Louisville Ballet: "Home-Made" Performances!

By Henry C. Mayer

Does anyone wonder how gifted Louisville Ballet members really are? A careful and attentive presence to its performances of "Xenon" and "Carmina Burana" gave this observer some clear answers.

In a very real way, both works are "home-made." "Xenon" was choreographed for this company by the talented Patricia Olalde, then one of its members. Artistic Director Alun Jones again showed that he is a master costumer. Michael Ford is a superb lighting designer.

As for this ballet's action, futuristic seems the best word for it. It presents the startling and sometimes unexpected interactions between automatons devoid of individuality and a singular group of remote travelers. Each one of the latter has a distinguishing characteristic. The interactions are a journey of inquiry, awakening and finally, understanding.

By describing the action as "futuristic", I am thinking of possible interactions between those of us who live on this planet and beings who come from another locale of time and place.

Such a situation is not without its appeal for those of us who live in this Age of Space. It is highly imaginative and one can only admire the creativity of the production and presentation. One member of Saturday' s audience commented that it was "strange but interesting." Another noted that "the various elements fit together well." As for this observer, he recalled a recent comment by Alun Jones, "Just sit back, relax and enjoy it." I did.

By contrast, "Carmina Burana" takes us back in time to a period with which not many persons are familiar, the 13th Century. Composer Carl Orff''s inspiration came from his encounter with a manuscript of poems from a monastery whose texts are not typical of life in such an institution The poems describe the pleasures of drinking, ardent sexual desires and "the ecstatic experience of the coming of spring after the long, cold night of a Northern and Central European winter." The main sections of this work, in order of presentation are the coming of spring, drinking and "love."

Once again this is largely a product of local talent: choreography by Dale Brannon and Alun Jones, scenery and costumes by Jones and lighting by Ford. This production has five sections plus an introduction and finale. Its beauty is enhanced by vocal selections featuring solos by Douglas Crawley, Edith Davis and Steven Spears and three distinct ensembles: Voces Novae, the Louisville Youth Concert Choir and. the Louisville Youth Treble Choir. The outcome is a remarkable production and due credit has to go to conductor Jeff Holland Cook and Chorus Master Frank A. Heller, III.

"Carmina Burana" is a triumph of theatrical artistry. Its various elements were splendidly interpreted and integrated. Multiple curtain calls were ample evidence that the audiences truly appreciated the generous outlay of time and talent which went into this unforgettable production.

The language used "is the latest and lowest form of Latin - a mixture of kitchen, dog and church, interlaced with the early vernaculars of French and German." At times, such a text was bewildering. So I wonder: would an English translation above the stage appearing above the stage, as is done by Kentucky Opera, make a significant difference in audience understanding and enjoyment?