When to see it
This work is being performed as part of a mixed programme:
The Royal Ballet and English National Ballet present two of Kenneth MacMillan’s most complex and important works, in the second programme of Kenneth MacMillan: a National Celebration.
MacMillan succinctly summarized his ballet: ‘A man and a woman; death takes the man; they both return to her and at the end of the ballet, we find that in death there is the promise of renewal.’
Kenneth MacMillan first heard Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde in 1958. He immediately fell in love with Mahler’s elegiac score and determined to set it for ballet. He created his Song of the Earth in 1965 for Stuttgart Ballet, on the invitation of his friend John Cranko. The ballet was instantly acclaimed and The Royal Ballet took the piece into its repertory only six months after the Stuttgart premiere.
MacMillan introduced a narrative thread to the piece’s six movements, drawing on imagery from Hans Bethge’s translation of the six Tang dynasty-era poems used by Mahler. Marcia Haydée created the role of the woman, a figure of loneliness isolated from the movements of the corps de ballet around her. In MacMillan’s hands Death becomes a gentle, ever-present companion. Earthbound, non-classical movements morph seamlessly into modernist curves in a work of breathtaking beauty and power.
News and features
19 October 2017
Audience responses and press reviews of the festival bringing six British dance companies together on the Royal Opera House stages.
30 May 2015
What did you think of The Royal Ballet's mixed programme?
28 May 2015
Our quick guide to The Royal Ballet's mixed programme, featuring two acclaimed works by Jerome Robbins and Kenneth MacMillan's masterful study of loss.
26 May 2015
Ryoichi Hirano to replace Rupert Pennefather.
19 May 2015
The three-week tour will see the Company perform in Washington D.C., Chicago and New York.
8 May 2015
Edward Watson to replace Steven McRae for the matinee performance.