BRB ALLEGRI DIVERSI & CARMINA BURANA – BIRMINGHAM – JUNE 2011
It was BRB’s final week of the Spring Tour at their home theatre last week. As an unashamedly enthusiastic fan of David Bintley and with these two works being some of my favourites how could I resist the lure of Birmingham? I was lucky enough to see the final five performances.
A couple of months back I posted some thoughts on Allegri when it was performed as part of the Midscale South Tour. This time I was seeing it on a much larger stage. I’m happy to say that it looks great whatever the stage size!
I think the opening seconds were more notable on the larger stage as the circle of six dancers stood in silhouette, perhaps in the breaking dawn. It really was beautiful. The three couples of the first part of the work dance in ensemble, singly, in duets and trios. This piece has lots of intricate and fast steps and the dancers displayed their talents wonderfully. The main duet for the leading couple again is full of intricate steps with leaps and some serious spin sections for the leading male.
Allegri, as one of my friends described it, is a delicious lemon sorbet that cleanses the palate ready for the delights of Carmina.
How do sixty five minutes disappear in the blink of an eye? Easily is the answer when you are watching Carmina Burana which is visually stunning as well as an aural delight.
By way of explanation the cast sheet states “David Bintley’s Carmina Burana is cast in the form of a modern-day morality play and follows the fortunes of three Seminarians showing the consequences of their departure from faith.”.
The rousing opening chords of O Fortuna ring out and the curtain lifts on a black stage. We see Fortuna dressed in a slinky black dress and high heels and she imposes her will on us. As she fades about 8 Seminarians appear and present a lively dance. They all rush off except for one – the Naïve Boy – who rips off his collar. This first sequence when the pregnant ladies appear and he is discovering the world is delightful. Chris Rodgers-Wilson was especially effective at conveying the picking up and smelling of flowers. As the pregnant ladies disappear the boys arrive and there is a lively dance for them. The Naïve Boy copies their movements. Then the back of the stage is full of chairs and there is another lively dance for boys and girls which makes amusing use of the chairs. Eventually they disappear leaving the Naïve Boy with Lover Girl and three of her friends. The movement of the girls suggests (to me) young ponies playing in a field. Naïve Boy teases them by seeming to gaze at certain points and they look intently to see what he is seeing. Angela Paul, in one of these scenes, just looks yearningly at Naïve Boy – a magical moment! Eventually Lover Girl tires of Naïve Boy and goes off with someone else. Naïve Boy is left bereft and dashes off.
The second Seminarian then appears full of rage and expressing that rage by running and leaping around the stage before he collapses exhausted. Six enormous gluttons appear with a serving platter which, when opened, reveals the Roasted Swan whom they chase and attempt to eat. When she is finally overcome Boiling Rage meets up with some rather nasty thuggish types who, through movement, tell the audience that they are not happy bunnies, eventually turning their rage onto Boiling Rage.
And so to The Court of Love. Fortuna appears in a red dress and pointe shoes, followed by the third seminarian who is Sick with Love. He is attracted to her but cannot understand what is happening to himself. He undresses and there follows a battle of the sexes egged on by tarts and boys. It is extremely exciting to watch. Eventually Fortuna seems to have been conquered by love and they disappear off together. The tarts and boys rush forward and back with a billowing white curtain. As it gradually subsides, Fortuna and Sick with Love reappear – she dressed in her true colours. As she rejects him and he sees her with horror shivers start running down my spine. She dances and is joined by the tarts and boys all dressed in the same black dress. The three Seminarians briefly appear and all too quickly it is over and the curtain falls.
This work cannot, by any means, be described as in any way conventional ballet but it is larger than life and visually stunning and extremely exciting to watch. All the casts were terrific but for me the Saturday matinee was absolutely outstanding. The shivers started from the second we saw the glorious Victoria Marr as Fortuna; she was absolutely breath-taking. Joe Caley was terrifc with Carole-Ann Millar as Lover Girl and you could almost hear Matthia Dingman howling with his Boiling Rage. Nao Sakuma was delicious as the Roast Swan. Iain Mackay and Victoria Marr very nearly caused the stage to spontaneously combust In the Court of Love. By the end I was absolutely beyond the power of speech and I and many around me were on our feet.
I love this programme and I want more!
As a postscript, yesterday morning my friend and I were still mulling over the performances and looking at the libretto from a concert programme. We realised just how clever David Bintley had been in realising his vision of the Seminarians right down to Fortuna’s red dress.
BRB’s season comes to an end with Coppelia in Dublin next week. I can’t wait!
BRB Allegri Diversi & Carmina Burana – Birmingham – June 2011
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