The annual appointment with Les Étoiles in Rome is certainly a chance to enjoy a thrilling ballet gala, but the producer Daniele Cipriani also finds interesting twists to make each edition unique, so it never becomes a clichéd evening of ballet’s greatest hits.
Such was the popularity last year, that the gala will spread over three days to satisfy those who were turned away last year, as well as the regulars who keep coming back for more. At the Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome from the 24-26 January 2020 will appear some of the world’s best dancers.
One of Cipriani’s surprises this year includes specially designed costumes by fashion’s most theatrical designer, Roberto Capucci, for two of the dancers: Sergio Bernal and Young Gyu Choi. There will also be the opportunity to see the 23-year-old Ukrainian dancer, Oleg Ivenko, who was the star of the Ralph Fiennes’ Nureyev biopic, The White Crow, dancing as himself. Tony Award-nominated Robert Fairchild, former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, who will a number from Christopher Wheeldon’s hit show American in Paris, which the multi-talented dancer-actor-singer starred in both on Broadway and in London’s West End.
The glamorous line-up includes the Bolshoi Ballet’s Eleonora Sevenard and Denis Rodkin (Swan Lake and Spartacus), the Stuttgart Ballet’s Friedemann Vogel and Elisa Badenes (John Cranko’s Legend and Itzik Galili’s Mona Lisa), American Ballet Theatre principal Stella Abrera will dance with Fairchild (American in Paris and Balanchine’s Apollo pas de deux), and former Paris Opera Ballet étoile, and now the company’s director, Aurélie Dupont, will perform Martha Graham’s Ekstasis re-imagined by Virginie Mécène, and Star, a piece by Norwegian choreographer Alan Lucien Øyen to a song by Nina Simone.
There will also be the customary “surprise étoile” who will dance with Dutch National Ballet’s Young Gyu Choi, and he will also dance the Golden Idol solo from La Bayadére wearing Capucci’s ‘minimalist’ costume.
Of course, Les Étoiles wouldn’t be Les Étoiles without The Royal Ballet star Marianela Nuñez who will again dance with the “dancers’ dancer” Vadim Muntagirov who was her partner at The Royal Opera House for the recent cinema relay of Coppélia. They will dance pas de deux from La Bayadère and Sleeping Beauty.
Sergio Bernal has become another Les Étoiles regular, bringing down the house with his thrilling zapateado, and he will be doing the same this year as well as performing a new piece by Ricardo Cue (who choreographed The Swan which has brought Bernal acclaim throughout the world) called The Last Encounter, which he dances with Miriam Mendoza of the Spanish National Ballet. Cue was inspired by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and uses music written by Alberto Iglesias for Pedro Almodóvar’s film Talk to Her.
Last October, the world of ballet lost one of its brightest stars when Alicia Alonso died in her beloved Havana, two months short of her 99th birthday. To remember her, Cipriani has invited two of her former Cuban pupils to dance the pas de deux from Don Quixote: Yanela Piñera from the Queensland Ballet in Australia and Luis Valle from the Ballet Méditerannée in Nice.
Christian Dior once said that the nonagenarian Roberto Capucci was “the best creator of Italian fashion”. If you don’t know his work, google him and be awed. He says,
A few years ago, while organising my archive of drawings for my Foundation, I came across an old yellowed envelope, and its contents made me leap back in time: it was from 1948 when I was 18 years old, and a student Academy of Fine Arts. It contained sketches for costumes for a musical revue in Buenos Aires. I remember my passion and excitement designing those costumes but, as is often the case, the project did not go ahead.
As we know, my professional life took another direction but if things had gone another way maybe I would not be a fashion designer but be living in Argentina!
Apart from designing a production of Capriccio in 2002 at Teatro San Carlo in Naples, with my dear friend, the soprano Raina Kabaivanska, I haven’t designed anything else for the stage. However, theatre costumes have always remained close to my heart and so, in my spare time, I would do some designs. I began to show my sketches in exhibitions: at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, the Palazzo Scarpetta in Naples, and so on. The success with both critics and the public encouraged me to continue and so I’ve immersed myself in this project [for Les Étoiles] with great excitement and energy.
A wonderful meeting with the artistic director of Les Étoiles, my friend Daniele Cipriani, convinced me to dress two of the dancers for the gala. It was as though time hadn’t passed… and there are other projects on the way!
Daniele Cipriani’s Gran Gala in Honour of Alicia Alonso will be at the Ravenna Festival on 17 July 2020.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.