A DEEPER PLANE
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.
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.
Copyright © 27 May 2001
Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK
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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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