Neumeier's THE LITTLE MERMAID Returns To SF Ballet, April 19–28

Neumeier's THE LITTLE MERMAID Returns To SF Ballet, April 19–28

John Neumeier's provocative adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid returns to San Francisco Ballet April 19-28 at SF War Memorial Opera House. American-born Neumeier, who has been the director and chief choreographer of Hamburg Ballet since 1973, uses his own set, costume, and lighting designs for the ballet, which features an original score by Lera Auerbach. Renowned thereminist Carolina Eyck performs with the Grammy Award-winning SF Ballet Orchestra for the run of the production. Created for The Royal Danish Ballet in 2005 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Andersen's birth, The Little Mermaid received its U.S. premiere at San Francisco Ballet in 2010 and was last seen with the Company the following year.

Like Andersen's original story, Neumeier's ballet narrates the journey of a young woman who sacrifices everything-companionship, physical ability, and identity-to pursue the one she loves. Itself a work of theater, the ballet demands dramatic intensity from each of its characters: the Mermaid, who is violently stripped of her tail; the Poet, in whom Andersen's own sexuality is manifested (the character longs for the Prince, just like the Mermaid); the wicked Sea Witch, who casts the Mermaid's every step to "feel as if [she] were treading upon sharp knives...that the blood must flow"; and the handsome Prince, whose unrequited love for the Mermaid gives rise to the psychological warfare on display. Neumeier's own production elements result in a striking display of underwater and terrestrial worlds; Japan's historic Noh theater inspired Neumeier's painted, mask-like faces, and the Mermaid's tail "swims" with help from flanks of silk draped around the ballerina's legs-a reference to the wide-legged trousers of medieval Japan.

Russian-American composer Lera Auerbach's original score gives "voice" to the Mermaid by way of the electronic theremin, and San Francisco Ballet's 2019 performances return world-renowned thereminist Carolina Eyck, who recently made history as the first person to play the instrument in NPR Music's Tiny Desk Concert, to the orchestra pit. "When playing the theremin there is always a symbiosis of self-control and freedom," Eyck says. "You have to sit absolutely still to play a single note in tune, but at the same time you are conducting air and feel the power of music in your hands. If you can control your movements precisely you will hear a delicate, touching melody. In the music by Lera Auerbach, this is the voice of The Little Mermaid, singing about her freedom and the price she has to pay for it."

Additional information, including The Little Mermaid's program notes and synopsis, is available on San Francisco Ballet's website, in its Discovery section. Meet the Artist pre and post-performance interviews occur on April 19, 27, and 28. The Little Mermaid's Pointes of View lecture with dance educator Mary Wood is April 24 at 6:00 pm.

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