Monday, April 26, 2010

THE SILVER ROSE - The Australian Ballet

Choreography by Graeme Murphy. Set and costume design by Roger Kirk, Music by Carl Vine, Conducted by Nicolette Fraillon. Sydney Opera House till 29th April 2010

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

Originally devised for the Bavarian State Ballet, but acquired by the Australian Ballet for its 2010 season, "The Silver Rose" is a magical new ballet inspired by the opera "Der Rosenkavalier" but re-imagined by Graeme Murphy and Janet Vernon into a ravishing concoction that is sexy, funny and wonderfully entertaining, offering as it does superb dancing, gorgeous costumes and settings, and some of Graeme Murphys most inventive and joyous choreography.

Obviously enjoying the task, Graeme Murphy has teased out a storyline that has a young toy-boy escaping the clutches of a glamorous cougar just in time to meet and fall in love with a gorgeous young woman who is about to be married against her wishes to a lecherous baron. All of which is danced to a lovely score so expertly chosen from existing music composed by Carl Vine that one could be forgiven for thinking that it had been composed expressly for this ballet, and given a superb performance by the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra, conducted by Nicollete Fraillon.

Designer Roger Kirk has created a wonderfully erotic Art Noveau dream-world for the ballet, inspired by fin-de-siecle Vienna, and the artwork of Gustav Klimt, all floating draperies and burnished gold decoration, inhabited by dancers whose costumes vary from sexy white underwear, to all-over black leather, and glamorous ball gowns which could have been designed by Dior or Balenciaga. The over-all effect is of erotic decadence, only marred by the bare-top overalls for the five nightmare figures in Act 111 which seem strangely out of style and mood with the rest of the ballet.

At the performance I attended the dancing by the principals and the ensemble was first-rate. Perfectly cast as the Marschallin, Lana Jones was sophisticated, elegant, coquettish and deliciously sensual in the Act 1 pas de deux with her young lover, Octavian, yet achingly melancholy in the Act 11 pas de trios as she sends the young lovers on their way. Her assured combination of confident acting and virtuoso dancing combine to produce a memorable performance that is both arresting and deeply affecting.

Handsome and passionate, Daniel Gaudiello was also well cast as her young lover Octavian, partnering attentively and not afraid to go for the laughs in the scenes where, disguised as the maid, he attempts to evade the unwelcome advances of the odious Baron Ochs, played with great gusto by Andrew Killian.

As the object of Octavian's affections, Madeleine Eastoe was a delightfully feisty Sophie, refusing to bow to her father's wishes in her determination to choose her own partner. It was a great pleasure to see Damien Welch bringing his considerable presence to the role of Sophie's father, while both Brook Locket and Jacob Sofer attacked their roles as the journalist and the leather-clad photographer with style and finesse. Brett Simon, Rohan Furnell and Brett Chynoweth had great fun with their roles as the Marschallin's colourful and fastidious trio of  fashionistas.

"The Silver Rose" is a welcome addition to the repertoire of the Australian Ballet and a jewel in the crown of the growing collection of fine Graeme Murphy ballets currently offered by Australia's flagship ballet company.