Music and Vision homepage Classical Music Programme Notes for concerts and recordings, by Malcolm Miller

 

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Certain aspects of the décor -- Peter Davison's sets and Jasper Conran's red, black and velvety maroon-emphasing costumes -- invited enthusiasm, but the sum of the parts felt marginally disappointing : less kitsch than Part I, with an imposingly introduced round table and a slightly Stratfordesque metallic scaffoldry background to the battle scenes. A clutch of braziers burst into fire to illuminate, eerily, Morgan's malefactoring, with a nicely thought out trompe d'oeuil with their reduction, later, to a single brazier, placed rearstage, as an economical reprise.

Conran's most attractive conceit was the costuming of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who appeared for two galvanising if not quite consequential dances near the end, as the last battles -- somewhere between Götterdämmerung, Weltkrieg and a Dürer Apocalypse -- rage. But it was Peter Mumford's lighting (projections by John Driscoll) that most pleased the eye : a rather too obvously pixel-like dappled effect for the enchanting courtly outdoor dance, but some genuinely atmospheric brick-like interiors cast across the beige beechwood-coloured set (which, in plain light, tended to make the costumes look like curiously dowdy velvet).

Bintley's abstract creations can be wonderful; it is partly because of a tendency to go for the obvious, and to the exaggerated milking of effect, that his Arthur II narrative -- unlike his Edward II choreography, which really did probe character -- still rather limps along.

Wolfgang Stollwitzer as King Arthur in the Birmingham Royal Ballet 2001 production of 'Arthur Part II, Le Morte d'Arthur'

There are exceptions : if Wolfgang Stollwitzer is stuck there as a disappointingly leaden (presumably all to consciously impotent) Arthur, devoid of any presence, compared with Robert Parker's lithe youngster of Part I, and Joseph Cipolla's charismasless Merlin seems even more like a Rastafarian caretaker who has accidentally lumbered onto the set, Bintley has nonetheless drawn on an attractive young principal in Kosuke Yamamoto, whose death-dance as the poisoned boy Gareth proved as bewitching as anything thitherto. There is a lot of tenderness in the First Act Lancelot-Guinevere scene (Shannon a visually peculiar Lancelot, though with a curious, Helpmannesque allure); and Guinevere's Passacaglia-like solo was infused by moments of marked beauty.

Leticia Müller as Morgan Le Fay and Joseph Cipolla as Merlin in the Birmingham Royal Ballet 2001 production of 'Arthur Part II, Le Morte d'Arthur'

 

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Copyright © 27 May 2001 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK

 

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READ THE STORY OF THE BINTLEY/McCABE COLLABORATION

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

 

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