THE LITTLE MERMAID – “This Girl’s Got Everything!”

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

THE LITTLE MERMAID steps in as a full-fledged Modern Classic. Marking its US premiere this past Saturday night at San Francisco Ballet, it is the supreme blending of Classical expectation and Contemporary expression. Out of choreographer John Neumeier’s keen sense of style and timing comes a perfect union of panache and pathos. He has also designed the sets, costumes, and lighting. The vision is distinct and unforgettable. The score by Lera Auerbach is miraculous. Known for her stylistic freedom and use of sensual melodic lines that ebb and flow through riptides of atonality – Auerbach has provided the ideal soundscape for these dual realms of land and sea, and the conflicts of desire and unfulfilled love. The Little Mermaid echoes the romantic tragedy of Swan Lake, opening our hearts to the pangs of eternal longing. As with Tchaikovsky, Auerbach makes prolific use of a solo violin (Roy Malan) to color and punctuate the dramatic flow. The finale invites the imagination towards hope as it lifts its principal subjects – the mermaid and her creator/counterpart, “the Poet” – to an ambiguous starry wonderment. The Little Mermaid was commissioned for the Royal Danish Ballet and debuted in Copenhagen in 2005. It is the “Hamburg Version”, presented in 2007, which has been re-staged at SF Ballet. Performances resume Tuesday evening, March 23rd, and will play consecutively through Sunday afternoon, March 28th. Make it part of your world. This Little Mermaid is not intended for young children.
Click here for ticket information: The Little Mermaid

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Yuan Yuan Tan and Lloyd Riggins in Neumeier’s The Little Mermaid.
Photo, Erik Tomasson

See John Neumeier’s synopsis: The Little Mermaid

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Yuan Yuan Tan and Tiit Helimets. Photo, Erik Tomasson

The principals for the Opening Night performance included Lloyd Riggins (guest artist, courtesy of Hamburg Ballet) as “The Poet”, Yuan Yuan Tan as “The Little Mermaid”, Tiit Helimets as “Edvard/The Prince”, Sarah Van Patten as “Henriette/The Princess”, and Davit Karapetyan as “The Sea Witch”. Neumeier’s various ensembles include “the Magic Shadows”, a trio that supports the mermaid in her prone swimming position, lifting her as she moves upwards, and stretching the long fabric of her fins as she glides through the ocean waters. On board with the passengers are naval officers, stewards and sailors. On land, at a convent school, are the uniformed classmates of “The Princess” and a pair of nuns sporting a floppy winged-variety of wimpole. Beneath the surface are sisters of the mermaid, and a school of dancers who represent the sea and the undulating life within it.

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Davit Karapetyan, as The Sea Witch. Photo, Erik Tromasson

The role of the anti-hero — the controller of spells and the seductive presence of evil — belongs to “The Sea Witch” and his entourage of masked thugs. He re-appears in the palace on the wedding day of the Prince and Princess and offers the bewildered and humanized mermaid – now a bridesmaid – a magic knife. It is her ticket back to the sea. Just plunge the dagger into the Bridegroom Prince and by the time he is cold dead, she will have re-gained her tail and fins. She weighs her distraught state and considers the consequences of murder as she weaves through the richly decked-out ensemble of guests. Another very-telling ensemble are five wavy strands of neon – each the width of the stage – representing the depths of the ocean and its twisting currents. Each is raised, lowered and tilted to indicate degrees of turbulence, storm and calm. The device is simple and the effect is ultimately fabulous.

Click on the photo to watch:
John Neumeier – Ballet Director and Chief Choreographer, Hamburg Ballet
in rehearsal with SF Ballet: The Little Mermaid Video
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Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith
Photo, Erik Tomasson

The Opening Night cast returns on Tuesday, March 24th. On Wednesday, Sarah Van Patten appears as the Mermaid, Pierre-François Vilanoba as the Prince, Vanessa Zahorian as the Princess, Pascal Molat as the Poet, and Garen Scribner as the Sea Witch. All casting is subject to change. Click here to see the complete roster: Casting

Click on the photo to order tickets on-line
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Tiit Helimets and Yuan Yuan Tan. Photo, Erik Tomasson

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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