The Lover’s Garden or Il Giardino Degli Amanti is a new ballet which delightfully pairs Mozart’s famous quartets and quintets with characters from his operas.
In a garden, a chamber orchestra is playing Mozart and everywhere the air is charged with magic and mystery. A young couple is visiting the garden and adjoining maze when figures suddenly emerge from the shadows of the labyrinth. These figures are characters from Mozart’s operas, and they play with, or perhaps taunt, the young couple, embroiling them in their well-known amorous dalliances.
If you are a fan of Mozart’s operas you will instantly recognise characters from The Magic Flute, Don Giovanni, Cosi Van Tutti and The Marriage of Figaro. They play out key elements of their respective operas while also involving the young couple, entwining them in their escapades.
The concept of this ballet is adventurous with a number of potential pitfalls. Some of these are averted, some are not. The two key problems that could mar the enjoyment of this ballet are the choice of music and the complex storyline.
Firstly, the music: the use of Mozart’s quartets and quintets is sometimes unfortunate. There are few climaxes and after 30 minutes the sameness of the music creeps in. Perhaps using some of the music from the operas featured in the ballet may have helped. However, the music was suitably haunting for many scenes and the corps de ballet numbers.
Secondly, the storylines: if you don’t know the featured operas it is hard to fully appreciate the humour of the piece. Having said that, a friend who went with me had not seen all the operas and still enjoyed the ballet.
There are many plusses in The Lover’s Garden. The costuming is clever, designed to transition from reality to imagination using the colours from the garden and surrounding maze in the costume designs. The interpretation of the 18th century costumes was particularly imaginative. The scenic design of the wood and the maze is ingenious with dancers moving different set pieces to show the progression through the maze. The trees and wood in the background seem impressively real yet still maintain the other worldliness of the piece.
The music is beautifully executed, with the players sitting at the lowered front of the stage in their own garden. Their suits are designed to complement the garden motif.
The choreography is an interesting combination of modern dance and classical ballet and is executed to an exceptionally high standard. I was particularly impressed with Roberto Bolle (the male half of the young couple). His elevation and ballon were exceptional, particularly in his solo in Scene 2.
Also worthy of mention are Nicoletta Manni (the female half of the young couple) and the precision of the corps de ballet (particularly the male corps de ballet).
Overall, if you love Mozart, this is a ballet not to miss. He even makes a brief appearance in grand style!
Reviewed by Barry Hill
Rating out of 10: 8
The Lover’s Garden will screen again on 17 August 2016 as part of the Palace Opera & Ballet cinema season, presenting The Royal Opera House, La Scala and Opéra national de Paris – exclusive to the Palace Nova Eastend cinemas.