The diptych of ballets on the legends of King Arthur, Arthur, Part I: Arthur Pendragon and Arthur, Part II: Le Mort d'Arthur were commissioned by Birmingham Royal Ballet, with choreography and scenario by David Bintley, and written during the period 1998-2000. The first performances were with the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, conducted by Paul Murphy. In these Portraits of three of the principal characters, the music is taken from different sections of the two ballets, with some recomposition and, inevitably, re-ordering. All but the first movement are taken from the second ballet.
Lancelot alone (Passacaglia): This movement is taken from Act Two of the first ballet, and depicts Lancelot alone, keeping vigil in a chapel tormented between his love for Arthur and his growing passion for Guinevere (who is shortly to marry Arthur), he expresses his emotionalturmoil in an extended solo. Musically, this is a Passacaglia on the bass
line heard shortly after the beginning.
Guinevere (Courtly Dance and Pas de deux): From Scene Two of Act One of the second ballet, this combines Guinevere’s stately dance, as she welcomes the guests to a summer garden party to celebrate the Fellowship of the Round Table, followed by the intense Pas de deux for Guinevere and Lancelot in which they declare their guilty love for each
other (Scene One, Act Two).
Arthur (The Last Battle, and Transformation): At the Battle of Camlann (Act Two, Scene Five), Arthur and his treacherous illegitimate son and would-be usurper Mordred lead opposing armies in their final struggle, in which Mordred dies and Arthur is mortally wounded. This symphonic scherzo leads into the final pages of Scene Six, where
Lancelot and the dying Guinevere recall their passion for each other, and their devotion to Arthur, who is shown at the back of the stage transformed into The Once and Future King.
© Copyright 2010 by John McCabe