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  1. Yes, Madame P., thank you for the review of Legend of Love! I can imagine it from your description. I think this role is probably great for Stepanova, since she can be quite commanding on stage but also vulnerable and is a great actress!
  2. In a recent interview with the Interfax news agency, Vaziev named Yulia Stepanova among the very best of Bolshoi “forces." She has been cast very prominently during the Japan tour that starts in less than 2 weeks (On Saturday Stepanova also debuts in the «Legend of Love» at the Bolshoi).The original quote: - "Наша задача заключается в том, чтобы показать свои лучшие силы, чтобы гастроли шли по нарастающей. Поэтому привлекаем лучших артистов – это Светлана Захарова, Евгения Образцова, и, конечно, Ольга Смирнова, Юля Степанова, Артем Овчаренко, Денис Родькин. Мы сами заинтересованы в этом, ведь это наша репутация - репутация нашей страны" ... A translation:“Our task is to showcase the very best of our forces so that the (Japan) tour has the ascending quality. Thus, we employ our very best artists — these are: Svetlana Zakharova, Evgenia Obraztsova and, of course, Olga Smirnova, Yulia Stepanova, Artiom Ovcharenko, Denis Rodkin. This is in our own interest, our reputation, the reputation of our country are at stake.”
  3. Russia plays Nutcracker even in summer sometimes, because they play it all year round, but in America it has become a Christmas ballet and a big way to make a lot of money with lots of special celebrations (before and after events) it is a cash cow that the other ballets are not (in the U.S. at least). Yes, their Nutcracker is a Ringling Brothers Circus version to fit into the community made specifically for Sarasota. I think they almost always do that except for the one year they did La Fille. IThey did La Fille again, but at a non-December time, if I remember correctly.
  4. I found it pretty surprising and daring for Webb to do La Fille Mal Gardee instead of Nutcracker in December also, and I was there, and the house looked full to me, so I felt it was a gamble that he won. Of course, maybe there are more money making issues at play when canceling Nutcracker. I have to admit that when I first saw that particular season announced, I thought, "That is DARING!!!!!" There is no way to really know the future, I guess, concerning what will happen with Sarasota, but I would be very surprised if the company totally took a complete nosedive. They still have the ingredients for success. I think the dancer overhaul is shocking and traumatic (especially for the dancers), but we will have to wait and see. I believe Webb inherited a lot of dancers, and it seems like the way of the world now to clean house and bring in dancers who will be loyal to you. I was just guessing at his wanting a specific style or whatever. I was actually being polite. I think he simply wants other personalities and the article sort of hints at that, but I really don't know. When Webb took over the former director had been ousted, I believe, and I think there were hard feelings then too, so Sarasota has had a turbulent time. Even though Webb has been there for 10 years, during that time I think that the former director was initially upset and attempting to compete with SB at first. I think Webb invited and honored him recently to patch up old hard feelings. I think the hard feelings were not necessarily directed toward Webb but rather the board or the loss of the director position. But when I saw that Webb had honored him, I thought that was a step in the right direction. I really don't know the whole story, but the previous director started up a Jose Carreno Festival which later folded and then a modern dance company during Webb's time. I think there was a no compete clause so the former director was doing "other" things somewhat related but different, but to me it seemed like a competition. I have always wondered if Jose Carreno felt like a pawn in a competition game and that might be why he pulled out of his festival and initially was going to team with Barbieri's school, I believe. I suspect there is more to the story than the article lets on. We are likely to never really get the whole story. I hope the dancers who are not being rehired find jobs, and I hope Sarasota Ballet continues on.
  5. I suspect you might be right, Drew, about Sarasota, because no company wants to say there are financial issues. If someone is a donor he/she is less likely to open the wallet if there is a sense of a sinking ship, because it is like throwing money out of the window. So no company in its right mind would admit to financial issues. However, there was a major shake-up in Sarasota's administration earlier, and Joseph Volpe was simply part of the board back then and stepped up to be an interim director, until they found someone new, but recently he simply gained the title of "executive director." Suddenly, there is no more search for a permanent executive director. He is it. Supposedly, his wife loves ballet, and when they retired in Sarasota they started attending Sarasota Ballet, and that is how he got involved. Since he has a lot of expertise, he might be the one behind all the changes. Webb probably trusts his judgment, but, of course, that is a total guess. I know if I were running a regional company and Joseph Volpe were willing to take the executive director position despite having retired already, I think I would be willing to listen to him. I am sure there are pros and cons to Volpe's style. The infamous Kathleen Battle firing at the Met made news around the world, but even at the time it was pointed out that other male stars were given more leeway when it came to bad behavior. Of course, there are many stories of Battle's crazy behavior, so maybe it was warranted. We have never really gotten her side of the story. However, the firing seemed sudden, and I wonder if she received warning. If she received several warnings before her firing I would understand it a little better. On a positive point, she supposedly sang a recital at the Met (appearing there for the first time since her firing) last season. However, I have no idea how well she sang. I haven't heard her in years. That is going off on a tangent. I do not necessarily think this spells doom and gloom for Sarasota Ballet. I think you have someone who knows how to run a much, much larger company than Sarasota Ballet at the helm, and you have an artistic team (Webb and Barbieri) who have put Sarasota on the map. So there is still promise for the audience and the company overall. But I do feel sad for the dancers who are losing their jobs especially since the arts are not well funded in general. I looked at the roster and I don't think it has been updated. I wonder if some of the principal dancers will be gone. It is always nice to attend a performance and you recognize most of them. So next season may feel seeing a whole new company.
  6. What you are saying is what I was trying to imply. There is hope for the audiences, if not for the dancers who left and some who remain (who might be shaken by colleagues/friends leaving). If morale is now low, it could effect the artistry next season. As you say, however, Webb and his wife Barbieri are staying. They have turned the company around artistically. But apparently now they are cleaning house and maybe planning on hiring many new dancers, who maybe fit in with their vision. My impression is that until the company had become somewhat known Webb had to make do with what he had (maybe he was never totally happy with the dancers' style or training....who knows?), but now that it is gaining some international buzz and Volpe is the executive director they are planning to clean house and start fresh as far as dancers go. On a human level, I find that very sad. On a business level maybe it is what is needed (I am not behind the scenes, so I can't judge and know what went on and what is necessary really). I don't think this is necessarily the "Fall of Sarasota Ballet" at all. Like I mentioned, Joseph Volpe ran the Met in NYC. He knows a thing or two about running a HUGE performing arts entity. Hypothetically, Sarasota Ballet should be a breeze for him. I have a feeling there are big plans for Sarasota Ballet, but they are in the works, and the changes are painful, especially for the dancers. I wish these decisions had been made in time for them to find work elsewhere. I hope it is true that Webb is trying to help some of them. It sounds like there are some he is eager to be rid of, however, so he won't be helping them.
  7. Joseph Volpe, who is now the Executive Director of Sarasota Ballet, used to be the General Director of the Metropolitan Opera, a much, much larger entity. He handled lots of union disputes and talks in his day. He is also very famous for having fired soprano Kathleen Battle when she was on the top of her game. So he can play hardball when he needs to. I have heard he was often fair in union talks, but I'm sure he didn't please everyone. I will be very surprised if he doesn't have a game plan that makes sense (but might not make sense to us at the moment). Apparently, a major overhaul is happening, and there are probably pros and cons to all of this, but we don't have all the facts. It is sad to hear so many dancers will not be returning (I was recognizing many overtime). It will definitely take its toll on morale among those who stay. One of the things I thought I saw previously was a joy for what they were doing/dancing. What some lacked in polish they made up for a love of what they were doing. It is a shame if more technically perfect dancers replace them but are on the cold side.
  8. There must be a problem with it, because they made it sound like it would be rescheduled. It may show up in a future season, but maybe there were scheduling conflicts with whoever was going to help stage it.
  9. I can picture lovers of experimental work being fine with just knowing the dates for the season, but people who love ballet and do not live in Sarasota (but near enough to visit) or people who would like to travel to Sarasota (great beaches, by the way for anyone who is thinking about can look down and see your feet) need to know the ballets. But they did finally post and so I shouldn't complain. I guess the posting of just the dates were for the hardcore subscribers who live in Sarasota and plan to see every show no matter what, but they need the dates to put in their calendar and make plans. But the rest of the world wants to know the ballets in order to consider when to go to Sarasota.
  10. Yes, finally! They had the dates up for weeks with no info and then finally added the choreographers maybe a week ago and yesterday finally added the actual names of the ballets. I was thinking it takes chutzpah to ask people to subscribe without giving the ballets they would be subscribing to, so I am glad to see they finally came through. Some very interesting things, and this is why there is buzz around Sarasota. Who would have thought the sleepy town of Sarasota would become an Ashton base? I also see that the Gomes connection is being explored. They got him to participate in a gala and then he danced the male lead in Two Pigeons, and now he is going to choreograph something for the company. I walked by Joseph Volpe before the final program on April 28, and it is funny to see him running things at Sarasota Ballet after so many years of managing the Metropolitan Opera. I live too far away from Sarasota now to go to every show, but their repertoire continues to tantalize. I am getting to see ballets that normally I would never get to see.
  11. I actually know Amy and like her very much, but my only problem is someone saying that people abused and desecrated (she probably didn't use that word) without having spoken to those very people and knowing what was going through their minds. I don't like someone saying Grigorovich was arrogant in his choices. Maybe he was. You could be 100% correct, but it is an opinion. Without knowing WHY he substituted a new variation for Odile, I am not totally sure someone can be condemned. Maybe you know why. Maybe it is documented. I haven't read about his Swan Lake (just seen it and don't like it as much as others). However, I did not live in Soviet Russia and did not have Soviet censors or politicos breathing down my neck. How do we know what it was like and whether choices had to be made? Maybe when his version of Swan Lake debuted the ballerina dancing Odile hated the Odile variation and had enough power to demand a change. Maybe it was purely Griogorovich's arrogance, as you say, but I do believe "changing things up" in ballet was normal until recent times. With hindsight it is easy to declare these people as horrible people, but hindsight is 20/20. We did not experience the Zeitgeist of that period. Why do these people have to be condemned? We just need to know that there are notations and research and reconstructions that may shed new light into Petipa and be happy with that. We can enjoy reconstructions and what went on before. No one needs to be condemned or negated. Also, another point is that a choreographer wants to create something "new".......that is why they do completely new ballets.....the hope their artistry adds to the canon. They don't want to take dictation. They want to create new art. Then, when they become famous they are offered money to re-create Swan Lake, for example. A ballet company says, "Let's see what you can do with Swan Lake!" In their minds, there is no point unless they create a new Swan Lake. I am sure many of these choices are not necessarily "valiant," but money motivated, and money puts food on the table. I think many Ballet Alert members forget that ballet is also a business. Dancers need to eat. Choreographers need to eat. Ballet companies need to survive financially. So the ballet needs to be a success. If the sign of the times want higher extensions and grander grand jetes and more gymnastics and that helps put bottoms into seats, ballet companies are going to do it. The fact that Nutcracker has become a Christmas tradition in America demonstrates how money factors into ballet company decisions. Wonder if any American company would jettison their Christmas Nutcracker and produce a modern dance night instead. Doubt it. I will continue to be interested in seeing reconstructions when I can in order to understand Petipa better, but I will also continue to go see the Mariinsky's Swan Lake which has a special poetic mood to it in the lakeside scenes that no other version has, in my opinion. I love that reconstructions are being done, but I will cry rivers when and if the Sergeyev Swan Lake is put to rest forever.
  12. Some of the composers' embellishments were as florid as ones that are not by the composer. And "showboating" (not my word choice) has been proven to enhance the drama of the moment in many instances, although not all. That is because the composers actually expected it. Singers were taught the art of ornamentation. It was not just a diva simply showing off, although, yes, there were cases of that. However, it was a requirement at the time. Of course, embellishing Wagner or Puccini would be considered bad taste, but 18th and 19th century operas are composed in such a way where it is basically necessary. In the mid 20th century many great conductors abhorred the practice even in operas where it was supposed to happen. Muti is one I mentioned who eventually loosened up and allowed some embellishment in bel canto. Now lots of research has proven that many of Mozart's operas are actually enhanced by including ornamentation in the da capo arias instead of treating Mozart like Wagner (only playing and singing the notes on the page). To me the performing arts are not unlike language. Both are alive. We no longer speak Old English because mistakes in the language became the norm over time and slowly various idioms or slang terms crept in changing the language forever. There is always an attempt to have "correct grammar" so that there is a norm and standard we can adhere to for research writing, a common standard, etc. but needless to say the language still changes, because language is a living thing, not a finite thing engraved into stone forever despite grammar books having been published over and over through the years trying to set the language in stone. It doesn't work. Language evolves against our will. I suspect the performing arts are the same way, and that includes ballet, even more so with ballet because not everyone can read the notations. Even symphonies and operas with scores are open to interpretation (conductors argue over speed, tradition, etc), and there are always the more rigid interpreters and the liberal interpreters. I do think reconstructions are a great thing (the reconstructionists are maybe like the Wagners of today wanting to give more respect to the art of ballet), believe it or not. I am not arguing AGAINST reconstructions. I think the research into them is important and staging them so we can compare and contrast is great. I just don't think those who did what they thought best in the times they were in should be condemned as criminals who desecrated Petipa. Ashton probably also did what he did in hopes of helping ballet. We didn't walk in their shoes and live their lives, and unless we can find solid proof (for example, in a personal diary) that these people from various ballet companies set out to harm Petipa intentionally we should just be glad we have their versions and the newfound interest in reconstructions side-by-side..... Let's take the Beverly Sills recording of Giulio Cesare. It is so dated and all wrong after all the research into period instruments and performing editions of Handel. But I doubt any opera lover doesn't find some amazing things in that recording and wouldn't be without it. In some ways it is a more exciting recording of Handel's opera than another period correct recording that I have which makes me fall asleep (so who is championing Handel better?)......Cecilia Bartoli claims Giuditta Pasta was really a mezzo (and there is SOME good arguments for that viewpoint), and her recording of Norma is supposedly closer to what we might have heard in the 19th century. However, no respectable opera lover would throw away their Maria Callas recordings of Norma who continues to be the touchstone that we judge all Normas by many years after her death. Her influence over the role is so great that La Scala doesn't stage it. It took years for them to finally stage La Traviata (another famous Callas role). Every opera lover I know would rather throw the Cecilia Bartoli Norma in the trash and take the Maria Callas recordings (both bootleg and studio recordings) to a desert island. Her Norma is probably all wrong by 19th century standards. Maybe Bellini wouldn't like it. Maybe he would. No way to know. But every opera lover ADORES Callas in the role and wishes he could hear a Norma of that stature in his lifetime. But, no, more "correct" sopranos sing it and put us to sleep and make us find less to love in Bellini. So my point is......there are no absolutes.......the Royal Ballet with Ashton pieces, the Kirov Sergeyev versions, the many others.......they all can be loved and enjoyed along with the reconstructions. Nobody reading BA today experienced pure Petipa in the 19th century. We all learned his artistry in "changed" versions. Reconstructions are actually pretty new. I find it strange that some people act like they have been raised on pure Petipa from the 19th century and are shocked and disgusted by the very versions that probably introduced them to this beautiful art.
  13. I think you misinterpreted what I meant. The West did not stick to "pure Petipa" (reconstructions), as you say, either. So my point was that all the choices ALL companies made to produce a Petipa style work helped to keep interest in Petipa alive. If none of these people or companies continued to put together their version of Petipa, Petipa would be lost and the world's culture would have pretty much forgotten about ballet. That was my point. The notations would mean nothing because people stopped trying to produce ballet. I want to repeat what I said above. Reconstructions seem to be a 21st century idea. Video for mass consumption (tapes that we can play at home) began in the 1980s if my memory serves correct. Before that it was not very normal to have a film of a performing art in your home. Only professionals had easy access. Once video became a mass product I think that is what has led the way to the idea of reconstructions.....because families started filming their vacations and having a memory of their vacation exactly the way it was. So little by little as dvds and blurays have made filming better and easier and you can carry it all around you (also music on your phone) there is now this obsession with HAVING the exact experience that may have happened in the 19th century on a ballet stage. That is my theory. Before video I think the performing arts always had a push/pull relationship between tradition and what was known to be correct. Even great conductors argue about whether more rubato should be used or not......singers and conductors argue. Riccardo Muti for a period would not let singers embellish Mozart or bel canto operas even when the style of those operas practically demand embellishment (and singers embellished during those composers' times. Donizetti, Rossini, and Bellini expected their arias to be embellished and sometimes wrote out embellishments for the singers. Sometimes the singer did her own. And sometimes the singer interpolated a whole different aria that she loved by another composer and the composer who watched a completely different aria interpolated into his work could not do anything about it. You have Don Carlos premiered in Paris and the original is in French with 5 acts. The Italians loved their Verdi so much that they condensed it to 4 acts and redid it in Italian. Verdi finally created his own version in hopes that he could re-assert some control over his work, but various versions grew. Today the Italian arias "O don fatal" and "Tu che le vanita" are so famous that we want to hear them in Italian because there is more bite and performance tradition, BUT the french versions are the original and what Verdi originally composed. The performing arts are just HUMAN BEINGS.......composers had to change arias, write new ones to accomodate singers who couldn't sing the original or who would sound better singing a different one. After all, the composer did want a success and if the impresario hired a famous diva who had wobbly high notes but beautiful pianissimi, why not rewrite the aria and let her show off what she does best, so she will have a success and the work will be a success as a result? If she screeches her way through, she will be humiliated and the work might suffer. So since the performing arts deal specifically with human beings with human strengths and weaknesses, and it is a COLLABORATIVE effort, everyone comes together to try to put on this living, breathing work of art and make it a success, because afterall, the artists need money, so they want a success. So, probably during the course of the history of performing arts you had people changing things up. Since the original creators used to tolerate or accept or even take part in the changes, once the creator died, the people going on staging the work probably made changes also. They were not intending to CRUSH or DESTROY the original. They were doing what they thought was best to make the work come alive but do it in a way so that they made some money. The pie-in-the-sky idea of pure art and not necessarily wanting a success (which would include money in the pocket) never occurred to artists of the past. So changes happened for a variety of reasons. And now some people want to erase everything that went on and turn the clock back to the 19th century in ballet. As admirable as that may be (and I have enjoyed reconstructions......I saw Ratmansky's Sleeping Beauty at ABT in person and I have many videos of other reconstructions), I am not convinced it is the only path we need to take. In fact, when I saw Ratmansky's Sleeping Beauty at ABT I actually went in thinking the scales would fall from my eyes, and I would see the light and realize how awlful all other Sleeping Beauties were. That didn't happen. I enjoyed it and I loved getting a taste of what may have been what was danced in the 19th century, but I was also very surprised at how much was similar to the Mariisnky/Kirov Sleeping Beauty. I was also surprised at how much of the overall feel was pretty much the same. Yes, some things were taken faster. Some steps were different (especially Prince Desire's) , but overall what was most interesting is that I saw how a work became changed and many of the reconstructed steps had some resemblance to what is traditionally danced. I also wondered if N. Sergeyev had jotted down notations for many different performances of the same ballet, would there be alternate versions even among Sleeping Beauty or Swan Lake notations? In opera it was common to have various texts. Going back to my example above, it is really hard to choose which Don Carlo or Don Carlos (depending on the language) to choose. Even when you decide on the Italian version, then you have to also decide whether to include Act 1, whether to cut the ballet or include it, and which passages that Verdi himself threw out you should use. Basically, performing arts have always been messy and there is not black and white. Attempting to create a black and white "This is the Law of How Sleeping Beauty Must Be Performed" is actually (and yes I am making a leap but I believe it) going against what anyone in the 19th century believed in........the 19th century artists weren't sure their works would even outlive them and they were used to them being changed. I suspect 19th cetnury composers, singers, dancers, choreographers would be shocked at the 21st century idea of preserving a performing art in amber with no wiggle room.
  14. Well, what was done is done, and I think it is great to have reconstructions and great to have some variations on a theme as well. I try to enjoy everything. The Sergeyev Swan Lake is known to be his. It is not billed as pure Petipa. Maybe it once was, but now it is called the Sergeyev version by most people and even on the Mariinsky website it says, "Choreography by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov (1895) revised choreography and stage direction: Konstantin Sergeyev (1950)"......the Mariinsky Bayadere credits other choreographers too: "Choreography by Marius Petipa (1877) Revised choreography by Vladimir Ponomarev and Vakhtang Chabukiani (1941) with dances by Konstantin Sergeyev and Nikolai Zubkovsky" I think there is room to have reconstructions and Soviet revisions side-by-side. I saw the reconstructed Sleeping Beauty at ABT and enjoyed it very much, but I also love the Sergeyev version and will always love it. I also think there was a different attitude about "performing arts" before the days of video. Now with video we can capture pretty much the exact way something is to be performed. We can freeze things in time and recreate them. I know in opera in the past there are many operas that were often performed with cuts, arias interpolated, etc. There used to be divas who would simply insert an aria they were sure to get lots of applause for even if it were by a different composer. All kinds of wacky things happened in the performing arts. I think it is great to strive to discover what audiences from the 19th century may have actually seen on stage, but I also think you can't completely erase what went on after. My favorite opera Bellini's Norma would probably disappoint me if I heard it in 1831. Maybe not. I just believe since Maria Callas we expect a very powerful dramatic soprano and a very commanding and heavyweight Norma. Supposedly, that was not how the role was originally sung. Who really knows if Giuditta Pasta was that kind of singer in real life (we only have descriptions of her singing that indicates she was a great actress but had trouble with the high tessitura of the original Casta Diva, so now you have two versions of Casta Diva. She couldn't sing or didn't think she could sing what Bellini originally composed. If I traveled back to 1831 I might be disappointed and want to travel back to the 1950s and hear Callas instead. The performing arts are a living and breathing thing and take on a life of their own, in my opinion. In opera composers would compose a whole new aria for a diva to show off her specific traits and/or hide her flaws. That was normal. If a singer sounded lousy the work sounded lousy to the audience as well. So changing things up was actually a thing that happened in the performing arts. I think videotape has created an obsession with wanting a frozen moment in time recreated again and again. I don't think that is necessarily bad, but I don't think all the ballet professionals who have come and gone since Petipa should be treated like criminals either. Everyone does their best in paying homage to their art. There will always be disagreements about how well they did that.
  15. Just for Devil's Advocate, I think it is easy to say with hindsight that his works have been abused and disrespected, but at the time (when there was no video to freeze his choreography and set it in stone and when the notations were not widely available and many could not even read them) I think people did what they thought was right and attempted to keep his art alive. Probably everyone along the way had great love and respect for Petipa even if they were making changes. Without all of the artists keeping some Petipa ballets in the active repertoire (even if changes were made) there would not be interest in reconstructions, because his works would have been totally forgotten without all the people in between. In my opinion, people and companies made decisions to keep the public happy and to keep their government happy and probably made some mistakes, but they kept his art alive and without that having ever happened we might not have anyone caring about reconstructions. Ballet might have totally died out and no one would care, because they wouldn't know what they are missing and would see dusty notations in some library at Harvard and wonder, "What the heck is this?" I just don't think anything is cut and dry and no one should be hanged or condemned for keeping what he/she thought kept ballet alive at the time.