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Massine's Mam'zelle Angot


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#1 R S Edgecombe

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Posted 24 August 2003 - 05:47 AM

This is going to be a very nebulous, all-over-the-place post, prompted in part by my having taken out a vocal score of Lecocq's Fille de Madame Angot on Friday for sight-reading practice, and also by my having discovered last night, in an out-of-sight post on Ballet Talk, that Ashton's Sylvia will be mounted by the RB next year. (The thought of that thrills me beyond words, and I am hoping against hope that it will find its way on to commercial video and then into my VCR.) It seems that this reconstruction will be based in part on an in-house film on the ballet, and my first question relates to that fact. Is the entire SWB/RB rep on film of this kind, or is Sylvia an exception to the rule? And if it is, is there any chance of its ever being released to the public? For example, after having been exposed only to Bourmeister, I would dearly love to see the 95 Lac with Odette's mimic narrative and Ivanov's choreography to the Valse bluette etc etc.

And if there is indeed an entire film record of that rep, would there ever be any chance of reviving Mam'zelle Angot? The music so far (I'm at the end of Act I) is very pretty--I am assuming the ballet score is based upon the operetta, and not a salmagundi a la Gaiete parisienne--and Derain's decor would surely stand the test of time. I am also curious to know how Massine relayed a plot that, in the operetta at least, seems quite as complicated as any from the Romantic rep. If mothers-in-law pose a challenge to mimic representation, how on earth does one render a caricaturist? Could you please tell me if Massine's stock still stands high? I ask because he is one of many dark holes in my education. I have never seen anything after my childhood encounters with The Red Shoes and The Tales of Hoffmann respectively, both of which struck me then as being unmusical. However, I should point out that I had very Petipan ideas about musicality as a child, and might well moderate my views now. Do any companies still dance Massine? I would be very interested in viewer assessments of his talent/genius.

One final question, if Mel would be kind enough to field it: the summary of the plot at the start of the Boosey score talks about "the historical Madame Angot." Who was she? I have read Carlyle on the Fr Rev, but don't remember anybody by that name--which is not to say, of course, that she isn't there all the same.

#2 Ari

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Posted 24 August 2003 - 06:13 AM

Rodney, the Sylvia that SFB is staging next year is not Ashton's. Mark Morris is doing the choreography. I believe that only parts of Ashton's version are still extant.

#3 R S Edgecombe

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Posted 24 August 2003 - 06:47 AM

But Ari, this wasn't Cisco (which is what I take SFB to stand for) but London. Somebody in the UK posted near to the start of the year, and Alexandra replied that she was thrilled by the news, which offset a dreary, rainy day in Washington. I haven't the energy to retrace my steps, but I'm sure Alexandra will be able to confirm this good news. The poster said they were also relying on the memories of dancers who had retained the ballet, or parts of it.

#4 Ari

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Posted 24 August 2003 - 07:15 AM

Whoops, sorry, Rodney! Great news about the revival.

#5 rg

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Posted 24 August 2003 - 07:41 AM

while our british readers and post-ers will undoubtedly answer some of your points more authoritatively, let me add my 2-cents in the meanwhile.
i believer that MUCH if not all of the RBs rep was filmed. not sure how early it all started but these offically made films some of which i've been lucky enough to see are black&white films by edmee wood and are always(?) final piano dress-rehearsal affairs in long shot and sometimes re-taken close-in for say pas de deux details. so much of the RB is on such film.
re: Mam'zelle A: that was not out of rep. all THAT long. i saw it at covent garden in 1977, for the queen mother's birthday bash, when ashton's 'rhapsody' was given it's world premiere.
it is also on film sent out on tv, as one of these 'birthday' programs was telecast - cut - on british tv. i'm not at all sure how much of the massine was 'sent out' - i know 'rhapsody' was not televized complete, or i think it was not.
recently, re: massine's ballet on stage today, the cincinnati ballet, in a gala evening honoring frederic franklin, on which 'devil's holiday' pas de duex was revived, the last movement of massine's 'seventh symphony' was given. now as was reported in a recent issue of BALLET ALERT (the hard copy publication) that cincinnati plans to revive the rest (or more of, i'm not positive here) massine's 'seventh symphony' early next year.
yes the RB announced the SYLVIA revival for next year but alas i think that's come to mean LATE next year so the revival if/when ready will not be in place when the RB visists nyc for a neat-sounding ashton festival at lincoln center festival next summer.
other massines around...
PARADE now and then; LES PRESAGES more then than now; CHOREOARTIUM was revived not so long ago, tho i don't think the revival stayed around long; GAITE PARSIENNE comes and goes here and there; paris op. which has done PRESAGES has also done, and filmed for tv, LE TRICORNE. the most(?) recent paris op. massine revival of SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE was not exactly well received by massine-ites here and there, mostly because it was said/felt that the revival by leonid's son lorca wasn't all that accurate. this was however filmed on a paris op. triple bill w/ petit's 'l'arlesienne' and w/ staats 'soir de fete' and televised in late '95 or maybe early '96. japanese tv oddly got the full bill on its tv while i THINK euro. tv often got only 'soir' and 'symphonie' minus the 'l'arlesienne' but i could be wrong here. in any case i wish the bill could be put out on dvd. whatever else the 'symphonie' did or didn't do accurately choreography-wise it reproduced berard's ravishing designs to a fare thee well.
which is a good memo to self, to halt my ramble...

#6 Mel Johnson

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Posted 24 August 2003 - 08:16 AM

The best I can make out of Mme. Angot is that referring to her so is a lot like referring to the "historical Mrs. Malaprop". She seems to have been a good old-fashioned mama who had lots of good advice misremembered or misapplied by her wayward daughter. She is set in the French Directorate period, and may be original to LeCocq and his librettist of 1872.

#7 Jane Simpson

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Posted 24 August 2003 - 08:39 AM

An article called 'Who was Madame Angot?' by Ivor Guest in Richard Buckle's Ballet magazine (Jan 1948) reveals the following:

Madame Angot made her first appearance in 1795 at the Theatre d'Emulation in 'Madame Angot ou la Poissarde parvenue'; and later that year she reappeared... in a one-act ambigu tragique, 'La Mort de Madame Angot', a very inferior piece that was loudly hissed...Between 1795 and 1803 there were at least a dozen pieces performed at various Parisian theatres with Madame Angot as the central character. The most successful of them all was undoubtedly the Chevalier Aude's 'Madame Angot au serail de Constantinople, which ran ... for 237 consecutive performances and was the outstanding theatrical success of the year 1800, The character of Madame Angot was the essence of vulgarity.'


...and lots more

#8 R S Edgecombe

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Posted 24 August 2003 - 09:04 AM

RG, I always feel sad when you say "no more for now" or "I must now sign off," because, like a little boy at bedtime, I always want one more chapter. The fact that the RB films are primarily long distance monochromes to piano music makes them seem slightly less enticing, but I must say I would still love to see their Lac from the fifties. And the Sylvia of course--not to mention countless other ballets I've never seen but read much about.

I expected to hear that M's Gaiete P was still in rep, but I was pleased and surprised that so much of Massine's symphonic writing still seems to be around--stills from Les Presages always look most appetizing. Perhaps one day I shall get to glimpse something or other on videotape. I heartily endorse your assessment of the Berard designs, RG.

Jane and Mel, many thanks for your posts, but both seem to point to the fictive versions of M Angot. Unlike Mrs Malaprop, whose name makes it clear that she is a Theophrastan character, M Angot, according to Boosey, really existed. I shall try an internet sweep, but I always seem to make a mess of these.

#9 rg

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Posted 24 August 2003 - 02:53 PM

i misremebered the queen mother's b.day gala, the year was 1980, and i think all of Mam'zelle A was telecast then.
also there has been a report that the kirov plans to stage some 'reconstuction' of the 1895 swanlake in the near furture. tho' regarding the mime, and doug could say more here, i'm not sure how much of odette's mime is notated, so the kirov would have to depend upon sources in england who were taught the mime by sergeyev. or perhaps i'm wrong and odette's mime is spelt out in detail within the notations themselves.

#10 R S Edgecombe

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Posted 24 August 2003 - 03:14 PM

I actually know Odette's mime, RG, because the gestures are set out in a book I consulted about two years ago. Can't remember the author, but she was taught at the SWB school, where Dame Ninette had hired a mistress of Italian mime to instruct her pupils in an extraordinary number of gestures--several hundred, I think. A Ms A Philips might have been an intermediary--not sure of this. What the book lacked was a coordination of the gestures to that marvellous narrative music in B flat and B major. So there resulted the less than satisfactory experience of looking at oneself in a mirror (this Odette was 6 ft 2 ins and bearded), making only approximate connections to the score. It can hardly compare with a film of Fonteyn or Elvin effortlessly reeling off the story of the mother and the tears and the lake--without beards and always on cue!

I did a Google search for the historical Madame Angot, and came up, as I thought I would, with hundreds of entries for Lecocq and Massine. When I narrowed the search with the descriptor "historical," I got historical performances of the Lecocq opera! No win! Estelle, if you're reading this, could you please consult some of your history books? None of mine says anything about this mysterious personage.

RG, did you like Mam'zelle Angot by the way? Was the narrative intelligible? Is the choreography good?

#11 rg

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Posted 24 August 2003 - 07:06 PM

as i recall from one brief acquaintance w/ M'zelle A on stage and w/ my 'refresher' looks on videotape, it is in a catgegory, like that of 'good-humored ladies' (which i've seen ONLY on film, and only once) that, given its happy and pronounced use of the danse d'ecole, really shows the extent of the debt ashton owes to his one-time teacher. M'zelle and Goodhumored could have been mistaken by me, at times, if i squinted, for an ashton ballet. in the case of 'angot' i can also see some precedent for cranko's 'pineapple poll.'
i am afraid i can't say or give much more feedback regarding all this, but it's just to suggest that 'angot' is rather diferent from PARADE or even GAITE and also, from what little i know, given my brief exposure to them, to massine's symphonic ballets. (i've seen PRESAGES w/ the joffrey and on a reh. tape w/ paris opera. and the briefest excerpts of CHOREARTIUM and some SEVENTH SYMPHONY on tape.)
i've seen the paris op. ballet SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE on stage as well as on tape.
i suppose 'angot' may be most akin to BOUTIQUE FANTASQUE but i know this work only from the briefest of film excerpts.

#12 R S Edgecombe

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Posted 24 August 2003 - 07:35 PM

That's SO interesting. I had always assumed that M's influence had been vectored into the Br ballet via Dame Ninette, and thought of Ashton's patrimony rather as having come from Petipa, with a two additional (and minor) bequests from Fokine and Nijinska. There is a funny anecdote in the Kavanagh in which A self-deprecatingly says, apropos of his not wholly successful attempt at an C18 formal garden at Chandos Place--"My gardens are very much d'apres le Notre, just as my ballets are d'apres Petipa"--or words to that effect!

#13 Jane Simpson

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Posted 26 August 2003 - 07:26 AM

Rodney, I wonder if you know a tape called Mime Matters, which the Royal Academy of Dance brought out a year or two ago?

Among other things it features Antoinette Sibley and Anthony Dowell doing the 'mother's tears' mime scene - in street clothes and at their then ages, but very detailed - and rather touching, too, to see a middle-aged Odette and Sigfried!

You also get glimpses of such things as Sarah Wildor as Swanilda and Alina Cojocaru as Giselle, and lots of discussion, demonstration and explanation led by Monica Mason (who also appears as Carabosse, with Deanne Bergsma as the Lilac Fairy).

Dance Books can supply the tape in PAL or NTSC, I believe


A couple of other things about Mam'zelle Angot:

I was amazed to learn (or probably re-learn, my memory being what it is) that the original heroine in the Ballet Theater production was Nora Kaye - a long, long way, I imagine, from the people who danced in the RB's last performances.

I was also surprised to see C. W. Beaumont, reviewing the SWB's first night, describing it as 'the first original work to be composed by Leonide Massine for the Sadler's Wells Company' - I'd always imagined it was the Ballet Theater production, with just a few minor changes. But he obviously thought it was different enough to be called a new work. Would he have seen the BT version, I wonder?

Some of it must have been completely new as Noel Goodwin (writing a programme note for the RB) says that 'it was given... a new musical arrangement by Gordon Jacobs, who drew on other Lecocq sources besides the eponymous operetta to make the present score, comprising an overture and thirteen numbers'.

Beaumont, by the way, thought the choreography of Act 1 'excellent', and of Act 2 'good', but found Act 3 'still untidy and uncertain in design.'

#14 R S Edgecombe

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Posted 26 August 2003 - 08:15 AM

Jane, I didn't know about the tape, and shall email David Leonard as soon as I log off here. Thank you VERY much. I am as surprised as you to find out that Mam'zelle A wasn't a revival, though I should have been alerted by the Jacobs connection. It's unlikely that ABT would have crossed the Atlantic for an arrangement, though I don't know enough about American ballet to be sure who they would in fact have turned to. Rosenthal was French, I think, but Gaiete parisien prob premiered in Europe. And I wonder how Balanchine came to ask Rieti to give Bellini a make-over. Was Night Shadow originally a European work?

#15 Mashinka

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Posted 26 August 2003 - 08:19 AM

Its something of a strange coincidence that a question about Mam'zelle Angot should appear as I was listening to the Richard Bonynge recording of the ballet over the weekend.

R>S Edgecombe asks: [QUOTE]how on earth does one render a caricaturist?

Well, quite simply really, Massine gives him an oversized sketchpad and he draws a very grotesque caricature of a pompous official, which he then shows the assembled dancers and the audience. Of course he could have been a talented amateur rather than a professional caricaturist, but we'll go along with what it says on the cast list.

Its a shame that Massine’s work is neglected, perhaps its a little too unsophisticated for today’s audiences and then again perhaps dancers are less inclined towards often grotesque comedy roles. I'm speaking here of his comic ballets as sadly I've never seen any of his classical output, but his cubist ballet Parade has recently been revived and every now and again Le Tricorne puts in an appearance, though maybe there is now more interest in the Picasso designs for these works than there is for Massine’s choreography.


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