Matthew Hindson’s latest ballet score My Brilliant Career, commissioned by Queensland Ballet and choreographed by Cathy Marston, premiered in Brisbane on 16 June. The stand-alone piece appeared as the final part of Trilogy, with Hindson’s 50-minute score performed by Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Nigel Gaynor. See the dancers of the Queensland Ballet rehearsing My Brilliant Career here.

The work is Hindson’s second narrative ballet. It is one of several novels adapted by Cathy Marston for the stage, a process she describes in a recent interview with Limelight here. The 1901 story by Miles Franklin, one of Australia’s major early-twentieth-century writers, follows Sybylla Melvyn as she strives to break free from her stifling rural upbringing. Her chance comes when she travels to her grandmother’s estate in Caddagat, where she experiences a cultural and romantic awakening. Marriage proposals follow, explode Sybylla’s conflicts and insecurities. She flees back home, where one object of her affections ultimately seeks her out.

Hindson’s score draws on a variety of styles in painting its musical portraits. The flirtation between Sybylla and Harry imagines a fictitious soundtrack to a 1930s movie. The grandmother is suggested by music redolent of a French Baroque overture; a garden party features a string quartet providing background music, as well as a vigorous bush dance. Sybylla’s optimistic, headstrong outlook is suggested in an ascending musical line; Harry’s music, on the other hand, is more grounded and forthright.

Marston describes her approach to the piece’s “unlikely heroine” here. Sybylla’s inner contradictions and conflicts are reflected in the ballet by giving the opposing impulses of her character – ‘Syb’ and ‘Bylla’ – to two dancers.

…the experience is both effortless and rewarding for the viewer…The collaborative approach between Marston and…Hindson is reflected in a score that marries perfectly with the movement qualities, from character signatures to settings traversing garden parties to bush dances… all the story’s critical elements are covered, and the essence retained. It’s an impressive achievement.

Limelight (Olivia Stewart) 19 June 2023 ****

My Brilliant Career, the much-anticipated new work by Cathy Marston, ended the evening’s program. It didn’t disappoint…On a stage bathed in warm light evoking the Australian countryside, with dancers in costumes of pastels and creams, the opening moments were captivating….Although My Brilliant Career is very much an intimate, character-driven work, there were also rousing toe-tapping moments of pure dance, when the company came together in a bush dance…successfully underpinning the whole work was the original and most evocative score by Matthew Hindson. 

Dance Australia (Denise Richardson), 19 June 2023

…the neoclassical ballet is succinct, pacy and emotionally absorbing.

Bachtrack (Ruth Ridgway) 18 June 2023 ****

…the music by Hindson, played so beautifully…is stunning.

InQueensland (Phil Brown) 19 June 2023

Though his first collaboration with Marston, Hindson is widely celebrated as a composer of music for dance. November 2022 saw the premiere of Imposter (after Mozart), a 10-minute deconstruction of movement three of Mozart’s A major Violin Concerto, commissioned by The Australian Ballet and choreographed by Lucas Jervies. Hindson’s first evening-length ballet A Comedy of Errors, choreographed by Sir David Bintley, premiered earlier that year at the Sarasota Ballet, attracting critical plaudits. It was the third ballet Hindson created with Bintley, following the one-act successes of E=mc2 and Faster - both premiered by Birmingham Royal Ballet in 2009 and 2011 respectively, toured throughout the UK, and subsequently staged in Japan and Australia.