Monday, 1 October 2012

Antony Hopkins: Café des Sports – a contemporary review in Ballet Today.

As part of my interest in Antony Hopkins ballet score Café des Sport I found this review in the Ballet Today journal. This well-respected magazine appears to have folded in the early nineteen-seventies. Peter Craig-Raymond gives a succinct appreciation of this ballet. Once again, it is considered good in parts. What does seem to be a consistent feature of these reviews is the superb character of the ‘Urchin’ created by Maryon Lane.  Compared to a ballerina such as Margot Fonteyn or even Moira Shearer, Lane appears to have sung beneath the radar.

Ominously titled, Alfred Rodrigues’ new ballet for Sadler’s Wells Theatre Ballet lived up to expectations. It should be recorded here, in advance, that Rodrigues gave us blood Wedding – that first work so full of choreographic promise.
Deciding that its successor must be a comedy is admissible. Even that it be facetious. But why must English comic ballet be set in the pre-depression era? Do all of us live in the perpetual paranoia of the twenties?
Café des Sports concerns an Urchin’s love for the Lame Dog who is losing a bicycle race. Urchin replaces Lame Dog and wins race, grand prix sash and L.D. as lover. Betwixt times come some bourgeoisie, a group of existentialist (i.e. girls in long wigs) and essentialist (not so long), a waiter (straight from Deuil en 24 heures) and a café proprietor whom I thought would surely lead the ensemble in a rousing can-can-finale. She did not.
Apart from this single virtue, there is little more to say for this Cafe des Sports. For Maryon Lane it is an excellent, further opportunity to show her gamin presence and zestful technique. For the remainder of the company it is a romp.

Décor and costumes are simple but fitting, designed by Jack Taylor. Antony Hopkins’ music is circa Ferde Groffe and George Gershwin and only needed Paul Whiteman and eighty-six grand pianos to complete its archaism. And the orchestra excelled itself by reading ‘blues’ as ‘dirge’ and having a trumpeter who confirmed my worst fears or what a pit bandsman can achieve.
The ballet as a whole is thin-lipped Petit spiced by rather gawky sex. I found it a major disappointment and spent the evening mourning for a man who choreographed a superb first ballet called Blood Wedding
The audience, and I say this as much in judgement as in truth, found the ballet uproarious and greeted the entrance of the cyclists with cheers and laughter no less than six times. It is upon such foundations as this that the English find their love of sport and the aliens fond themselves with fixed furrows on their brows.
Peter Craig-Raymond Ballet Today January  1955 (With minor edits) p4

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