Don’t expect a ‘heigh-ho’ at Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s 2023-24 season opening production of Snow White.
None other than the symphonies of Mahler – one of the greatest orchestral writers in the repertoire – serve as the patchwork score to accompany the Canadian premiere of the 2008 ballet choreographed by Angelin Preljocaj.
Though not how the composer originally intended the music to be used, the symphonic fragments and movements selected prove to be a deft use of the magnificent score, says RWB Music Director and Principal Conductor Julian Pellicano.
“It’s uncanny,” notes Pellicano. “When you get into the stage action, and you see the story being told, and then you hear Mahler’s music – music that was really composed in a completely unrelated aesthetic – (it) also tells this story.”
Of Mahler’s ten symphonies, all but the Seventh make an appearance at one time or another in the production of Snow White, with highlights including the funereal take on “Frere Jacques” from his “Symphony No. 1″ and the “Adagietto” from the Fifth.
The orchestrations themselves have been pared down and altered to size constraints of the pit, which doesn’t allow for a full contingent of musicians to fit.
“We preserved the spirit of the music within the confines of the fit,” explains Pellicano. “It still has the same really wonderful effect and, of course, the music itself is unchanged.”
It certainly is worth noting that Winnipeg audiences – who are accustomed to the joint artistry of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and their partners at the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra – are lucky to hear a live performance of this music.
“This ballet, since 2008, I believe has only been done with live orchestra only 4 times,” says Pellicano. For most ballet companies, performance with live orchestra has become a rarity, he explains.
“I feel very lucky and it’s a privilege to be working here with Royal Winnipeg Ballet, a company that is dedicated to the preservation of dance with live music.”
Snow White runs from September 28 through October 1 at the Centennial Concert Hall. For tickets and more details, visit: www.rwb.org