Saturday, April 17, 2010

Portland Ballet- Requiem

Requiem is a choral work written by Mozart at the end of his life when he was seriously ill. It's said he was writing this mass for himself because he died before he could finish the work in 1791. The music was written to help the dead achieve eternal rest. The music is dense, heavy, religious, spiritual and enlightening. The Choral Art Society and Portland Ballet staged this epic piece using 70 singers, 4 soloists, and 12 dancers all sharing the stage. Can you imagine what kind of dance goes along with this sound?

Portland Ballet's artistic director Eugenia O'Brien states in the program notes that "dance must take an an idea and interpret it into movement that defies direct translation, as it evokes a mood and place that is as individual as each audience member. In symbiosis with the singers, the instrumentalists, and the array of emotions present in the music, dance becomes an extension of the score, and ultimately in this performance, an homage to the genius that is Mozart's Requiem." Let's see how well they achieved this goal.

Listen to some of the music while we ponder the performance

The choreography was done by guest Kennet Oberly, who has an extensive background in staging ballets around the world. Oberly takes on this significant challenge of creating a dance to equal the music. The results were a mixed success. As you listen to this dramatic music imagine the dancers interpreting the sound through movement that mimics rather then evokes. This was the disappointment. I could hear the music, I didn't need to see it as well. Literal visual scenes seemed too easy, too pat. Why wasn't subtly tried? The dancers performed beautifully, they looked gorgeous and extremely rehearsed. But the whole looked busy and forgettable. This was a chance to do something unusual.

All in all though, I applaud the Portland Ballet for experimenting and taking on the challenge of collaborating and taking on presenting unusual performances.

"Liber scriptus profectur,
in quo totum continetur,
under mundus judicetur."

"A book, it is written in, will be brought forth,
in which is contained everything that is,
out of which the world shall be judged."

Portland Ballet's Requiem at the Merrill Auditrorium, March 30. 2010 Portland, ME