Get our free email newsletter with just one click

3Abschied review at Sadlers Wells London

by -

Gustav Mahler’s The Song of the Earth is a large, serious piece of music. Most choreographers consider it beyond dance’s interpretive abilities. The Belgium dance maker Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker has made a solo work to its final section, Der Abschied (The Farewell), where the composer takes his leave from this world, accepting death as he knows the earth will continue in an eternal cycle of renewal.

De Keersmaeker is less optimistic, describing to the audience in a long spoken introduction how she worries for the planet, how it is sick with pollution and wars. This makes her version of The Song of the Earth a sorrowful parting, with the means of her telling jagged and awkward, and her choreography disjointed and unnerving.

Schoenberg’s reduction of Mahler’s symphonic music is played live by the 13-strong ensemble Ictus. The musicians and mezzo-soprano Sara Fulgoni perform on stage, with De Keersmaeker dancing between them. All are informally dressed, with De Keersmaeker herself appearing to improvise.

The seemingly makeshift performance is emphasised by the four-way ending. De Keersmaeker’s co-creator, the French choreographer Jerome Bel, walks on stage and explains how he doesn’t think the ending works. There follows two other endings, first the musicians leaving the stage and then acting “dead”. And then a final ending, with De Keersmaeker plaintively, amateurishly singing the Farewell. It is a poignant finale, but instead of reinforcing her point, which is that she cannot share Mahler’s faith, her uneven singing, and resolutely low key dancing, distracts you from it.

Production Information

Sadler’s Wells, London, November 21-22

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Jerome Bel
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Jerome Bel
Gustav Mahler
Georges-Elie Octors
Sadler’s Wells
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Jerome Bel
Running time
1hr 30mins

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price