Handel: L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato

Mark Morris Dance Group, [Sarah Jane Brandon, Elizabeth Watts, James Gilchrist, Andrew Foster-Williams SSTB], Teatro Real Orchestra and Chorus, Jane Glover
97+13:00
BelAir Classiques BAC123

This is one of the very few ballets I have actually seen in the theatre. I was dragged along somewhat reluctantly by a friend who loves Handel’s music and wanted to see what a choreographer could possibly make of vocal music. Watching the DVD brought back fond memories of the production (although the musicians are completely different!) – the staging is very simple with large panels of colour creating the only real visual stimulation, which (of course!) forces attention on to the dancers, who mostly cavort and frolic in looped routines which are so short as to appear almost mechanic in nature, and yet others that are strikingly visually representative of the text (try the hunt scene, for example). Of course, the advantage of viewing a film rather than squinting at the entire scene from a distance is that one can see quite a lot of detail.

I was extremely impressed by the energy and stamina of the dancers, who must shed pounds during every performance. The musical performance is pretty much of secondary importance, although there are close-ups of singers during some of the numbers. I would not recommend this if it were a CD purely of the music, but as a Gesamtkunstwerk it works very well.

Brian Clark