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Farrell Fan

NYCB ballerinas as Carabosse

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Toward the twilight of her career, Merrill Ashley was cast as the evil fairy, and scored a triumph. She's done it again this season, and the audience loves her. But also appearing as Carabosse this time have been Kyra Nichols, whom I didn't see, and Maria Kowroski, whom I did, and maybe others. Why? What's the point? Does anyone think this is a good idea?

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Using ballerinas was standard casting when the production opened in the early '90's. IIRC according to a Dance Magazine cover story Ashley was supposed to be one of five dancers cast as Aurora. However, at that time her injuries started to make all of her appearances rarer than before.

I also saw Richardson, Reyes, and Wingert dance Carabosse from 1991-1994. I think that Lourdes Lopez was also cast, but I didn't see her.

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I Love the idea of Kowrowski as Carabosse. Her acting skills andher sense of fun and humor should get full play in this role.

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Thanks, hockeyfan, I didn't remember the other Carabosses from 1991-94. Debbie Wingert and Teresa Reyes were two of my all-time favorites from the corps, but can you refresh my recollection about Richardson? What was her first name? The only corps Richardson I remember is David, who by then must have been ballet-mastering at ABT. (Where he would have made a fine Carabosse.)

Your point about Merrill Ashley being originally mentioned as one of NYCB's Auroras clarifies what's bothering me. Her casting as Carabosse was because of all the injuries she'd had. So now when Kyra Nichols is cast as Carabosse, it seems to me the unspoken message is "she's a great ballerina but too old for the lead, so we're letting you see her in this part." But when it comes to Kowroski, I'm totally confused. She can and does dance the leading roles in Sleeping Beauty. Why cast her as Carabosse as well? Aren't there any contemporary equivalents of Wingert, Reyes, and Richardson? Lourdes Lopez is another story and I'm not sure what I think of that. :shrug:

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Lopez did dance Carabosse, and was quite evil in the part, I thought. haven't seen Nichols in this role but I enjoyed Ashley in it as well. NYCB goes somewhat against many traditions in casting women as Carabosse (rather than men en travesti) but it is, as Farrell Fan says, one way of seeing great ballerinas who no longer dance the leading role. That is a time-honored tradition at Royal and Kirov both-- for example, Pamela May danced many Queen Mothers and so forth and was apparently wonderful, in large part because her presence was still exactly that of a leading ballerina.

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Both Lynn Seymour and Monica Mason were wonderful as Carabosse as well.

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AT NYCB it hasn't simply be injured or older dancers doing Carabosse. Riolama Lorenzo performed the part before she left the company, and she's the same age as Kowroski. She had great dramatic flair that she used well in the part.

Casting of Kowroski didn't surprise me. She also has a great flair with *character* roles. We've already seen her do many comical roles. As yet, I'm not sure she's able to embody evilness enough for her Carabosse to work for me (I only saw her debut so far). But, I have seen her grow into many roles over the years, so i foresee her becoming a great Carabosse.

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The Richardson Hockey Fan referred to was Mandy Jayne (I think that's how she spelled it) Richardson, who was in the company for a couple of years with her husband, Lindsay Fischer. I never saw her Carabosse but vividly remember both Ashley's (very feminine and chic) and Lopez's (scary, like Margaret Hamilton in the Wizard of Oz).

I don't think it's a punishment to cast a dancer in an evil character role. If she can bring something to it, by all means give her the part. But I do wonder why Kowroski isn't dancing Aurora. Is it her height? They have Askegaard to partner her.

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Isn't Kowroski more a Lilac (or Carabosse) than an Aurora? Not just because of height, but by line and temperament and weight? (not poundage, the other kind of weight)

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Perhaps it's the danih connection. ANybody who's see nSorella Englund's colossal preformance as Madge (a role "normally" given to men) might say, "well, let's see what a ballerina with a long chin might do in this role." From roports I've heard from peole i trust, Ashleys performances are almost reason enough to \go see NYCB's Beauty.

In SanFrancisco, our very tall ballerina Muriel Maffre alternates between Lilac and Carabosse; she also did one Aurora, which I saw and thought marvellous -- very beautiful, though her body is "wrong" for the role.....

SO whay hasn't anybody reported on Kyra Nichols' Carabosse? Is she not very good but no-one wants to say so? I heard she was fabulously evil in Double Feature....

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I think casting dancers who are still dancing technically demanding roles is a good -- an excellent -- idea. It forces the dancer to focus on the importance of gestural nuance -- a rare opportunity for theatrical self discovery at NYCB, with its relative scarcity of "dramatic" :D :D roles.

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I remember the production of Beauty with the RB where Monica Mason was most often the Carabosse. She made the part glamorous and while not "mad and bad", clearly "dangerous to know". Doing it that way also makes it possible to revive the original librettist's intent to have Carabosse in the last act in an "all is forgiven" mode.

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I haven't seen Nichols' Carabosse yet; FF, I could be wrong, but I think she wanted to do the role, and was hoping to be cast. I'll see her do Carabosse on Tuesday. Kowroski's Carabosse has real potential, and I think it's healthy for the dancers to do these acting roles. It gives everything they do more texture. Alexandra, I agree, Kowroski is more suited to Lilac and Carabosse than Aurora - Aurora is an allegro ballerina's role to me. It's no great shame, loss or deficiency to be a Lilac Fairy instead.

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I saw all the Carabosses, and it isn't surprizing to me that principals do it--it is one of the keys to making Beauty work. Ashley was great--as she was from the beginning, very believably insulted. I wasn't very impressed with Kowroski or Nichols, though it can take years to establish a character role properly. Kowroski's gestures were too wild and light; she was too much like a cartoon. Carabosse should never be exaggerated to the point of caricature. Carabosse isn't about long black fingernails. There were some good natured hisses when she took her curtain calls, which meant that she was completely ineffective. Nichols didn't seem really to believe in the part, and posed a bit much, but again it was her first performance and a real stretch for her. Now if only City Ballet would realize that the fairies, too, should be danced by principals!

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Some people booed when Ashley took her call on Saturday...booing Carabosse, of course, not Merrill! I love her being portrayed by a glamourous woman rather than a man in drag, which always lends a silly element to the situation. I think it's great to have Kyra & Maria K doing the role...I wonder if Karin von Aroldingen would ever do it?

Yes, it would be nice to have all-principals as the Fairies but this is also a great opportunity to try out the various corps girls in spot-lighted parts. I was sort of hoping van Kipnis & Rutherford might do Lilac this year, but am really anticipating Amanda Hankes in the part.

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I'd vote for trying out the girls in something below fairy level, too! Those are ballerina parts, roles for polished dancers, not people in the try-out stage.

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I have to disagree. I saw Glenn Keenan dance the blue fairy on sat. afternoon and she was delightful, polished and----------vivacious. And she wasn't even cast to do the part! Others were good as well.I think the company has a great deal of talent right now and unless these women are brought forward in this type of role I worry they will not continue to grow as performers.

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Amen, Nina! Keenan was the loveliest of a lovely quintet of 4 corps girls plus the delectable Rachel Rutherford on Saturday afternoon. It (the prologue Fairy variations and the whole business with their cavaliers and pages) is one of my favorite sections of the ballet and is especially attractive in Peter's production with the beautiful sorbet-coloured costumes.

Believe me, Alexandra and Cagill, I would be the first person at the box office if a bevy of principals were offered in these roles. We could have Borree, Somogyi, Wendy, Miranda and Alexandra.

What companies use principals in these roles? In companies where principals and soloists are paid a per-performance fee, it must get costly. When I saw BEAUTY a few times at ABT about 25 years ago, I don't recall principals among the fairies...they used a mixture of soloists and corp girls.

Probably if Peter's soloist ranks were not depleted by injury this year we would have seen Taylor & Abi S. in that group. I think having corps girls "step out" in featured roles is an NYCB tradition. I remember Merrill Ashley getting bonbons from Balanchine when she was just a kid.

For myself, I relish the chance to see some of my corps favorites take center stage for a few minutes.

Oberon

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Oberon, I think most companies today cast the fairies with corps dancers. As recently as the early 1980s, the Royal Ballet used principals or at least senior soloists. The last time the Kirov was in D.C. they also used principals or senior soloists.

The Lilac Fairy is often seen as a soloist's role as well.

Same thing with the Princes in the Rose Adagio. Is there anywhere else in the world today, save the Kirov, that uses principal men for these roles?

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And this leads me to wonder what company can afford to employ enough principal dancers to multi-cast a Beauty? Especially with the trend of doing the same ballet for consecutive performances? Let's see: minimum of three casts of Fairies (18, minus a small number for those dancing more than one role), three casts of Princes: 12. Then there are Florine and Bluebird, possibly Jewels (or Florestan and his sisters). It might not be feasible.

NYCB had only three female soloists who were able to perform throughout the season. Mathematically, gotta go to corps.

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Is there anywhere else in the world today, save the Kirov, that uses principal men for these roles?

When NYCB's Beauty was new, they cast principals as the Rose Adagio cavaliers. I remember that Jock Soto, who is part Native American, was cast as the Prince from America. Nowadays, they still put soloists in these roles, and announce the casting along with the divertissement and character roles, which indicates that they consider the parts important.

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The RB's first cast Carabosse this season is Zenaida Yanowsky, a principal very far from retirement (we hope), who alternates it with Lilac Fairy and is very good as both. The first cast of Fairies last season was all first soloists with maybe one or two principals on occasion, with succeeding casts including more junior dancers chosen from those seen as future hopes.

What the company is really short of at the moment is Auroros - they've lost three out of the planned seven so far, so that someone could theoretically have booked to see Bussell, Yoshida and Tapper and find themselves watching Marquez, Marquez and Marquez.

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And this leads me to wonder what company can afford to employ enough principal dancers to multi-cast a Beauty?

Good point -- exactly why Beauty was the hallmark of a "great" company. If you could do Beauty, you had arrived. That was before mini-beauties sprouted up all over the place. (I don't mean to say that NYCB has one of these, just speaking generally.) Now it's become what I call a water cooler ballet. Artistic Director ABC saunters up and says, casually, "We'll be doing Beauty next year" -- never mind that his company can barely get thorugh "Serenade" -- and Artistic Directors DEF through XYZ go "wow" and scuttle off to stage one of their own. (I don't mean this is the motivation for every smaller company that stages Beauty, but I think it's the motivation for some of them.)

Paris Opera Ballet can cast a beauty with etoiles in the star parts and premier danseurs/ses in the fairy and dvert parts, so can the Kirov. I've always thought that's one of the reasons the Maryinsky wanted the ballet in the first place -- it was their "Ballet Comique de la Reine Louise." Match this, if you can.

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Alexandra, Richard Buckle reviews performances of Beauty with the Royal (in the sixties, I believe) with a lineup of fairies: Seymour, Collier, Vere, Parkinson, Jenner, and Mason, with Bergsma as Lilac and Fonteyn or Sibley as Aurora!!!

Those were the days, huh?

I've always thought as well that Beauty was a benchmark ballet-- a touchstone of beautiful classical style, brilliance, and lavish elegance. The descriptions of Diaghilev's Beauty....

and, of course, what was the Royal's first overwhelming smash hit in America in 1949? :)

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Yes -- the days that I diidn't see -- but I still believe in them.

I think undercasting is one of the main reasons why some of the grand old ballets don't look very grand. If you saw a line up like that -- think of it; that prologue segment is long! -- you'd see the ballet's power. There were people who went to see every single performance of Diaghilev's Beauty -- not because there were 12 casts, but because the casts they saw were satisfying.

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