Northern Ballet's Casanova, Festival Theatre Edinburgh, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
Northern Ballet
Kenneth Tindall (choreography), Ian Kelly & Kenneth Tindall, adapted from Ian Kelly's biography of Casanova (original scenario), Kerry Muzzey (music), Simon Whiteside (orchestrations), John Longstaff (additional orchestrations), Christopher Oram (set & costume design), Alastair West (lighting design), Richard Mawbey (wig & make up design), John Pryce-Jones (music director).
Giuliano Contadini (Casanova), Dale Rhodes (Cardinal de Bernis), Jeremy Curnier (Father Balbi), Ailen Ramos Betancourt (MM), Abigail Prudames & Minju Kang (Savorgnan sisters), Javier Torres ((Senator Bragadin), Dreda Blow (Bellino), Hannah Bateman (Henriette), Jesse Milligan (Henriette's husband), Victoria Sibson (Madame de Pompadour), Dale Rhodes (Voltaire), Sean Bates (Clairmont), Nicola Gervasi, Kevin Poeung, Matthew Koon, Matthew Topliss, Luke Francis, Riku Ito, Mlindi Kulashe, Joseph Taylor, orenzo Trossello, Antionette Brooks-Daw, Jenny Hackwell, Filippo Di Vilio, Rachel Gillespie, Sarah Chun, (various dance roles), John Pryce Jones (Northern Ballet Sinfonia conductor), Geoffrey Allan (Northern Ballet Sinfonia leader).
Running time

Northern Ballet’s Casanova is an orgy for the senses, a sumptuous sensory feast.

It's possible to call a man ‘a casanova’ and for everyone to know exactly what that means. But the man who unwittingly leant his name to a word now synonymous with a superabundance of sexual partners, turns out to be so much more than the sum of his lovers.

As unlikely as it sounds, Casanova embarked on his career of passion while serving as a trainee priest, losing his virginity and his place in the church when seduced by a couple of convent girls. This was possibly the making of him, as he was then free to immerse himself in all the pleasures that life had to offer, channelling his titanic energy into a range of creative and intellectual pursuits that included writing, philosophy, music and mathematics.

Born in Venice in 1725, the spirit of the Enlightenment, and its challenges to the prevailing orthodoxies, was heavy in the air and acted as a formative and inspirational influence on the emerging Casanova. Northern Ballet’s Casanova hints at this changing world without, while aiming to do justice to the complex man within. The juxtaposition of the public and the private, the outward show and the inner life, is the bedrock of this story.

The challenge of depicting the breathtaking breadth and depth of Casanova’s life, based here on the award-winning biography by Ian Kelly, is met through presenting key episodes and relationships as a series of vignettes. Inevitably this means there are gaps in the story, but there is also an absorbing narrative flow, achieved through the mesmerising cinematic quality of the performance itself.

Christopher Oram’s set of gold pillars and mottled mirror glass is a symbolic Venice of imposing grandeur, by turns suffused with opulence or menace under Alastair West’s dramatic lighting design. Kerry Muzzey’s original score seems woven into the fabric of Kenneth Tindall’s inspired choreography, a seamless soundtrack unconsciously moulding and shaping the mood.

Kenneth Tindall has created a ballet that is less a dance and more a hugely demanding, elaborate and expressive language, requiring strength and subtlety from his dance team, both physically and emotionally. Fortunately they are worthy of the challenge, with Giuliano Contadini a sublime Casonova but, like him, from the soloists to the coryphée, no-one puts a foot wrong. Collaboratively, this is an absolute masterclass in visual storytelling.

Runs 23rd – 25th March