Like water for chocolate.
It’s a Spanish expression that means one’s emotions are on the verge of boiling over (in Mexico hot chocolate is often made with near-boiling water).
“Like Water for Chocolate” is also the name of a 1989 novel by Mexican writer Laura Esquivel, who later turned her popular work into a screenplay for the 1992 film version of “Like Water for Chocolate.”
The novel follows the story of a young woman named Tita, who longs for her beloved Pedro but can never have him because of her mother’s upholding of the family tradition: the youngest daughter cannot marry, but instead must take care of her mother until she dies. Tita is only able to express herself when she cooks.
The novel and the movie were created in the style of magical realism, which combines a realistic view of the world with magical elements.
The novel is divided into 12 chapters (one for each month of the year) and each chapter comes with a Mexican recipe that correlates to a specific event in the book.
The novel has sold more than 4.5 million copies around the world and has been translated into more than 30 languages. The film become the highest-grossing foreign-language film ever released in the United States at the time.
Now, Segerstrom Center for the Arts presents the North American Premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s latest ballet “Like Water for Chocolate” from American Ballet Theatre for six performances from Wednesday, March 29 through Sunday, April 2. Center audiences will be the first in the country to experience this magical Mexican love story with the stellar dancers of ABT translating this richly layered story.
Co-presented by the Center and ABT, led by Artistic Director Susan Jaffe, this three-act work is set to an original score by Joby Talbot and inspired by Laura Esquivel’s novel of the same name.
According to Esquivel, “Having Christopher and his team transform my story into a ballet is truly magical for me. It was a great pleasure to have them visit Mexico for extensive research and to develop the scenario together. I am amazed at how Christopher can translate deep emotions into movement, and I can’t wait to see this wonderful creative adventure unfold.”
“Like Water for Chocolate” received its World Premiere from The Royal Ballet on June 2, 2022, at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London.
Following the North American Premiere engagement at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, the New York Premiere will take place Thursday evening, June 22 at the Metropolitan Opera House.
Lindsay Winship in The Guardian said “The expertly crafted ensemble scenes are full of buoyant energy, action, and rhythmic dancing. And the pas de deux are playful, with inventive imagery. The solidity of the production and the imagination of Esquivel’s world keep this ballet an engrossing, propulsive, fulfilling watch.”
In the New York Times, Roslyn Sulcas said that “It’s testament to his skills and his team of regular collaborators that Christopher Wheeldon has succeeded in creating a big-spectacle ballet. Joby Talbot’s commissioned score (impressively conducted by Alondra de la Parra, who served as music consultant) is serviceably lush, making use of guitar, varied percussion, and Mexican instruments like the ocarina. Crowley’s décor, influenced by the Mexican architect Luis Barragán, is spare and ingenious; Natasha Katz’s lighting adroitly suggests changes in time and place.”
Susan Jaffe, Artistic Director of American Ballet Theatre, commented, “Putting together a production the size and caliber of ‘Like Water for Chocolate’ has been both an exciting and challenging process. The dancers are working so hard and so beautifully to bring this deep, moving ballet to life on stage.”
“Like Water for Chocolate” is a co-production between The Royal Ballet and American Ballet Theatre and is Christopher Wheeldon’s latest full-length ballet, marking a reunion of the creative team who delivered the critically acclaimed Royal Ballet productions “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” (2011) and “The Winter’s Tale” (2014).
Wheeldon is celebrated for his expressive choreography and theatricality and has worked extensively with the world’s leading dance companies. In 2014, he directed and choreographed the stage version of the musical “An American in Paris” and recently directed and choreographed “MJ The Musical,” winning the Tony Award for Best Choreography.
According to press material, Wheeldon worked closely with Esquivel to reshape her story of magical realism into an entertaining and engrossing new ballet with a newly commissioned score by Joby Talbot and designs by Bob Crowley.
Mexican conductor Alondra de la Parra will lead Pacific Symphony with the addition of featured Mexican musician Tomás Barreiro on solo guitar.
Cassandra Trenary* (Tita), Herman Cornejo* (Pedro), Christine Shevchenko* (Elena), Hee Seo* (Rosaura), Catherine Hurlin* (Gertrudis), and Cory Stearns* (Dr. John Brown) lead the opening night cast.
Single tickets for American Ballet Theatre’s “Like Water for Chocolate” start at $29 and are available online at www.SCFTA.org, at the Box Office at 600 Town Center Dr. in Costa Mesa, or by calling (714) 556-2787.