THE SNOW QUEEN – Ballet by Michael Corder in Vilnius – Beautiful
Review by Henning Høholt. Foto: Martynas Aleksa
VILNIUS/LITHUANIA: The Snow Queen by Michael Corder with Sergei Prokofiev´s music arranged by Julian Philips, was premiered with the Lithuanian National Ballet in Vilnius during three days with partly different casts.
Except in the titelrole, where, due to an accident the wonderful star, ERINA TAKAHASHI, from English National Ballet entered Vilnius on Monday afternooen and has brilliantly been dancing the titelrole on all the premieres, and at the rehersals and the general rehersals before the premieres.
The beautiful fairytale has been a success for the company and for Michael Corder. The audience deeply feels the danish fairytale author Hans Christian Andersens romantic and dramatic presence, and Michael Corder together with his great team, beautiful scenography and costumes by Mark Bailey, one of the really great designers in the world to day. Beautiful light by Paul Pyant and videos showing ice, snow, clouds, moon and the Snow Queen by Mantas Boiko.
Marilyn Jean Vella-Gatt has assisted the choreographer, and made that this whole evening ballet (3 hours with two breaks) has been such a great work.
The Michael Corder team has managed to make this magnific fairy tale come through in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. At its best, the music inspires Corder to some magisterial set pieces.
As the general manager Gintautas Kevisas mentioned in his speach at the premiere party, he feels that this will be a succes in many ways, also commercially. The last premiere performance, Sunday 18th was a matiné starting at 12, with the audience full of childrens together with relatives. They loved it.
At this 3rd performance the Lithuanian National Opera Orchestra sounded great. Prokofievs music is demanding for the musicians, for the dancers and for the audience, since the first evening an until now, it has been growing and is now at its very best, conducted by Martynas Staskus, who I hope will continue to keep the tempi right, and not running too fast for the dancers complicated choreographic language.
It’s also a pleasure that Corder uses proper music, as far as I have understod (?), the Sergei Prokofiev ballet score The Stone Flower, arranged by Julian Philips with a few additions from other works. At its best, this has the pulse and orchestral drama of Prokofiev’s finest ballet music, – echoes resonate from both Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella, but still it is non of these two ballets it is The Snow Queen.
Michael Corder’s Snow Queen was premiered in London in 2007 but already it looks set to become an English National Ballet company staple. As an alternative to the ubiquitous Christmas Nutcracker, it’s obviously a big box office asset
. As it will proably be here in Vilnius. Furthermore, unlike the Nutcracker, it has sufficient challenges to flatter most of its cast.
I am too pleased to notice that Corder is famously a man who never runs out of steps, and it’s a pleasure to see the ease with which his choreography powers through this ballet’s three acts, from the icily bevelled movement of the Snow Queen, ERINA TAKAHASHI, to the flushed and dreamy dancing of little Gerda, Kristina Gudziunaité, in love.
At moments, the dancing is a blinding blizzard of energy, as the Queen’s courtiers spin in cutting formations around the bewildered girl, then abruptly the space clears to become a duel of wills, the queen swooping down from a high lift ready to drive Gerda from her path, – in the penultimate scene, where Gerda arrives at the Snow Queen’s palace. This kind of details shows Corder’s talent for choreographing a ballet stage. It is ike the Snow Queen is flying, thank to her two good tall wolves, Martynas Rimeikis and Ernestas Barcaitis.
It’s all very elegant and at moments poetic. But for them who has read and know H.C.Andersens fairy tale since childhood, as this critic has, yet its unwillingness to confront the perverse, eldritch terrors of the Andersen tale, is a minor weakness of Corder’s ballet, but that it is not of any importence for the production where Corder has choosed the parts from the fairytale suiting his balletversion.
The crisis where Kay gets the splinter of glass in his eye, (the leading male role) very well dances and performed by Genadij Zukovskij, that I enjoyed both at the Friday and Sunday performances. At Sunday he was at his very best, relaxed after the first premiere evening.
Ironically, when he gets the splinter of glass in his eye.
There is unfortunately no music to underline this high light in the history. An unfortunately, furthermore the long second-act ball scene, which is greatly choreographed, and very well danced by the corps des ballet, marking Kay’s arrival at the Queen’s court, comes with music that is just too worldly, too much fun.
This is hardly a heartless frozen wilderness, it looks and sounds a whole lot more appealing, than the mortal world Kay has just left behind.
With special pleasure I enjoyed the gipsy groups, geaded by the two outstanding soloists Mantas Daraskevicius, and Inga Cibulskyte, two of the new generations young stars, full of energi, and Daraskevicius with brilliant jumps, and other details in their dance
• Ejaculationactivities e.g. walking one mile on the level in 20 generic viagra.
In the gipsy scene in the last act.
I was in addition specially very impressed by the energetic whole group of male gipsy dancers, who have taken the choreographers demanging challenge and did a great job.
The two sweet foxes were danced on Friday by Maja Dolidze and Haruka Ohono and on Sunday by Julija Turkina and once again Haruka Ohni. The sweet handsome Reindeer was both Friday and Sunday danced by Voicechas Zuromskas, who has a demanding job with a lot of difficult feetwork in his pas de deux with Gerda. It worked well, but can still be developed and done even better. The two rose fees Romas Ceizaris and Eligijus Butkus, were brilliant. Gerdas mother Jolanta Davolyté.
Regarding Mark Bailey’s good designs of scenography and costumes. The glamour of the Snow Queen’s palace is beautifully done, with crystal glitter, it looks like it is an ice throne for the queen, and an eerie white light. The costumes for the sprites, the wolves and foxes are great, giving a good, charming atmosphaere, and the reindeer is brilliant. But the sets and costumes for Kay and Gerda’s village look as they’ve been taken from an old staging of Giselle.
The costumes are good, but since I have understood that we are supposed to be in Lapland, situated in the northern part of Russis, Finland, Sweden, Norway, i would have liked that the costumes could have had even a bit more Lapland atmosphaere, the forms are right, but they could have had even more details. And since Kay and some of his friends in the first part are in Russian shirts, it becomes a bit strange. However the total result is good.
SNOW QUEEN will return to the program in the autumn, as far as I know with premiere 26th. October, and then hopefully with the primaballerina OLGA KONOSENKO in the titelrole, as originally planned.
Cast of premieres on 16 and 18 May, 2014:
The Snow Queen – Erina Takahashi
Kay – Genadij Žukovskij
Gerda – Kristina Gudžiūnaitė
Gerda’s Grandmother, Old Gypsy Woman – Jolanta Davolytė
Gypsy Girl – Inga Cibulskytė
Gypsy Boy – Mantas Daraškevičius
Sprites – Grytė Dirmaitė, Rūta Juodzevičiūtė, Greta Gylytė, Jekaterina Kučinskienė, Danielius Dolanas, Kipras Chlebinskas, Stanislavas Semianura, Ignas Armalis
Wolves – Martynas Rimeikis, Ernestas Barčaitis
Foxes – Maja Dolidzė, Haruka Ohno
Roses – Romas Ceizaris, Eligijus Butkus
The Reindeer – Voicechas Žuromskas
Lapland Woman – Ilva Juodpusytė
Michael Corder, The choreographer, regisseur and director, himself tells about his inspiration to make SNOW QUEEN ballet:
“I’d had the idea of creating a ballet of The Snow Queen for many years. I had always thought Hans Christian Andersen’s original fairy tale beautiful and fascinating in its mythological feel and the way it deals with nature.
For me, the key to creating this ballet was Sergei Prokofiev’s music for The Stone Flower, composed in 1948, as I had always loved Prokofiev’s music and had a special affection for this score in particular ever since I first heard it as a teenager.
Later, with my career developing as a choreographer, it became one of the scores I wanted to choreograph but unfortunately, as the story of The Stone Flower is based on two rather obscure Russian folk tales, it doesn’t have the universal appeal of Romeo & Juliet or Cinderella,
Prokofiev’s two other great ballets, both of which I had already tackled. Listening to the score of The Stone Flower, I was free to make my own associations with this wonderful music.
The various rustic, magical and wintry sounding elements in the score seemed to me to lend themselves completely naturally to the requirements of The Snow Queen story. And so the idea stayed on the shelf until I felt the time was right to finally develop it as a full-length ballet.
The next stage in the development of The Snow Queen was to transform the original story into a three act scenario that would work as a ballet. I started by storyboarding the action alongside the music I had already selected from The Stone Flower, so I could see how the story would unfold on stage and I realised it would be necessary to use other music by Prokofiev as well. After selecting the other pieces I brought in composer Julian Philips who has done a wonderful job of cutting where necessary and editing the music to produce a score that sounds as if Prokofiev had written it specifically for The Snow Queen.
I have tried to keep as close as possible to the main action and spirit of the original story but I have had to cut out some elements and characters in order to avoid the action becoming too episodic and to keep the production within a reasonable time length. For instance, I have cut the Prince and Princess section of the story completely; I also removed the rather sentimental religious connotations at the end of the tale, as I think they weakened Gerda’s courage and strength of character as the heroine of the piece as well as the power of the Snow Queen herself as the personification of Winter and a force of Nature.
Another issue was to construct the action so that the main characters of The Snow Queen, Kay and Gerda, had substantial appearances in each act. For example, the Enchanted Garden section of the story became a dream sequence where the roses in the garden reveal Kay to Gerda in a pas de deux that reaffirms her deep love for him and inspires her on her journey. It was also necessary to adapt the idea of the mirror at the beginning of the story so that it’s much more connected with the Snow Queen herself, the impossible task she sets for Kay and her desire to see herself reign forever as eternal winter.”