Last performed in Leeds in 2017, Choreographer Kenneth Tindall’s Casanova (his first full-evening ballet) takes its audience through the illustrious Lotharios life, in a whirlwind of atmospheric backdrops, sensual choreography and a moving score.
Tindall was, until 2015, a dancer with the company, and along with Director David Nixon (who has recently stepped down from his position as Artistic Director, succeeded by Federico Bonelli, a current principal dancer of The Royal Ballet) has created a rich, sumptuous theatrical experience which does wonders to showcase the talents of both the Northern Ballet dancers and musicians, as well as the much loved and ornate beauty of Leeds Grand Theatre.
The ballet was also co-created with actor, dramatist and historical biographer Ian Kelly, who gave an insight into the man behind the mask of Casanova; “There’s an Irish feminist historian called Brigid Brophy, who once said that the two most fascinating things in the universe are sex and the 18th century…I’d have to agree with this, and Casanova is the first key witness in this argument…described as one of the most interesting men who ever lived, it should be said he is so much more than just the legend…this extraordinarily ambitious, intellectually curious man, who happily for us, late in his life wrote a monumental memoir…that told us everything he could remember about a long life well lived”.
Act I begins in 18th century Venice. The smoke of incense clouds the stage. Giacomo Casanova – the aspiring priest, writer, polymath and musician – arrives late with his pupils the Savorgnan sisters, who later in the act go on to seduce him, causing him to be cast from the church by the Inquisitors, left only with his violin, and a forbidden book. Thus begins the telling of Casanova’s infamous and sensual story, which spans cities, political and human desires, religion, love, lust, and depression.
Tindall manages to portray Casanova’s many relationships with a depth of feeling, and his choreography is at once both sophisticated and elegant, dark and desirous. Kerry Muzzey‘s score – played live by Northern Ballet’s Sinfonia – ebbs and flows with the undulating bodies on stage. Christopher Oram’s costumes transport the audience to the opulence of Venice and Paris, the lighting on stage hitting fabric and flesh, drawing the eye in an intriguing and tactical way.
The hugely symbolic nature of the dancing, including heavy use of interpretive mime, meant that at times the plot felt a little difficult to follow without peering at the programme. However, the talent of the dancers, atmospheric set and rousing score was more than enough to make up for this in terms of pure enjoyability.
Overall, Tindall has created a sumptuous, opulent insight into the mind and body of a fascinating character, with the score, costume design, set and lighting all exceptionally executed and wholly atmospheric.
The talent of the Northern Ballet dancers and musicians shines as brightly as ever. Pure, unadulterated pleasure!
Casanova, Leeds Grand Theatre, Spring 2022, https://leedsheritagetheatres.com/whats-on/northern-ballets-casanova/
Photography by Emma Kauldhar. Feature photograph Giuliano Contadini (Casanova) and Dreda Blow (Bellino).