A Napoli moment to rival the arrival of Maradona
“Now we recast the Golden Horns”, proclaimed the Royal Danish Ballet’s artistic director Nikolaj Hübbe when he first spoke of the new version of Napoli in 2009. He had restaged the ballet in collaboration with former dancer Sorella Englund, and with his somewhat provocative announcement he was alluding to the prehistoric, rune-inscribed objects made of sheet gold that are amongst the most famous of Danish national treasures. What Hübbe and Englund had done was to give a new face to August Bournonville’s romantic ballet by moving it from 19th century Naples to the post-Second World War period. Napoli, indeed a treasure of national ballet heritage, was choreographed for the Royal Danish Ballet in 1842 and is still in the company’s repertoire. The restaged version will be performed at the Old Stage for the coming weeks. In the typical Danish ballet style that focuses on the dancers’ lively feet and acting rather than acrobatic lifts, Napoli tells the story of two young Neapolitan lovers who struggle with a number of obstacles before they come together.
According to Bournonville’s libretto, Napoli begins with Veronica and her daughter Teresina appearing on the streets of Naples where two young men immediately woo beautiful Teresina. She is, however, waiting for her lover, the poor fisherman Gennaro. When he arrives, Veronica makes it clear to her daughter that his poverty makes Gennaro an unacceptable match and that Teresina should choose one of the courting men. But after seeing the young couple together for a while, Veronica understands how true their love is. Happily, Gennaro and Teresina sail off together.
When a thunderstorm breaks out, the people of Naples remember that Gennaro and Teresina had gone out to sea, and when Gennaro is dragged ashore alone, they assume Teresina has drowned. Veronica is desperate and everyone blames Gennaro who sets off to look for his loved one. He finds her in the blue grotto where Golfo rules over a group of sea nymphs. Golfo has transformed Teresina into one of them and erased her memory of Gennaro. After her faith transforms Teresina back into a human and her memory is restored, the two lovers flee Golfo’s grotto. The final act shows Gennaro and Teresina’s return and their wedding.
In this second of three Bournonville ballets Hübbe has restaged since he became artistic director of the company in 2008, he deletes the original’s explicit religious implications. Furthermore, the entire score for the second act in Golfo’s grotto is replaced by Louise Alenius’ contemporary composition. The music for Acts I and III is kept as the original potpourri: 19th century composers E Helsted, HS Paulli and HC Lumbye were all involved in creating it, incorporating musical borrowings of themes from popular operas and folksy melodies into their respective scores for parts of the acts.
One of the dancers interpreting the role of Teresina will be Alexandra Lo Sardo. She gave a strong performance as the title role in Ratmansky’s Golden Cockerel a couple of seasons ago and has shown technical skill throughout the last year, most recently in The Nutcracker. Coupled with the brilliant acting prowess that Lo Sardo showed as Marchen in Bournonville’s Kermesse i Brugge, her Teresina promises to be a success.