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Last night I went to see this Royal Opera and Royal Ballet co-production of The Tsarina's Slippers. The fairytale story is just the perfect ticket for Christmas: Ukrainian Christmas, witches, devils, Court at St Petersburg, drunken teacher, etc. Mikhail Mokrov's set design and Francesca Zambello's direction was fun and effective. To maintain a certain degree of innocence,  lots of the special effects were played by the Devil's entourage, nymphs, and just simple acting rather than by backstage machinery. 

As a relatively unknown work (certainly outside of Russia), the Royal Opera enlisted a cast of largely Russian singers. Olga Guryakova was Oxana with a big voice to fill the auditorium; Vsevolod Grivnov was a lyrical Vakula. Larissa Diadkova and Maxim Mikhailov were the Witch/Solokha and the Devil respectively - who really made the fairytale work. The corp of the Royal Ballet fitted well in all the dance sequences - especially the nymphs by the lake and the court dances.

Musically, it was a bit like Onegin and Nutcracker thrown together with a heavy Ukrainian influence. At times, Tchaikovsky's handy work was only detectable in the orchestration. So some of today's audiences may need a bit of time to get used to this unknown work: it certainly deserves more outings.



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