Program notes

  • Prologue from THE SILVER ROSE

    The Silver Rose, adapted from the Richard Strauss opera Der Rosenkavalier, centres around the Marschallin, a famous actress who fears losing her fame and much younger lover now that she is ageing. In the prologue of the ballet, the Marschallin is pursued through her dreams by sinister mirrors and their ruthless reflections of her. She wakes from her nightmare to find herself in bed with her lover Octavian, and tries to drown her doubts in his passionate embraces.


    Air and Other Invisible Forces is essentially a non-narrative work. Graeme Murphy drew his inspiration from the music of Australian composer Michael Askill and Georgian composer Giya Kancheli. Air and Other Invisible Forces takes the audience on an emotional journey of dance sequences that are both innovative and hauntingly beautiful, with resonant allusions to Asia and the West.


    Ravel’s images are more of desire and erotic anguish than the hedonistic passions conjured by the title Shéhérazade. This intensely private composer has created an exquisite sensuality out of melancholy – where longing itself threatens to erupt in orgasmic chaos. The dilemma is the ever-present struggle between Self and The Lover – that ideal One who will confirm our existence yet will invite us to merge Soul in Soul. For Ravel, a look, a backward glance, is an intense caress.

    Klimt, on the other hand, is vibrantly erotic – his joy in the female nude, gauzed and glitteringly patterned, is uninhibited. The few times the male appears in his paintings, nude or partwrapped in bold decoration, he is conjoined with the female, overwhelming her in an embrace that metamorphoses two figures into a single gorgeously embroidered phallic image. There is in Ravel an ambiguity of sexuality – in Klimt this sexual force is clarified and fulfilled.

    Maurice Ravel, in his music, covets that which Gustav Klimt reveals in his painting, the quivering light and dark of the human heart.

    From designer Kristian Fredrikson’s note for the 1980 program

  • Quartet from ELLIPSE

    Ellipse was a suite of abstract dances set to a selection from what Murphy called the “huge challenge to dancer and choreographer” of Hindson’s eclectic range. “Without the cushion of a narrative, the dancer must find rhyme and reason and a mode of communication so the piece doesn’t become a series of complicated exercises. With music as evocative as this, though, it is impossible not to conjure emotional and dramatic sequences … The music buffers [the dancers] in lyricism and whips them with rhythmic lashings and their sole focus becomes that most human activity – survival. Welcome to the mysterious elliptical world of dance.”

  • Excerpts from GRAND

    “After the human body, the piano has always been my favourite instrument.” Graeme Murphy

    Grand is both a celebration and fusion of dance and piano. It is dedicated to the life of Murphy’s mother Betty (“one pianist I adore above all others”), and is close to his heart. The grand piano takes centre stage and is moved by the dancers and incorporated into the choreography effortlessly.

    The text for the Air and Other Invisible Forces, Ellipse and Grand notes was adapted from


    In creating this new production of Firebird, I could not help but be historically aware of all that had gone before. Above all, the weight of Stravinsky’s musical masterpiece dominated, but equally I was ever-alert to audiences’ expectations and appetite for this legendary exotic fare – deviate too far and risk dashing an audience’s dreams like a delicate porcelain egg. Consequently, I have adhered fairly closely to the original synopsis, which celebrates the triumph of good over evil. My version, though, suggests that evil seems inevitably to return, in the same way that spring inevitably follows winter. The quasi-religious symbols of apples and eggs (with their pagan/Christian reference to sin and rebirth) are retained. As both birds and snakes come from eggs, my evil protagonist is more serpent-like than the original Enchanter, The Immortal Kostchei. But the Phoenix-like Firebird is, happily, his positive equal.
    Graeme Murphy, 2009

    Cast of characters
    Ivan Tsarevich
    The Enslaved

    The evil Kostchei dominates a barren and wintry world. The only warmth and light is generated by the magical Firebird. When Ivan Tsarevich enters this icy realm and encounters the Firebird, his hunter desire wants only to capture this exotic creature. He succeeds, and when the Firebird begs to be released, he acquiesces in exchange for her gift – a magical feather. This feather is to become his talisman. Kostchei has enslaved the very souls of his subjects, among them the princesses who Ivan encounters. Encaged in their midst is one, Tsarevna, who he must free, if he is to experience a love which could break Kostchei’s hold. In the inevitable battle that ensues, it is the Firebird who enables Ivan to overcome Kostchei and release the entrapped souls. On this elliptical journey, once again the garden blooms – but even in Eden, hidden within, a spectre of evil has already built its nest …


Prologue from THE SILVER ROSE
The Silver Rose was commissioned and first produced by Bayerisches Staatsballett. Its premiere was on 10 December 2005 at Munich National Theater. The Australian Ballet premiere was on 26 February 2010 at Queensland Performing Arts Centre.

Choreography Graeme Murphy
Creative associate Janet Vernon
Music Carl Vine
Costume and set design Roger Kirk
Projection design Jason Lam

These performances of excerpts from The Silver Rose by Carl Vine are given by permission of Hal Leonard Australia Pty Ltd, exclusive agents for Faber Music Ltd of London

Air and Other Invisible Forces was made for Sydney Dance Company. Its premiere was at the Sydney Opera House in 1999.

Choreography Graeme Murphy
Creative associate Janet Vernon
Music Michael Askill (performed to recording, performed by Michael Askill (percussion) and Riley Lee (shakahari)
Costume design Akira Isogawa
Set design Gerard Manion

Shéhérazade was first performed at a Sydney Dance Company gala performance at Sydney Opera House on 9 August 1979.

Choreography Graeme Murphy
Creative associate Janet Vernon
Music Maurice Ravel
Costume and set design Kristian Fredrikson

Quartet from ELLIPSE 
Ellipse was made for Sydney Dance Company and premiered at the Sydney Opera House in May 2002.

Choreography Graeme Murphy
Creative associate Janet Vernon
Music Matthew Hindson
Costume design Akira Isogawa 
Set design Gerard Manion

These performances of the 2nd movement from Technologic 1 – 2 by Matthew Hindson are given by permission of Hal Leonard Australia Pty Ltd, exclusive agents for Faber Music Ltd of London

Excerpts from GRAND
Grand was made for Sydney Dance Company and premiered at Sydney Opera House on 1 June 2005.

Choreography Graeme Murphy
Creative associate Janet Vernon
Alberto Ginastera
Danzas Argentina No.2 – Danza de la moza donosa
Danzas Argentinas No.3 – Danza del gaucho matrero

Ludwig van Beethoven Piano Sonata in D major; 
op.10 no.3, Lento e mesto

George Gershwin Andante con moto e poco rubato 
Three Preludes
Thomas 'Fats' Waller "Alligator Crawl"
Charles-François Gounod Waltz from Faust,
transcribed by Liszt

Costume design Akira Isogawa
Set design Gerard Manion
Guest solo pianist Scott Davie

These performances of Danzas Argentina No.2 and No 3 by Alberto Ginastera are given by permission of Hal Leonard Australia Pty Ltd, exclusive agents for Editions Durand of Paris

The world premiere of Firebird was danced by The Australian Ballet on 24 February 2009 at Adelaide Festival Centre

Choreography Graeme Murphy
Creative associate Janet Vernon
Music Igor Stravinsky The Firebird Suite (1945)
Costume and set design Leon Krasenstein

These performances of The Firebird Suite (1945 version) by Igor Stravinsky are given by permission of Hal Leonard Australia Pty Ltd, exclusive agents for Schott Music Ltd of Mainz


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