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Author, grandmother, activist and Mexico’s ambassador to Brazil, Laura Esquivel, 72, has a new line to add to her long list of achievements: Her novel Like Water for Chocolate, published 34 years ago, has inspired a ballet that will premiere in the United States on March 29 at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Los Angeles and on June 22 at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.
The book and the ballet, a coproduction of the American Ballet Theatre and the Royal Ballet of London, tell the story of Tita, a young woman overwhelmed by her sense of duty who finds in the kitchen the only way to express herself and change her destiny. Tradition says that Tita, as the youngest daughter, must take care of her mother and cannot marry until her mother dies. The plot thickens, of course, when Tita falls in love.
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Set in 19th century Mexico, the production features principal dancers from Latin America and an original score by Joby Talbot. The orchestra will be under the direction of Mexican conductor Alondra de la Parra.
In an exclusive interview before the premiere, Esquivel spoke with AARP. Wearing her silver hair in loose ringlets and a gray dress that contrasted with her suntanned skin — the result of countless hours in her garden — the writer radiated peace and enthusiasm for the new life her famous novel has found in the hands of internationally renowned choreographer Christopher Wheeldon.
Edited for clarity, this interview was conducted in Spanish.
How does it feel to see your novel rendered in another art form?
You have no idea how much I’ve enjoyed this. It was a gift for me to be able to see and take in this adaptation. When Christopher contacted me and suggested the possibility of turning it into a ballet, I was thrilled. How incredible! I thought. I knew his talent well, but I could not imagine how it would turn out. It’s an experience. You really cannot miss it. There is a love, a capacity for synthesis that comes naturally to Christopher. I have never seen anything like it.
Have you had the opportunity to see the staging?
I went to the premiere in London last year. I participated in the rehearsals because Christopher was very kind and very open and invited me. He included me quite a bit in this whole process, and it was very beautiful.