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Petipa's Talisman


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#1 R S Edgecombe

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 12:02 PM

Could someone please precis the narrative of Petipa's Talisman for me, and explain how the surviving pas de deux fits into the action? I am curious to know what its various stages signify. In my videotape of the piece, the woman wears a ballet paraphrase of the chlamys (a la Symphonic Variations or the RB Sylvia), and the man a ragged and asymmetrical costume. He appears to be rather tempestuous when he enters, but is placated by his partner's deferential arabesques. That enchainement is repeated, with roles reversed, toward the end of the pas de deux. The whole is capped, most unusually for Petipa, though not for Bournonville, with a mirror dance in contrary motion to the music of the entrada. I haven't been able to find out anything about this ballet from my reference books.

Also, could someone please tell me the source of the Carnival in Venice pas de dix. A friend told me it might have been inserted in a Satanella revival, but that he wasn't entirely sure.

Many thanks.

With all good wishes

Rodney Edgecombe

#2 Alexandra

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 12:14 PM

Thanks for your question, Rodney, and welcome to Ballet Alert! I don't know the answer to this one, but there are at least two people who post her regularly who probably do, and I'm sure you'll get an answer shortly. (I moved your post into Ballet History from Moms and Dads, in case you wondered how it got here. That forum is for parents of ballet students to exchange tips and talk to teachers about their students' progress.)

#3 Mel Johnson

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 01:57 PM

I don't know about the context for the "Talisman" pas de deux, but "Carnival of Venice" was a sort of musical comedy where the people danced more than they spoke or sang - and you thought that was just West Side Story! The score was a sort of portmanteau compilation by EVERYBODY. The longest segment of it that survives today is a theme and variations by Jean-Baptiste Arban, which I used to play on the trumpet, and then on the euphonium. (It's easier on the euphonium!) It's really a commedia dell'arte with the standard commedia plot: Handsome Youth with Clever Servant wants to marry Pretty Girl with Grouchy Father. Result: Handsome Youth ends up marrying Pretty Girl by outwitting Grouchy Father and his Bumbling Friends, with the aid of Clever Servant. Boy has Girl, Pop has Money, Servant gets Corps de Ballet. It comes from the era when I think ballet scores must have been in loose-leaf binders, they substituted numbers so freely from one show to another.

#4 Alexandra

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 04:01 PM

I deleted several OT posts on this thread -- all made in good humor, but this is a new poster with a serious question, it's in the Ballet History forum, and I'd ask that we keep to the topic.

#5 grace

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 04:32 PM

i have never seen or heard of this ballet. in fact, when i saw your topic, rodney, i assumed (and hoped) that it was about a talisman that petipa kept in his pocket - some little treasure that might come up at christie's! how gauche of me. :) i will have a browse in a book or two, but don't really know that i am likely to have this info.

it will be good to have someone at this board from SA, as we hear little from your area, and i know things are very difficult at present. (i recently met dawn weller, who has moved from your territory to mine.)

#6 nlkflint

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 05:38 PM

Word of the day is chlamys, greek word for cloak.

Comments on Le Talisman I have found:

....the pas de deux from "Le Talisman", a lost ballet of which only this excerpt had lived. It was the creation of Marius Petipa (creator of "The Sleeping Beauty", "The Nutcracker", "Swan Lake", and "La Bayadere" among others) and is a real treat to 19th century ballet fanatic.


...The Talisman pas de Deux is a rarity, a snippet of Petipa that survives where the rest of the ballet is lost. ... this did seem to be music made for dancing, and more interesting than some other 19th century ballet music like Bayadere that survives.

#7 doug

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Posted 09 July 2003 - 06:13 PM

Cyril Beaumont's "Complete Book of Ballets" (1941) includes a cast list and scenario for THE TALISMAN (pp. 424-429). A sparse choreographic notation of the ballet is preserved in the Sergeev Collection at the Harvard Library, including, I believe, a second notated copy of the pas de deux for Nal and Damayanti. In reviving dance from this collection of notations, I've found that much of the choreography looks like Bournonville. It's a good reminder that the French school was the basis for both the Russian and Danish 19th century ballet schools.

#8 Lynette H

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Posted 10 July 2003 - 04:37 AM

The pas de deux from the Talisman was danced by the Royal Ballet some time in the 1990s I think - Yoshida and Mukhamedov. I think from your references to costume that it might be this that you have seen ? There were some very attractive costume designs by Elizabeth McGorian, a dancer with the RB.

I don't remember the context other than he was supposed to be a god of the winds or somthing: there was a deliberate cotrast in styles between the boldness of his steps and the extreme delicacy of hers.

I don't know if this was staged specifically for Mukhamedov - maybe The Talisman or excerpts are still performed in Russia ?

#9 R S Edgecombe

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Posted 10 July 2003 - 10:01 AM

Many thanks for these extremely helpful leads. I shall consult the Beaumont book tomorrow. My tape features Kirov dancers in (I think) a Japanese theatre. I agree with Doug Fullington (I hope I have remembered his name correctly) that there are some Bournonville touches in the choreography--or perhaps the aging Petipa simply drew again on the style of the French ballets he known in his youth, and which Bournonville preserved so faithfully in his own idiom.

#10 rg

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Posted 10 July 2003 - 11:05 AM

Mel has given a good deal of insight into "Carnival de V"
Doug has said what I would have about the summary in Beaumont of the PETIPA version. However, the later version of LE TALISMAN, the one Nijinsky danced in was not Petipa's staging per se, but a re-staging in '09 by Legat. See the following:

Talisman : Chor: Nikolai Legat; mus: R. Drigo; scen: Orest Allegri; cos: Aleksandr Shervashidze. First perf: St. Petersburg, Maryinsky Theater, Nov 29, 1909.

here the Petipa credits:

Talisman : Chor: Marius Petipa; mus: Riccardo Drigo; lib: K. A. Tarnovsky and Petipa after the fairy play La fille en l'air; scen: Henrykh Levot, Matvei Shishkov and Mikhail Bocharov; cos: Evgenii Ponomarev. First perf: St. Petersburg, Maryinsky Theater, Jan 25, 1889 (O.S.)

apparently the role that Nijinsky assumed, in 1910, that of the original ballet's Zephyr but that Legat renamed as Hurricane, was first danced by E. Cecchetti.
In the later version, Legat's, Nijinsky was costumed (and photographed - see Lincoln Kirstein's NIJINSKY DANCING, among other sources) as a kind a hindu Brahmin - very much the persona he had as Fokine's Favorite Slave in PAVILLON D'ARMIDE - in fact Fokine who danced the role of the Rajah in Legat's TALISMAN found the similarity too close for comfort and was put out by this copycat idea from a ballet of his. (I assume the plot as given in Beaumont was more or less retained by Legat.) One contemp. review of Nijinsky's performing found the stage of the Maryinsky too small for his air-borne dancing, and another expressed real enthusiasm for his expressive mime in performing the role.
As you'll see in the libretto, the Hurricane character is essentially the protector to the goddess who comes to earth and loses her talisman (and her heart) to a mortal. (If alexandra's site here has the capability and the interest I can send a post card from the era of Samuil Andreanov - Balanchine's teacher - in what I take to be the role of the Rajah.)
As you may have learned, the subtitle of LE TALISMAN, was LA FILLE EN L'AIR and Mathilda Felixovna Kshessinska played the leading role of Niriti (she danced the production Nijinsky was part of; the original Niriti in Legat's version was Olga Preobrajenska.) [when my scanner gets set up i could scan a picture of M.F.K. as Niriti or you can look in Shmakov's "Great Russian Dancers" book, in the Kshessinska section, where two photos erroneously captioned as being from PAVILLON are in my opinion really from TALISMAN.
all this to suggest that if any pas de duex lasted into the soviet era it was more likely the Legat version rather than the Petipa, tho' how much Legat retained of the previous Petipa staging I cannot say. So when the Soviet or post-Soviet programs put on LE TALISMAN it's probably in some recension of Legat's ballet as much or more than of Petipa's.
hope this helps.

#11 R S Edgecombe

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Posted 10 July 2003 - 08:25 PM

Thank you very much indeed for this exhaustive response, rg. I am extremely grateful. I haven't yet got round to consulting Beaumont, but shall do so soon. Do you suppose that Legat revised the Petipa text as extensively as Petipa himself revised, say, the Coralli/Perrot Giselle? I would have thought that he would have been more circumspect with an obvious master. The male choreography in my tape is almost certainly souped up and Sovietized, but the female variation seems to be vintage Petipa.

#12 Alexandra

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Posted 12 July 2003 - 08:26 AM

rg emailed me two photographs from his collection of The Talisman -- THANK YOU, RG!!

Here's his identification information:

The first is kshessinska as Niriti.
The second is Samuil Andreanov as the Maharajah of Lehore (pinned w/ what i
take the eponymous 'talisman')
[both are educated (?) guesses on part as to identifcation.]


Kschessinska is in this post. Andreanov will be in the next.

Attached Files



#13 Alexandra

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Posted 12 July 2003 - 08:26 AM

And now I give you Andreanov!
[scan removed for possible reposting elsewhere]

#14 R S Edgecombe

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Posted 12 July 2003 - 10:11 AM

I want to subjoin my grateful thanks to RG for these splendid photographs. The one of MK is absolutely ravishing. I wish contemporary danseuses were as full-bodied as she is; I much prefer the contour of plumpish arms to thin ones, which always a little angular at wrist and elbow.

#15 carbro

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Posted 12 July 2003 - 10:27 AM

:D :dry: These are terrific photos. Thanks, rg and Alexandra. Kchessinska looks beautiful -- I love the slight tilt of her head and softness of her shoulders. But her pointes appear almost to be side-by-side in what I assume is sous-sus. Was this typical of that era?


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