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Saturday, April 25, 2015

La Chauve-souris: tres suave, at the New National Theatre Tokyo

こうもり バレー

I received a very welcome invitation from the New National Theatre Tokyo to attend the ballet La Chauve-souris, ("The Bat") an adaptation by Roland Petit of Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss II.

A foyer of the New National Theatre, Tokyo.
A hall in the New National Theatre, Tokyo, taken on an exploratory tour during the interval.

Written in 1979, La Chauve-souris is a story set to the music of Die Fledermaus, but featuring the kind of glitz and glamor that brought such fame to the eponymous troupe that toured Europe in the early 20th century.

The season for La Chauve-souris is very short, only five stagings, and I got to see the second one, held on Thursday, April 23, with Ayako Ono in the role of wife Bella, and Herman Cornejo playing her playboy husband, Johann.

The curtain rose on the thrilling spectacle of Bella poised center stage in a scintillating blue dress with a vast hem that occupied the whole stage, while a great circle of dozens of players, each holding its edge, slowly circled her. It was a spine-tingling opening that set the stage for the rest of the two hours, every minute of which lived up to this exciting first moment.

The Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra was under the baton of Alessandro Ferrari, and played a spirited yet beautifully nuanced accompaniment to the drama.

The staging and props were superb: the ultimate in stylish simplicity, featuring in the main memorable use of defined light against large sections of darkness, and vivid, solitary splashes of aptly placed color, and optimal use of the vertical dimension to accentuate a sense of space, evoking the theme of "flight" behind the story. Even the most gorgeous scene, set in Maxim's nightclub, was a broad-brushed "blur" of golden splendor, free of any fussy distractions.

The choreography was spellbinding, drawing on traditional ballet techniques to enhance what were on the whole fresh, modern-inspired movements. The dancers moved as if blithely ignorant of gravity and friction. Particularly impressive was the clearly very athletic Herman Cornejo whose athleticism nevertheless came across less as strength than as magic as he saw to the soaring, floating, and gliding of the very elegant and poised Ayako Ono from stage, through air, and back, over and over again.

The dancing was infused with often prankish humor, as appropriate for a revue, and some whimsical gestures (the family eating is one I'll remember), yet never at the expense of its lilt and polish.

The costuming was what most harked back to the early 19th century roots of the ballet's name. Black, white, and scarlet a-gogo, either in smooth form-hugging lines or voluptuous skirts--tantalizing either way.

Verve, sparkle and passion held sway for two thoroughly enjoyable hours, enchanting a pretty much full house that couldn't get enough of it. It was ballet toffee, but of the most moreish, quality kind. On the train from Hatsudai to Shinjuku I could pretty much tell who'd just been to the show from the smiles on passengers' faces.  

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