Edinburgh International Festival 2011 (12) – Successful collaboration between Scottish Ballet and the RSNO

28/08/2011

 Scottish Ballet’s  Mozart, Reich, Mahler: Katarina Karnéus (mezzo), Peter Wedd (tenor), Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Sian Edwards (conductor). Playhouse, 26.8.2011 (SRT)

Kings 2 Ends (World premiere)
Reich:
Double Sextet
Mozart:
Violin Concerto No. 1

Jorma Elo (choreographer)

The Song of the Earth
Mahler:
Das Lied von der Erde

Kenneth MacMillan (choreographer)

The year Scottish Ballet’s Festival offering joins a modern classic to a brand new work. The choice of Steve Reich and Mozart may seem an odd coupling, but Jorma Elo bound them together into a convincingly varied diptych in his Kings 2 Ends. The rhythmic jousting of Reich’s music found a mirror in sharp, angular dance movements on stage, the dancers dressed in black and set against an austere grey background. For Mozart, however, softer reds and blues took over with dancing that was altogether more fluid, suggestive even of the underwater world at times. Both ensemble and solo work complemented each other well, with a beautiful duet danced to Mozart’s slow movement. In the pit the RSNO played beautifully, even though they sounded odd in the boxed-in acoustic. Orchestral leader James Clark’s playing of the violin part was secure and agile, though his final cadenza lacked precision. Ashley Page had long wanted a piece by Jorma Elo for Scottish Ballet, and he will be pleased to have such a successful new work in the company’s repertoire.

Macmillan’s Song of the Earth, on the other hand, is an acknowledged classic. Nowadays it’s easy to forget what a visionary Macmillan was in suggesting choreography to an independently great piece of orchestral music: his idea was rejected by the Royal Opera House board twice before he finally premiered it in Stuttgart. His vision for the piece was simple: a man and a woman find each other and fall in love, but death, danced by a figure in black with a half mask, takes the man. Ultimately all three figures are reunited, acknowledging, like Mahler’s music, that death is not the end and that there are eternal possibilities in renewal.

Each song is choreographed in a way that reflects its mood without being clumsily narrative. In the opening Trinklied young men cavort around the stage while enjoying life’s earthly pleasures, while in Von der Schönheit a group of virile male dancers bound onto the stage at the point in the song where the lads appear. The young woman appears for the first time in Der Einsame in Herbst, wandering around the stage searching for a companion in her loneliness. Macmillan’s finest idea was to have the figure of death (or Der Ewige to give him his, more accurate, original title) appear in every song, a symbol of the transience of life and the intrusion of the eternal, an idea so prevalent in the texts Mahler set. The dance fits the music very well, both aspects enriching the experience of the other, though for me the climax of Der Abschied didn’t quite hit the target, the reunion feeling too similar to the moves earlier in the piece.

Sian Edwards’ direction was secure, though to my ears Der Abschied was far too fast, undoubtedly a dictate of the choreography. Peter Wedd’s voice has darkened to becoming a heavier, less lyrical-sounding instrument, and he did a good job of projecting over the impossible scoring, though he couldn’t avoid sounding under strain at times. No such concerns with Katarina Karnéus, singing with radiant beauty, her lyrical, poignant voice finding the emotional heart of these songs perfectly.

A hugely successful evening, then, and how thrilling to see such a successful collaboration between two great Scottish cultural institutions.

The Edinburgh International Festival runs until 4th September in a range of venues across the city. A selection of performances will be reviewed in these pages. For full details go to www.eif.co.uk

Simon Thompson

Comments

Comments are closed.

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2020 Ring Cycles __________________________________
  • NEW! Roman River 2019 Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! Ex Cathedra’s 50th Anniversary Season in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Geneva Grand Théâtre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2019-20 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden __________________________________
  • NEW! Bregenz Festival 17 July – 18 August 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Musikfest Berlin 2019 from 30 August to 19 September __________________________________
  • NEW! 2019 BBC Proms 19 July – 14 September __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera House in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Opera in 2019-2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Adrian Partington Introduces the 2019 Three Choirs Festival in Conversation with John Quinn __________________________________
  • NEW! ENB in 2019-2020 and Updates on their New London City Island Home __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music and Other Events at the Southbank Centre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Cleveland Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music at the Barbican in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! CHORUS MASTER STEPHEN DOUGHTY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • NEW! Ron Howard’s Pavarotti in Cinemas 13 July (Preview) and Nationwide (15 July) __________________________________
  • NEW! MULTI-FACETED MUSICIAN JOY LISNEY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • NEW! ‘MUSICAL MAGIC’: AN INTERVIEW WITH VIOLINIST HENNING KRAGGERUD __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Ballet Announces Winners of Emerging Dancer 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR THOMAS SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! Chelsea Opera Group Perform Anton Rubinstein’s The Demon on 30 June __________________________________
  • NEW! In August Fulham Opera’s Most Ambitious Project to Date – Die Meistersinger Von Nürnberg __________________________________
  • R.I.P. IN MEMORIAM ANDRÉ PREVIN (1929-2019) __________________________________
  • NEW! CHRISTOPHE ROUSSET IN CONVERSATION WITH COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR ÁDÁM FISCHER IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • MAESTRO RICCARDO FRIZZA IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month