REVIEW: The Cellist, Royal Ballet, Royal Opera House (Online)

First performed at the Royal Opera House earlier this year, Cathy Marston’s ballet wonderfully plays tribute to Jacqueline du Pré’s career and love for her instrument.

From the way in which composer Philip Feeney intertwines cello music of Elgar, Beethoven, Fauré, Mendelssohn, Piatti, Rachmaninoff and Schubert to the way Cathy Marston’s choreography highlights the bond between the cellist and her instrument, this is a ballet about the love of music.

Bringing to life the story of Jacqueline du Pré, an immensely successful cellist, whose life was tragically cut short due to multiple sclerosis, this is a respectful ballet that captures the beauty of the relationship between musician and instrument.

The clever element of this ballet is the way in which the choreography is used to focus on this through the way in which Marcelino Sambé uses his body as the instrument and the characterisation that Lauren Cuthbertson brings to the cellist that is mesmerising to watch. To see the relationship between the pair change particularly during the later moments in the ballet is heartbreaking to watch as the cellist’s frustration at her the way in which her illness is taking hold.

Everything is so wonderfully expressed, emphasised further by Feeney’s score that blends so many elements of different composer’s work effectively. The music and choreography work in perfect harmony to enhance the all the emotions of the story that are given life, while the narrative itself is briskly portrayed.

For extra depth perhaps it would have been wonderful for the ballet to explore further the relationships surrounding the cellist’s life to add more depth to the story. However, it is the relationship between the cellist and instrument that is the most endearing, fascinating and important.

This is a simple but stylishly told production, with the moments in which the audience can expressly see just how the love for music carries the cellist to another place proving to be particular highlights, making her later pain become even more devastating to watch unfold.

The whole production has a wonderful fluidity about it, particularly seen in many of the performances such as Marcelino Sambé as the instrument, shifting into a mesmerising number of positions with ease as he breathes life and makes it into a character of its own as opposed to simply a prop. This is seen as his emotions are made clear, when the cellist’s talent begins to slip away due to her illness – his devastation and loyalty are clear to see.

Lauren Cuthbertson as the cellist is a joy to watch, providing plenty of energy and heartfelt emotion that makes the character instantaneously likeable. She perfectly continues where the young cellist played by Emma Lucano leaves off – consistently showing the playfulness of her character and joy of playing the cello right through the height of her fame.

Overall, this is a wonderfully expressive ballet, by turns joyful but heartbreaking to watch unfold. It feels like a really polished and confident production and is certainly worth a watch.

By Emma Clarendon

The Cellist is available to watch on the Royal Opera House’s Youtube channel until the 12th June.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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