Tuesday, October 25, 2011:What He Said!

Ballet and opera phobes can overcome their fears with The Phantom of the Opera

What He Said! (He Hates Ballet …?)

On Oct 12 on Opus Osm you could read choreographer Jan Kodet’s amusing explanation of how most modern guys react to the ballet. He says that they only visit their first ballet as a result of a negotiated settlement with their girlfriends.

But then the guys are surprised to find that they actually like ballet.

Is it possible? Could Mr Kodet be right?

Here’s some real-life, personal proof, introduced by our writer Hana Škrdlová.

.

He hates ballet. He likes opera. How do I sell this?

“We are going to the State Opera … to see a ballet. But it’s a ballet based on a book about an opera. And the main character writes an opera … in the book. But in the ballet he writes a … ballet. It has also been made into a popular musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber.”

“I hate Andrew Lloyd Webber.”

“Why?”

“Mainly for Cats.”

“Something similar was done by the Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada in 2006. You know, Canadians like me.”

“Hmmmf.”

“Oh, and BTW, I have too much work this weekend so you’ll have to write something about it.”

This is what he wrote:

To the Czech stage has come The Phantom of the Opera – as a ballet. Now you may be wondering why someone would choose to put a book about singing into an essentially non-verbal medium. But you have to remember that this is being done by Czechs, the people who made an opera about Olympic hockey. So perhaps the better question is “Why not make a ballet out of Phantom of the Opera?”

Did the idea of opera or ballet overwhelm him? Read on ...

The performance is gifted with the subtitle “Dancing Horror Love Story” and prominently ties itself to the original book by Gaston Leroux rather than to any of the later versions in other media made famous by Lon Chaney, Andrew Lloyd Weber, or Nightwish. It’s hard to tell whether that has more to do with the original book version being free from copyright or with the greater artistic freedom from a source that does not already have stage directions – Petr Malásek’s ballet takes ample advantage of both.

Many liberties have to be taken with the original story in order to fit it into a ballet format. Christine does not sing, so her father gave her dancing shoes rather than music instructions. Christine is competing with Carlotta for the lead in the ballet of Giselle instead of the lead in the opera of Faust. And perhaps most tellingly of all: the Phantom has made a ballet for Christine rather than an opera.

Possibly it should be called The Phantom of the Ballet.

The incongruities of dance versus song sound like they would be very funny, but the dancing is handled very seriously. The comedic elements are strong, but kept away from center stage. The viewer is well advised to look all around the stage as choreographer Libor Vaculík has made sure to fill the periphery with a lighthearted absurdity, an effective counterpoint to the well-worn melodrama of The Phantom. The overall performance achieves dancing, beauty, and quite intentional humor, but very little horror.

– I think he enjoyed it.

And just for the record, I found it creepy. — oo

— Hana Škrdlová (assisted by ballet newbie guy Frank Trollman)

Note: The State Opera’s next performance of The Phantom of the Opera ballet is on Thurs, Oct 27 at 7 pm.

Photo Credits: Top: c State Opera Prague; bottom: Miroslav Setnička

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