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Hans

Carnival in Venice

21 posts in this topic

I have some questions about this ballet, having recently acquired a video of the pas de deux. Does the libretto survive, and if so, what is the story? There seems to be a little mime in the pas de deux, but it doesn't make much sense without knowing the story. Also, the male variation on my tape looks suspiciously like the second male variation from the Peasant Pas de Deux. Any comments on this? And finally, does anyone (say, the Kirov) perform the full-length ballet anymore, or has it suffered the same fate as La Vivandiere?

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As far as I know, Carnival of Venice was something like the original La Fille mal Gardée, as a sort of vaudeville with a unifying theme. There was dialogue, singing, dancing, singing WHILE dancing, mime and if somebody had trained seals or plate-spinners, they could be in there, too. One version of the show was set by Carlo Goldoni as sort of a commedia dell'arte.

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I thought you would come through with an answer :). I guess I shouldn't read too much into the mime in the adagio, then. Do you know whether or not it really was choreographed by Petipa? It looks to me as if Ivanov might have had a hand in it.

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They probably both had their versions of it. The Legats, I bet, also had something to do with the preservation of what survives.

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Hans, I am sure that your pas de deux must the pas de dix I mentioned in another post, minus the supporting quartet of couples. If you are able to get the full version, it would be worth your while because they do extremely interesting things--too interesting, perhaps, to be absorbed from the corner of one's eye, which might be why the Kirov cuts them out in your version. After reading your post earlier this evening, I compared the danseur's variation with the second male solo from the Burgmueller pas de deux (in the Bolshoi version, which differs totally from the RB-derived text current in South Africa). I agree that they are rather similar. Each uses two identical enchainements, a diagonal of cabrioles doubles devants and advancing attitudes sautes down centre stage, though in a different sequence. I think I have read somewhere that Petipa often used to assign the choreography of male variations to Johansson (? not sure of this), which might account for the recycling of a rather limited set of dance topoi in pre-Fokine variations for the man.

While I was rewatching the tape in response to your post, I became aware for the first time that the adagio seems to quote a passage from the aria "Nel cor piu non mi sento" from Paisiello's La molinara--which I know only because Beethoven wrote a set of variations upon it. I would be interested to learn if Mel Johnson agrees, or whether he thinks it's just a coincidental overlap of a fairly standard melodic sequence. If the Paisiello is really there, on the other hand, it might be an air parlant that connects the pas de deux to the action of the ballet as a whole.

Does anybody know if the Carnival in Venice pas de deux/pas de dix ever made its way into Satanella?

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Rodney, I'm not sure whether the quote from Paisiello was intentional or accidental, but given the era of mix-and-match scores where anything could appear anywhere, if the pas de dix were put bodily into "Satanella", I wouldn't have been the least surprised! If it were intentional, it might have been just pure plagiarism, like the Taglioni variation in "Pas de Quatre", which is the second theme from Johann Strauss, Sr.'s "Suspension Bridge Waltz". Or it could have been that the opera or the aria was locally popular at the time and place of the variation's composition, or perhaps even just the Beethoven variations thereon. It might even have been a joke, as "Una voce poco fa" from "Barber of Seville" (the latter one) shows up in the "Fossils" number of "The Carnival of the Animals". Seems like there was this lady of an uncertain age who always attended house parties at the Saint-Saëns', and she would invariably insist on warbling the ditty with the long-suffering Camille accompanying!

Poor Paisiello, first he gets squashed by Mozart, then he gets squashed by Rossini, all in the same lifetime.:D

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Thank you for an extremely interesting post, Mel. Strangely enough, I was playing Pas de Quatre on the piano this morning,. blissfully unaware that a Strauss melody was slipping through my fingers. I know hardly any music by Strauss Sr, though I have listened to his contemporary, Josef Lanner, whose Schoenbrunner (sp?) waltz figures in Petrushka.

I wasn't aware of the Saint-Saens anecdote either. I had always assumed that the judgement was being passed on Rossini himself and his florid style, dated in terms of the taste-canons of 1886.

I wonder if you would be kind enough to point me to the Freischuetz allusion in Giselle. I have it on the authority of Ivor Guest that it's there, but it always seems to slip past me when I listen. But then, I don't know Freischuetz very well.

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Actually, my video does include the 8 corps members, but I called it a pas de deux anyway because they are not integral to the dance (at least that's how it appears on my tape)--they seemed to me less like the four girls in La Vivandiere or Esmeralda than Aurora's friends and violinists in the Rose Adagio, or the corps de ballet during the White Swan adagio. It could be done just as easily without them, whereas you really need six people to perform La Vivandiere. [Editing to add: not trying to lay down a hard and fast rule here about what is and is not a pas de x, just explaining my interpretation :devil: ]

Can anyone explain the ending pose of the two principals, in which the woman is in 5th en pointe and the man has one hand on her knee? It's done at the end of the adagio and the coda.

Edited by Hans

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Rodney, I'm not quite sure myself about the Freischütz quote myself, as I've only seen the whole opera once, but I've played and listened to the Overture innumerable times. I think it might be Max's horn call in the wolf-glen (that guy never loses his horn!) that's played by Hilarion to summon the hunting party after he discovers Albrecht's sword and evidence of perfidy. That may be, however, a German huntsman's call for "Tally-ho!", so that's why it's rather the same in both places. I never checked it out. It's the same way that the Fairy who takes her place in guarding Titania in Midsummer Night's Dream (Mendelssohn's incidental music) ("One aloof stand sentinel.") does so to an oboe call that is the German bugle call of the Napoleonic period for "form line of battle". It's also used by Beethoven in his "battle symphony" Wellington's Victory. And if they wanted to play Wellington's Victory in "Carnival of Venice" they certainly could have! The more the merrier! :devil:

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Mel, I have been pondering your identification of the Strauss Sr waltz in Pas de quatre, and wonder if it doesn't represent a kind of jocular compliment to Taglioni. My German dictionary gives two words for suspension bridge--Kettenbruecke and Haengebruecke. Do you happen to know which of the two features in the waltz's title? If Haenge, don't you think it might just be possible that Pugni was presenting Taglioni's foot as a miracle of engineering--her metatarsal arch the bridge upon which her suspension depends? She was popularly credited in the nineteenth-century imagination with the "invention" of the pointe, even though we now know this not to be the case. Obviously the pun won't work if the melody was tagged as the Kettenbrueckewalzer!

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Alas, it was the famous Kettenbrücke in Budapest that Strauss (vater) was commemorating in his waltzes, the world's first (1840) successful great cable suspension bridge. The music also serves as an elegant, if speedy pas de deux in Gerald Arpino's "Kettentanz".

Actually, on second thought, it certainly could be an engineering pun by the politically pawky Pugni. The bridge united Buda and Pest and was hailed as "the wonder of the modern world" in its day.

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I am sure you're right--the context would have been too exposed, and the melody too well-known for plagiarism. So it must be an air parlant that does homage to the wonder of the world. I greatly enjoyed your alliterative flourish. I shall go one better, and, on the evidence of a lithograph I have from an Ivor Guest article, shall call him the politically pawky and podgy Pugni!

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Pugni, not only politically pawky and podgy was also prolific! Did you know that his grandson, Alexander Shirayev, created the male solo role in the Trepak (Candy Canes) in Nutcracker? Shirayev provides us with one of the few biographical details we have about Antonietta dell'Era, the original Sugar Plum Fairy - "She's FAT!!!"

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Shirayev provides us with one of the few biographical details we have about Antonietta dell'Era, the original Sugar Plum Fairy - "She's FAT!!!"

Fat as compared to...? She looks fine in the photos to me.

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You found a picture of her? Where? I tried to find one, but all I could find were pictures of Nikitina, the second-cast Sugar Plum Fairy, misidentified as dell'Era. Poor dell'Era wasn't much liked. Maybe Shirayev had danced with her? :innocent:

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So the Perrot-prompted, politically pawky and podgy Pugni was also prolific? Indeed I didn't know that he had spawned a balletic mujik (I have the candy canes on tape, but prefer to think of the trepak as a Russian dance!) Just for the record, then, that famous photo of the fee dragee about to have the rug pulled from under her feet (a perilous moment re-introduced into Peter Wright's RB staging) is not A d'E but second-cast?

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That's right, it's Varvara Nikitina and Gerdt. She's standing on a little wagon called a raika, and gets slid across the stage on a track. She was powered by burly stagehands, manhandling the wagon with a long pole that extended into the substage. And of course, Candy Canes are Russian, in a ballet from St. Petersburg. Stick candy doesn't travel well.

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I wasn't aware that there was a wagon involved. I don't think there is in the RB version. I just remember Lesley Collier looking very tense while Dowell tugged her along on a piece of filmy fabric. However, Nadia Nerina mentions being whizzed across the Bolshoi stage on a trolley in Giselle. They must have discontinued this effect, for it doesn't feature in my tape of a performance with Bessmertnova.

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when the royal staged, then dropped (tho' not until after it was videotaped), the whisked scarf/travel for sugarplum by her cavalier, i think it was attemped w/ out the reika, which i'm not sure is used in stages anywhere much these days, i suppose the garden may have had one once, but i suspect no more. or if it does it doesn't have the stagehandlers for it.

in any case it looks mighty precarious on the dowell/collier video - collier stands delicately on the gossamer scarf and is pulled a little distance on it by dowell before he ends the rather brief restaging of this 'magical' effect.

still that picture of nikitina and gerdt is a treasure, and repeats a seemingly traditional effect, pictured, for instance, in lynn garafola's 'petipa diaries': it shows fokine whisking karsavina on a net in 'the fisherman and the pearl' pas de deux from 'the king's command.' (incidentally this may have been karsavina's debut role at the maryinsky.)

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I must have seen the misidentified photo, then.

That scarf moment in the Royal Ballet video is rather unnerving. Is it still performed that way? This is perhaps the only case in which I like the Balanchine version more--the ballerina always looks much more secure with someone to hold onto, even though she is on one leg.

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I suppose the prototype of all the whisked fabrics that impact on ballerinas' movements is the tartan shawl that enables silfiden to exit through the arm chair.

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