Review: Klaus Obermaier / London Philharmonic Orchestra / Marin Alsop in Rites at Royal Festival Hall

Performance: 26-27 June 07
Reviewed by Lisa Haight - Wednesday 27 June 2007

Rites began with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Marin Alsop, playing Philip Glass’ Prelude from Akhnaten and Edgard Varese’s Arcana. Aslop gave an informative speech in between these two pieces to give the audience some background on the music being performed. After Arcana, there was an interval during which the audience were given black 3-D glasses with instructions to wear them during the third piece of the evening, Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Klaus Obermaier is the digital artist, choreographer and artistic director for The Rite of Spring.

When it began, there was a blank screen above the orchestra and next to it there was a small, silver stage. After several minutes, Julia Mach, the dancer, appeared on the stage dressed in a mini-dress with spaghetti straps. Mach began drawing shapes in the air and what she drew on stage came to three dimensional life on the screen above the orchestra in the form of red symbols which danced on their own in front of our eyes; Disney would’ve been proud!

Then an image of Mach appeared on the screen. What she did on the stage was mirrored on the screen. The screen image of Mach was surrounded by symbols. Mach moved her hands around her head and on her head like she had a headache whilst the red symbols surrounded her and began to spin at speed. It was at this point that I felt the video I was seeing on the screen was telling me what it wanted me to think was happening instead of allowing me to think for myself.

Next Mach started crawling slowly on her elbows and knees. Mach reached forward as if she was reaching out to touch me. Mach’s face was nearly in mine; which was a revelation in itself as one can not normally see the fine details of the performer as the stage and the audience are too far apart for that.

Mach then reached out her arm and elongated her leg at the same time and it appeared on screen that Mach was about 50’ tall! Her body just kept on stretching and I was reminded of Alice in Wonderland. At another point in the piece, Mach outstretched her arm again and her arm split into five withering arms, almost like a Medusa hand.

Then what appeared to be meteors came out at the audience and were swirling on screen, but in fact the meteors turned out to be images of Mach balled up. The balls split up into atom like pieces and drifted around. My favourite part of this piece was when Mach’s cocked arm doubled and turned into a wing that copied itself and flew around the screen.

Rites ended with molecules of Mach moving within waves of numbers. I felt it was a truly revolutionary piece; something I had never witnessed before. It was fascinating to watch Mach on stage performing simplistic movements such as extending her hand and arm and watching this simple movement transform itself into something else entirely on the screen.

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