Behind the ballet-opera

With her final breath a mother evokes the life and love destined for her newborn daughter through a bittersweet lullaby.

I conceived the ballet-opera Fade Not in London last year where writer-director Malcolm Rock and I were devising ways to use voice and dance in a mutually imperative fashion. Passing my concept to Malcolm he transformed it into a poetic libretto from which key choreographic sequences began to manifest in my mind. After listening to numerous samples from local and international composers, Gerard Brophy pointed me towards Lullaby, a vocal score that received first prize at the Keys Music Festival, by Brisbane composer Lisa Cheney. I invited Lisa to compose Fade Not and during the past four months she has taken the libretto and choreographic ideas and composed a touching score for soprano, piano and clarinet.

The role of the mother is performed by Naomi Johns, a passionate soprano currently touring My Fair Lady with Opera Australia. The daughter and her ideal ‘Love’ are danced by Australian Ballet soloists Gina Brescianini and Paul Knobloch. The aim is to harness their respective disciplines of opera and ballet in tandem rather than using one to simply frame the other. When deciding the cast for Fade Not I took into account the aesthetic and artistic attributes necessary for each character. For me the key to a great performer is in his or her artistry – the way they tell the story – in this case through voice and body. Naomi has the correct vocal range and a natural, sensitive inclination for movement that allows her to interact truthfully with the dancers on stage. Gina, with her wide evoking eyes and artistic profundity, revels in the complex emotions of the daughter. Both women must be able to express simultaneously the joy of love and the solitude of loss. The daughter’s ideal ‘Love’ must be a strong partner capable of quite literally sweeping her off her feet. Paul makes a handsome and romantic partner during the central pas de deux that I have created for the young lovers.

Since receiving installments of the score over the internet from Lisa in Brisbane, the dancers and I have been stealing time in the studio – half an hour here, an hour there – while touring the country performing Firebird and Other Legends (for which I am dancing the principal roles in Petrouchka and Les Sylphides). We have already established the skeleton of the ballet: floor patterns, choreographic motifs and the movement vocabulary. Ahead of the ballet-opera’s premiere at the Sydney Theatre in late May, we will spend time colouring the characters and filling in the narrative nuances.

Keep an eye on this site for further updates. In the meantime you might want to book tickets.  Remi

One thought on “Behind the ballet-opera

  1. This all sounds so exciting! What amazing opportunities the AB are providing you. I hope we get to see it in Adelaide some time. And Gina, what a perfect dancer to pick. Without a doubt one of my favourites, she sounds perfect for the roll.

    Best wishes xx

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