LOWELL LIEBERMANN (b.1961): Frankenstein.
Catalogue Number: 03S076
Label: Opus Arte
Reference: OA 1231 D
Description: If you were brought up on Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee et al, at first glance this probably struck you as an odd choice for a ballet. Admirers of Mary Shelley's novel with its themes of tragedy, bereavement, the longing for acceptance and the evil lurking within the best of intentions, however, will see it as an ideal subject. This is unabashedly a grand, romantic, searching, emotionally wrenching, gothic retelling of a story that is all of those things, and is almost certainly the most complete and faithful adaptation of Shelley's book, despite its non-verbal medium. Liebermann is arguably the ideal composer for this project, and Liam Scarlett the ideal choreographer; both are traditionalists, masters of their respective crafts and unconcerned with modernist envelope-pushing. It is not so much that Liebermann sounds like any particular Romantic composer or an amalgam of identifiable characteristics of any of them, as that he wholeheartedly belongs to that tradition and has never felt moved to abandon it. The music has a continuous, quasi-symphonic sense of direction, leading the audience through the lengthy, detailed narrative and compressing the subjective time it takes. The score is varied, within its tonal idiom; the macabrely humorous dissection lecture scene, or the raucous burlesque tavern interlude that follows are more than a little reminiscent of Shostakovich, a composer not infrequently evoked in Liebermann's output; ballroom scenes and romantic pas de deux emulate classical and romantic models from Mozart to Tchaikovsky; the Busoni of Doktor Faust is evoked in the introduction to Act 2 - this is almost certainly deliberate, as Frankenstein is after all a Faustian legend, with science substituted for the supernatural. Does the animation scene in its gothic grandeur flirt with self-parody? Arguably only if viewed from an ironic post-modern perspective; on its own terms and in the context of a literal retelling of Shelley's tale it is an entirely appropriate climax to Act 1. The monster is portrayed in both music and breathtaking choreography as a suffering, betrayed creature to be pitied as much as feared, and even in the midst of his final murderous rampage he still exudes tortured pleading for acceptance in stunning, passionate pas de deux with Elizabeth and Victor. The gorgeous sets are are triumph of trompe l'oeil realism, evoking illustrations by Gustave Doré or Mervyn Peake, and the detailed, realistic period costumes add to the plausibility of the fantastical tale. Filmed with the skilled cinematography that has become the norm in televised stage productions nowadays, with multiple camera angles, close-ups (requiring, and fortunately getting, highly accomplished facial acting from the superb cast), and tracking shots. The Royal Ballet, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House; Koen Kessels. 16:9 wide-screen, 2.0 PCM stereo or DTS digital surround, all regions, 130 min. + 14 min. extras which are brief interviews with the composer, designer, choreographer etc.