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Kenneth MacMillan’s powerful evocation of the horrors of war is set to Francis Poulenc’s poignant score and inspired by Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth.

Most recent performance

There are currently no scheduled performances of Gloria. It was last on stage 26–27 October 2017 as part of the Autumn 2017/18 season.


Kenneth MacMillan’s Gloria 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 strongly with MacMillan, whose own father was gassed at the Battle of the Somme. Gloria was created for The Royal Ballet in 1980 and is a major work of the repertory; its depiction of the futility of war is as relevant and painful 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 no-man’s-land set, 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 quatre seems to recall happier, more hopeful times – providing a counterpoint to the anguish of the principal trio.

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