Margot Fonteyn ranks prominent among the most venerated ballerinas of the 20th century. This programme brings her to life thanks to exceptional archive material, in which she appears with Michael Somes in the three great Tchaikovsky ballets.
The selections on this programme demonstrate the key elements of the Fonteyn/Somes partnership, most notably in the selections from Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty. The inspired choreography of the Act 2 pas de deux from Swan Lake is a veritable love duet as performed by these dancers. Fonteyn's Odette is all fluttering vulnerability with Somes as an ardent, caring protector. All the more jolting is Fonteyn's transformation into the alluring Odile of Act 3! She may lack the suggestive malevolence of Plisetskaya's Odile, but her cool seductiveness is light years away from her fragile Odette. Somes is perfect as her Beguiled and bewildered prey.
Aurora was Fonteyn's signature role. It was in Sleeping Beauty that she and Sadler's Wells Ballet made their triumphant American debut in 1949. She was apprehensive about that appearance, writing: "I felt absolutely certain that I was not the kind of dancer New York audiences greeted the Londoners' performances excstatically. On the 1959 telecast, one still sees the exuberant youthfulness that so charmed audiences ten years earlier. Fonteyn's Act 1 entrance was always enchanting, and no less so as seen here. For the great Act 3 pas de deux her cavalier, Somes, is in total sync with her, making this the high point of the ballet.
The Nutcracker was not a repertoire staple for Fonteyn, nor for most other prima ballerinas with the Sugar Plum Fairy appearing only in the second act, and there just in the grand pas de deux. But when seen with dancers like Fonteyn and Somes performing Ivanov's captivating choreography to the glorious music of Tchaikovsky, one understands why Major dancers continue to covet these roles.
Alina Cojocaru (Princess Aurora), Federico Bonelli (Prince Florimund), Christopher Saunders (King Florestan XXIV) – The Royal Ballet
Agnès Letestu (Odette), José Martinez (Siegfried) – Corps de Ballet de l'Opéra national de Paris
Bolshoi Theatre, 1945-1977