From 6-9 June Oregon Ballet Theatre presented a brand-new choreography of the first three movements of Thomas Adès’ Asyla (1997) by Andrea Schermoly, as part of their mixed programme Made in Portland at the Newmark Theatre.

Adès’ 25-minute orchestral work, premiered by Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, won the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition in 2000. Cast in four movements, its title suggests both places of refuge as well as enclaves of madness, capturing the various moods of the work, by turns lush, enchanting, frenetic, and ethereal.

Schermoly’s ASYLA takes inspiration from “the surreal underworld of crows” and imagines a terrifying avian mob, with looming feathered costumed for the corps de ballet and a huge wiry sculpture hanging over the stage. Its narrative follows Hannah Davis’ descent into madness.

Asyla, whose third movement ‘Ecstasio’ recalls the pounding beat of a nightclub, has previously been choreographed by Cathy Marston for the Linbury Theatre at the Royal Ballet and Opera in London, forming a diptych with Before the Tempest/After the Storm – created to complement the world premiere run of Adès’ opera The Tempest on the main stage.

By the time soloist Hannah Davis was unveiled at the top of the stairs like a sacrifice, the sense of impending doom had permeated the theater…Asyla’s descent into violent madness was sold through and through by each member of the ensemble and closed MADE IN PORTLAND with a single impression: more of this please.

Oregon ArtsWatch (Lindsay Dreyer) 8 June 2024