A scandalous story of the rich, deceitful and corrupt

16 May 2019

A scandalous story of the rich, deceitful and corrupt

Queensland Ballet’s first production for 2019 may raise a few eyebrows.

Made famous by the 1980s Glenn Close and John Malkovich movie, Dangerous Liaisons, is a centuries old story by French novelist Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. Considered terribly scandalous amongst the French aristocracy when it was published, it’s a tale of deceit and sensuality and a scandalous game of seduction, betrayal and revenge.

What’s exciting about this production is the bold choice Queensland Ballet has taken to create a production from scratch. Under the creative guidance of Liam Scarlett, an internationally acclaimed choreographer and Artistic Associate with Queensland Ballet, the Company was excited to take on the challenge of reimagining this powerful story through dance.

The story, based almost entirely on letters that are sent between characters, was a challenge to interpret without words using only choreography, sets and costumes.

Liam Scarlett said ‘With an opulent setting amongst the wealthy of the French, Dangerous Liaisons provides one of the richest design periods that the world has seen, and my collaborators and I were keen to exploit this lavish world to the fullest extent. We wanted something to personify the dark malice that resides within the antagonists’ hearts, and so created a scenic and audible scape that shows both beauty and betrayal. Hidden rooms, secret chambers and magnificent architecture dominate the arrogant lives of the characters on stage. The music, arranged from another French master Camille Saint-Saëns, aids the restraint and beauty of this destructive story.’

Scarlett worked with UK-based music arranger Martin Yates to create an original score for the production that is an eclectic amalgamation of music by French composer Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns.

‘Choosing a composer on which to base a new stage work is more difficult than it may appear, but when I suggested the highly-respected, though somewhat neglected, French composer Camille Saint-Saëns to Liam there was a balanced set of reasons for it,’ said Yates.

‘Saint-Saëns had written a vast amount of music in almost every genre including some twelve operas that contain extended dramatic music. His musical language, although firmly romantic, had at its heart a complete understanding of the form and shape of baroque music.

‘It is important to note that I have not used any of the music in their original formats. I have attempted to create a score that sounds totally symphonic and as if the composer had written it specifically for this ballet.

‘Although these days Saint-Saёns is remembered for a handful of pieces (The Carnival of the Animals, Danse Macabre, Organ Symphony, Piano Concerto No.2 and the opera Samson & Delilah) he was a composer who frequently touched greatness and who was considered by his two most well-known students, Maurice Ravel and Gabriel Fauré, to be a genius.’

Queensland Ballet will perform Dangerous Liaisons at HOTA on 14-15 June, tickets are available now.

You can read more about the production here.


Image credit: Principal Artist Laura Hidalgo and Soloist Alexander Idaszak, Creative Direction Designfront, Photography Juli Balla.