Mirror Mirror (2014)

Full-length ballet in 2 Acts
Commissioned by Milwaukee Ballet
Directed and choreographed by Michael Pink
Performed by the orchestra of Milwaukee Ballet under the direction of conductor, Andrews Sills.
World Premiere: Marcus Center, Milwaukee, 11th May 2014.

Michael Pink has been planning a narrative ballet on the subject of Snow White for some years now, joining forces with Philip Feeney in their fourth full-length collaboration. They had begun work on the synopsis some ten years previously, before Pink migrated across the pond to become artistic director and factotum of Milwaukee Ballet. Pink was undoubtedly attracted by the dark nature of the tale and saw its powerful dramatic potential for unspoken narrative, of which he has become one the finest racconteurs.
This very much struck a chord with Feeney’s own perspective, one that I had been cultivated on the dark strand of Christopher Gable’s 1993 production of Cinderella. In fact some of the symbolism, in particular the bird imagery, is reminiscent of the earlier production. In Mirror Mirror, the sound of crows feature prominently, creating a sense of foreboding and unease. Again this is ground which is very familiar to the composer. Ominous crow calls are scattered all over his colourful scores for Michael Keegan-Dolan, acclaimed choreographer and director of Fabulous Beast; in The Flowerbed (2000/2006) for example dissonant crows serve to evoke the sinister ‘badlands’ of the Irish midlands!

Pink’s reading of the Snow White tale is undoubtedly a psychological one. This is directly represented in the music by an agitated swirling phrase that proves to be the predominant musical gesture in the ballet. From its very opening sequence, this swirling conjures up a world of demons that inhabit the mirror, embodying dark forces of self-obsessed vanity and compulsive narcissism. Moreover, the mirror’s empty space is characterized by the disquieting sonorities of counter-tenor Angelo Smimmo, whose haunting voice suggests a strange unknown mysterious place beyond the mirror, perhaps the secret domain of the subconscious.