Co3 brings Douglas Wright’s Gloria to life, after Vivaldi, with WASO & St Georges Consort at the State Theater Center

From the intimate to the infinite, Vivaldi’s Gloria crosses the poles of divine inspiration and dragged musicians, singers and dancers into Co3’s revival of Douglas Wright’s ballet at the State Theater Center on Saturday.

The Heath Ledger Auditorium itself was surprisingly intimate, all the more so for an offbeat tribute to country by charming tween duo Ella Rea and Daisy Miller-Jedda.

They conducted a Baroque gem from the WA Symphony Orchestra’s solo violin, Laurence Jackson, alone and impromptu on an austere stage for Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D minor, Chaconne; full toned and beautifully nuanced, tracing the ethereal heights and earthly depths of the genre.

In Co3 Artistic Director Raewyn Hill and WAAPA Mentor Michael Whaites, their hesitant, researched movements are a gentle counterpoint to Bach’s beauty; the curtain-raiser a pointer to the Gloria – baroque meets classical ballet – with narrative flair as the leaders of their profession laid stepping stones for others to follow.

Camera iconCo3 Artistic Director Raewyn Hill and WAAPA Mentor Michael Whaites. Credit: Shotweiler photograph

And follow them; The WASO musicians make their way to the pit through the auditorium, with the singers of St George’s Consort hot on their heels to take their places in the front row stalls, joined by conductor Dr Joseph Nolan.

The curtain rose on a troupe of dancers moving slowly and deliberately like a sun salutation; full-body gestures leaving them lying as if in adoration.

Sudden energy in shrill orchestral chords flipped the switch to exuberant life as dancers and choir burst into the uplifting “Gloria, Gloria”; Nolan ran in circles between the stage, the pit and the stands as the energy flowed.

If “In excelsis Deo” – God in the highest heaven – invoked the infinite and transcendent divinity, the following sentence leaned towards the intimate and immanent God of Christmas and Easter: “et in terra pax hominibus” – and on Earth peace to men – dreamy of the ropes leading a troupe of sleepwalkers, but with an inner celebratory core; a nice balance.

Simple flesh-effect costumes spoke of a timeless grace, echoing the sacred text; the stage light and dark with only bright highlights to illuminate the elaborate and fluid interaction of the dancers.

The ritual taken from the Catholic Mass was reimagined as a performance, as Wright had done three decades before; the recreation bolstered by Hill’s participation in the 1990s and dancer Claudia Alessi, a veteran of the 1991 premiere.

Bold lines in the strings of “Laudamus te” – we praise you – highlighted sopranos Bonnie de la Hunty and Lucinda Nicholls, the translucent quality of their duet reflected in playful antics on stage.

Co3's revival of Douglas Wright's ballet Gloria, based on Vivaldi, at the State Theater Center on Saturday.
Camera iconCo3’s revival of Douglas Wright’s ballet Gloria, based on Vivaldi, at the State Theater Center on Saturday. Credit: Shotweiler photograph

“Gratimus agimus tibi” – we thank you – fired the drama from the pit and the choir in glorious lines of melody as the action exploded onto the stage, the dancers leaping in joy and gratitude.

Nicholls rose next for ‘Domine Deus, Rex coelestis’ – Lord God, King of Heaven – a sonorous violin solo on harpsichord backing soft stage steps and a clear, liquid voice; sparse elements in dance, music and singing delicately blended like a solitary ballerina gave physical form to exquisite harmony.

“Domine Fili unigenite” – God the Only Begotten – brought back the chorus, with pairs of dancers swirling and leaping then calming down to recognize the next tune, “Domine Deus, Agnus Dei” – Lord God, Lamb of God – solemn cello and woodwinds introducing Amber Lister’s richly modulated alto lament as a duo danced and wrestled onstage; a nod to the duality of body and mind.

The chorus joined in the refrain, “Qui tollis peccata mundi” – Who takes away the sin of the world – the central mystery of faith portrayed in a Pieta-like tableau to close.

The central mystery of faith depicted in a Pieta-like painting.
Camera iconThe central mystery of faith depicted in a Pieta-like painting. Credit: Shotweiler photograph

Anita Saxby defended, “Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris” – who is seated to the right of the Father – powerfully delivered to an almost folkloric display on stage, the bodies pulsing to the rhythm of the music and the leitmotif: “miserere nobis” – have pity on us.

The dancers settled in a circle for the celebration “Quoniam tu solos sanctus” – for you alone are holy – bursting into life as brilliant chords pick up the opening mood, with high tones in the choir and joy ecstatic in the dance, heaving in devotional poses then breaking into bucolic exuberance.

As the music ended in the final “gloria Dei Patris” – the glory of God the Father – the scene darkened and a lone figure hung under a spotlight, almost fetal in its pose; perhaps a glimpse of incarnation.

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