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Performing Arts

En masse

A trio of metro arts organizations joins forces on a world-premiere production of Mozart’s ‘Requiem.’

Eric Webb March 23rd, 2011

Requiem Mass in D Minor
8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Oklahoma City Ballet with Oklahoma City Philharmonic and Canterbury Choral Society
Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N. Walker, 848-8637

Three of the metro’s most prominent arts organizations — Oklahoma City Ballet, Oklahoma City Philharmonic and Canterbury Choral Society — have partnered to bring one of the most revered musical compositions of all time, Mozart’s “Requiem Mass in D Minor,” to the Civic Center stage. This marks the first collaboration between the three in several years, and their first time for “Requiem.”

“I am very excited about this collaboration,” said Robert Mills, Oklahoma City Ballet artistic director. “This is truly a historic production.”

This is truly a historic production.

—Robert Mills

The project was the idea of Canterbury’s artistic director, Randi von Ellefson, who approached Mills more than two years ago about collaborating with the Philharmonic to bring this epic piece to the stage in a way that had never been seen before.

“My initial response was excitement. Then upon further researching the music and thinking about the scope of the production, I felt a little daunted,” Mills said. “Artistically, my challenge was to create a cohesive work from an hourlong piece of music that has no narrative. There are definite motifs on death, afterlife and the end of days, but there is no story within the sung text that I could con vey

through choreography.” Instead of trying to tack on a story, he decided to take a more abstract approach, focusing on the work’s ideas and themes while taking inspiration from the grimly ironic circumstances of the creation.

“Mozart was commissioned to write the piece without knowing who it was for. He began to feel he was writing the piece for his own demise, and he did, in fact, die before its completion,” he said.

Mills’ adaptation utilizes movement and special effects to bring the audience into Mozart’s mind, turning “Requiem” into a dreamscape.

“I’ve latched on to the idea of death not as an end, but as a beginning throughout the piece,” he said.

Beforehand, audiences will be treated to the one-act ballet “Paquita Grand pas Classique,” choreographed by Marius Petipa. A major cornerstone of the classical ballet repertory, “Paquita” showcases the Russian Imperial style of the late 19th century.

With “Requiem” closing his organization’s season, Mills said the ballet has been overwhelmed with the response to its productions. He will announce the next season, the company’s 40th anniversary, at “Requiem.”

“It will be our most ambitious to date,” he said.

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