Rambert’s new full-length show, Life is a Dream, is a contemporary take on the classic Caldéron story of illusion versus reality, choreographed by Kim Brandstrup and featuring visuals by the Quay Brothers.
The work is set to the stunning music of Witold Lutosławski, with a programme of pieces which span his career and encapsulate the compositional voice of this pre-eminent 20th-century composer. Full of expressive power and shimmering orchestration, this music illuminates the narrative of the piece.
The show opens with the enigmatic Interlude, which sets a dream-like tone with its sense of revolving stasis. The violin concerto Chain II, on the other hand, whisks through different sections linked together like loops of a chain, and creates the ever-changing world in which the journey of the dance takes place. The soloist’s melodic adventures take the listener through moods of agitation, pathos, skittishness and a certain indecisiveness as it engages in an evolving dialogue with the orchestra.
Musique Funèbre, for string orchestra, embodies a paradox of Lutosławski’s music: its directness of emotion belies its somewhat abstract structuring principles. Out of its dense and sorrowful opening, the music finds an escape through more sprightly and rhythmic moments — matched in the dance by a longing to break free — before rushing headlong into its climax, and retreating into its opening world.
The charming dance prelude no. 4 harks back to Lutosławski’s Polish folk-music roots, and sounds in the context of the show like a lost memory.
There is also the somewhat surprising inclusion of the pop song Filipince Nudno. Penned under the pseudonym Derwid, it is one of many that he wrote during the post-war Soviet years in Poland, and it is impressive to hear how naturally the composer could turn his hand to this different style.
In the second act, the captivating Symphony 4 — Lutosławski’s last major work — takes centre stage .
The piece opens with a sombre and lyrical tone, only to be interrupted by contrasting interludes. The lyricism grows in graveness and intensity as it returns through the piece, eventually subsuming these moments of escape and gathering into a huge climax. Listening to this symphony feels much like walking through a shifting labyrinth: one sound world quickly flickers to the next as the music takes its twists and turns, as if — again — in a dream.
Life is a Dream is showing at Sadler’s Wells, Tue 22 – Sat 26 May 2018.
Book your tickets here!