Saturday, April 05, 2008

Peer Gynt in Wonderland

As the result of our recent trip to Australia (more on that later), Melanie and I decided to pursue our renewed interest in attending symphony orchestra performances by checking into what sort of concerts were available here in Taiwan.

It was thus that we went over to the National Concert Hall here in Taipei on April 5, 2008 to see what we had expected to be a traditional interpretation of Peer Gynt. That was our first mistake.

For those of you that may not be familiar with Peer Gynt, odds are that while you might not know why this name should sound familiar to you, there is a very good chance that you know many of the songs from this symphony. Especially for those of you who grew up watching the old Warner Brothers cartoons (like Bugs Bunny, etc.), songs such as Morning Mood and In The Hall Of The Mountain King will most certainly ring a bell within the first few bars.

In preparation for this concert, both Melanie and I did a little bit of research online to learn more about the story. The idea of an anti-hero and trolls and belly dancers was all very intriguing, so we were both full of anticipation.

Anyway, getting back to our experience here in Taipei...

To start it all off, we (I) began to suspect that the evening would not go as planned when, as we approached the concert hall, we noticed a distinctly high concentration of children being accompanied by their parents. Melanie later admitted after the show that she had an inkling of what we were in for when, after she had just purchased the tickets from the box office (where, she insists I add, Chinese was exclusively written and spoken), she noticed the word "Choreographer" in the credits of an advertisement as she was heading back home.

For me, I would have to say that things were more clear when we went in and saw that it was pretty much mostly children, running and screaming through the aisles, jumping up and down on the chairs, and staring at the two of us like we were fresh off the mothership in Roswell ("Look, Ma! Foreigners!!!"). Everything crystallized when the MC came out dressed like a giant red rhinoceros beetle.

I will spare you the details of what I was personally subjected to for the next two hours; however, I will offer a brief stream-of-consciousness rant in an attempt to capture the gestalt of the whole experience.

Kids. Ballet with distinctly Chinese movement forms. Butterflies, Beetles, and Bees. Crazy MC in a Rhinoceros beetle outfit. Absolutely intended for an audience of small children. Moral message at the end that combined a commentary between filial piety and the importance of not being an arrogant braggart with little regard for the concerns of others.

The MC did a great job of engaging the kids and explaining the message. Great approach to getting kids involved in different forms of storytelling, the theater and the symphony. Not so great when you're all dressed up for a night of "Serious Music", as the Hungarians would say.

It was surreal watching wings and antennae fall off. Initially tried blocking out the dancers, but the sounds of their footfalls during their leaps and prances ruined any possibility of success there.

So, there you have it. Our night of culture. Next time, perhaps we (Melanie) will do a little (lot) more research before we do something similar. In hindsight, it was a fun and surreal and enjoyable and educational experience that was definitely worth doing once.



Nel Pastel said...

Arrgh! What the hell's going on? Have these posts been here all this time and my reader is just now picking them up? And why do I have posts about your trip to Greece in my reader but I don't see them here?

Stop messing with my mind, Fred!!!!

Fred said...

Ah yes - you've caught me. I have been post-dating my blog entries, working under the assumption that this is probably more of a personal journal that I can share with people rather than something that people actually go in and read with any regularity.

As such, I have been going back and adding in some old posts that were either never finished (i.e. a draft from Greece that was started last August) or never really started. Last weekend in particular was one where I was actually to make the time to sit down and just write, dang it!

Sorry about the confusion! I will try to be better about this in the future...

...that said, expect to see a few entries from last September (when Melanie's cousin Deni visited) and this past February (when we visited Australia) in the next couple weeks...