Alexandra

#6 - What is the role of the Four Seasons

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(6) What is the role of the Four Seasons in the ballet? Do they express a theme, aid the narrative, or are they just an excuse for more classical dancing?

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Beats me! I opt for "excuse", and a darn good one!

Giannina

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Perhaps two themes, symmetry and inevitability? To everything there is a season...... the corps de ballet are the stars -- all of this could quite possibly be a conscious reference to early Renaissance court ballets, the fathers of "The Sleeping Beauty," where the choreography often had floor patterns with astronomical significance. The seasons are presented like an "entree" would have been (with their little attendants -- and they're also reminiscent of the Little Red Riding Hood segment of the Royal's production of "The Sleeping Beauty," where they run out with the little trees befor the dancing begins. Both scenes refer to entrees of the old court ballets.

I love the entrance of the corps, and the choreography for them generally. I think, with the fairies in Dream, it's one of the best examples of how Ashton took a very old formula and made it new.

And then thematically, perhaps they also give the idea that there is justice in the world and that to everything there is a season. Cinderella will have her day and find her prince, just as surely as the stars move through the heavens and the spring follows winter.

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As I read in Harlow Robinson's biography of Sergei Prokofiev, in addition to the Fairy Godmother there are four fairies representing the four seasons, perhaps directly inspired by Glazunov's 1899 ballet The Seasons.

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As I read in Harlow Robinson's biography of Sergei Prokofiev, in addition to the Fairy Godmother there are four fairies representing the four seasons, perhaps directly inspired by Glazunov's 1899 ballet The Seasons.

I was under the impression that each of the fairies were there to give a gift from their season. I can't quite remember but off the top of my head I thought they were Summer - Roses, Winter - Jewels, Autumn - a Dress and I can't remember what Spring gave...

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i don't think the presentation of gifts with each of the season's dances was indicated by prokofiev.

i think this notion is another example of future stagers' trying to 'make sense' of a moment that the composer and his librettist didn't see as needing further 'explanation' or 'dramatic point.'

maybe the new Morrison biography says something more.

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The presentation of the gifts *is* in both of the original productions though--Zhakarov's for the Bolshoi in '45 and Sergeyve's for the Kirov in '46--though I think the gifts may be a bit different (Sergeyev includes a cape which is used ot great effect when Cinderella enters the ball)--which gives me the thought they could have been Prokofiev's intentions (the 12 gnomes for the hours wer ein both too) I just guessed this was in Prokofiev's original version and was a way to show in dance form, what traditionally is done with magic effects (I mean it sure works bette rin classical ballet form thatn having Lizards turn into footmen, pumpkins into coaches etc).

Prokofiev also said that Cinderella was written as a hommage to Tchaikovsky's ballets. As was mentioned here, the seasons music sounds more like a hommage to Glazunov's The Seasons ballet (my CD of Cinderella actually has a recording of The Seasons to fill out disc 2)--but I think the excuse for the fairies and their female attendants is also a hommage to the traditional Petipa "white act" (Act I Scene 2 of Raymonda, the Vision scene of Sleeping Beauty etc etc) And it is an excuse to get some gorgeous female corps dancing after having largely character dancing and mime in the first scene.

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My impression is that like the clock, the seasons represent the natural passage of time. Ashton's variations so beautifully depict the seasons and reflect the music, and the summer variation is one of the most exquisite variations that I've ever seen, especially as danced in the 1969 video by Vyvyan Lorrayne.

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