In 2018, great Australian choreographer Graeme Murphy celebrates 50 years in the business. And, to mark the occasion, the Australian Ballet is opening the season with a tribute. Titled Murphy, the show is a dazzling compilation of the choreographer's boldest and most poetic moments.
A major highlight is the return of Firebird. The ballet is based on a Russian folktale about a prince who captures a bird, but, in exchange for a magical feather, sets her free. Next, he finds himself in an enchanted garden, where he falls in love with the daughter of an evil magician called Koschei, whose soul is trapped inside an egg. Together, the prince and Firebird attempt to release it.
The story first appeared as a ballet in 1910 in an interpretation by choreographer Michel Fokine, set to music by composer Igor Stravinsky for the Ballet Russe. Murphy's recreation in 2009, which sticks to the original, is set in a dystopian Garden of Eden, designed by Leon Krasenstein. Along with performing the whole masterpiece, dancers will revisit excerpts from The Silver Rose, Ellipse, Grand and Air and Other Invisible Forces, as well as the entirety of Sheherazade.
"What better way to start the year than by honouring an Australian dancemaker of unparalleled talent whose virtuosic career began right here with the Australian Ballet 50 years ago," said David McAllister, artistic director of the Australian Ballet.
Murphy created his very first work for the Ballet's Choreographic Workshop in 1971, before going on to become artistic director for Sydney Dance Company, a position he held for 31 years.
Murphy runs March 16–26 at Arts Centre Melbourne. You can book tickets here.
Image: Jeff Busby and Alex Makeyev