Image by Emma Kauldhar
Palace Theatre, Manchester
Having enjoyed a hugely-successful national tour earlier this year, playing to packed-out houses and receiving a string of rave reviews to boot, Northern Ballet’s sumptuous and seductive Casanova makes a welcome return for two final performances at Manchester’s Palace Theatre, this time in front of the cameras for a big-screen cinema broadcast later this year.
Transporting audiences to the decadent, and often murky worlds of 18th Century Venice and Paris, Kenneth Tindall’s hugely impressive first (full-length) production, with original scenario by Tindall and Ian Kelly (adapted from Kelly’s own biography of Casanova) offers a richly woven look at the life of the legendary womaniser, Giacomo Casanova, though given its controversial subject matter, the production is far less provocative and risqué as might be expected, instead opting for a much more tasteful and subtle approach.
Set against composer Kerry Muzzey’s extraordinary and haunting cinematic score (with orchestrations by Simon Whiteside, and additional orchestrations by John Longstaff), Tindall’s thrilling, majestic production offers up a series of striking, painterly tableaux, evocative designs and elegant, sensuous choreography (precise, muscular, writhing), expertly tackled by the Northern Ballet company and led by Giuliano Contadini in a virtuoso performance as Casanova himself.
The themes of religion, politics, psychology, surveillance and claustrophobia are all very effectively rendered during the shadowy Venentian first act, though following his escape from prison, the Parisian second act feels significantly lighter and more whimsical, diluting the dark, unsettling tones of the first act into a more romanticised look at some of his notorious (and often complicated) affairs.
Casanova does feel rather episodic in its structure and could afford to delve deeper into the human insight of a man who once considered seducer, gambler, poet, necromancer, swindler, alchemist and bon vivant amongst his occupations, though as it stands it feels well paced and achieves a nice balance between reality and legend, dazzling with creative flair as it does so.
The creative team Northern Ballet have assembled for this production is really quite remarkable, and from the extraordinary and evocative lighting design from Alastair West to Christopher Oram’s opulent Baroque set and costume design (used to brilliant effect) and Richard Mawbey’s fabulous wig and make-up design, Casanova proves a superb collaboration between some of the finest and most innovative creative artists currently working in the theatre.
With no plans to tour Casanova again in the near future, this offered audiences a unique opportunity to witness one of the finest ballet productions in recent memory for one final time.
Running Time: 2 hours and 5-minutes (approx.) (including one 20-minute interval)
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