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Symphony in C... please excuse the question :-/


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#31 Helene

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Posted 29 January 2009 - 02:19 PM

Cristian, you really don't need to do any preparation to enjoy Symphony in C, it's one of the most joyous ballets I've ever seen. Although an unfortunate side effect has crept into my psyche over the last few years - whenever I see it now, as soon as the last movement starts reaching it's climax I start wishing it would start over again from the beginning so I can never truly relax & just focus on the ending!

Oh, absolutely. "Symphony in C", despite its length, is at the top of my short list of "do-over" ballets, the ones I want to see again as soon as they are over.

#32 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 29 January 2009 - 08:35 PM

Just came back. What a beauty...
Will report tomorrow...

#33 Quiggin

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 05:44 PM

Scratch the white paint and underneath...

Tim Scholl and, as I remember, Danilova point out that the original Symphony in C, Palais de Crystal, was in color--each act in red, blue, green, and white. The original scenario featured "a Ruby Priestress, a Sapphire Spirit, an Emerald Spirit and a Crystal Spirit in a Palace of Diamonds" (Richard Buckle). When it was presented in New York the next year, the costumes were black and white, in part perhaps because the troop was small and the dancers had to appear in more than one part.

Vadim Gaevksy in his book "Divertissement," Scholl says, likens the structure of Symphony in C to that of a pas classique: entree, adagio, variation, coda. Also for Scholl it recalls the formula of the Petipa ballet a grand spectacle: exposition, white act and divertissement (though shorter and speedier). The adagio, he says, is the work's ballet blanc, but here

the ballerina is not dead, but dying; her repeated falls into the arms of her cavalier becomes the movement's leifmotief. As it ends, she falls in a long spiral, until, like Aurora, she lies in her parnter's arms in a perfect fifth position, arms en couronne.


With Scholl everything begins with Sleeping Beauty and ends with Jewels, and I find myself ok with that alpha and omega.

* * *

Footnote: For me Symphony in C was probably the first Balanchine ballet that really knocked me out. The amount of invention was amazing, lines were combing through each other and changing each other's natures, and then all the characters, which had lived unknown to each other in separate stories, suddenly filling the stage and going on about at life at the same time, side by side...Pure madness.

#34 carbro

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 05:50 PM

. . . [T]hen all the characters, which had lived unknown to each other in separate stories, suddenly filling the stage and going on about at life at the same time side by side...Pure madness.

:unsure: It is madness! I'd never thought of it that way, Quiggin. But within that madness is order. What a delicious paradox!

#35 bart

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 07:31 PM

Quiggan, you're right. They are "characters" in a sense. The color variations in Palais de Cristal must have made this point more clearly. I'll be seeing this in March and will definitely look for what you suggest.

#36 Gina Ness

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Posted 30 January 2009 - 10:04 PM

During my time at SFB, I first danced first and third movement soloists, and then first and fourth movement principal. It's a challenging ballet, but wonderful to dance. When we first danced it in the mid-seventies, we wore black leotards and black short skirts. Eventually, the tutus returned in the early 80s (Crystal Palace). I actually think the ballet works better visually without the tutus. The beauty of the line shows to more advantage in simple attire.

P.S. I have a story for you that I heard when dancing at SFB. Beatrice Tompkins premiered the principal woman in the third movement in New York in 1948. It was to have been Gisela Caccialanza who had amazing ballon. Before the premiere, she injured her achilles heel during rehearsal and was unable to dance. I notice in looking at the history of the NYCB premiere that her husband, Lew Christensen, was the principal male in the fourth movement.

#37 atm711

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Posted 31 January 2009 - 05:12 AM

Scratch the white paint and underneath...

Tim Scholl and, as I remember, Danilova point out that the original Symphony in C, Palais de Crystal, was in color--each act in red, blue, green, and white. The original scenario featured "a Ruby Priestress, a Sapphire Spirit, an Emerald Spirit and a Crystal Spirit in a Palace of Diamonds" (Richard Buckle). When it was presented in New York the next year, the costumes were black and white, in part perhaps because the troop was small and the dancers had to appear in more than one part.


The first time I saw the ballet it was called 'Palais de Crystal' and was performed by the POB in NYC one year before it was done by NYCB. It had a very elegant look---the different colored tutus were muted and the whole ballet had a soft look. It looked very different the following year as performed by NYCB. The women wore white sleeveless leotards with a soft skirt--the men in black tights and white tops. One part that has stuck in my head from that first performance was when all four movements are on the stage at the same time (NYCity Center); the stage looked terribly crowded, the corps lost their 'lines' and they barely managed to get it together. --but, at the time the corps talent was pretty raw---they went from the classroom to the stage rather quickly.---they were a far cry from POB---and a far cry from what they are today. Both Companys performed it at the same theater.

#38 nijinsky1979

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Posted 31 January 2009 - 06:48 AM

cubanmiamiboy, I think it will be one Balanchine ballet you will love. Notice in particularly the second movement adagio, which is maybe the most celebrated part of Symphony in C. And watch whether the ballerina attempts to touch her knee in her penchee, which was the "Farrell move." And be exhilarated by the final.
Prepare to NOT be entranced by the costumes, especially those for the guys.


What don't you like about the costumes? And wouldn't they be slightly different according to the companies that perform the ballet?

#39 Brioche

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Posted 31 January 2009 - 09:29 AM

Conviction? Perhaps.

Unless the video and music are misaligned due to the upload to youtube the musicality is fairly messy in most of this performance.

The battu in the third movement is not the Bolshoi's strongest moment on film either. :wink:


But it is great to see all of this footage.


#40 carbro

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Posted 31 January 2009 - 05:02 PM

I was startled the other day to hear an announcer on a classical-music station (WNYC-FM), refer to Symphony in C as "Bizet's first symphony." Did she know something we don't?

I don't think so. I thought it was well known to be Bizet's Symphony No. 1. Wasn't it, after all, a student exercise?

#41 Estelle

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Posted 02 February 2009 - 03:12 PM

Scratch the white paint and underneath...

Tim Scholl and, as I remember, Danilova point out that the original Symphony in C, Palais de Crystal, was in color--each act in red, blue, green, and white. The original scenario featured "a Ruby Priestress, a Sapphire Spirit, an Emerald Spirit and a Crystal Spirit in a Palace of Diamonds" (Richard Buckle). When it was presented in New York the next year, the costumes were black and white, in part perhaps because the troop was small and the dancers had to appear in more than one part.


The POB still performed "Palais de Cristal" with its colored costumes in the 1990s. I saw it once (unfortunately in Bastille, I guess it would have looked better in Garnier), what a wonderful memory...
But when they last performed it a few years ago, for some unknown reasons it had become "Symphony in C" and had black and white costumes. It still was a mesmerizing work, but I regretted that the POB had abandoned the colored costumes- after all, "Palais de Cristal" is part of the POB heritage, as it had been premiered there in 1947... I don't know if we can have any hope to see the colored costumes again.

#42 Helene

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Posted 02 February 2009 - 03:47 PM

I was startled the other day to hear an announcer on a classical-music station (WNYC-FM), refer to Symphony in C as "Bizet's first symphony." Did she know something we don't?

I don't think so. I thought it was well known to be Bizet's Symphony No. 1. Wasn't it, after all, a student exercise?

Yes, for the Paris Conservatory. That's why it took so long to find.

#43 rg

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Posted 02 February 2009 - 03:51 PM

Buckle seems to have had his own sense of the color-coding intended by Fini's design scheme, but it seems her ideas went, in order of the ballet's four movements, according to the following precious materials:
1. The Rubies = allegro vivo
2. The Black Diamonds = adagio
3. The Emeralds = allegro vivace
4. The Pearls [note: NOT diamonds] = allegro vivace

#44 rg

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Posted 02 February 2009 - 04:34 PM

this scan shows a page from Paris Opera Ballet gala program on which LE PALAIS DE CRISTAL was shown; presumably these sketches of Fini's show some ideas for two danseuses from the "Rubies" and "Emeralds" segments, respectively. i can't say that these sketches indicate costuming for the ballerina leads or for the movements' secondary dancers.

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#45 Jack Reed

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Posted 13 March 2009 - 12:43 PM

(from Fort Lauderdale, Florida) A note about cast numbers, which has been spoken of above: In New York, MCB performed Symphony in C with 40 dancers, by my count of the names in the program (Who's going to sit there and count the bodies on stage with that celestial machine in action?); 14 dancers appeared in more than one movement.

As I understand it, this is the reason for the white costumes in America: POB had plenty of dancers for separate casts for the first three movements and the first part of the fourth, but Balanchine did not, in those early days, so if a dancer was going to perform in more than one movement, her costume had to blend in, and so they all wore white.

Nancy Reynolds, in Repertory in Review: Forty Years of the New York City Ballet, p. 85, writes "... in the Paris original, each movement was a different color; in the finale, with fifty-two dancers, the stage was divided into color areas... Although fifty dancers, many of them students, were rounded up for the Ballet Society presentation, during the early years of the New York City Ballet it was often performed with forty or fewer."

And in my days at NYCB (in the audience, not on stage!) Balanchine added a few more dancers very late in the last movement. They stood half in the wings, and we saw mostly their arms and legs reflecting some of the movement of the others onstage.

(Thanks to rg for posting the costume pictures!)


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