News > Spoleto 2016 Review: The Little Match Girl


By Jenny Ferrara | Images by Julia Lynn Photography, courtesy Spoleto Festival USA

The Little Match Girl, with music and libretto by Helmut Lachenmann, made its US premiere last night at Memminger Auditorium. It’s a performance that, when the lights go up and an hour or two goes by, you’re still talking about it. What you’re saying, well, let’s come back to that in a little bit.

For those not familiar with the story by Hans Christian Andersen, let me establish a couple things for you first. Andersen’s stories, while classified as fairy tales, are not happy fanciful stories. Like many authors, Andersen draws from real life experiences, and uses his stories to address an overarching societal theme or issue. With The Little Match Girl, it is a commentary on a society that allows a poverty level that forces a young girl, with no shoes on, in the dead of winter, to go out and try and sell matches with no option of going home until she does and is left to die, frozen, in a street alley. Yes, she dies. (Andersen’s version of The Little Mermaid: her prince marries someone else and she dies and turns into sea foam at the end. Life under the sea, not so good either.)26685185833_810a5f1bfd_z

This performance is classified under the Opera section in the Spoleto guide, but further explained in the guide to be “music with images / music and libretto.” The performance is the latter and not the former. “Libretto” is the text; in The Little Match Girl the libretto is mostly visual and not spoken. The two sopranos that carry the vocals, along with The Westminster Choir and the orchestra, create sounds that are fragmented.
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They use their instruments to create nontraditional and unexpected noises, which heighten the uneasy and lonely environment set on stage for The Little Match Girl. This is not a traditional opera.

The last piece of information to mention is that the artistic team has inlaid two other stories within The Little Match Girl setting. I’d suggest reading the Conductor’s Note in program to better understand the “why” for this decision.

The Little Match Girl is told through shadow puppets. The use of light and darkness allows for projections to appear on the screen before you. The Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra towers above the audience in the round, giving a surround sound effect.
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This show visually is imaginative, shows a level of detail and precision across all of the mediums that create the show and an adept choreography for the puppeteers that keeps you wondering, how did they that do that? (Toward the end of the show, the curtain is lifted and you are able to see how).

So, when the performance ends, and an hour our two goes by, what are you saying? Well, that’s the great thing about art; each person’s interpretation is his or her own. Upon exit, the audience was a buzz with polarized reactions, but one thing was for sure, it created conversation.

Experiencing the show plunges the viewer into a similar state as The Little Match Girl. It’s dark, there is a chaotic swirl of sounds, you feel uneasy and somehow there is an icy chill throughout the room, creating a sense of loneliness. If this is how you’d like to spend your evening, The Little Match Girl has three more performances, May 31, 7:00pm; June 2, 7:00pm and June 4; 2:00pm.

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Posted on May 30, 2016 by admin.

Categories: Performing Arts, Review

Tags: Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra, The Little Match Girl, Westminster Choir

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