|"Sharing with People Brings Happiness"|
At one time in the not distant past a live orchestra played for two daily performances; the first piece was always a pantomime and the second often a ballet. Today, no doubt due to modern economics and possibly dwindling interest in the old-fashioned entertainment offered, the music is recorded and a single performance, either a pantomime or ballet, is schedule two or three days a week. It would be sad if the tradition of Harlequin, Columbine and Pjerrot, which can be traced back as far as Plautus, were to be overtaken by the more raucous entertainments but for the time being, at least, there are still opportunities to catch the tale of two young people who overcome the objections and machinations of the foolish and the old to be united by the magic of love.
The other characters too are a strange mix drawing from the commedia dell'arte, opera buffa and English fairy plays. In the original British pantomime the fairy scenes introduced and ended the Harlequinade but in Denmark Harlequin meets his fairy-savior only after Cassander has denied his consent to the romance between his daughter Colombine and the poor, but incredibly handsome and agile, hero. This Harlequin is a long way away from his grotesque Italian cousin Arlecchino but Cassander is the duped old man of Goldoni and Gozzi; and the hapless suitor is every foolish, vain fop of theatrical tradition.
Many of the pantomimes being performed go back to the mid-1800s though a few date from the mid-1900s. Few of the pantomimes from the early years were written down but passed from performer to performer; in 1919 because of waning interest and war time restrictions ballet master Paul Hudd cut the performances down to 30 minutes, a practice that has continued to this day. Since 2001 an attempt has been made to adapt and record the older works and include them in the rotating repertoire throughout the summer season. The night we were there one of the older pantomimes was being presented: Pjerrots fataliteter (Pierrot's Misfortunes) was first performed in 1864. It was adapted by Niels Henrik Volkersen, the famous Pjerrot of the day, from an older work in the repertoire of the Casorti family troupe.
When ballets are performed they are often modern works - Queen Margrethe II designed the sets and costumes for a new version of The Tinder Box in 2007. Often visiting dance troupes use the Chinese theatre as their venue - though apparently the slope of the stage, which is double that of most raked stages, can be a challenge for dancers unaccustomed to the surface. Even the members of the Royal Danish Ballet have some difficulty adjusting on the evenings during the season when excerpts from the classical ballets of August Bourneville are presented. As I mentioned Tivoli seems to evolve with the times and for All Hallow's Eve they presented Kassander Loves Dollars, a hip-hop horror-ballet pantomime featuring all the traditional characters but with a twist.
|Pjerrot leads the audience in the "Tivoli Hurrahs": he's been up to his old tricks, Cassander has been thwarted, Colombine and Harlequin are united, all ends happily and its time for the Peacock curtain to close.|
Much of the historical information I gathered for this posting came from three sources:
The Pantomime Theater: life behind the peacock curtain in tivoli
Annett Ahrends and Henrik Lyding - translated by Pamela Starbird
Published by Forlaget Vandkunsten
Erik Ostergaard: Pantomime Theater - Theatrical History; Pantomime Plays at Tivoli
03 November -1793: French playwright, journalist and feminist Olympe de Gouges is guillotined.