Sunday, March 21, 2010

Review of The Little Mermaid, said Princess Haiku


This morning I was looking for a review of The Little Mermaid ballet, that premiered last night at the San Francisco Ballet and found this older one.

Taking a Children’s Tale to Dark New Depths

Published: March 19, 2010

"In John Neumeier’s ballet adaptation of “The Little Mermaid,” the title character undergoes an extreme physical ordeal so that she might live on land. As the orchestra plays a stomping series of cataclysmic chords, a malevolent sea witch wrenches off the mermaid’s fluid blue costume and leaves her almost naked and shivering onstage. With one of her newly acquired human limbs grotesquely contorted over her shoulder, the former mermaid looks like an insect that’s been flayed alive." more here

I must say this might appear to be a misogynistic interpretation of the original tale and look forward to reading other opinions.

Here is the original tale.

Here is an older review with John Neumeiere.

Could you tell us about the use of Japanese Noh and Kabuki techniques in the 'The Little Mermaid'?

The elements of Japanese theatre used in 'The Little Mermaid' are only part of the ballet; I would say it is part of my theatrical experience.

Since I was a student, I was very fascinated by Japanese culture. Particularly theatrical culture, Noh and Kabuki theatre, and also Japanese literary forms, such as poetry and Haiku.

If you are able to study many of my works I think you can see that techniques differ according to the 'essence' and nature of the ballet.

I think it is important, however, that in adapting a technique it must come from inside me, from inside my particular psyche, and not be used as a kind of decoration on top, just to make that work more interesting and exotic.

In the case of 'The Little Mermaid', it was the same situation: the idea of a ballet as an ìOdysseyî. These are works which have to do with fantastic, other-earthly worlds. This is always difficult in ballet, because we have the old, letís call it, slightly kitsch way of the 19 century, when we use theatrical illusions, to show this kind of world. I think that even elements of Noh or Kabuki theatre, which present these fantastic worlds in extremely clear and everyday lights, created a more intricate, much more modern interpretation...

If you have seen the performance let me know what you think.

Postscript: Here is an extract from an interesting review from the San Francisco Sentinel.

"Out of choreographer John Neumeier’s keen sense of style and timing comes a perfect union of panache and pathos. He has also designed the sets, costumes, and lighting. The vision is distinct and unforgettable. The score by Lera Auerbach is miraculous. Known for her stylistic freedom and use of sensual melodic lines that ebb and flow through riptides of atonality – Auerbach has provided the ideal soundscape for these dual realms of land and sea, and the conflicts of desire and unfulfilled love. The Little Mermaid echoes the romantic tragedy of Swan Lake, opening our hearts to the pangs of eternal longing. As with Tchaikovsky, Auerbach makes prolific use of a solo violin (Roy Malan) to color and punctuate the dramatic flow. The finale invites the imagination towards hope as it lifts its principal subjects – the mermaid and her creator/counterpart, “the Poet” – to an ambiguous starry wonderment."


goatman said...

You are on a roll -- such a wealth of culture. If it weren't for the noise I would like to live near or in SF.
But I am doomed to read your accounts and hope perhaps . . . someday to visit the beautiful city again.
Spring seems to be more appreciated these days.

Princess Haiku said...

Thanks, goatman. I am enjoying Spring this year also. It was a long and rainy season and now the flowers!