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La Sonnambula


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#16 E Johnson

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Posted 13 January 2011 - 08:30 AM

Atm, I think that the bench conversation was one of the things that got lost through the years. I'd bet the original divertissement people were strong enough, too, so that the conversation wasn't a distraction.


I can't say if its the same as the conversations of the past, but I recall Peter Boal and Jenifer Ringer (I think) engaging in "conversation" on the bench several years back. I found it more interesting than the dancing in front of it.

#17 carbro

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Posted 13 January 2011 - 11:58 AM

I saw a lot of NYCB performances in the late 70s and most of the 80s, but only saw "La Sonnambula" once. I remember Stephanie Saland as The Coquette and Darci Kistler as The Sleepwalker, ...

I saw this cast, among several others, and while Saland was a sly and seductive Coquette and Kistler an innocent Sleepwalker, the balance was off. Darci was unable to shake off her innate, sunny openness, which leaves the audience wondering about the poet's fascination with her, since the Coquette was so much more mysterious.

#18 Jack Reed

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 01:39 PM

... At his entrance, when the Baron extends his hand, Andersen looked at him as though he had no idea what the gesture meant, and made a small bow. It set the whole ballet -- the Poet as someone so otherworldly that he did not understand society's conventions, making him bait for both the Coquette AND the Sleepwalker.

I do remember this from the Balanchine years at NYCB, although I don't remember clearly who the Poet was (I may have seen more than one). Plainly, the Poet was not of the same world as the guests, with their fussy footwork to the stuttering, dotted rhythms of the music in that scene.

This moment - contrasting what we had just seen - does set the whole ballet; and the first Poet was having trouble with the role: In May 2000, Frederic Franklin recalled that, in 1946,

In La Sonnambula, I was working on a narrative ballet. I was a poet. "You come on; you fall in love." That was [how Balanchine] explained it. Not why I was there, what was [going on]. And I would ask him, and he'd say, "No, you were not invited. You just arrive." That sort of thing. And that's when I had the idea [that I came to the Baron's party] because I was linked to the entertainers.

But, I think with their results, what came out of both [him and Massine] you couldn't say it was not right. It was right the way they worked, and dancers had to get used to it. ...


[This is from the extensive - 60 hours! - interviews of him conducted then and now transcribed, available at the Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center. The second paragraph is interesting because it, together with the subtext of the first paragraph, says a lot about the essential difference between the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, for which Balanchine worked briefly, and his own New York City Ballet of a couple of years later, particularly with regard to their different emphases on characterization, narrative, and so on. But this a digression.]

Alexandra continued,

I think that the bench conversation was one of the things that got lost through the years. I'd bet the original divertissement people were strong enough, too, so that the conversation wasn't a distraction.


I well remember from the Balanchine years at NYCB how the planes of action in the divertissement were adjusted, calibrated, so that the dances downstage were only so interesting, not more, and the "conversation" upstage - behind the arcade at the back - went on discontinuously, with interruptions when the two themselves paid attention to those dances.

I do remember Kent's Sleepwalker barreling out of the bottom of the tower like gangbusters, taking long steps on point, hurrying across the stage, coming downstage as though she might wind up in the pit, crossing it again, as on a mission, looking for something; and then in her later appearance, circling the stage with that intensity more contained, looking for something she knew was there now, she sensed was there, not looking down but encountering the Poet's body, and screaming (arching back with open mouth). Strange, remote, and powerfully affecting.

As Croce put it

...the real suffering we've witnessed seem[s] like a personal secret accidentally disclosed. It keeps you at a distance, though you may find yourself in tears.



#19 bart

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 03:36 PM

Jack, you are really helping to prepare me to see Sonnambula next weekend. Thank you.

I do remember Kent's Sleepwalker barreling out of the bottom of the tower like gangbusters, taking long steps on point, hurrying across the stage, coming downstage as though she might wind up in the pit, crossing it again, as on a mission, looking for something; and then in her later appearance, circling the stage with that intensity more contained, looking for something she knew was there now, she sensed was there, not looking down but encountering the Poet's body, and screaming (arching back with open mouth). Strange, remote, and powerfully affecting.

I do remember Kent conveying this. In fact, it is my strongest visual memory of those performances so lnog ago. Your description supports the coaching suggestions she gave to the Miami dancers in 2004 or 05, referred to on our concurrent thread on the MCB thread. Alas, it is rarely performed -- anywhere --with such febrile intensity.

Now that I think of it, this kind of intensity is a perfect contrast to the strange calmness that comes over the Sleep Walker as she receives the body of the dead Poet and departs with him to her tower. Maybe her entrance is an act of desperate seeking. And her exit is a signal that she has found what she was looking for.

#20 Jack Reed

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 08:37 PM

You're welcome, of course, bart, but as the hour is late and we have another thread or two going on the current MCB run of this, I'll just say here that I hope you still want to thank me after you've seen their production.

#21 bart

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Posted 22 January 2011 - 10:23 AM

Miami City Ballet dancer Rebecca King has posted an interview with Jennifer Lauren on her dancer's blog. Lauren, an MCB soloist, discusses some of the elements involved in preparing for the role of the Sleep Walker.

http://tendusunderap...leepwalker.html

I was especially interested in Lauren's experience working with Allegra Kent earlier in the season. Here's a sample:

"Your arms and feet are your feelers." The dancer should not appear to be seeing through her eyes, so she uses her extremities to find her way. Her arms are never by her side, but always extended as if searching for something. When the Sleepwalker first enters, she is feeling more "guarded" so she holds her arms further away from her not allowing the Poet into her aura. As she begins to feel more comfortable she brings her arms in more, closing the space between her and her suitor.




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