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Introduction

Poulenc’s Gloria in G major – a setting of the Catholic Mass – accompanies choreography of great beauty.

Background

Gloria by Kenneth MacMillan is a haunting lament for the generation lost in World War I. It was inspired by Vera Brittain’s autobiography Testament of Youth, which recounts the author’s wartime experiences and grief at the loss of her fiancé and brother. The book resonated with MacMillan whose own father was gassed at the Battle of the Somme. Gloria was created for The Royal Ballet in 1980 and is one of the Company’s key works; its depiction of the futility of war is as relevant today as at the time of its creation.

The ballet is set to Gloria in G major by Francis Poulenc – a beautiful score for orchestra, chorus and solo soprano. Against Andy Klunder’s devastated set, resembling no man’s land, MacMillan’s choreography depicts the brutality of conflict: the dancers lower their heads and cover their faces in grief, or fling legs and arms into tortured shapes as if caught in a bomb blast. The work also contains moments of sublime beauty – a pas de quartre seems to recall happier, more hopeful times, providing a counterpoint to the principal trio.

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