Review: The Rite of Spring - CBSO and Julia Mach, at Symphony Hall, Birmingham
So much could have gone wrong with the mind-blowing technology: several stereoscopic cameras focusing from various angles upon one lone dancer in the corner of the stage; computer software which instantly transmuted the live images and projected them onto a huge screen behind an equally huge orchestra, cramped on a necessarily reduced platform; and all kinds of other gremlins could have crept in.
But they didn’t. This extraordinary presentation of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring was a total triumph, from the confident orchestral opening by the CBSO under the clear direction of Ilan Volkov (what fabulous delivery by Gretha Tuls of that notorious high bassoon solo!), through the mesmerically controlled movements of dancer Julia Mach, and the brilliant realisation of his own choreography by the concept-designer and artistic director Klaus Obermaier.
Through our 3D spectacles we flinched as images derived from Mach’s movements seemed to fling themselves directly into our faces, and all the time there was the presence of growth and regeneration: Mach’s arms and fingers elongating into plant-like tendrils; her gradual emergence from a womb-enclosed foetal position; her lower legs becoming a forest moving into life; shattered shards of her body spinning and glittering like a myriad nebulae in a vast universe.
Interestingly, the concluding visceral and orgiastic Danse Sacrale didn’t require as much of the dancer as more conventional choreographies do. Mach struck poses, stretched her body and performed impressive gymnastic feats, while the technology showed us pulsating images of someone dancing herself to death.
I saw the early performance. To think the CBSO, Volkov, all the technicians and the formidable Mach were going to have to go through it all again an hour later...