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perky

A Month In The Country

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What can anyone tell me about this ballet. I know it's based on Turgenev's play using music by Chopin. I guess what I want to know is, have you seen it? And what do you think of it?

I have a video called Great Pas De Deux that has a short piece of it with Makarova and Dowell dancing a pas de deux. It's a very bittersweet and lovely pas that looks like Beliaev has just told Natalia he is leaving. It's make me hungry to see the whole ballet! I don't think it is available on video (Hopefully I'm wrong.)

Also is the ballet still being performed by the Royal Ballet? Any comments would be appreciated. Thanks :D

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the best place to begin learning about this ballet is in david vaughan's FREDERICK ASHTON AND HIS BALLETS, recently discussed elsewhere on this site.

the ballet was filmed and telecast but not, to the best of my knowledge, released commercially. perhaps someone in your area has an off-the-air copy of the television program.

here are the credits for that filming:

A month in the country 1978.

45 min. : sd. color

Telecast on November 15, 1978 by WNET-TV/13 on its series Great performances. A BBC Television presentation by John Vernon and Colin Nears taped in performance at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London. Includes opening interview by Robin Ray with Sir Frederick Ashton.

Choreography: Frederick Ashton. Music: Frederic Chopin arranged by John Lanchbery. Based on the play by Ivan Turgenev. Scenery and costumes: Julia Trevelyan Oman.

Performed by the Royal Ballet, London. Cast: Lynn Seymour (Natalia Petrovna), Graham Fletcher (Kolia, her son), David Drew (Yslaev, her husband), Denise Nunn (Vera, Natalia's ward), Anthony Dowell (Beliaev, Kolia's tutor), Derek Rencher (Rakitin, Natalia's admirer). Piano soloist: Philip Gammon.

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The principal pieces of Chopin used are the Variations on "La ci darem la Mano", and the Andante Spianato and Grand Polonaise. It's a great ballet.

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I agree with Mel -- it's a great ballet :D (And thanks for the info, rg!)

I saw it several times when it was new, and several times since, with different casts. Like many Ashton ballets, it's lost its subtlety over the years -- more histrionics, more, well, everything. And it's still a great ballet.

Ashton is rarely seen as an innovator, because his innovations are so quiet. I read something once -- I think it was by Clive Barnes, although I've never been able to find idt and may be misremembering -- that you'd go to see a new Ashton ballet and think it was just more of the same, until a week or so later, you realized that there were many new things in it -- new steps, a new way of structuring a work or, as in "A Month in the Country" a new way of telling a story using steps to depict mood and character, or to actually advance the story -- but he's so smooth and subtle they don't look new, and so you miss them.

It's still in repertory -- not every season, of course, but done frequently. Among its many charms was its perfect casting -- another Ashton hallmark.

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I remember reading that the National Ballet of Canada was trying to acquire it for Karen Kain (pre-retirement, obviously). I'd be curious to know if they did, and if so, what the production was like.

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Thank you everyone for your thoughts and information about this ballet. :D

I'm really a bit of a novice when it comes to Ashton's ballets, but what I've seen so far I love.

I find it a bit weird that the two choreographers I like and admire the most (Balanchine and Ashton), are so different from each other! It makes me wonder what it is that makes me respond in such a positive way to each of thier ballets.

To my eye they are both very musical and what Alexandra said about Ashton "so smooth and subtle" could also apply to Balanchine I suppose.

If anyone else has anything to add about this ballet please do. Thanks again!

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Seymour's performance in this was unforgettable, it made the ballet. I subsequently saw it with Marguerite Porter as Natalya and it lost much of its impact. But with the first cast, it was one of the high points of my ballet viewing. One of my favorites.

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Oh, I agree on Porter :wink: I'd loved her as the maid, but not as Natalya!

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Not only is it a beautiful ballet but the costumes that Natalya gets to wear (in Royal Ballet's production, not sure of the others) are out of this world.

Giannina

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oddly, see below, the credits given for this work in the dance coll. at n.y.pub. lib. don't list a costume designer. i ASSUME the late J-T Oman did them.

so far as i know there have been no other productions of this ashton work other than that at the royal ballet. so the original designs have been used exclusively to date, unless there's a subsequent production i've not heard about.

Month in the country : Chor: Frederick Ashton; mus: Frederick Chopin (Variations on "Là ci darem," Fantasy on Polish airs, Andante spianato and Grand polonaise in E flat) arranged by John Lanchbery; lib: freely adapted from Turgenev's play; scen: Julia Trevelyan Oman; lighting: William Bundy. First perf: London, Covent Garden, Feb 12, 1976, Royal Ballet.//First perf. in U.S.: New York, Metropolitan Opera House, Apr 27, 1976, Royal Ballet.

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I'm sure the costumes were by Oman; much was made of their similarity to those she did for "Enigma Variations" at the time.

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I'm sure the costumes were by Oman; much was made of their similarity to those she did for "Enigma Variations" at the time.

They are indeed by T-O, and were compared to the Enigma costumes in the first wave of reviews. I seem to remember that Arlene Croce thought they were a bit over the top (making a comment about the blue ribbon that Natalya wears and the tutor kisses), but as I recall, she didn't like the ballet as much as Enigma either. I've only seen it on tape, but it is a beautiful, leisurely work. I've heard some chat about other companies trying to get the performance rights, but whoever holds them is apparently quite choosy.

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I seem to remember that Arlene Croce thought they were a bit over the top (making a comment about the blue ribbon that Natalya wears and the tutor kisses), but as I recall, she didn't like the ballet as much as Enigma either.

In the final scene, Natalya stands alone on the stage, buried in grief, while unbeknownst to her, Beliaev creeps up from behind, picks up the blue ribbons trailing from her peignoir, and kisses them. Croce's objection was that Natalya dons the peignoir only for that scene, which makes it look set up. The dramatics of the ballet were, she felt, artificial. Her overall assessment was that while the choreography was some of Ashton's best, it was really a dance suite disguised as a dance drama.

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I always thought that many misunderstood Ashton's dramaturgy -- I don't think it's necessarily linear, taking place in real time. It's often in compressed time, a series of pictures, images, not a narrative. (Poor Sir Fred. If only he'd gone around saying, "I want to bring narratiive ballet into a new dimension, fracturing time, compressing emotion and passion into a sort of choreographic firecracker that will take the viewer to the edge of experience.") If one looks at it that way, then the costume change is not illogical.

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so far as i know there have been no other productions of this ashton work other than that at the royal ballet. so the original designs have been used exclusively to date, unless there's a subsequent production i've not heard about.

I remember reading that a few seasons ago Brigitte Lefèvre would have liked the POB to perform it, but it was not possible for some complicated reason (perhaps a problem of rights?)

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So who actually owns the rights to this ballet? Indeed to all of Ashton's ballets.

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Estelle, there was a similar situation with the Royal Danish Ballet in the 1980s, when Ashton was still alive. In that instance, Ashton deferred to Dowell, then director of the Royal, who, according to Kronstam (then AD of the RDB) said no, saying it would be like the RDB giving the Royal the rights to do Napoli. That was back in the days when one of the measures of a great company was having a unique repertory, though :wink:

Perky, and anyone else interested in the provisions of Ashton's will, Kathrine Sorley Walker wrote about that in a piece for DanceView that's now up in our archives. Scroll down: the material about the will is in the last two paragraphs:

Ashton Now and Then

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Hmmm. If one thinks that "twisting to Vivaldi" is cutting edge, I'm sure "Month" would look ridiculous!

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Croce's objection to the peignoir wasn't merely that the donning of it was a contrivance -- getting those ribbons on the floor to be kissed -- but that the kiss itself suggested that Beliaev's true affections are reserved for Natalya -- something that Turgenev had left deliberately unclear (and that's correct, at least in my translation by Isaiah Berlin -- Beliaev isn't insensitive to the feelings of others and he may care for Natalya, but he doesn't really comprehend the turmoil he's created among the women).

I haven't seen the ballet and so can't comment. There's also a lengthy discussion of the ballet in Julie Kavanagh's "Secret Muses."

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In her last months as director Maina Gielgud had arrived at an agreement with Dowell to stage Month in the Country for the Royal Danish Ballet. But with her departure the project was abandoned.

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