Britten and Baroque

Recently landed: Britten and Baroque, Gracia's written response for Fjord Review

For Matisse, who ‘carved’ into colour, blue was the sound of a gong. For Kandinsky, blue was instead evoked by the sound of the cello, which he played. For the poet Arthur Rimbaud, blue was the vowel ‘O’, and it was a “sublime Trumpet full of strange piercing sounds.” Arranged in a line, Rimbaud’s Vowels (1871), from ‘A’ to ‘O’ in colour read: black, white, red, blue, green. On Sunday night, Sydney Dance Company became a body of sound to the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s sounding body. For one night only in Melbourne, a soundscape became a landscape! And blue was a viola’s arabesque.

Building upon an earlier collaboration, which stemmed from a shared love of the melodic dance work of Baroque composer Jean-Philippe Rameau, the artistic director of the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Richard Tognetti, and the artistic director of Sydney Dance Company, Rafael Bonachela, have created Illuminated. Three ballets, one from an earlier full-length work re-worked, Project Rameau (which premiered in 2012), and two new pieces inspired by the changing colours and directness of composer Benjamin Britten. Before taking Illuminated to Hong Kong, and further adding to the unexpected glow of a gala performance, neither Project Rameau (in either full or reworked guise) nor the two works which enable Britten’s sound to be ‘seen’ have been performed in Melbourne before. The intrinsic relationship between music and dance, making one where there are two, is in line with Stravinsky and Balanchine, Cage and Cunningham. “If the word and the note are one thing, not two,”—the same can be said of Illuminated’s splendid fare.

Juliette Barton and Richard Cilli in Les Illuminations (Image credit: Peter Greig)