Paul McCartney ballet opens in New York

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The Independent Culture

They didn't quite board a yellow submarine, but performers at the New York City Ballet danced into an underwater world in the premiere of Paul McCartney's ballet debut "Ocean's Kingdom."

The ex-Beatle saw a mostly positive reaction to the music and choreography of the ballet, which tells the story of a princess called Honorata snatched by an evil queen before being reunited with her love.

But the gala premiere late Thursday in Manhattan was certainly a smash hit in terms of the scene, with A-listers and Beatles fans eager to see McCartney make his own bit of musical history.

NY1 television, which keeps a close eye on the city arts, said "the biggest star at Lincoln Center was not a dancer or the choreographer or even the many celebrities in attendance. Rather, the big star was the composer."

McCartney and his fiance Nancy Shevell were joined by Naomi Watts, Sarah Jessica Parker and other celebs. Beatle daughter and big name fashion designer Stella McCartney was also there - she helped design the ballet costumes.

According to NY1, fans "expressed nothing but accolades" for the collaboration between McCartney and choreographer Peter Martins.

The New York Post said the score was easy to digest, as might be expected from the brains behind countless catchy tunes. It "reminds you of a film score - tuneful and with atmosphere and plot woven into the melodies."

In its preview, The New York Times described a complex work that "unfolds through motifs and episodes, not pop verses and choruses; it harks back to Tchaikovsky, Elgar, Holst and Vaughan Williams, with a touch of Gershwin when the tough-guy Terra contingent struts in."

But Britain's Daily Telegraph review scorned the "ballet for beginners."

Although the music "certainly wasn't an embarrassment" and in parts was even "moving," the story was "childishly simplistic."

The happy finale "had something of a school play feel to it, despite the stellar performances from the members of one of the finest ballet companies in the country," the Telegraph said.

McCartney, one of the original Fab Four, made his first foray into classical music in 1991 with "Liverpool Oratorio," but "Ocean's Kingdom" is his first ballet score.

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