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Making Musical Magic In Peter Pan

June 14, 2013

Portland, Oregon-based musical arranger Niel DePonte worked with choreographer Trey McIntyre to create the score for Mr. McIntyre’s three-act narrative work Peter Pan, which Houston Ballet will perform June 13 – 23 at Wortham Theater Center. Mr. DePonte used the music of the venerable English composer Edward Elgar (1857 – 1934) to create the score for Peter Pan, including exerts from such compositions as Crown of India Suite.

_MG_ 7563_Peter Pan_Sara Webb and Joseph Walsh_HB_Amitava Sarkar

Ballet: Peter Pan; Dancers: Sara Webb as Wendy and Joseph Walsh as Peter Pan; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

Elgar was arguably the leading English composer of his generation, and a significant figure among late Romantic European musicians. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music describes Elgar’s contribution to music by saying, “Elgar’s greatness as a composer lies in his ability to combine nobility and spirituality of utterance with a popular style.  Side by side with his large scale works are dozens of lighter pieces distinguished by melodic charm and fine craftsmanship.”

In this blog entry, Mr. DePonte talks about his search to find compositions by Elgar that were beautiful and evocative, but not necessarily widely known by American audiences, for the Peter Pan score.

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In Peter Pan, you will hear all or part of 22 pieces by Elgar including Wand of Youth, Suites 1&2 for the opening scenes of Act I; and In the South Overture for Peter’s victory over Captain Hook in Act III. There is very little music in the ballet that was not composed and orchestrated by Elgar.

_MG_8148-Peter Pan_James Gotesky and Derek Dunn_HB_Amitava Sarkar

Ballet: Peter Pan; Dancers: Derek Dunn as Michael and James Gotesky as Hook; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

It should be said that a conscientious musical arranger does not alter even a single phrase of a master composer’s music capriciously when creating a score like Peter Pan. The arranger’s responsibility, therefore, goes beyond honoring the choreographer’s vision for a ballet. He must also fairly represent the melodic, harmonic, and formal integrity of the music he is arranging to the greatest extent possible, thereby honoring the music itself, its composer, and the music’s role in the ballet.

In creating the compilation score for Peter Pan, I specifically avoided using the most familiar Elgar melodies. Accordingly, you will not hear excerpts from either the Enigma Variations, or Pomp And Circumstance March #1. The reason for this is twofold.

First, an audience might already associate this music with specific visual imagery, and I didn’t want those associations to transfer over to Peter Pan. Second, I wanted an opportunity to introduce to American audiences the “other” Elgar–  the one whose violin solo from the Crown of India Suite (heard during Peter and Wendy’s 2nd Act pas de deux) is breathtakingly, achingly, beautiful.

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_MG_8358-Peter Pan_Sara Webb and Joseph Walsh_HB_Amitava Sarkar

Ballet: Peter Pan; Dancers: Sara Webb and Joseph Walsh; Photo: Amitava Sarkar

From June 13-23, 2013, Houston Ballet presents Trey McIntyre’s Peter Pan. Based upon the popular story by Sir James M. Barrie, Peter Pan is a magical ballet set to the music of Sir Edward Elgar in an arrangement by Niel DePonte and features spectacular flying sequences, swashbuckling swordfights, giant puppets, colorful masks, as well as costumes inspired by punk fashion. With elaborate, magical sets by Thomas Boyd and imaginative costumes by Broadway designer Jeanne Button, the production reinterprets the classic story with verve and wit. Houston Ballet will give seven performances of Peter Pan at Wortham Theater Center in downtown Houston.

Tickets may be purchased by calling 713 227 2787 or by visiting http://www.houstonballet.org.

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