Thursday, 11 January 2018

From Barnsley to Harrogate by way of Moscow and Astrakhan


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Russian State Ballet and Opera Theatre of Astrakhan Romeo and Juliet Royal Hall, Harrogate, 6 Dec 2017. 19:30


The Astrakhan State Opera and Ballet Theatre is nearly 864 miles from the Moscow State Academy of Choreography (commonly known as The Bolshoi Ballet Academy) where Tala Lee Turton trained. She is one of a very small number of British students who have studied there. It is one of the most famous ballet schools in the world. Its alumni include Maya Pliesetskaya, Natalia Osipova, Sergei Filin and other great names.

Although I saw her on the stage for the first time only on 6 Dec 2017 I have been following her for several years.  One of the reasons why I followed her is that she comes from Barnsley which is almost the nearest town of any size to my Pennine fastness. The second and more important is that she kept one of the most readable and informative blogs of her time at the Academy.  Ms Lee-Turton has now graduated from the Academy and joined the ballet company of the Astrakhan State Theatre. I am very pleased to see that she has started to blog again and has already written about How to Choose Music to Choreograph To For Classical and Contemporary Dance and Choreography Ideas for Classical Dance - Where Should You Start? 8 Jan 2018.

 By Fred Schaerli (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0
(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)],
via Wikimedia Common
s
According to Wikipedia Astrakhan is a city of some 520,000 inhabitants in the far South West of Russia not far from the Caspian sea.  It has an interesting history and some impressive buildings including its own Kremlin and the State Theatre.  That theatre was built between 2007 and 2011 and there is a virtual tour on the home page of the theatre website.

Shortly after it was built, Konstantin Uralsky was asked to set up a ballet company for the new theatre.  He recruited young graduates from the Moscow State Academy, the Vaganova Institute of St Petersburg and other Russian ballet schools.

Although the company performs a full season in Astrakhan and tours Russia it also spends a lot of time in the United Kingdom.  I caught up with it at the Royal Hall in Harrogate where it performed Romeo and Juliet on 6 Dec 2017.  I have seen a lot of versions of that ballet by Lavrovsky, Maillot, Pastor, James, Nureyev and, of course, MacMillan but this version was different from any any I had seen before. It was choreographed and staged by Uralsky and had several original touches in its choreography and orchestration. I particularly liked the sword fights.

Considering that the sets and costumes had to be transported all the way from Southern Russia and trundled around the United Kingdom and Harrogate was their last stop I was impressed  by their freshness.  I was similarly impressed by the energy of the dancers.  It was the first cold snap of the Winter and they had been performing more or less continuously since the 14 Oct but they showed no sign of tiredness.

Unfortunately, I have no idea who was on stage on 6 Dec other than Ms Lee-Turton because there were no cast lists and the programme more than one name for several of the roles.  The leads were good as was Tybalt, the nurse Friar Lawrence and Lady Capulet. So, too, were the rest of the cast  but the artists I singled out are entitled to take a special bow.  Ms Lee-Turton, a member of the corps, made two appearances in the crowd scenes.  It was good to see her on stage and to meet her briefly after the show.

A lot of Russian ballet companies tour the United Kingdom these days and they vary enormously in quality. This is one of the better ones. They are well trained and well managed. They bring a full orchestra.  They have a home in Astrakhan where they can rehearse and develop their productions. They are obviously not in the same league as the Bolshoi or Mariinsky but they are still young and they have potential. The population of Astrakhan is about the same as that of Bristol from where Western Theatre Ballet sprang in 1957 or Leeds which is now the home of Northern Ballet.  Would anybody who followed Peter Darrell or Laverne Meyer and their dancers in the early days have anticipated that their troupes would become the world class companies that they are today?  There is no reason why the same should not happen to these artists from Astrakhan.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

2017 in Retrospect


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This is when I review the past year and nominate the best ballet, the best dancers, the best choreographer of 2017 and so on.  I have had less time for blogging than in previous years as I have had to focus on the day job, but I have seen almost as many shows as I ever do.

As a Mancunian living in Yorkshire I was delighted by the renaissance of Northern Ballet, our regional company.  That company has taken a few big hits recently with the floods that destroyed the costumes of some of its best loved ballets and the departure of two of its premier or principal dancers, Tobias Batley and Martha Leebolt, to San Diego (see Lisa Deaderick Making the leap from dancer to artistic director 10 Dec 2017 San Diego Tribune 2017). However, it had a very good year last year with three new full length ballets.

These were Kenneth Tindall's Casanova which I had expected to be good and was not disappointed (see Casanova - "it has been a long time since I enjoyed a show by Northern Ballet as much as I enjoyed Casanova last night" 12 March 2017 and Casanova Second Time Round 7 May 2017). Daniel de Andrade's The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas which I did not expect to like at all but was moved deeply (see The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas - "an impressive work that was danced splendidly by Northern Ballet" 10 Sept 2017) and David Nixon's The Little Mermaid which I have yet to review but is, perhaps, his best work yet.  I also enjoyed the company's MacMillan triple bill in Bradford (see Northern Ballet's MacMillan Celebration 4 Nov 2017).

For most of the year I thought Tindall's Casanova would be my ballet of the year but it was pipped at the post on 17 Dec 2017 by Sir Peter Wright's The Sleeping Beauty performed by the mighty Dutch (see The Dutch National Ballet's "The Sleeping Beauty" - I have waited nearly 50 years for this show 20 Dec 2017). That show with Maia Makhateli as Aurora and Daniel Camargo as Florimund was outstanding. Also, if I had not seen The Sleeping Beauty I would have had to choose Paris Opera House ballet's Don Quixote with Isabella Boylston as Kitri at the Bastille auditorium on Christmas day as my ballet of the year (see Paris Opera's Don Quixote 26 Dec 2017).

Now although I can't say that Casanova was my ballet of the year I can at least say that Tindall was my choreographer of the year.  I must add that it was no walkover. He faced fierce competition from Ruth Brill with her Arcadia which was certainly my one act ballet of the year (see Birmingham Royal Ballet's Three Short Ballets: Le Baiser de la fée, Pineapple Poll and Arcadia 22 June 2017) and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa for her Reversible for Danza Contemporanea de Cuba and Little Red Riding Hood for Ballet Black (see Danza Contemporanea de Cuba at the Lowry 19 Feb 2017 and Ballet Black Triumphant 7 March 2017). At this point I need to say that the Dutch National Ballet displayed a wealth of choreographic talent in New Moves 2017.  I was particularly impressed for the second year running with Cristiano Principato and Thomas van Damme. We will hear a lot about both of them before long though I have to say that Tom is showing as much promise as a film maker as he is as a choreographer and there is a lot of overlap between the two.

My ballet of the year (as I have already indicated) was the Dutch National Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty. Makhateli would have been my ballerina of the year had I not seen Boylston in Paris a week later.  Now she really is a superb virtuoso and dramatic figure and I was so lucky to see her.  Nobody really stood out as male dancer of the year in quite the way that Boylston did but Javier Torres was excellent in Casanova and devastating in Las Hermanas.  Here's what I wrote about him:
"As I noted above, we had a very strong cast. Giuliano Contadini was the poster boy of the show and deservedly so for he danced Casanova very well but Torres was cast perfectly for the role. Powerful, athletic and passionate, he was how I had always imagined the historical Giacomo Casanova. There is a point towards the end when he has to hold a very uncomfortable pose for what must seem like an age. That was when I appreciated just how good he was."
He is also Northern Ballet's sole remaining male premier dancer.

Northern Ballet has more than enough flatterers and fawners not all of whom ever bother to see any other company.  I have never held back from criticizing it when I have felt that criticism was due.   So when I say that it was my company of the year it will know that my compliment is sincere.  I have followed the company ever since its golden age when Christopher Gable was at the helm.  His successor, David Nixon, has also produced fine work such as Madame Butterfly, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Cinderella, Gatsby and now The Little Mermaid as well as commissioning Tindall and Cathy Marston.  The company may have lost two premier dancers but it still has first rate artists such as Torres, Hannah Bateman, Dreda Blow and Ashley Dixon not to mention emerging stars like Mlindi Kulashe. Rachael Gillespie and Abigail Prudames.

Finally a very special, self-indulgent award for my best adult ballet experience of 2017.  Being a bit of a show off I love to perform and one of the highlights of my year was dancing in Move It at The Dancehouse on 13 May 2017. The other was taking part in Martin Dutton's Nutcracker intensive on 16 Dec 2017. That was the weekend that I saw a preview of Sharon Watson's Windrush which I expect to be my leading work of 2018 and Peter Wright's The Sleeping Beauty in Amsterdam. "Weekends don't come any better than that" I tweeted. I don't expect another like it in my lifetime.  As both of those events were organized by Karen Sant of KNT I have to grant her the adult ballet teaching award of 2017.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Class Review - Hype Dance Company Revisited














Hype Dance Company, Beginners' Ballet, Instructor Anna Olejnicki, 4 Jan 2017, 18:30 - 19:30

I used to go to Hype a lot when Fiona Noonan taught there (see More than just Hype - Beginners and Improvers Classes in Sheffield 14 May 2014). Fiona taught the beginners and improvers classes while Emily Talks was on maternity leave.  After Emily returned to work I attended one of her classes which I enjoyed very much (see A Different Kind of Ballet Class - Emily Talks at Hype 28 July 2015).  Sadly for me Emily moved to Sydney. Shortly afterwards, I attended a couple of vacation classes in Leeds and an intensive workshop on Swan Lake with Jane Tucker in Manchester. Although Jane's classes are far from easy I like the way she teaches and I attend her classes whenever I can.

Northern Ballet are on vacation this week and my neighbour and contributor, Amelia Sierevogel, wanted to get a class in before Hannah Bateman's Ballet Retreat which starts tomorrowI asked Karen Sant whether there was anything in Manchester but learned that classes at KNT begin on the 8 Jan 2018. Amelia was resigned to pliés on YouTube until I received an email from Hype advertising a half price sale. As I also fancied a class I passed the information onto Amelia and we decided to give it a go.

Hype has moved since I was last there. They used to be near the Chinese quarter not far from the Moor. They are now at 60 Upper Allen Street  which is not far from Paradise Street where the Sheffield bar and most local solicitors are to be found.  I used to have a door tenancy in one of the sets there some 30 years ago.  Even though it has moved from the Chinese area, Hype now shares a building with a Chinese restaurant and it looked quite a good one from the outside. There is plenty of street parking and  I was assured that the traffic wardens are a lot less bothersome.

The new premises are something of an improvement on the old place.   There is a comfortable space to change with a chair and the studios look more like studios than corridors.  The loo does not look like a museum exhibit.  Alex was still there and I recognized at least one of the students from Fiona and Emily's classes.  There are even hooks for clothes and dance bags in the studio.  A nice surprise was that we were admitted for £3 instead of the usual £6.   Part of the January sale.

Our class was taken by Anna Olejnicki and I should say that there were about 12 of us in her class.  All of us were female and the others were considerably younger than me.  One student was completely new to ballet but most seemed to have done some.  All seemed to have a much better idea of what they were supposed to be doing than I did.  We started with some floor exercises. In one we split into teams one student lying face down on the floor trying to push up with the team member other encouraging her.  Karen does something similar in Manchester except she makes us hold our partners' feet and legs to the floor.  Anna gave us a lot of tips such as stand more on your toes than your heels.  She also had quite a store of jokes and anecdotes.

Barre started deceptively easily. Only demis in first and second.  We followed with tendus and ronds de jambe and then the fun started.  Still in teams of 2 we lifted each other's leg until it was quite high and then dropped the support while we struggled to maintain the position.  Not exactly a penché but quite taxing on my poor old bones and muscles.  It soon became clear that this class was not going to be a cake walk. Two particular exercises nearly knackered me.

One started as a glissade but we had to jump high enough so that the feet would connect while still in the air.  I have no idea what that is called but Amelia thought it was some sort of gallop.  We had to do these several tomes as we crossed the studio and then repeat it on the other foot.  Even Amelia exclaimed that it was horrible.

The other exercise that nearly did for me was to perform 4 sautés and then hop 4 times on one leg repeating the exercise on the other leg and then alternately.  The other students were alright but I was terrible.  Karen's exercise of making us stand on demi for several seconds after jumping is bad enough but that was worse.

However, I did get one thing right. I really love my ballet and can't believe my luck that I am still dancing at age 69. So I can't stop smiling. "What's your name?" asked Anna.  After I told her she replied "You were the only one who gave me a smile." I remember that Sir Peter Wright once said something very similar to Ruth Brill and that she dined out on it for ages.

As we had only 60 minutes class was over far too soon. "I'm very old school" said Anna "and I expect a proper curtsy in the reverence."  We all did our best to give her one.   Anna is a very good teacher and I warmed to her a lot.  I would love to attend her class regularly.  Alas, time can't be spent twice and I already spend quite enough tome on the M62 commuting to Jane's class in Leeds and Karen's in Manchester.  I leaned quite a few useful things from her yesterday.  It was a very good start to be New Year,

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

The Royal Ballet's Nutcracker - The Best Possible Start to 2018


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The Royal Ballet The Nutcracker  1 Jan 2018 19:00 Royal Opera House

Even though it is a silly story not greatly enhanced by Sir Peter Wright's prologue and epilogue The Nutcracker never fails to draw the crowds. Particularly in the United Kingdom at Christmas where there are usually several competing productions to choose from.  For many it is their introduction to ballet and the experience is magical.  The score is enchanting, the sets are beguiling and the dancing is breathtaking. Particularly the final pas de deux by the sugar plum and her cavalier.

My lifetime love of ballet was kindled when I was taken as a child to Royal Festival Hall to see the London Festival Ballet's production.  I hope to have sparked a similar love in my 7 year old grandson manqué by taking him to see the Royal Ballet's at Covent Garden on New Year's Day. I ignited a similar spark in his mother when I first took her to her to Covent Garden shortly after she had arrived in this country nearly 30 years ago.  To make the evening particularly memorable, I entertained the child and his mother to dinner in the  amphitheatre restaurant.  The advantage of dining in the restaurant is the guaranteed table for the interval where one can reflect on the show in comfort.

The magic seemed to work for the boy was entranced. "How did they do that?" he whispered to me as Drosselmeyer's workshop morphed into the street where the Stahlbaums lived.  "Clever lighting and set design" I explained during a break for applause. All the way from Bow Street to Lincoln's Inn  Fields where I had parked my car, he skipped, jumped and rotated in imitation of the dancers he had seen on stage.

We saw an excellent cast.  Clara was danced by Leticia Stock who charmed the audience in every scene of the show.  She was partnered by Tristan Dyer as the Nutcracker.  They were guided through the kingdom of the sweets by Thomas Whitehead as Drosselmeyer who comes from my part of the world. On the previous occasions that I had seen this ballet, Drosselmeyer had been danced by Gary Avis whom I admire greatly.  Whitehead delighted me just as Avis would have done. The sugar plum was danced by Fumi Kaneko and William Bracewell was her prince.  Bracewell had been one of my favourite dancers at the Birmingham Royal Ballet and it was good to welcome him to his new company. Both Kaneko and Stock received flowers at the curtain call, a gesture that was appreciated with thunderous applause.

I enjoyed all the divertissements though I was confused  by some of the costumes.  The headgear worn by the Russians seemed more Hungarian than Russian to me and  save for the castanets in the music it was hard to spot anything specifically Spanish when the boy whispered "What sort of dance was that?" However, he now knows what a mirliton. He also spotted Drosselmeyer's trick of transforming a red rose into a white one just before the dance of the flowers. "Would it have been the other way round had Drosselmeyer been danced  by a Lancastrian and not a Yorkshireman?" I mused.

Finally, I should say a word for the corps.  They were magnificent whether as flowers, snowflakes, mice, toy soldiers or guests at Mr and Mrs Stahlbaum's Christmas party.  I felt a surge of pride as the first snowflake ran on stage and presented just as I had done in the Nutcracker intensive in Manchester a few weeks earlier (see KNT Nutcracker Intensive  21 Dec 2017).

I have been coming to Covent Garden regularly for nearly 50 years. The Royal Ballet rarely disappoints me.  Its performance of The Nutcracker was the best possible start to the New Year and a great way to end the holiday season.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Class Review - Adam Pudney Wednesday Night Beginners at Pineapple










Beginners' Ballet:  Adam Pudney, 8 Nov 2017 Pineapple  


One of my favourite dance teachers is Adam Pudney. He teaches at Danceworks and Pineapple.  I have had only three classes with him but these have been some of the most useful ever (see Pineapple 20 Nov 2013 and (Another Slice of Pineapple 12 July 2015). If I lived in London I would be one of his regulars.

The last time I attended one of Adam's classes was on 8 Nov 2017. I had travelled to London to do what I had expected to be a stinker of a case that turned out rather well.  As I had expected the case to go into a second day I had allowed myself an extra day in the Great Wen. Finding that I did not need it I had time to scurry off to 7 Langley Street for the beginners' class with Adam.

Every time I have attended Adam's class I have had to climb up from the basement to the very top of the building. I don't know whether Adam teaches in any other studio but that is where I have always found him.  Climbing those stairs is almost a workout in itself.  Unlike my teachers in Leeds who start off with a walk round the studio, followed by arm stretches, followed by a run (and in Jane Tucker's case a sudden change of direction), followed by jumping facing in, jumping facing out, jumping jacks and stretches in accordance with the Ichino method, Adam does not make us do any of that, but we are more than ready for the first exercise by the time we arrive.

Adam focuses on detail and he spends a fair proportion of the class getting the basics right.  The video, Ballet Tutorial: Port de Bras with Adam Pudney on the Pineapple YouTube channel shows just what his classes are like.  I was led back to ballet by Adam's compatriot, Fiona, over four years ago and although I am not exactly the right shape or size for ballet I was sure that I had picked up something. Too right I had.  The first 20 minutes with Adam showed me exactly how many bad habits I had fallen into each of which he pointed out with enormous courtesy and corrected with equal assiduity.

Once Adam was satisfied that we had mastered the basics (at least for the time being) he proceeded to some barre exercises. More bad news for me.  My pliés were terrible and my tendus not much better and as for my glissés and ronds de jambe, the less said the better.  But we finished the barre and then proceeded to a difficult but very beautiful enchainement in the centre.  There was time for pirouettes.  Mine are appalling but I think I could actually get them right if I could take Adam's c;ass regularly because he breaks the exercise down into elements that even I can understand. Those who take to them easily are annoyingly well-coordinated types who just do not appreciate the metal effort of rising onto demi, bending the legs, positioning the arms and spotting all at the same time. Though I doubt that he ever had a problem with doing all that at the same time, Adam is sympathetic. He understands that some of us do.  And he really helps us to get it.

The class was over far in an hour.  That was far too soon.  I was just getting into my stride when Adam called us into the centre for cool down and reverence.   Classes in Pineapple are quite a bit more expensive than in the North because you have to take out temporary membership of the studio but they are worth the extra.  It was well over two years since my last trip to Pineapple.  I hope I do not have to wait quite so long for the next one.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Rambert in Bradford -


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Rambert   Triple Bill:A Linha Curva, Ghost Dances and Goat, 16 Nov 2017 Alhambra

 One of the most memorable shows that I attended in 2017 was Rambert's triple bill at the Alhambra which I saw on Friday 16 Nov.  The company presented three works:
Three very different works and it seemed to me that all had a loose connection with Latin America.

My favourite work of the evening was A Linha Curva.  I had seen it at The Lowry the year before (see Red Hot Rambert 1 Oct 2016).  I loved it then:
"Rambert's party piece on Thursday was A Linha Curva. The stage consisted of percussionists in a box above the dancers. The work began with chants by male dancers in gigantic, reflective metallic collars which was answered by calls and screeches from the women. The stage exploded into a carnival of movement fuelled by the relentless beat of the musicians. The effect was quite hypnotic and the performers' vitality and vivacity were infectious."
I loved it even more the second time round for its colour and energy. I loved the chanting, the screeching and the rhythm. Such a contrast to the other two works which, while beautiful, were much more sobering.

Christopher Bruce created Ghost Dances in 1981 when Leopoldo Galtieri held power in Argentina and Augusto Pinochet.  Both used death squads to remove political opponents.  Spooks who visited opponents in the middle of the night and spirited their victims away.  The faceless skeletons moving to panpipes could easily represent them at one level.  At another level, they could represent the spirits of the dead  in the belief systems of the Andean tribes that had been transposed only imperfectly into the religion of the Conquistadors.   At either level it was a very disturbing work reminding audiences of their mortality and vulnerability.  But at the same time it was also eerily beautiful with elegant jumps. I should like to see it again - but not in a hurry.

The last work was also disturbing.  The "goat" in this piece had two legs not four.  The human goat was chosen for much the same purpose as a scapegoat.  Duke explained in the programme notes:
“In the village where I was brought up there was a tradition on New Year’s Eve of writing on a piece of paper two things you wanted to rid yourself of – it could be something bad that had happened to you, or something bad that you had done. The pieces of paper were placed inside a can which was tied to the tail of a goat. The goat was supposed to disappear over the horizon and take our sins with it. Usually it ran for five seconds or so then stopped to eat some grass. Some years it came running back towards us…” 
There was a lot going on in this work. A running commentary from one of the dancers and dialogue from others. Some dance, of course, and a lot of singing on stage.  According to Ben Duke's YouTube clip, rehearsals started immediately after the London Bridge terror outrage. It is in thus a commentary on the role of art in the politics of the times.

Not exactly a laugh a minute but life is brief for all and insecure for many and it does no harm occasionally to be reminded of that.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Paris Opera Ballet's Don Quixote


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Opera National de Paris  Don Quixote Opera Bastille 25 Dec 2017, 19:30

Although Don Quixote is not one of my favourite Petipa ballets it does have some spectacular choreography. Similarly, while I greatly prefer his score to La Bayadère, Minkus's score has some lovely tunes including the Queen of the Dryads's solo and the rumbustious final pas de deux.  Also, Don Quixote makes a change from The Nutcracker which the Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, English National Ballet and Scottish Ballet are all serving up for Christmas at home.

I had only seen the Paris Opera ballet once before in the Palais Garnier some 45 tears ago. I remember a grand défilé by the ballet students. I was told by my companion, Pamela (who had some to Paris to study with Madame Preobrajenska at the Salle Wacker) that the students were referred to disparagingly as les petits rats.  The stage seemed massive. Much bigger than Covent Garden's.  However, I can't remember anything else about the show which means that it could not have impressed me very much.  My second experience of the company came last night when it performed Don Quixote at the Opera Bastille.  I can safely say that I won't forget that show in a hurry.

Spectacular choreography needs virtuoso dancers and Isabella Boylston is a virtuoso par excellence.  She launches into grands jetes almost as soon as she appears on stage and hers seemed as graceful and effortless as any I have seen before. She danced Kitri who ends the show with spectacular fouettés.  I have seen plenty of those from lots of Odiles but the excitement that Boylston generated with hers at the Bastille last night could not have been exceeded by Legnani herself.

Boylston was partnered by Mathieu Ganio who was magnificent. He danced Don Basilio in which I had previously seen Carlos Acosta. Though I greatly admired Acosta in that role, Ganio surpassed him both as a soloist with the spectacular jumping and turns in his final solo and in the way that he helped Boylston to shine. That is the sort of partnership of which legends are made like Sibley's with Dowell.  Whether it can develop and flourish with Ganio in Paris and Boylston in New York is anybody's guess but if I ran the Paris Opera Ballet or American Ballet Theatre I would do my best to make sure it did.

We saw lots of other excellent performances last night: Erwan Le Roux as Sancho Panza, Fanny Gorse  as the street dancer, Amandine Albisson as the queen of the Dryads and Yann Chailloux as Don Quixote himself. Everyone was impressive not least the corps de ballet which was one of the most polished and disciplined that I have been fortunate enough to see.

With costumes  by Elena Rivkina and sets by Alexandre Beliaev the production was gorgeous. The Opera Bastille was designed as an ideal venue for ballet and although it lacks the charm of Covent Garden or the majesty of the Garnier it is probably one of the best places in the world to see a full length ballet by a major company. 

I sat towards the back of the stalls and enjoyed a perfect view.  The theatre has been designed to ensure easy access and egress.  If you want a drink you enter a cordon where you wait your turn.  No ostentatious waving of bank notes or sharp elbowing here. Having paid about £10 less for seats in the stalls than I was charged by Covent Garden for the back amphitheatre I was ready to sing the Bastille's praises .................  until I was stung for €5 for a tonic water and €12 for a programme (albeit a very thick and informative programme much of it in English).  Like a budget airline the essentials are cheap enough and if that's all you want well all well and good. But if you want any extras - even a postcard from the well stocked theatre shop - caveat emptor.