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Napoli at Costa MesaRoyal Danish Ballet Napoli at Segerstrom Center


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#1 odinthor

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Posted 29 May 2011 - 10:15 AM

I'm at a bit of a disadvantage to offer cogent remarks on the Napoli presented at Segerstrom Center in Orange County, California, Saturday night, as, despite forty years of ballet attendance, this was my first Napoli. It was for that reason, as you'll readily understand, much anticipated by myself; and perhaps it was also for that reason that I found myself just a bit disappointed.

As we expect with the Royal Danes, the dancing was strong and focused, offered with that easygoing confidence which excites the bonhomie of the audience towards the performers. This production was something of a high concept, with the tale being set in the 1950s, much de-religionized, and given a Fellini-easque treatment. To those who have had the happy opportunity to experience many Napolis in their audience-lifetimes, doubtless the change could be refreshing; to those who haven't--or at least this one--there is a nagging doubt as one trudges back to the car after the performance that one has really experienced Napoli; and with that I'd like to solicit the comments of those who have seen both more traditional performances as well as this current one.

The actual dancing--already, as we know from researching Napoli, rather elusive, most particularly in the first act--I found to be further obscured by the fussy business inherent to the Fellini-esque treatment. Too late does one realize that, oh yes, those fishermen over there have actually been dancing--dancing, mind you--while we have been distracted by the rich Neapolitan turmoil of children, bicyclists, tourists, streetwalkers, argumentation, gesticulation, and other what-not. Do we attend a ballet to be given insights into Italian street life of the 1950s? Many may be dubious. Yes, the alternative may be lengthy stretches of traditional ballet mime, trying, I know, to some; but the one goes with the territory, the other does not. Even the storytelling itself was sabotaged by this treatment; it was only chance, a sharp eye, and familiarity with the story which enabled me to pierce the general busy-ness and see and understand the significance of a split-second glimpse of sail--I think that's what that flash of white was!--when Gennaro and Teresina embarked. Even the very dance-y third act seemed to me claustrophobic and muddled by the production's Fellini approach.

If those who have enjoyed more traditional productions have had the same reaction to those productions, then I am left without much more to say than that the problem is inherent to the piece rather than to the production; but doesn't basic stagecraft demand that the treatment serve the priorities of the show, which I take to be dancing and story before spectacle, rather than to undercut it? The second act, simpler in concept, was strikingly beautiful in this production, both visually and choreographically, and shows how a complete reconceptualization can succeed magnificently; the act's new music was appropriately aqueous; Golfo and the Naiads were, appropriately, the sexiest creatures of the sea one could hope for; and the act could have washed over us for another hour or two without any complaints from the audience. The second act of this production will stay with me as a cherished memory; recollection of the rest will only make me sigh and wish for an opportunity to see a traditional production. Such are the paradoxes of ballet-going!

#2 wanderer1

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Posted 29 May 2011 - 05:56 PM

I agreed. act I has too much going on on a small stage. I had hard time to find out the 2 main characters. 2nd act was mesmerizing , music and choreographic wise. Waston and Stager in the martinee performance did not have chemistry. And act iii, female dancers did not do well. I had to stay for the evening performance to be satisfied.

#3 Anne

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Posted 11 December 2011 - 08:34 AM

The actual dancing--already, as we know from researching Napoli, rather elusive, most particularly in the first act--I found to be further obscured by the fussy business inherent to the Fellini-esque treatment. Too late does one realize that, oh yes, those fishermen over there have actually been dancing--dancing, mind you--while we have been distracted by the rich Neapolitan turmoil of children, bicyclists, tourists, streetwalkers, argumentation, gesticulation, and other what-not. Do we attend a ballet to be given insights into Italian street life of the 1950s? Many may be dubious.


Odinthor, I didn't read your post until today, so my reply comes a bit late, and maybe you will not see it at all, but anyway:
I wasn't particularily fond of this production either and I do understand your nagging doubt whether you have seen the real thing. But if it is any consolation to you, I can tell you that also the traditional 1st act of Napoli can be a frustrating experience for a first-time audience: it has always been impossible to catch all that happens on the stage. You simply has to see the ballet many times to get the full picture! (and still you will always miss something, because the dancers improvise and change things from performance to performance).There is not more going on in this production than in the traditional one. Actually Hübbe has been very true to the over all pattern of the original, often placing the characters in the same part of the stage, just with new clothes on and maybe doing other things.

#4 odinthor

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 08:48 AM

Thanks, Anne! Just wanted you to know I caught your thoughtful comments, which made me reflect further. When a show is "modernized"--even only modernized so far as the 1950s--some such as myself walk into the performance already burdened with suspicions and apprehensions (it's the "too much modernized Shakespeare" syndrome), and so--sometimes unfairly--quickly lay the blame about anything which displeases one at the feet of modernization and its adjuncts. When we're dealing with a show that has a certain flaw to begin with, I can see that companies are between a rock and a hard place: Complaints if you stage the traditional flaw, complaints (from traditionalists) if you change anything. Shows with built-in flaws, and how new productions deal with them, would probably make an interesting thread!


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