By Don Descoteau
Monday Magazine editor
Audiences are in for a multifaceted treat when Ballet Victoria’s production of Carmina Burana, featuring the Victoria Choral Society choir and soloists, hits the stage at the Royal Theatre in March.
Fans of the company will recognize the name from 2014. That was the last time Ballet Victoria dancers performed to composer Carl Orff’s dramatic 1937 orchestral and choral cantata, which drew 24 poems and dramatic texts from a centuries-old collection that forms the original Carmina Burana. But this version will feature all-new choreography, with some fun twists, so to speak.
Ballet Victoria artistic and executive director Paul Destrooper says audience members will have quite a different experience if they take a few minutes to read the translations of some of those poems and text before coming to the show.
“Probably 99 per cent of the people will have heard this theme before, this epic music that is very recognizable,” he says. Many of the verses, composed mostly in the 12th and 13th century, were written in a satirical way and often poke fun at mankind, societal traditions and individual insecurities. “If you know the songs and you see the choreography, it’ll make sense to you.”
Destrooper designed the dance to follow the Carmina Burana verses as much as the music, he explains. And while there is some beautiful classical ballet to be witnessed, there are also non-graceful moments.
One musical passage, grotesquely titled “The Roasting Swan,” tells the story of a swan that was once queen of the lake. But it is hunted, impaled by a spear and roasted – the choreography, Destrooper says, is meant as a bit of an inside joke on the frustration of dancers who feel they can no longer perform the part of the beautiful swan. “It’s kind of a wink at the difficulty of the art form, the ridiculousness of ourselves sometimes.”
The 140-voice Victoria Choral Society choir, accompanied by members of the Victoria Symphony, all under the baton of director Brian Wismath, will be joined by soloists Abby Schuliger (soprano), Benjamin Butterfield (tenor) and Sam Marcaccini (baritone).
Only principal dancer Andrea Bayne and Risa Kobayashi remain from the 2014 version of Carmina. Not only has the adapted choreography given his dancers more of a challenge, Destrooper has spread the more difficult pieces around the company.
“The company has grown tremendously artistically, and the technical depth is much greater,” he says. “It’s great to be able showcase the talents of our dancers and give opportunities to people.”
Destrooper is also excited for the fact this production will have an entirely local cast.
“What’s great about this is it will be a showcase of the depth of talent in Victoria,” he says. “It’s a production that is going to be extremely high quality from both a performance and a technical perspective.”
The shows happen at 7:30 p.m. March 5 and 6 at the Royal Theatre. Tickets, starting at $30, are available online at rmts.bc.ca , by phone at 250-386-6121 or in person at the Royal or McPherson theatre box offices.