The Judas Tree by Kenneth MacMillan, music by Brian Elias

The Royal Ballet

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Kenneth MacMillan — Choreographer

Monica Parker — Stage director

Irek Mukhamedov — Dancer

Leanne Benjamin — Dancer

Michael Nunn — Dancer

The Royal Ballet

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

Barry Wordsworth — Conductor

Program notes

This provocative final ballet of choreographer Kenneth MacMillan’s illustrious career restages the story of Judas in East London, where mob mentality incites a gang of male construction workers to inflict deplorable violence upon an innocent woman, and then on the only man among them who tries to protect her.

MacMillan and composer Brian Elias wanted to write something “meaningful and powerful” in response to recent horrors in world news, like the Tiananmen Square massacre. Although MacMillan’s work is, by design, open to multiple interpretations, his stinging rebuke of not-so-innocent bystanders comes through in the ballet’s themes and visceral imagery, as well as in the Kahlil Gibran epigraph that accompanies it: “As a single leaf turns not yellow but with the silent knowledge of the whole tree, so the wrongdoer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all.”

Elias’s feverish score makes shrewd use of dissonant strings and winds, steel drums, celesta and harp, vividly expressing both the horror of assault and the quiet moments of tension when violence is not yet certain.

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