It's funny, writing about water -- it's so much more... I am looking forward to learning about it globally -- and I know that the lack of drinking water is one of the largest issues facing humanity.
But it's here -- too -- always.
I canceled class today because of water.
It was pouring -- there are ice warnings -- it was optional and at 8:30 -- and I couldn't bear the thought of my finals-weary students out there in it...
Last night I went to the theater -- I saw Rock and Roll. It was great. Which lead to my search of the Times this morning for water and art...
Doesn't art feel like water -- the way it soothes and nourishes and how, when we go without it we begin to dry up -- without noticing -- become corser...
An Elusive Water Sprite Flits By, Skirting the Depths
By ROSLYN SULCAS
Published: December 5, 2008
LONDON — In 1958 Frederick Ashton choreographed his last full-length ballet, “Ondine,” as a vehicle for the 39-year-old Margot Fonteyn. “Ondine” has had long absences from the Royal Ballet repertory, perhaps because Fonteyn was so strongly identified with the role of the water sprite who enchants a mortal man, perhaps because its dense score by Hans Werner Henze was regarded as problematic.
“Ondine” was revived in 1988 after 22 years, and it was performed again in 1999 and 2005. This season the Royal Ballet has brought the work back for a few pre-Christmas performances (with a handful more in the spring), and on Wednesday night I saw it for the first time with Tamara Rojo as Ondine and Edward Watson as Palemon, the man who loves and betrays her.
“Ondine” is curiously poised between the past and the present. It is based on an 1811 story by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué, and like “La Sylphide,” “Giselle” or “Swan Lake,” it speaks of the Romantic longing for the unattainable, perhaps even the artist’s elusive vision of the creative spirit in the form of a muse. Its designs, by Lila de Nobili, have a dusty Gothic quality that evokes the 19th-century stage, and its lovely, gauzy costumes for Ondine and her fellow sprites are a perfect Romantic fantasy.
But Ashton chose to commission a score from a contemporary composer precisely to avoid creating an imitation period ballet, and the music (written by Mr. Henze at just 34) has a darkness and discordance that often work in odd tension with what is happening onstage.
Instead of offering clearly delineated variations and ensembles, Ashton’s choreography is mostly as seamless and liquid as the watery element that he conjures up throughout the ballet. The dances for Ondine, particularly the “shadow” solo (a tribute to Fanny Cerrito’s pas de l’ombre, a famous highlight of Jules Perrot’s 1843 “Ondine”) and her pas de deux with Palemon, are full of rippling arms and tiny, capricious steps on point, wonderfully inventive lifts full of swimming imagery and a repeated motif of the palms brought together overhead to form a fish-shaped arch.
“Ondine” is, in short, an abstract ballet imprisoned in a 19th-century framework, a poem rather than a tale, and it’s at its most successful when it’s not trying to tell a story but rather to evoke mood and emotion. For that, the ballet is almost entirely dependent on its ballerina, and Ms. Rojo accomplishes a great deal without conveying the full magic of the piece.
Her dancing is beautiful, full of quicksilver precision and fluid lyricism, and she successfully conveys Ondine’s childlike innocence, her ignorance of human custom and form. In Act II, with its long pas de deux on the boat, whose rocking motion is brilliantly conveyed by de Nobili’s rising and falling backdrops of waves, and Ashton’s swaying sailors, Ms. Rojo and Mr. Watson are wonderfully touching in their expression of a love not fully understood by either character.
But Ms. Rojo didn’t evoke the deeper mysteries of Ondine: the idea of her essentially soulless nature (suggested by Mr. Henze’s recurring, eerie harp and wind sounds), and the inherent tragedy of the unattainable that she represents in the tale.
With his long-limbed elegance, Mr. Watson (who has developed into an unobtrusively excellent partner) did suggest that tragedy in the final pas de deux of Act III, showing a resignation to — even a desire for — the death that he knows Ondine’s kiss will bring.
The principal supporting roles — Tirrenio, the Lord of the Mediterranean Sea, and Berta, whom Palemon marries after losing Ondine in the shipwreck of Act II — were well danced by Ricardo Cervera and Genesia Rosato, although (with all due respect to the attractive Ms. Rosato) this Berta was clearly a great deal older than her Palemon.
And a word for the dynamic principal pair (Mara Galeazzi and José Martin) in the Neapolitan divertissements of Act III, a long, pure-dance section I had frequently heard criticized but found enchanting in its odd juxtaposition of the commedia dell’arte aesthetic and Mr. Henze’s jazz-infused rhythms. Here, as elsewhere, Ashton demonstrates how he could transform the conventions of a three-act ballet. “Ondine” may not fully succeed, but it shows the hand of a master.
“Ondine” will be performed on Saturday at the Royal Opera House, Bow Street, London; roh.org.uk.