The RDB situation
Posted 13 October 2003 - 08:39 AM
It should be said in the interests of fairness that, according to my sources, the opera and drama departments are doing very well. I think this is because of the different nature of the art forms. For both opera and drama, the chief (artistic director) sets the repertory and brings in directors to direct the plays and conductors and opera producers to stage productions. It is perfectly understandable that someone who is not trained in theater management would ask, "why the hell doesn't this work in ballet?" But it doesn't. Add to that, that I think there are many who have power over the ballet world who think that ballets are plays with steps in them -- that it's the story that matters, and anyone can come in and stage a ballet and have a ballet master, considered by some to be a failed artist too unimaginative to be a choreographer, "just do the dancing parts" as one critic put it to me.
Would it help if he were removed? I wonder if there is a realistic hope that anyone selected to succeed him would be any better.
The root of this goes beyond the Theater Chief (and his staff, each hand picked to fulfill the Theater Chief's mission) though, to the Minister of Culture. When I was researching my book, I was told consistently that everything began to go seriously wrong with the death of Niels Matthiasen, the last Minister of Culture who was, well, cultured. He loved ballet, and was very involved in nurturing it. In a postiive way, that is Fertilizer, weed killer.....what's the difference? They both have a picture of a flower on them.
Posted 13 October 2003 - 12:25 PM
*The "marketing department" at the RDB consists of, as far as the website suggests, one person, who is also in charge of all of the education and outreach events that they produce. I cannot think of a single other major international company where this is the case.
*Programming a season, and I am sure that I am preaching to the choir here, involves more than just the marketing--but also the schedules of the people who are setting ballets, the time it takes to actually construct the work from the tutus to the lights etc. Add to this the Opera schedule with the same limitations. More than half of the works open in the first portion of the season, which is pretty impressive. I am not yet decided if I am in favor of their half-rep method, where occasionally there are dedicated periods to a single ballet and occasionally you can see three things in one week. I can't imagine what sort of trauma this must be for the technicians who are constantly changing from ballet to opera and back again. We should consider ourselves lucky that the ballet exists from September to May and not just for six weeks at a time. (maybe someone wants to pick up the debate and tell me the virtue of a 'ballet' or 'opera' season--i know you're out there
*The Minister of Culture visited the ballet last week. Maybe he was confused, but I was told that he was there!
Posted 13 October 2003 - 02:38 PM
I don't think anyone would doubt the current artistic director's marketing skills, so you're probably all right there
On the programming, I'd vote for mixed repertory -- having two weeks of one program is a relatively recent idea and I think it's a horrible one. Too bad about the technicians. They used to be able to handle three or four ballets a night with complicated sets and a different rep program the next night.
In the '50s and '60s there were many more ballets in a season than now, fewer casts (2) and a mixed repertory. Part of the glory of repertory theater is seeing how ballets appear different when on the bill with other ballets -- shuffling the ballets, as it were. All of this is a matter of choices, and standing up to a theater administration. The ballet and the opera have always fought for space, and the ballet usually loses. But one can say, "If I don't have four weeks of rehearsal, the ballet does not go on," for example. And one doesn't need to have five casts. (I don't mean to suggest that any of these are specifically RDB problems; it's happening all over.)
Posted 13 October 2003 - 09:53 PM
Current management will sit untill 2008, where Michael Christiansen probably will retire. But it is a far way yet. And I see very little growth in the artictic abilities of either him or in the Ballet master currently. At best they have stopped experimenting big style and stick to proven succes formulas. But when those are not working there is a big void.
Posted 14 October 2003 - 06:38 AM
When you compare to earlier times, yes the repetoire was bigger, but there were fewer new productions and a steady corps, who knew the repetoire in details. It was easier to change. Also most ballets depended more on solo dancers and less on ensemble, which made last minuts changes easier. Today most ballets are cast with 3 -4 teams of dancers, but due to injuries and lack of rehersal time, it is seldom than more than 2 teams actually gets on stage. Dancers have danced major roles like Aurora and Bluebird without having one stage rehersal. To cure the problem RDB needs more dancers on all levels. Currently Solo dancers like Thomas Lund is doing corps duty in Odysseen as well as dancing James in La Sylphide. In Manon he has the small role as head beggar, where he could have been an interesting Lescaut. In short he spends too much time doings roles, he has outgrown and risks unneccesary injuries while doing them. But untill more corps dancers are hired and more soloists developed, he cannot be a full time star.
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