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The Little Mermaid - San Francisco Ballet / Auerbach, Neumeier

Auerbach / Tan / Riggins / Helimets / Van Patten
Release Date: 11/15/2011 
Label:  C Major   Catalog #: 708608  
Composer:  Lera Auerbach
Conductor:  Martin West
Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Ballet Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Also available on Blu-ray

Subtitles: German, French
Booklet: English, German, French
No. of Discs: 2
Run time: 134 minutes
Disc Format: DVD
Picture: NTSC, 16:9
Audio: PCM Stereo, PCM 5.1
Bonus Material: The little Mermaid- behind the scenes
Region Code: 0 (worldwide)

R E V I E W:


AUERBACH The Little Mermaid Read more Martin West, cond; John Neumeier (choreography); Yuan Yuan Tan ( Little Mermaid ); Lloyd Riggins ( Poet ); Tiit Helimets ( Prince ); Sarah van Patten (Princess ); Davit Karapetyan ( Sea Witch ); San Francisco Ballet; San Francisco Ballet O C MAJOR 708608 (2 DVDs: 119:00 + 35:00); 708704 (Blu-ray: 119:00 + 35:00) Live: San Francisco 4/30–5/7/2011

Bleak, brutal, and heartbreaking, John Neumeier’s dance adaptation of The Little Mermaid is likely to traumatize those children it does not baffle; this is a thoroughly adult account—inspired by certain aspects of Hans Christian Andersen’s life as well as his source story—of sexual repression, longing, and denial, and the literally disabling nature of unrequited love. The Mermaid, after saving a dashing Prince from drowning, falls in love with him and wants to pursue him onto land. But to do so, she must be stripped of her tailfin, which Neumeier presents as an agonizing flaying; the Mermaid’s new legs and feet, awkward and weak, are so useless that she spends most of her time on land despondent in a wheelchair. The Prince, meanwhile, regards the Mermaid lightly as a funny, gangly, odd little kid sister; his romantic attention turns elsewhere. All the while, in Neumeier’s account, the story is being written as we watch by an emotionally wrung-out Poet, a stand-in for Andersen, who himself seems to have been gut-wrenched by an adored male friend who went off and married a woman. No, actually the Poet doesn’t write the story as we go; it seems to unfold almost against his will, and ultimately to his horror. The Poet shadows the Mermaid through much of the ballet, and the story ends not at all happily, but with a duet that suggests the possibility of future transfiguration after long suffering.

Neumeier, as usual, employs only some elements of traditional ballet vocabulary, melding them into movement patterns drawn from modern dance, and paying special attention to gesture and facial expression; this story is acted as much as it is danced. Yuan Yuan Tan portrays the Mermaid as a happy, graceful creature in her natural element who becomes gangly, awkward, even a bit physically ugly when she thrusts herself into a realm in which she doesn’t belong. Together with choreographer Neumeier, in the “Mermaid’s Room” scene she creates a particularly realistic and distressing depiction through movement of claustrophobia and depression. Lloyd Riggins, as the Poet, has a role that is nearly as challenging, and turns in the most poignant performance here. Tiit Helimets is a virile, athletic Prince, and manages to make his character seem obtuse but not unlikeable. Davit Karapetyan is a menacing, very physical presence as the Sea Witch, who strips the Mermaid of her tail, while Sarah van Patten is more ethereal in her more limited role as the Princess.

Neumeier designed every element of this production except the music; that task fell to Lera Auerbach, whose chamber scores, at least, often call to mind Shostakovich and the more accessible side of Schnittke. Here, wresting much color from a full orchestra (including a subtly employed theremin, associated with the Mermaid), Auerbach knits together some memorable motifs and sequences that sometimes evoke other composers without ever seeming derivative (but what about that bit in the Sailors’ Dance that sounds like an allusion to Rota’s La Strada —accidental, or sly and intentional?). Perhaps the best stylistic comparison would be to John Corigliano’s Red Violin Passacaglia, although an actual passacaglia Auerbach provides for an intricate pas de quatre is more reminiscent of early Panufnik. In other words, it’s a dark work, but something easy enough for an audience to embrace. The excellent playing of the orchestra under Martin West puts the lie to the notion that pit orchestras are the worst orchestras.

The Blu-ray edition provides clarity through the underwater murk without sacrificing atmosphere, and the DTS-HD audio track gives the orchestra realistic depth and timbral precision. The 35 minutes of interviews are actually quite worthwhile in terms of expressing the dancers’ approaches to characterization, not the usual tedium of each artist praising all the others as geniuses who are wonderful to work with.

Neumeier’s Little Mermaid is not for people who prefer the pretty, psychologically shallow old story ballets. Put the kids to bed, watch this, and weep.

FANFARE: James Reel
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Works on This Recording

The Little Mermaid by Lera Auerbach
Conductor:  Martin West
Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Ballet Orchestra

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Sorry I got this one. December 6, 2011 By Barbara B. (Edmonton, AB) See All My Reviews "
This is a DVD of the ballet?? Mermaid has a LOT missing. I bought this DVD because I like the music of Lera Auerbach and ballet. I will probably never get the chance to see it live. If you have seen a live performance I am sure it would bring back fond memories. I thought I would get DVD of a ballet when I ordered this thing. I got a DVD which was shot while the ballet was going on but rarely got to see all on stage because the photographer decided that we wanted continuous close-ups usually of the faces - mainly that of the mermaid and her pathetic expression to understand that she had a problem. I can see this for short times but not for most of the DVD. A part of the time time the dancers had no feet or legs!! (and I am not talking about when the mermaid was supposed to have a tail which was cleverly done) The photographer did not understand that dancing and the enjoyment of dancing requires filming the entire body of the dancer - not just the face. It also requires you to show the entire stage and supporting dancers. If you want a movie ok if you want a ballet DVD go elsewhere . Overall one star. Dancing excellent but DVD highly annoying to watch. I am sure this is a lovely ballet it is just horribly annoying to see legless and footless dancers and so much emphasis on closeups of faces NOT the dancing.
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