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Production

The Architecture of Silence

Company

Slovene National Theatre Opera & Ballet...

Reviewer

Malcolm Tay

Date

30/05/2008

Time

8.00pm

Place

Esplanade Theatre

Rating

***1/2

A Silent Prayer

Much has been made of how the opening act at the Singapore Arts Festival this year, The Architecture of Silence by the Slovene National Theatre Opera & Ballet Maribor and Ljubljana with the Singapore Festival Orchestra, is an aqua ballet on land: the dancers are togged like swimmers in one-piece suits and swim caps, frolicking like fish yet having little contact with water. But this marine theme serves more as a platform for Romanian-born choreographer Edward Clug to ruminate on life and death, through the Christian symbolism and "distinctly present silence" that he links with fish.

At its debut in 2006, this hour-long production saw the opera and ballet houses of Maribor and Ljubljana in Slovenia joining forces for the first time. For its Asian premiere here, 45 dancers and 80 singers were backed by the 66-strong Singapore Festival Orchestra. Despite involving many personnel, however, Architecture seemed intimate in scale, framed in the stark lines and walls of Marko Japelj's black pared-down set.

Instead it drew much of its power from its music, which stitched together Mozart's Requiem in D Minor, finished a year after his death in 1791, and Polish composer Zbigniew Preisner's 1955 Requiem for My Friend. Architecture began with the Mozart, suddenly halting at the Lacrimosa movement after eight bars, where Mozart had stopped writing upon his passing, to resume with the Preisner, which ended with its own Lacrimosa section. A sense of continuity was thus built into the music, the choreography's main inspiration, reassuring us that life goes on.

The soloists and opera choir gave emotive voice to the score, the elegiac mood heightened by Andrej Hajdinjak's lighting design; the faces of the choir members, who stood above and behind the dancers in four rows, glowed like votive candles on an altar. This church-like image was extended to the movable set pieces, boxy sofas that the dancers pushed together to form pews and mark out other spaces in which to perform.

The action, though, felt enigmatic, riding the ebb and flow of the music while suggesting a community trying to find its legs in the shifting terrain of an uncertain world. In the beginning, a duet and several solos broke away from a ring of dancers facing inwards before they rejoined the group. A more exuberant section saw the cast vaulting onto the sofa-made pews, the women cartwheeling off them or running across the length of them before being lifted by the men into a suspended leap.

At one point, the dancers filed on stage one by one in a line that snaked from upstage to down, repeating a two-part phrase (raising an arm, pausing in arabesque) on both sides of the body until they reached downstage: an episode visualising life's endless cycle, possibly adapted from the "Kingdom of the Shades" scene in the 19th-century ballet La Bayadère. Yet, in spite of its moments of brilliance, the choreography - sharply phrased ballet steps, laced with fluttering mudra-like gestures - threatened to look the same after a while. And who was blonde-haired Valentina Turcu, the only dancer in white? What did she want with the others?


"This marine theme serves ... as a platform for Romanian-born choreographer Edward Clug to ruminate on life and death, through the Christian symbolism and "distinctly present silence" that he links with fish."

Credits

Director and choreographer: Edward Clug

Conductor: Uroš Lajovic

Set designer: Marko Japelj

Costume designer: Leo Kulaš

Lighting designer: Andrej Hajdinjak

Assistant conductor: Marko Hnbernik

Assistant choreographer: Bojana Nenadovic Otrin

Video projections: Agencija 41 (production), Nejc Pohar (direction)

Performers: Dancers and opera choirs of the Slovene National Theatre Opera and Ballet Maribor and Slovene National Theatre Opera and Ballet Ljubljana, Singapore Festival Orchestra

Opera soloists of the Slovene National Theatre Opera and Ballet Maribor: Sabina Cvilak (soprano), Matjaž Stopinšek (tenor), Giovannino Raffanelli (guest countertenor)

Opera soloists of the Slovene National Theatre Opera and Ballet Ljubljana: Mirjam Kalin (alto), Zoran Potocan (bass)


More Reviews by
Malcolm Tay

Ratings out of 5, based on Practitioner's Vision / Reviewer's Response: ***** = Transcendent / Rapturous;
**** = Crystal / Appreciative; *** = Transmitted / Thoughtful; ** = Vague / Unsatisfied; * = Uncommunicated / Mystified.