Insight into Raymonda Act III
Upper School students have been working on Raymonda Act III, which they will be performing in this year’s Summer Performances at Opera Holland Park and the Royal Opera House. Our Upper School Artistic staff, Zhan Atymtayev, Justine Berry, Ricardo Cervera, Jessica Clarke, Daria Klimentová, Nicola Tranah and Zenaida Yanowsky, have been guiding students in their rehearsals.
Petipa’s acclaimed ballet
Raymonda is a three-act ballet choreographed by Marius Petipa, with music by Alexander Glazunov. The work first premiered in 1898 with the Imperial Ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, and was created for the renowned Italian ballerina Pierina Legnani, who originated the title role. Raymonda was one of Petipa’s final and most successful ballets.
The story centres around the young countess Raymonda who awaits her fiancé’s return from the crusades. In his absence, she hosts a party to celebrate her name day, which is interrupted by a group of knights seeking shelter. One of the knights, Abderakhman, falls in love with Raymonda and attempts to abduct her when she rejects him. However, her fiancé Jean de Brienne comes back to rescue her just in time and the couple is married at the end of the ballet.
Act III is the final act and depicts Raymonda and Jean de Brienne’s wedding. It features a Hungarian dance, a number of solo variations, a pas de trois and pas de quatre, performed in highly-decorative costumes. The act closes with a joyous, celebratory finale. It is a lively and high-spirited extract, which our students bring fantastic energy to.
The work’s evolution
The renowned dancer and choreographer Rudolf Nureyev always had a deep love and connection to Raymonda, having performed the ballet in his early career. In 1969 he presented an adapted version of Act III in Covent Garden. This featured the lively male pas de quatre as well as the famous grand pas hongrois and was performed at the Royal Opera House in 2003 as part of a tribute to Nureyev.
The full-length production of Raymonda has been performed by companies worldwide, including American Ballet Theatre, the Bolshoi Ballet and the Paris Opera Ballet. However, it is more commonly performed in extracts. The Royal Ballet has performed Nureyev’s adaption of Act III many times since 1969 and the School is grateful to the Royal Opera House for generously loaning us their costumes for our performances.
Our students are also so fortunate to benefit from the coaching of Zenaida Yanowsky, former Principal of The Royal Ballet and now Royal Ballet Coach for the Pre-professional Programme, for this work. While with The Royal Ballet, Zenaida performed the role of Raymonda to great praise: in 2012, Jane Simpson wrote for Dance Tabs:
‘…a joyous account of Raymonda herself from Yanowsky. It’s very good to see her in a role that she so very obviously enjoys – I’ve never seen anyone do the hand-clapping solo with such relish, and she projects so well that the people on the back row of the amphitheatre must get as much pleasure from it as those downstairs.‘
Last year, Tamara Rojo created a re-imagined version of Raymonda with the English National Ballet. Inspired by Florence Nightingale, this production set the story within the Crimean War and explored deeper themes of feminism and the role of women in war. This was a different and interesting take on the classic ballet and the production was acclaimed by critics and audiences.
Our students’ experience
We spoke to Skya Powney, Pre-professional Year student, about her experience of learning this much-loved work:
We began learning snippets of the dazzling ballet Raymonda in 2nd Year, starting with the adage in Act III. I find that the ballet is incredibly technically exposing. The steps must be ingrained in your body in order for you to perform to your best ability, and I loved taking the time to work on the small but important details of our classical art form. The beautiful music helps drive the artistic side of the steps, which truly make us feel like professionals.
If I had to describe dancing Raymonda in a sentence, I’d have to say, ‘dancing on a cloud in sunset.’
Browse more images of our students dancing Petipa’s Raymonda Act III:
Find out more about our Summer Performances