Presented by The Australian Ballet
Reviewed Wed 14th July 2010
Venue: Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Road, Adelaide
Season: Thurs 15th July 6:30pm, Fri 16th July 7:30pm and Sat 17th July 7:30pm, with a 1 hour talk by Graeme Murphy on Sat 17th July 1:30pm (also book through BASS)
Duration: 130min incl two 20min intervals
Tickets: From $31 upwards. Contact BASS for details
Bookings: BASS 131 241 or http://www.bass.net.au
Tempus fugit! As the ballet opens the Marschallin (the title of the wife of a Field Marshall) dreams about the rapid passing of time, the nightmare leaving her wondering how long she can keep her younger lover, Octavian. She is a famous actress and still beautiful, but she is rightly worried. With her husband absent she is spending the night with Ocatavian and they engage in amorous pursuits until the arrival of her entourage to prepare her to face the press. Her impresario, Baron Ochs arrives and Octavian disguises himself as her chambermaid. She talks the Baron into allowing Octavian to present a silver rose to Sophie, the young girl he intends to marry. The Baron is a lecher, however, and chases the ‘maid’, with no success. He is also rejected by the Marschallin, when he turns to her.
The second act, in Faninal’s ballroom, finds Octavian presenting the silver rose to Faninal’s daughter, Sophie, on behalf of the Baron. The two young people fall in love at first sight. Baron Ochs observes this and quickly seals the deal with Faninal. He sets his henchman on Octavian when the paparazzi inform him of the love that has erupted between Sophie and Octavian. The ‘maid’ reappears and the Baron arranges to meet her later.
The final act finds the Baron again trying to seduce the ‘maid’ at the Rose and Thistle Inn and, with the arrival of a woman who claims to be the Baroness, with noisy children in tow, and general mayhem brewing all around, the Marschallin arrives. She dismisses the Baron, placates Faninal and graciously steps aside to allow Octavian and Sophie to pursue their love. She is left alone with her memories, but with her dignity and grace intact.
Carl Vine was originally commissioned to provide the music for this work by the Bavarian State Ballet in 2005 and this production uses their stunning Art Nouveau inspired sets and costumes, designed by Roger Kirk. With its tall slender columns and curved ceiling one cannot help but think of the realms of Tolkien’s Elves. The costumes are in white, black and silver grey with only the Marschallin in bright flame gold, standing out. Damien Cooper’s lighting brings it all to life. Visually, the whole effect is magical.
The ballet is based, of course, on the much loved 1911 comic opera, Der Rosenkavalier (The Knight of the Rose), which had music by Richard Strauss and a libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. The music of Strauss is tightly controlled by his estate and so was not available for adaptation for a ballet. New music was needed. With no time to write a score Carl Vine drew on his vast output and selected movements from a range of existing orchestral works written over a period of two decades, putting them together in only a few days. Surprisingly, it works superbly. Conductor, Nicolette Fraillon, has the advantage of having the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra at her command and they play with great clarity and commitment, amplifying the emotional content of the action.
Graeme Murphy’s choreography is that uniquely personal blend of classical ballet and modern dance, a legacy of his time with the Sydney Dance Company. This adds an extra level of excitement to the beauty of this wonderfully cohesive work. With his creative associate, Janet Vernon, he has crafted an amazingly stylish piece that had the audience buzzing with praise during the intervals. If you were taking somebody to their very first ballet, it would be hard to do better than this.
The cast varies each performance and on Wednesday 14 July the principals were Kirsty Martin as the Marschallin, Rudy Hawkes as Octavian, Ben Davis as Baron Ochs and Robyn Hendricks as Sophie. The pas de deux between Martin and Hawkes at the end of the first act, those between Hawkes and Hendricks in the second act, and the ending where the three join as the Marschallin releases Octavian into the arms of Sophie, are all highlights in what is consistently a wonderful production. Davis brings a nicely obnoxious quality to the thoroughly unpleasant Baron. There corps de ballet work in the second act is also noteworthy for the inventiveness of the choreography and the precision of the execution.
This is, by far, one of the best evenings of ballet Adelaide has seen, with all elements of the highest standard, visually, musically and, of course, choreographically. If you can still get a ticket, do so.
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor Glam Adelaide.