings and percussion become dance, while the soloist prodigy alternately “plays” The Instrument (Sambé) and performs a heartfelt, intimate duet with him.
Pas de trois are frequent – such as the virtuoso, her instrument and her conductor spouse (Matthew Ball) – and perhaps echo the ever-present third persona of the cello, the ardour she feels for it and the final, heartbreaking sadness of parting with it.
Marston’s stunning, creative arrangement and Feeney’s superb score – with pieces by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff, Schubert and others – combine with Hetty Snell’s transcendent cello solos and phenomenal performances by the Royal Ballet dancers to produce a hauntingly gorgeous, inspirational work. An exceptional tour de force, The Cellist is a must-see.
Photo: Bill Cooper
The Cellist is at the Royal Opera House Online from 29th May until 11th June 2020. For further information visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch The Cellist here: