The Little Match Girl Passion: A Photo Tour
This December, Verdigris performed its most ambitious project to date when they and Avant Chamber Ballet brought David Lang’s The Little Match Girl Passion came to life on stage at Moody Performance Hall. As a singer, I can attest to the emotional impact felt by both musicians and dancers as we shared the stage to tell this affecting story. Dickie Hill joined us for our dress rehearsal on Thursday night before we opened the show. Step through his lens to view this collaborative effort up close.
In our initial planning conversations, Sam, Katie, and I felt that having the singers in bare feet would connect the ensemble to the narrative and the bare feet of the little match girl. Peep the toes in the upcoming photos.
Avant Chamber Ballet dancers used recordings for the initial stages of their rehearsal process, so aligning tempi was an important part of our rehearsal, as each ensemble adjusted to the needs of the other. Emily Dixon Alba, who danced the role of the grandmother, spoke with Theater Jones about the experience of putting this piece together with live music.
At the end of the rehearsal, each director met with their ensemble to clarify and clean up any moments that needed refining.
The piece started and ended with Verdigris standing in front of the curtain. As we walked to and from our places, we took extra care to move with uniformity and grace. Katie had us initiate every position shift with the right-hand side of the body - step with right foot, turn over right shoulder, etc.
I still get a rush of emotion thinking about the two scenes shared by the little match girl (Juliann McAloon) and the vision of her grandmother (Emily Dixon Alba). My brother was in town to see the show, and both he and I could hardly speak coherently about the duet between girl and grandmother, the only character who shows love the little girl. As we sang, most of us had to intently concentrate on our music and train our eyes on Sam, lest we get caught up in the emotion of these scenes and lose the ability to perform effectively.
From movement twelve: “her grandmother had never appeared so large or so beautiful. She took the little girl in her arms, and they both flew upwards in brightness and joy far above the earth, where there was neither cold nor hunger nor pain.”
The little match girl dies and the dancers change to a white dress of mourning.
From movement 14: “She had been frozen to death on the last evening of the old year…No one imagined what beautiful things she had seen nor into what glory she had entered with her grandmother on New Year’s Day. The curtain closes on the little match girl, and the Verdigris singers return to the front of the stage to sing the final movement, “Rest soft.”
You can (and I would highly encourage you to) read the whole libretto. This performance received generous reviews in D Magazine who called it “shimmering in its terrible beauty.” Theater Jones called the collaboration a “bold endeavor…impeccable, cohesive.” Cheryl Callon called the collaboration one of the North Texas standouts for 2018. Katie Dravenstott also chose it as a highlight of North Texas dance for 2018.
In his 2018 wrap-up, Gregory Isaacs lauds Verdigris, saying, “If you think that a choral concert consists of a group of singers on risers singing a range of music from uninteresting to esoteric, passing through wonderful on occasion, then you haven’t seen Verdigris Ensemble. Sam Brukhman’s innovative chorale, populated by some of the top local singers, is always as excellent as it is surprising.”
We are finishing 2018 feeling a deep sense of pride and gratitude. Pride in the ways we’ve brought beauty and creativity to Dallas, and gratitude for the donors, patrons, and collaborators who have been part of our rapid growth. Consider helping us reach our full-season funding goal of $60,000. We are almost 60% of the way towards successfully funding this entire season’s lineup of significant, innovative projects.