Fragments of the Apocryphon of Ezekiel (2008)

Fragments of the Apocryphon of Ezekiel has a long and recondite title but comes by it honestly. The piece was inspired by a chance connection between two works: Shostakovich’s Five Fragments for Orchestra, a short suite of sparse, enigmatic works written as preparation for his Fourth Symphony; and five fragments of writing dating to around the life of Christ that may have been part of a book apocryphally attributed to the biblical prophet Ezekiel. It’s hard to go into more detail about the provenance of the fragments without descending into even more Pynchon-esque levels of uncertainty; essentially, there is no evidence of the primary source (the Apocryphon itself) and the fragments survive only as quotations in other works.

The ballet consists of five movements, each pairing a musical and literary fragment. Two excerpts of the ballet were presented at the National Ballet of Canada’s Choreographic Showcase in September 2008.

The first and longest fragment is a parable, in which a king invites everyone in his kingdom to his daughter’s wedding feast, save two men: one blind, and one lame. They decide to avenge the slight by vandalizing the king’s garden, acting as each other’s eyes and legs. When the damage is discovered, they protest their innocence: their disabilities make it impossible for them to be the perpetrators. The king realizes they worked together and has them both flogged. The parable is that the soul is accountable for the actions of the body and vice versa.

The second performed fragment is in the voice of God, and translates as “As I find thee, so will I judge thee”; meaning, on judgment day, it is your present state of sin or grace that matters and not any of your life prior to the day.

Archival video of the work exists, but is not available online due to the terms of the collective agreement between Actor’s Equity and the National Ballet.

The excerpts were performed by Catherine Maitland, Joe Welbes, and Aarik Wells.

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