Music and Vision homepage Jenna Orkin: Writer Wannabe Seeks Brush With Death - From the heights of greatness (the Juilliard School; musicians Rosalyn Tureck and Nadia Boulanger) via way-ward paths to the depths of wickedness these reminiscences will entertain and enlighten.

 

A DEEPER PLANE

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RODERIC DUNNETT is impressed by
John McCabe's score for 'Le Morte d'Arthur'

 

The Death of Arthur (Le Morte d'Arthur), part II of Birmingham Royal Ballet's imaginative collaboration between its artistic director, the choreographer David Bintley, and composer John McCabe, is in at least one respect another triumph. Bintley has done as much as anyone since the late Christopher Gable to bring fresh narrative work and new ballet scores to the British stage. His Midlands-based company remains a beacon of freshness and innovation, and Birmingham can pride itself on a company that rivals the CBSO as a flagship of excellence for the city.

What's more, Part II, first staged at Sadler's Wells, the historic home of creative new English ballet, partly makes up some of the ground lost in the slightly confusing -- albeit colourful -- narrative that inaugurated Part I. Bintley's, on the face of it, attractive mise-en-scène focuses on fairly traditional contrasts between ensemble work, solo and pas-de-deux to present the (somewhat butchered) bare bones of the Arthurian legend. One of the two main new strands is the bringing to the fore of Gawain and his brothers (dangerous, arguably, in the wake of Birtwistle's probing treatment) -- three redheads, of equivalent lively temper and combative spirit (Dominic Antonucci, Sergiu Pobereznic, Kosuke Yamamoto) : thugs in the making, but also the wronged in the story.

Emerging rivalries, engineered by Arthur's half sister and former lover, the sinister Morgan Le Fay (the terrific Leticia Müller), between Arthur's three nephews and Morgan's (and his own) bastard son, Mordred (the skein tightens, for Mordred himself is brought up with the brothers) reach a climax when a poisoned apple intended by Morgan for Guinevere kills the youngest, Gareth. Things soon escalate into all-out war, though not before the trio's mother, Arthur's sister Margause, has poured out a lament laced with all the pathos of Queen Margaret in Shakespeare's Richard III.

Lancelot and Guinevere in the Birmingham Royal Ballet 2001 production of 'Arthur Part II, Le Morte d'Arthur'

The second new strand, offering Bintley scope for some sensual twosomes, is the affair between Guinevere and Lancelot : the American Michael Shannon (who has danced principal roles for the Bolshoi, Vienna and Budapest) and the alluring Flanders-trained, Neapolitan-born ballerina Ambra Vallo. Hope peters out as Lancelot becoming embroiled in the (by turns) simmering and seething civil war, and Guinevere retires to a nunnery.

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Copyright © 27 May 2001 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK

 

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VISIT THE JOHN McCABE WEBSITE

VISIT THE BIRMINGHAM ROYAL BALLET WEBSITE

READ THE STORY OF THE BINTLEY/McCABE COLLABORATION

READ RODERIC DUNNETT'S REVIEW OF 'ARTHUR PART I'

 

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