Like many creative greats, Gian Carlo Menotti, who passed away in February at age 95, continues to live on through his work. Many argue that his composition, The Unicorn, the Gorgon and the Manticore mirrors the artist himself.
"It's the story of Menotti's life the different stages of his artistic career and his [evolution] as an artist," says Holly Marble, co-artistic director of Colorado's Classical Youth Ballet and the Ballet Society of Colorado Springs.
"It represents the age-old dilemma of art versus popular culture, and the artists living in the garret outside of society when society is only interested in what's fashionable."
Marble helped choreograph and performs in the show. She says the choreography "spans a range of different movements," incorporating contemporary and modern dance with ballet, to reflect the diversity of characters in the story.
The performance is a fully staged ballet with a chamber orchestra accompaniment and live choir ensemble. Deborah Teske, founder and artistic director of the ensemble, says the choir brings the story's characters to life.
"The composer himself wasn't quite sure what to call it," Teske says. "It's a ballet, but he didn't want to label it a ballet; he called it a madrigal fable."
According to Thomas Wilson, the chamber orchestra's music director, Menotti's story makes fun of fashion and groupthink.
"We get a look at [Menotti's] sense of humor ... he was viciously funny," Wilson says.
The production is set in a small village in Victorian England. An eccentric man who lives in a castle is considered an outcast by the townspeople, who call the man insane when not speaking ill of each other.
"[Menotti] sort of lived this," says Teske. "He was highly successful, but criticized for his art."
One day the man shows up at the promenade with a unicorn on a silver chain, and everyone makes fun of him. Then they all copy him and get unicorns for themselves.
"Anyone who looks at mass media and the way people get sucked into things, it's a very welcome release of this subject," Wilson says.
Soon after, the outcast taunts everyone by telling them he got sick of the unicorn, killed it and ate it. He then gets another mythological creature, a gorgon. Again, everyone makes fun of him, and again, they each get their own. The same pattern continues as he puts the gorgon away and gets a manticore, the third and final creature.
"The creatures represent his artistic creations and maybe even Menotti himself; it has an autobiographical element to it," Teske says. "The unicorn is his youth, the gorgon is his proud adulthood and the manticore is his old age."
Eventually, the townspeople decide they're fed up with following the bizarre fashion, and they bring the story to a raucous conclusion at the castle.
The Unicorn, the Gorgon and the Manticore
The Colorado Springs School's Louisa Performing Arts Center, 21 Broadmoor Ave.
Saturday June 9, 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, June 10, 3 p.m.
Tickets: $25; call 633-9373 for more.