”The Snow Queen”
Finnish National Ballet
The Opera Stage
January 27, 2017
More and more ballet companies try to create a tradition for a family Christmas ballet. Financially it makes a lot of sense. It brings in the money and it also brings in a younger audience who might get the taste for ballet.
Kenneth Greve, former leading star at Royal Danish Ballet and now Artistic Director for the Finnish National Ballet found a subject covering not only his Danish roots and Finnish folklore, but also include an easy connection to some of the most successful concepts in ballets, mysterious fairies and queens as well as children protagonists.
Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Snow Queen” is the story of two childhoods friend separated by the evil magic of the Snow Queen, and reunited after Gerda, the girl protagonist goes on a search and battle the evil Queen.
The Finnish National Ballet is bringing the “Snow Queen” to Copenhagen as part of celebrating the Centenary of the Independent Finnish State. It gives the Copenhagen audience a change to see the Finnish ballet, and in a context, familiar to them.
The ”Snow Queen” has high production values, including scenography by Mikki Kunttu, who also provided the design for the Schandorff/Hübbe “Swan Lake”. It also has an effective score by Tuomas Kantelinen.
There are a lot that functions very well in the production. The story of the childhood sweethearts told by a speaking Grandmother (in Copenhagen by Danish actress Vibeke Hastrup), a market scene etc.
There are also charming scenes with trolls and children. It is easy to see connections to “Swan Lake” and “The Nutcracker.” There is an impressive troll dance for the male ensemble. And when the audiences enter the foyer for the interval, they are greeted by wolfs, Ice bear’s and snow mates led by the Snow Queen herself on a Sedgway (Also her favorite transport on stage).
However, the second act turns out to be more problematic. In the Andersen Fairy Tale, Gerda learns about foreign destinies and people from birds and other creatures. One of the stories she is told is about a Hindu widow, facing being burnt on the stake with her death husband. It is not all child play.
Kenneth Greve’s take on Gerda’s development and growing knowledge of foreign destinies and practices is by subjecting her to a high number of national divertissements in the traditional “Swan Lake” and “Nutcracker” style. The first one presenting “Sweden” look like a number that did not made the cut for “The whims of Cupid & the Ballet Master”. The rest of them are simply mediocre.
A cut here would have been merciful. Most likely Kenneth Greve, as other artistic directors is thinking as much about procuring opportunities for deserving dancers as being faithful to old Hans Christian Andersen. However, in this case he would have served his ballet better by focusing more on the story and less on simply creating opportunities.
“The Snow Queen” has become a national favorite in Finland, and there are a lot to love and respect about the production. Kenneth Greve has recently announced that he will not prolong his contract with the company. In the 8 years he has served, he has presented a series of primarily classical and neo classical ballets, and he has implemented a structure with defined layers.
“The Snow Queen“ stand as a fine testimony of his contribution to the company.
Photos by Mirka Kleemola & Sakari Wilka. (Copyright (c) Finnish Opera Ballet)