Kenneth MacMillan choreographed the work for Stuttgart Ballet in 1966, after the idea had been firmly rebuffed by the Royal Ballet Board, whose focus was clearly far too narrow for a creative genius like MacMillan.
Song of the Earth has a loose narrative thread, but MacMillan’s interest was in distilling the essence of the poems into movement. The theme, which MacMillan described as ‘simple’, centred on a man and a woman. The man is taken by death; eventually they both return to her and we find that in death there is the promise of renewal.
The central figures are The Woman, danced in this recorded performance by ENB artistic director Tamara Rojo, The Man, danced by Joseph Caley, and the Messenger of Death, Jeffrey Cirio.
The rather large ensemble who frame this central trio represent young people going about their daily lives, unaware that death will eventually claim every last one of them.
The interactions between the three central characters are complex and compelling. The love duets for The Woman and The Man have an element of inescapable fate about them. When she loses him and he walks off with Death, she dances a long anguished solo leading to the acceptance that death is inevitable. Always a strong dance actress, Tamara Rojo's interpretation cannot fail to draw you in.
MacMillan didn’t want The Messenger of Death to be a sinister or evil figure. Clad in black and wearing a colourless mask, he contrasts with the white-clad couple, but is otherwise not very different from them.
The singing parts are taken by contralto Rhonda Browne and tenor Samuel Sakker, accompanied by the English National Ballet Philharmonic.
This performance was recorded at the Palace Theatre Manchester in October 2017, as part of the national celebration of MacMillan on the 25th anniversary of his death
|What||Song of the Earth, ENB online|
|Where||Online | MAP|
17 Jun 20 – 19 Jun 20, 19:00 Available for 48 hours afterwards