More is Less: Balletic Realisation of Casanova’s Life Fails To Grip


Northern Ballet’s CasanovaDancers of Northern Ballet, Northern Ballet Sinfonia / Nathan Fifield (conductor), Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, 25.3.2017. (SRT)

Giuliano Contadini as Casanova and Dreda Blow as Bellino in Casanova. Photo Caroline Holden

Giuliano Contadini (Casanova) and Dreda Blow (Bellino)
in Casanova (c) Caroline Holden

Cast included:

Casanova – Javier Torres
Cardinal de Bernis – Dale Rhodes
Manon Balletti – Lucia Solari
M.M. – Hannah Bateman
Father Balbi – Liam Morris
Henriette – Antoinette Brooks-Daw


Kenneth Tindall (choreography & original scenario)
Kerry Muzzey (music)
Christopher Oran (set & costume designs)

Brigid Brophy wrote that “the two most fascinating subjects in the universe are sex and the eighteenth century,” and Kenneth Tindall, the choreographer for this show, writes in the programme that “Casanova’s life was epic, and I wanted to do it justice.”

So why wasn’t I more gripped?  This ballet lasts just under two hours but feels like a lot more, and it’s problematic for several reasons.  One of them is the story, not because it’s dull, but because it’s trying to do too much.

Northern Ballet’s approach to dance is almost always narrative, and I take my hat off to them for that: it’s the most accessible form of dance for newcomers.  However, Tindall, a home-grown force who danced for the company for twelve years and who created his own first work for them, has taken Casanova’s autobiography as his inspiration for this piece, and he goes out of his way to depict Casanova in all his rounded achievements as a man of the Enlightenment, not just the walking libido that he is best known as.

In attempting to redress the balance, however, Tindall ends up trying to pack in a vast amount, with nuances and characters that could be picked up by nobody who hadn’t bought a programme and studied the lengthy plot synopsis beforehand.   Consequently, much of the busyness feels like a gallop through some slightly mysterious scenarios, with nebulous characters who aren’t sufficiently distinguished from one another.  For long sections of both acts, I found myself diverted but a little mystified, and I’d read the programme already!  Surely he would have been better to focus on a particular aspect of the man and explore it fully.  The crowbar of the forbidden book and Casanova’s attempts to find redemption through writing feels rather contrived, despite the handsome images it sometimes induces, and when the second act features Casanova explaining his theory of cubic geometry to Voltaire, you can’t help but wonder why this wasn’t cleaned up in the planning process.

Kerry Muzzey’s music is serviceable enough, with hints of Michael Nyman and Philip Glass in its use of undulating repetitions.  Like much film music, however, it works through generating atmosphere rather than melody, despite a few moments of Baroque pastiche, and it seems to act more as wallpaper for the dance than as an independent entity.  Tindall’s actual choreography works pretty well, I thought, with angular geometries for many of the crowd scenes and, best of all, moments of flowing intimacy in the solos and duets.

It’s also undeniably handsome.  In fact, it was this visual aspect that I enjoyed the most and which, I imagine, will stick with most people who see it.  Christopher Oram’s costumes are minor updatings of eighteenth century fashions which are very pleasing, and his set mostly consists of three muscular columns that are made to serve for lots of difference scenarios.  In fact, the designs model the truth of less is more, something the whole concept might have benefited from

Simon Thompson

Print Friendly


Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews


Season Previews

  • NEW! The Cleveland Orchestra’s 2018 Blossom Music Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! LA Opera’s 2018/19 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Buxton Festival 2018 and its New CEO __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music at the Barbican in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! Violinist Liza Ferschtman Celebrates Bernstein’s Centenary in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Piccadilly Chamber Music Series in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera and More in Buenos Aires in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Gloucester Choral Society’s Hubert Parry’s Centenary Celebrations in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Spend a Penny for Grange Park Opera’s Lavatorium Rotundum __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2018 Lucerne Summer Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! Leeds Lieder’s Forthcoming Schubert Song Series in Leeds and Sheffield __________________________________
  • NEW! Contemporary Music from Manchester’s Psappha in 2017-18 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! I Musicanti’s Alexandra and the Russians at St Johns Smith Square in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov’s Return to London in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! St John’s Smith Square announces its 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Pierre Boulez Saal’s 2017/18 Season in Berlin __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

  • NEW! Chelsea Opera Group to Perform Rossini’s Mosè in Egitto at Cadogan Hall __________________________________
  • NEW! A Celebration of the Work of Dai Fujikura at Wigmore Hall on 17 February __________________________________
  • NEW! Rafael de Acha Introduces Some of Cincinnati’s New Musical Entrepreneurs __________________________________
  • NEW! ENB’s 2018 Emerging Dancer will be Chosen at the London Coliseum on 11 June __________________________________
  • NEW! Akram Khan’s Giselle for ENB Can be Seen in Cinemas from 25 April __________________________________
  • NEW! BARRY DOUGLAS IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • UPDATED! SOME OF OUR REVIEWERS CHOOSE THEIR ‘BEST OF 2017’ __________________________________
  • NEW! Dénes Várjon Talks to Sebastian Smallshaw About Budapest’s __________________________________
  • R.I.P. IN MEMORIAM – DMITRI HVOROSTOVSKY (1962-2017) __________________________________
  • NEW! Ann Murray’s Masterclass at the V&A Part of Opera: Passion, Power and Politics __________________________________
  • NEW! A Composer Speaks Up for the Environment: An Interview with Margaret Brouwer __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Russian Ballet Icons Gala at the London Coliseum on 25 February __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month

    Search S&H