FEENEY: Dracula (John Pryce-Jones/ Northern Ballet Theatre Orchestra/ Opera North Chorus/ Pauline Thulborn) (Naxos: 8.553964)
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Philip Feeney (b.
Gothic romance developed out of man's fascination with the horrific, theoccult, and the power of innocence and goodness to triumph over the forces ofevil. Many would argue that Stoker's Dracula, is the finest example ofthe genre, and Count Dracula, the supreme anti-hero, has an overriding sensuousappeal that has endured and inspired film, television, and theatre productionssince its first appearance in 1897. To mark the centenary of Bram Stoker's masterpiece,Northern Ballet Theatre has created the first ever British ballet version ofhis most famous novel.
Artistic DirectorChristopher Gable and Assistant Artistic Director Michael Barrett-Pink drewtogether a team of extraordinary talent, including composer Philip Feeney whocreated this his second full-length work for Northern Ballet Theatre. Thisinnovative and inspirational composer has produced a new ballet score that isromantic, majestic and spine-tingling - a combination destined to thrill.
Philip Feeney studiedcomposition with Robin Holloway and Huge Wood at Cambridge, and with FrancoDonatoni at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome. His works have beenperformed and broadcast throughout Europe, most notably at the Venice Biennale,the City of London Festival and the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.
His first commission by Northern Ballet Theatre, was in 1987, when he composedthe music for Michael Barrett-Pink's ballet, Memoire Imaginaire, whichwas subsequently used by HTV in the film drama, A Chance to Dance. Sincethen he has composed Danse Classique, Strange Meeting and JazzConcerto for NBT, and part of the three-act ballet Cinderella hasbeen recorded on 20th Century English Ballets for Naxos.
Jonathan Harker's mindis flooded with images of his terrifying experiences in Transylvania.
Charing X Station
Mina and Dr Helsingaccompany Harker to the station as he sets off on his journey to see CountDracula. A mental patient, Renfield, being escorted through the station, causesa disturbing incident.
Harker arrives inTransylvania where he watches as villagers enact a violent ritual ofpropitiation to protect their village from the dangers that threaten on AllSouls Night. The ceremony is interrupted by Count Dracula's coachman anddespite the desperate appeal of a bereaved woman Harker continues his journeyto Dracula's castle.
i) Arrival ii) 3Vampires iii) Dracula & Harker
The Count welcomesHarker into his home and having made him comfortable withdraws. Harker sinksinto a reverie and is visited by three women who both fascinate and terrifyhim. His seduction is interrupted by an enraged Count Dracula who distracts thevampire women with a blood offering. Dracula now begins his domination of thehapless Harker. As the climax of their union approaches Harker's scream ofterror wakes him from his nightmare and he finds himself in the sanatorium withhis wife's arms around him.
The Winter Garden ofThe Grand Hotel, Whitby
A The Dansant whereLucy dances with all her suitors, in turn. The dance is interrupted by aviolent storm developing out to sea and at the height of the storm the figureof Dracula appears on the terrace. The hotel guests are immobilised by hispresence, all but Lucy who is drawn to him. As the sound of the storm returnsDracula disappears and Lucy is discovered dazed and almost unconscious.
Lucy is taken toHelsing's clinic where her anxious fiancee and her friends visit her. As theyleave for the night Helsing takes the precaution of surrounding her with wildgarlic but this does not prevent a second visit from Count Dracula. Later thatnight Lucy's lifeless body is discovered on the floor of her bedroom. Theheartbroken men grieve the loss of this beautiful young woman but as herfiancee places a crucifix on her lips Lucy attacks him violently beforeescaping into the night. She has become Nosferatu.
Mina, alone in thesanatorium, thinks of the terrible danger that is hovering over them all. Afterthe departure of the men she and Helsing are startled by an escaped mentalpatient, Renfield, who attacks Helsing and draws blood before being overpoweredby the wardens. Concerned for Renfield's suffering, Mina visits him in his cellbut is unable to comfort him. As she waits anxiously for the return of the menshe imagines, with horror, what her friend Lucy has become.
The men return, havingfailed in their attempt to find Count Dracula, but later that night, as theyare sleeping, the Count enters Mina's room. Helsing discovers them as Draculasuckles Mina with his own life blood but has no power to prevent the Countescaping and taking the unconscious Mina with him.
Count Dracula haschosen to celebrate his union with Mina in the vault at Carfax Abbey. Hisheart-beat is the pulse that summons the Nosferatu to the ceremony. Renfieldhas become the sacrifice and it is his blood that links the undead as theydance in adoration of their master. As the celebrants prepare for theconsummation of the ritual, an explosion blasts through the crypt and daylightfloods the vault.
Dracula can withstandthe light but his power is diminished and his adversaries pursue him, finallydriving a stake through his heart. The survivors are left to count the cost.
Northern BalletTheatre was created in 1969 by Laverne Meyer with the intention of providingquality performances of classical ballet not only around its home base ofManchester, but also throughout Great Britain. The Company now has itsadministrative headquarters in Leeds, West Yorkshire. In 1987 the noted dancerand actor Christopher Gable was appointed Artistic Director of Northern BalletTheatre, following his appearance with the Company as the painter, L.S. Lowry,in A Simple Man (choreography by Gillian Lynne, music by Carl Davis). Hedeveloped a new artistic policy for the Company, concentrating on thepresentation of full-length narrative dance dramas, in which the impact of thestory told is every bit as important as the quality of the dancing.
The relatively modestsize of Northern Ballet Theatre, (34 dancers, 24 players in the orchestra), hasbeen challenging for the company's in its presentation of the traditionalrepertoire. Nevertheless, with an imaginative and innovative approach to thegreat classics the Company has enjoyed enormous success with productions of Romeo& Juliet and Swan Lake. Its more particular claim toattention, however, is with the creation of wholly new works. This innovativepolicy has resulted in the regular commissioning of new ballet scores, one ofwhich is represented here. As with most ballet scores, there are passages inthis work where the interest is primarily dramatic - the items on thisrecording have been chosen with the dual purpose of providing a memento forthose listeners who have seen the ballet, and a musically satisfying experiencefor those who have not.
John Pryce-Jones waseducated at Penarth and Worcester, from where he won an Organ Scholarship toCorpus Christi College, Cambrid