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The three movements of Britten's Sinfonia da requiem – Lacrymosa, Dies irae and Requiem aeternam – are reflected in haunting choreography that unfolds amid designs that recall a battlefield.


Christopher Wheeldon created Aeternum for The Royal Ballet in 2013. In recognition of Britten's centenary year Wheeldon selected the composer's harrowing Sinfonia da requiem, a three-movement work created in 1940 and intended in part as a memorial to the young composer's recently deceased parents. Wheeldon's ballet not only pays homage to Britten's profound powers as a lyricist but also transforms the work into a remembrance for the dead, especially the fallen of World War II. The ballet was awarded the Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production in 2013.

The designs by Wheeldon's regular collaborator Jean-Marc Puissant (DGV: Danse à grand vitesse and Electric Counterpoint) are dominated by a vast wooden structure that lifts and moves throughout the ballet, at one point suggesting a nest, at another gasping ribs. Wheeldon's expressionist, taut choreography has countless powerful images, perhaps most striking of all when the lead ballerina clutches her leg to her body like a rifle, aiming it implacably at the audience.

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