PeggyR

SFB 2010 The Little Mermaid

22 posts in this topic

Casts for the entire run of the U.S. premiere of John Neumeier's 'The Little Mermaid'.

Here's a link to a 7 1/2 minute preview, including rehearsal footage plus interviews with Neumeier and some of the dancers. At about 3:43 Sarah Van Patten mentions that she, Yuan Yuan Tan and Lorena Feijoo all dance the Mermaid; however, unfortunately Feijoo doesn't show up on the cast list.

Note a couple of guest appearances by Lloyd Riggins, former principal dancer with the RDB and Hamburg Ballet (3/20 and 3/23).

    

Opening Night, Saturday, March 20, 2010, 8pm

THE LITTLE MERMAID

Choreographer: John Neumeier

Mermaid: Yuan Yuan Tan*

Prince: Tiit Helimets*

Princess: Sarah Van Patten*

Poet: Lloyd Riggins^

Sea Witch: Davit Karapetyan*

    

Sunday, March 21, 2010, 2pm

Mermaid: Sarah Van Patten*

Prince: Pierre-François Vilanoba*

Princess: Vanessa Zahorian*

Poet: Damian Smith*

Sea Witch: Garen Scribner*

    

Tuesday, March 23, 2010, 8pm

Mermaid: Yuan Yuan Tan

Prince: Tiit Helimets

Princess: Sarah Van Patten

Poet: Lloyd Riggins^

Sea Witch: Davit Karapetyan

    

Wednesday, March 24, 2010, 7:30pm

Mermaid: Sarah Van Patten

Prince: Pierre-François Vilanoba

Princess: Vanessa Zahorian

Poet: Pascal Molat*

Sea Witch: Garen Scribner  

 

Thursday, March 25, 2010, 8pm

Mermaid: Yuan Yuan Tan

Prince: Tiit Helimets

Princess: Sarah Van Patten

Poet: Damian Smith

Sea Witch: Davit Karapetyan

    

Friday, March 26, 2010, 8pm

Mermaid: Sarah Van Patten

Prince: Pierre-François Vilanoba

Princess: Vanessa Zahorian

Poet: Pascal Molat

Sea Witch: Garen Scribner

    

Saturday, March 27, 2010, 2pm

Mermaid: Sarah Van Patten

Prince: Pierre-François Vilanoba

Princess: Vanessa Zahorian

Poet: Pascal Molat

Sea Witch: Garen Scribner

    

Saturday, March 27, 2010, 8pm

Mermaid: Yuan Yuan Tan

Prince: Tiit Helimets

Princess: Sarah Van Patten

Poet: Damian Smith

Sea Witch: Davit Karapetyan

    

Sunday, March 28, 2010, 2pm

Mermaid: Yuan Yuan Tan

Prince: Tiit Helimets

Princess: Sarah Van Patten

Poet: Damian Smith

Sea Witch: Davit Karapetyan

* Denotes premiere in role

^ Denotes guest artist

Casting subject to change

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I did not see this ballet, but I received a call from my sister last night who happened to be in San Francisco this week for continuing medical education. She was walking back to the hotel from last night's opening performance of SFB's Little Mermaid and she felt she had to call me because she was quite disturbed. She told me that Yuan Yuan Tan was amazing, but the ballet was "awful". She felt like she had been trapped inside "The Scream" (yes, the painting) for two and a half hours. Apparently even the music was disturbing.

My sister does not go regularly to the ballet, but she enjoys a treat occasionally to see good ballet when it is available to her. I was really surprised by her reaction as the pictures that SF Ballet put out for media purposes looked very beautiful. I looked to see if there were any reviews about this production and I see that others feel it is dark and disturbing also. Too bad, because it looked very beautiful.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/21/arts/dan...1sfculture.html

Is it common for the San Francisco newspapers to not review the openings of major productions of their major ballet company? I find it surprising that I'm not able to find a local review. Did anyone else see this performance and what did you think of it?

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Does anybody know if there are any plan to record this for a DVD release?

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The San Francisco newspapers (such as they are) do review opening nights (25 words or less it seems; still, it's better than nothing), but since the opening was on Saturday, the reviews probably won't show up until Monday in the print media, although something may be on-line before the morning papers hit the streets. Also, check the NYTimes after 9 pm PDT; sometimes Alastair Macaulay reviews major openings outside of New York. Also you can Google Paul Parish at the Bay Area Reporter; I don't know if/when he'll post a review there, but if he does, he always has insightful comments. (Sorry, but I can't do links at the moment; I'm having internet connectivity problems -- it's taken nearly an hour to get this posted).

I'd heard it was disturbing; there were numerous warnings to subscribers, et al, that this was definitely NOT for children.

Waelsung: Didn't I read somewhere that the Hamburg Ballet released a DVD of this? Can't look it up right now until my connection stabilizes :)

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All one has to do is research the origins of the story by H.C. Andersen to understand that Disney (who most assume invented the story) didn't tell his story.

And I quote:

The Little Mermaid, longing for the prince and an eternal soul, eventually visits the Sea Witch, who sells her a potion that gives her legs, in exchange for her tongue (as the Little Mermaid has the most intoxicating voice in the world). Drinking the potion will make her feel as if a sword is being passed through her, yet when she recovers she will have two beautiful legs, and will be able to dance like no human has ever danced before. However, it will constantly feel like she is walking on sharp swords, and her feet will bleed most terribly. In addition, she will only get a soul if the prince loves her and marries her, for then a part of his soul will flow into her. Otherwise, at dawn on the first day after he marries another woman, the Little Mermaid will die brokenhearted and disintegrate into sea foam.
The Little Mermaid cannot bring herself to kill the sleeping prince lying with his bride and, as dawn breaks, throws herself into the sea. Her body dissolves into foam, but instead of ceasing to exist, she feels the warmth of the sun; she has turned into a spirit, a daughter of the air. The other daughters of the air tell her she has become like them because she strove with all her heart to gain an eternal soul. She will earn her own soul by doing good deeds, and she will eventually rise up into the kingdom of God.

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Waelsung: Didn't I read somewhere that the Hamburg Ballet released a DVD of this? Can't look it up right now until my connection stabilizes :)

Peggy: I can't find any evidence of it whatsoever. Would really appreciate any leads if such a DVD does indeed exist.

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Thanks for the info Peggy, I will keep looking for the review. I'd love to hear what other people who saw the performance thought. I suspect my sister was looking to go see a lovely, beautiful performance of the SF Ballet and was totally unprepared for the type of ballet it was. Probably no warning whatsoever since she was from out of town. I had not heard that it was dark either.

It reminds me when I took my young daughter with a bunch of other ballet moms and their girls to see Kings of the Dance a few years ago. We really wanted to see Ethan Stiefel and I was shocked when I ended up watching a creepy performance of The Lesson with a young ballet student being murdered on stage. I simply wasn't prepared for that and it ruined the rest of my evening and couldn't enjoy the rest of the performance. I certainly wouldn't have taken our girls to it had I known. Warnings are good, I watch for them now.

Waelsung, there's a mention in that NY Times review that states "viewing of the DVD of a November 2009 Hamburg performance shows". Don't know if that helps your hunt at all, it may have been a privately filmed DVD for all I know. Good luck with your search.

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Let's hope this only gets posted once! Sorry about the triple post earlier; at times I can only hold on to a connection for about three minutes and it didn't look like the earlier attempts to post got through.

Finally managed to get to Chloe Veltman's article in the NYTimes mentioned by Kitcat:

"ARTS

By CHLOE VELTMAN

Published: March 19, 2010

For audiences weaned on the peppy 1989 Walt Disney animated film version of “The Little Mermaid,” Mr. Neumeier’s relentlessly bleak take on Hans Christian Andersen’s 1837 fairy tale ... may come across as a bit of a shock. .....cavorting crabs and singing sea urchins were nowhere to be found, as a viewing of the DVD of a November 2009 Hamburg performance shows."

According to the SFB program notes, if sounds as if there are two versions:

"World Premiere: April 15, 2005—The Royal Danish Ballet Copenhagen, Denmark
Hamburg Version: July 1, 2007—The Hamburg Ballet Hamburg, Germany 
San Francisco Ballet Premiere: March 20, 2010 War Memorial Opera House; San Francisco, California

Music originally commissioned by The Royal Danish Ballet. Current performing version (Hamburg Version) commissioned by The Hamburg Ballet...."

Presumably SFB is performing the Hamburg version and it sounds like Veltman is referring to this version being on DVD. I've checked Amazon UK but there's nothing there. Maybe Amazon.de or BelaireClassiques might have something, but I can't get to them right now (frustration!!!).

Here's Rita Feliciano's review in DanceViewTimes: and Allan Ulrich's in SFGate.

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Thanks, PeggyR, for starting the thread, and for the compliment. Yes, i've written -- hastily, but that's what it's like when your deadline comes fast -- thoguh the article won't be out till Wednesday, since the B.A. R. is a weekly. Look for it at www.ebar.com Wednesday evening (Pacific time).

THank you for posting both Rita Felciano's and Allan Ulrich's reviews, which are both very fine pieces.

I can't say any more at this point, except that the show should be seen so we can all talk about it.

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Just an FYI: it turns out that Chloe Veltman is a Bay Area arts reporter for the NYTimes, and she has a blog where the article in question appears. I posted a comment there asking for information about the DVD. If there's a reply, I'll post it here.

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Could the dvd be the set mentioned in this article? It isn't clear if the viewer saw the whole ballet or excerpts.

However there was something more, though it did not happen on the stage of the opera-house, and that was the publication of a DVD box, containing three discs of together 530 minutes of duration. Under the title “John Neumeier´s Ballett-Werkstatt” it presents a collection of his matinées from the seventies and early eighties, where he lectured on the basics of ballet, starting with the demonstration of the build-up of daily classes, and from there progressing to the finer details of choreography and how a ballet grows from its very first rehearsels to its finished product, with lots of excerpts from bis rich repertory, performed by many dancers from his early Hamburg days, including Lynne Charles, Marianne Kruuse, Beatrice Cordua and Gigi Hyatt through Kevin Haigen, François Klaus, Ivan Liska and Max Midinet – an excellent account of his educational efforts to teach the audience how to look at a ballet and how it takes shape.

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Neumeier is still conducting these matinées!

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Thanks so much Peggy for posting those reviews, they are very descriptive and interesting. It really would be nice if SF Ballet would make a DVD of Yuan Yuan Tan's performance, as it sounds like she is really spectacular in this ballet. I too would love to take a look at it.

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THanks, innopac -- that makes a lot of things fall into place --

such as the news, from Llolyd Riggins's "meet hte artist" talk, that Neumeier is still changing "the Little Mermaid" -- this version is hte SanFrancisco version, and htere are some sizable differences from the earlier versions. E.g., that the poet had never appeared in the wedding scene before.

EVERYONE says he is wonderful to work with....

SO he must cast a considerable personal spell.

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But overall, Auerbach's score at the most was serviceable; too often it was so overbearing to border the cliche.

The same could be said for both reviews. :blush:

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I wrote a couple of emails and have just been told that the dvd of Hamburg Ballet performing The Little Mermaid is not available for the public. It sounds as if it is a filmed dvd used as an additional record of the ballet.

Added later: Just got an email from the company. "There are no plans to film this ballet at the moment."

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I wrote a couple of emails and have just been told that the dvd of Hamburg Ballet performing The Little Mermaid is not available for the public. It sounds as if it is a filmed dvd used as an additional record of the ballet.

Added later: Just got an email from the company. "There are no plans to film this ballet at the moment."

Here's the reply I received from Chloe Veltman:

Chloe Veltman has left a new comment on the post "Taking a Children’s Tale to Dark New DepthsNEW YOR...":

Hello Margaret

The DVD isn't available for public viewing -- Because I had to file my story in advance of the opening of the ballet at the weekend, the press department at SF Ballet kindly allowed me to come in to the office to view a DVD of the Hamburg performance.

Best wishes

Chloe

Posted by Chloe Veltman to work at March 22, 2010 9:14 AM

Oh well.

It's interesting too that on another board there are some rapturous comments about Sarah Van Patten's performance on Sunday afternoon. I'm going to be seeing both Tan and Van Patten over the weekend.

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All one has to do is research the origins of the story by H.C. Andersen to understand that Disney (who most assume invented the story) didn't tell his story.

Here's a link to an English translation of Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid. With the exception of the Poet and the Poet/Prince love story, Neumeier seems to keep pretty close to the original.

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It's interesting too that on another board there are some rapturous comments about Sarah Van Patten's performance on Sunday afternoon. I'm going to be seeing both Tan and Van Patten over the weekend.

I'll be very interested to hear your comments on both performances!

I found a couple more reviews if anyone is interested:

Rachel Howard of San Francisco Classical Voice http://sfcv.org/reviews/san-francisco-ball...s-under-the-sea

and Ann Murphy of the San Jose Mercury News http://www.mercurynews.com/entertainment/ci_14732376

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Little Mermaid, Saturday 3/27 2:00 Memorial Opera House

Cast: Sarah Van Pattan:Mermaid; Pierre Francois Vilanoba:The Prince; The Princess:Vanessa Zahorian;Sea Witch:Garen Scribner;Poet:Pascal Molat.

John Neumeier's the Little Mermaid is about as far from Disney as a work of art can get. Nor is it Hans Christian Andersen Danny Kaye style... it's Hans Christian Andersen, tortured gay man in love with a straight man who just got married and doesn't really give Hans' infatuation a second though style. That one. So he then wrote a heartbreaking story about the ultimate outsider whose profound love for a man wasn't returned and it killed their bodily existence. Someone who is completely divorced from their body (Andersen was pretty much a gay man who died a virgin despite an unconsummated infatuation with Jenny Lind) And this story provides the basis for one of the most striking and moving ballet/theater performances I've ever seen.

It's a curious combination of a lot of styles and, of course, Neumeier's dark dramatic choreography. Some sections really reminded me of Antony Tudor ballets. Others reminded me of Robert Wilson and Lucinda Childs. Sometimes I felt as if I was watching a silent film with Lilian Gish or a butoh performance. The end reminded me a lot of Graham's Clytemnestra. And in the middle of it all is the role of a lifetime for the right dancer. I know Yuan Yuan got wonderful reviews and opening night... but I can not imagine should could have performed this better than Sarah Van Patten.

Van Patten is an incredible actress... I've seen this hinted at in a lot of roles, but here, she's just amazing. Sometimes she's a bratty teenager, other times a spirit of beauty, sometimes ET the extra-terrestrial, Petrushka, other times the aforementioned Lillian Gish playing the Little Match Girl. She is at once heart breaking and miraculous and, not to put any other dancers down, I can't them doing this role as well as her. One thing Van Patten has is completely convincing look of goofiness, vulnerability and awkwardness which I don't see either Tan nor Feijoo having to the same degree. Van Patten's incredible performance in the claustrophobic room scene at the beginning of the second half was burned into my heart and mind. Her incredible solo at the end, after she's unable to murder the man she loves had me crying. I don't cry at the ballet too often. If you see her doing it at some point in the future, bring a good pair of opera glasses, because her face and eyes are miraculous.

Close behind was Molat's Poet. The Poet (basically Andersen) mirrors much of what goes on in the ballet. It sounds hokey but it works brilliantly here. His self-loathing, sense of failure, helplessness and need to express himself come through beautifully. Garen Scribner was the Sea Witch... a wild combination of Carabosse, Michael Clark (the punk Nijinsky) and the late performance artist Leigh Bowery. It has to be the more queertastic/off the wall characters I've ever seen at SF Ballet (which can be kind of stodgy and... um, heterosexual at times). His incredible dance with the Little Mermaid towards the end involving the knife is one you won't forget. Nor his S&M crew always shadowing him and doing his dirty work. The most incredible scene of all was when the Little Mermaid loses her fin and gets her legs. First off, a warning, it is an incredibly brutal scene... almost more like a rape than an act of magic. It has a violent power which both revulses and attracts. You realize it's a pact with the devil and truly understand what she's going through for the love of her human. I just kept finding myself saying "girl, please don't do this, please, it's NOT worth it."

And then there's the humans. Needless to say, Neumeier doesn't have a high regard for the human race. They are boring and vapid and petty and vain. The main iconography for the Prince, the man the Little Mermaid is destroying her body for, is a golf club. I didn't need this production to cement my dislike of golfers in general (sorry, I'm bigoted) and golf culture... but if you don't feel like cramming that golf club down his throat by the end of it... you're inhuman. Vilanoba looks gorgeous (as usual), plays the unconscious vapidity perfectly and was a wonder in the storm scene where he's rescued by the mermaid. Along with the Prince was Vanessa Zahorian as the Princess... basically a spoiled debutante who moves through the world with a sense of privilege the Little Mermaid will never have. Zahorian gets it dead on. In the second act, she's joined by a corps of, what almost look like a group of Jackie Kennedys (well, in fuller skirts) with pillbox hats and a righteous belief the world is made for them. The male corps, the sailers, provide more eye candy (in a very homoerotic, muscular way in their first act dance) and as an officer corps at the prince and princesses' wedding, a counterpart for the pillbox girls.

There are so many scenes which stand out in this production... the opening (all silent, no music) involving Andersen's love object getting married, the storm, the incredible transformation scene, the perverse and sarcastic ship scene, Van Patten's tour de force at the beginning of the second act and the maddening wedding. It's all incredibly vivid.

That is not to say there aren't some dead moments. The first half alone is 1hr 20mins and, before the transformation scene, there were a few times I was NOT liking Lera Auerbach's atonal marathon (nor about 10 mins which could have been cut... but I don't think Neumeier plays that game). The score livens up a lot starting with the transformation scene. The score has some definite high points... I loved, again, the transformation scene, the sailor's dance, and ship scene and all of the second half. Again, there was a lot of not terribly interesting music earlier in the first half. There are some witty musical quotes throughout the piece which always surprised me wafting through and then vanishing. Mostly, it is a dark score and I wondered if a little more variety would have made it even more powerful.

Neumeier also designed the brilliant set. Especially loved the light tubes which create the waves and the Mermaid's bedroom which looks like something from the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Special mention has to be made of what is maybe my favorite scene change of all time... when they literally change the angle of the ship onstage in open view. Scenic magic which reminded me a lot of Robert Wilson's work like Einstein on the Beach. Neumeier also designed the witty costumes which feature both retro camp and a sense of wickidness which reminded me of the costumes in "The Hard Nut"... only darker.

This is an incredible new work to have in their repertory. I'm glad Helgi is actually taking some chances this year and bringing some pieces with a more post-modern edge. I can't imagine how wonderful the Little Mermaid must be to perform and it is a real stretch.

Apart from a few flat stretches in the first half, the Little Mermaid offers the darkest kind of magic and the most sublime expression of unrequited love. If you can see it with Van Patten... so much the better, but just see it. How very sad there are only 2 more performances of it left this season.

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Thanks ginasf for taking the time to write that review! I was wondering how Van Patten was in the role. It's wonderful that both ballerinas brought a great quality to it.

It sounds like SF Ballet did really well with The Little Mermaid in ticket sales and the crowds certainly must have liked it what with all the standing ovations I read about in the reviews. Someday I'd like to go see The Little Mermaid, now that I'm prepared for what I'd be seeing!

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I loved Van Patten's performance too. After she got her legs she managed to looked like some embryonic, other-worldly creature, not quite either land or sea. I loved how she uses her eyes. She left me emotionally shredded by the end -- and she looked exhausted at the curtain calls.

On Sunday I saw Yuan Yuan Tan's performance and while she couldn't match Van Patten's emotional intensity, this was by far the best thing I've ever seen Tan do. She was astonishing in the underwater scene -- perfect for that rippling flexibility she has. Her land-based mermaid was less successful that Van Patten's -- Tan seemed more fully human -- albeit frail, breakable. But given that Tan isn't known as a actress, she came through emotionally, though without Van Patten's subtle shadings.

A detail I liked about both performances -- not sure if it was deliberate or not -- but in Part II, when the mermaid is on land with her new legs, while all the other female characters wore new, shiny pointe shoes, the mermaid's shoes were old, dirty, frayed -- as if she's been given second hand feet.

Overall I enjoyed the ballet a lot more than expected, although I have to agree with some of the criticisms voiced here and elsewhere. It's hard to believe the story couldn't be considerably streamlined, even with the addition of the Poet. Some bits simply went on too long for the limited value they added to the story -- the sailors, some of the shipboard; entertaining, yes, but really not necessary. By the end, it felt like Neumeier was throwing in everything, including apparently some refugees from Halloween at Hamburger Mary's. Ultimately, I decided just to accept the ballet on its own terms for what it is (eccentric), and not worry about what it isn't (Swan Lake) -- helped a lot.

Before the performance, I went to the Meet the Artist interview with Pascal Molat. A couple of tidbits about next season: Molat said he was looking forward to playing the Poet in The Little Mermaid again next year, so it sounds like it will be back. Also, he mentioned that Wayne McGregor would be at SFB next season, although he didn't say for what, new ballet or staging something existing. And after the interview was over, Molat introduced his new baby boy, who is named -- are you ready for this -- Matisse. Little Matisse (who's about four months old) glared at the audience for a few seconds and then broke into one of those baby smiles that reduces 200 intelligent adults to puddles of jelly. Tough act to follow.

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