Peter Pan: May 14th, 2019, Vienna State Ballet (Volksoper)
It is a good feeling to start a review with positive words: What a delightful, entertaining evening!
Some people seem to have a kind of prejudice against the ballet „Dépendance“ of the Vienna State Ballet at the Volksoper. Why? If I may ask... A gifted, versatile Ensemble. Yes, I would like herewith to emphasize the versatility of the dancers. They master the different styles of musicals, Operettas, Operas, Modern and Classical Ballets and that is quite a range to be conquered. And the Ensemble proved yesterday evening once more its professionality and lack of „airs“. A real Ensemble that works together towards one target.
This Peter Pan production is perhaps one of the best (if not the best) productions at the Volksoper for the ballet since years. Vesna Orlic seems to have arrived at the point in which she found her „forte“: story-telling. And in a most fairytale-like attitude. I enjoy nothing more than stories, especially when they are well told.
The importance of „Peter“ (and “Neverland”) exists since many generations... My grandmother, my parents and I have always loved it. The same way as my nephews and nieces and now their children do... I remember my Grandmother telling me that after she had read the book she always dreamt of „flying“. And that is the importance of J.M.Barrie's work. It preserves the „child who still exists“ in every one of us and how I do take care of this child. We all should.
I loved the idea of „Peter“ as a ballet – although I'd rather call it more pantomime than a ballet.
The artistic challenges for the cast lie more in the dramaturgical side of the story-telling – definitely not on the technical side of ballet/dance.
I must say that to stage Peter Pan in a different form other than in its original stage concept, is not such a new idea. Mary Martin starred in the musical version in 1954 on Broadway (which I was lucky enough to watch with marvellous Sandy Duncan – also on Broadway – in a revival in 1980...) and if I am not mistaken the Washington ballet also produced a Peter Pan back in 2014.
Just before the show started and after reading the programme, I became quite intrigued by such an eclectic „Mélange“ of compositions and composers. From Miklós Rózsa and, good Heavens, Max Steiner up to Sebastian Brugner-Luiz. But I could not have been more delighted with the selection that was offered to us. We thank this magnificent concept to Miss Orlic and to Mr Gerald C. Stocker. Brilliant.
I personally do not like the use of videos on stage, especially presenting the cast... It gives me a certain feeling of being influenced by a Walt Disney production and not sitting in a theatre to watch dance – which has another kind of language as Cinema. It is like mixing two different worlds that are so compatible. But that is beside the point. And the children did not seem to care.
Stage Settings and costumes by Alexandra Burgstaller are fantastic and magical – perhaps with the only exception of Peter Pan's shadow. Something sleeker, a one-piece, not divided in top and trousers would have been more effective.
There are many characters and I would like to mention a few of them that impressed me more:
Lorenzo Salvi, a great, funny John – very precise technically (lovely pirouettes!)
Ekaterina Fitzka and Samuel Colombet fascinating as Mrs and Mr Darling. Chic, vain, angry, lovable…
Incredibly talented Robert Weithas gave a very beautiful rendition of the Shadow. A gifted dancer from whom I am sure we will hear lots of in the future.
Tainá Ferreira Luiz very visceral and earthy, as Tiger Lilly brought down the House even though the dramaturgic use of a brother (that does not exist in the original and is very superfluous for the storyline) only drove the attention away from Tiger Lily’s character and diminished her impact. Even so, Mr Felipe Vieira did a correct job although the so-called empathy, as described in the programme, between brother and sister did not take place (Since “The brother” is a new created character I had to read in the programme about him to find out that he and his sister are very close etc. but this did not come through to the audience... I would not have dabbled with the original, including an unnecessary character to the storyline. J.M. Barrie knew what he was doing when he wrote the play/book. Why change it adding a character?). By the way: Tiger Lily's character has attracted strong controversy in the last years due to alleged racism and Native American stereotyping. And just for the record: Disney created a dance for her that is not in the original book/play by J.M.Barrie. Just a thought: wondering where the inspiration for this Tiger Lily’s dance came from…
László Benedek simply stole the show with his Captain Hook. A very intelligent, talented dancer with a great sense of comedy, wit AND (most important of all) Timing. The idea of having him wearing one pointe shoe on the right leg is wonderful (even if quite difficult to master) and underlines the feminity of the Captain's character. Great performance that made the audience love him!
Suzanne Kertész is the perfect Tinker Bell. Funny, furious, lovely, naughty, jealous... the whole kaleidoscope of emotions and feelings that turn a character plausible, understandable and reachable to the audience. Miss Kertész plays with her Tinker bell precise perfection and Bravura.
Mila Schmidt and Keisuke Nejime are extremely lovely as Wendy Darling and Peter Pan (Wendy... the diminutive for the Welsh Gwendolin... However, its existence in Britain as a feminine name is owed to the character from the 1904 play „Peter Pan“ and its 1911 novelization „Peter and Wendy“) but let us be honest: they surely are not the most interesting characters of the story. She is too perfect, nearly to prim and proper and he still is – even if older than Wendy – a boy, incapable to return feelings, because it just takes longer for a boy to achieve maturity!). Nevertheless: beautiful, strong performances!
A most enjoyable and recommendable evening of pleasure, adventure, fun, magic, laughs and surely a treat for all who have children (or just want to make a gift to the „child in them“!).