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Frederick Ashton's Tales Of Beatrix Potter

Lanchberry / Hewitt / Cervera / Howells / Ashton
Release Date: 11/18/2008 
Label:  Opus Arte   Catalog #: 1001  
Composer:  John Lanchbery
Conductor:  Paul Murphy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Ballet Sinfonia
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 16 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

LANCHBERRY Tales of Beatrix Potter Paul Murphy, cond; Victoria Hewitt ( Mrs. Tittlemouse ); Ricardo Cervera ( Johnny Town-Mouse ); Jonathan Howells ( Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle ); Gemma Sykes ( Jemima Puddle-Duck ); Gary Avis ( The Fox ); Bennet Gartside ( Pigling Bland
Read more ); Laura Morera ( Pig-Wig ); David Pickering ( Aunt Pettitoes ); Zachary Faruque ( Mr. Jeremy Fisher ); Giacomo Ciriaci ( Tom Thumb ); Johna Loots ( Hunca Munca ); Joshua Tuifua ( Peter Rabbit ); Steven McRae ( Squirrel Nutkin ); Royal Ballet & Snf BBC /OPUS ARTE 1001 (76:14) Live: London 12/23,27/2007

Frederick Ashton (the other major choreographer of the second half of the 20th century) created his ballet Tales of Beatrix Potter for the camera in 1971 (still available on DVD). In 1992, Anthony Dowell created a stage version for the Royal Ballet, revived in 2007 and filmed during the subsequent performances. David Nice’s essay in the accompanying booklet tells us much about the score, “composed” by John Lanchberry using Victorian waltzes and ballads and excerpts from various 19th-century ballets (Minkus, Glazunov), as well as his own version of La fille mal gardée , to all of which Ashton choreographed a number of gems, at the same time parodying the 19th-century classics in solos and pas de deux.

It is difficult to comment extensively on the individual dancers, as the animal masks by Rostislav Dobujinsky entirely cover the dancers’ faces. But through movement, gesture, and even posture the individual roles are neatly characterized, from the footwork of Gemma Sykes’s Jemima Puddle-Duck to the exuberance of Zachary Faruque’s Jeremy Fisher or Steven McRae’s Squirrel Nutkin. Jonathan Howells has a difficult task, succeeding the choreographer himself as Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, but is almost as eloquent, although expanding Ashton’s few little movements into a full-length solo calls for too much repetition of the steps and attitudes. The adaptation was no simple task, as the film shows us Beatrix Potter herself in between the dance episodes, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle strolling through the English countryside before starting her solo; but Dowell has eliminated that aspect and gives us a pure dance spectacle that is a delight from start to finish. And it must be exhausting for the dancers who must perform in real time. The Royal Ballet Sinfonia under Paul Murphy offers a sparkling rendition of the composite score that equals Lanchberry’s version for the film or even the LP that was released in the 1970s. For those unfamiliar with the children’s classic, a brief synopsis will fill you in, but this is, in any event, an instant classic for the young at heart.

FANFARE: Joel Kasow

Mrs Tittlemouse: Victoria Hewitt
Johnny Town-Mouse: Ricardo Cervera
Mrs Tiggy-Winkle: Jonathan Howells
Jemima Puddle-Duck: Gemma Sykes
The Fox: Gary Avis
Pigling Bland: Bennet Gartside
Pig-Wig: Laura Morera
Aunt Pettitoes: David Pickering
Mr Jeremy Fisher: Zachary Faruque
Tom Thumb: Giacomo Ciriaci
Hunca Munca: Iohna Loots
Peter Rabbit: Joshua Tuifua
Squirrel Nutkin: Steven McRae

SUBTITLES: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian
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Works on This Recording

Tales of Beatrix Potter by John Lanchbery
Conductor:  Paul Murphy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Ballet Sinfonia
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1971; England 
Date of Recording: 12/2007 
Venue:  Covent Garden, London 

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