McCabe: Edward II

McCabe: Edward II

Royal Ballet Sinfonia, Barry Wordsworth (conductor)


Edward II ruled medieval England between 1307 and 1327 and is most commonly remembered for his unrestrained favouritism for certain courtiers. The most extreme cases were those of Piers Gaveston and Hugh Despenser, with whom many modern historians now allege that he had homosexual relationships.

The ballet was created by renowned choreographer, David Bintley, from the play by Christopher Marlowe—probably the greatest of Shakespeare's rival playwrights—and focuses on the relationships between Edward and his Queen Isabella, Edward and Piers Gaveston and Isabella and Mortimer, displayed by an inventive and highly-charged score.

McCabe reflects the medieval period using various ancient-sounding melodies, such as the plainchant dirge that accompanies the funerals of Edward I at the opening and Edward II at the end. However, he mixes old with new. To create the desired effect an electric guitar is used to underscore particular moments of tension.

The work was successfully premiered by the Stuttgart Ballet in Germany in 1995 and David Bintley brought Edward II with him on taking up the directorship of Birmingham Royal Ballet in 1997, which company revived his production and toured it around Britain in 1998-9, attracting great critical acclaim and two awards. This is John McCabe's third original ballet score.

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