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PBS Don Q


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#1 petitallegro

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Posted 05 June 2001 - 01:53 PM

FYI, My PBS station is showing Don Q June 7th and 17th. Check your local PBS station's schedule (PBS.org) I can't wait to see it! We don't get much live ballet where I live, so anything rocks. :D

#2 Alexandra

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Posted 05 June 2001 - 02:04 PM

Thanks for posting that, petitallegro! It's being shown Wednesday night on "Great Performances" in D.C. I'll have to miss it (but I have the video, so I've seen it.)

IMO, this is the best commercially available footage of Nureyev, so I hope people (especially those who saw him only during the Long Decline) will tune in.

#3 Ed Waffle

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Posted 05 June 2001 - 02:31 PM

For anyone is Southeast Michigan, WTVS, the Detroit PBS outlet is not carrying "Great Performances" on Wednesday. Occasionally they shift shows like this to Sunday afternoon, but not this time from what I have been able to tell.

Tiny WFUM from Flint is carrying it at 8:00 PM on Wednesday and again at 3:00 AM on Thursday morning. Thank goodness we get WFUM on our cable system.

WTVS in Detroit must be one of the worst TV stations anywhere, either public or commercial. They load up with Antiques Roadshow, sappy self-help, Lawrence Welk re-runs and mediocre British comedies and skimp on "Great Performances", "Live from Lincoln Center" and "The Metropolitan Opera".

#4 Mel Johnson

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Posted 06 June 2001 - 09:19 PM

I don't know how long it's been since I've seen ballet on the tube, but this was a really welcome treat! We've forgotten, I think, what Nureyev could move like in his "salad days", carrying only the memory of the fading danseur who should have packed it in long before he did down with us. It is also necessary to be reminded of what a super dancer Lucette Aldous was, and what variety she could bring to a role. Gracious, too, was the treatment of Robert Helpmann as Don Quixote and Ray Powell as Sancho Panza - there should have been a notice at the end of the film saying - NOTE: No Sanchos were harmed in the making of this motion picture!

I had never seen this production, or the motion picture, before,* and found it mostly a pleasure to watch, although I don't think the dramatic matters would have worked very well on a stage. In a film, showing the existing conditions in Cadiz before the arrival of the old Don makes good sense. Seeing the old man go mad before our eyes is a revelation under the sensitive treatment of Helpmann. It is indeed a strange thing to watch a danseur classique in old age, with none of the "classique" dimmed by the years!

*Don't throw things - I was in Kunsan, Korea keeping the world safe for Richard Nixon, God help me, for most of the time it was out, and by the time I got back to the civilized world, it was gone!

Nureyev's material for himself in his first moments onstage is indeed strange stuff, neither Petipa, nor Gorsky, it wanted to telegraph to the audience that this was a demi-caractere ballet, so flex the feet and wiggle the bottom, and you've announced it...except by loudspeaker! I recall the Bolshoi version of this pretty well, and there wasn't a shimmy in a shipload! But we've forgotten how FAST Nureyev could move, and what kinds of effects he could produce on demand at this stage of his life, and it was good to see these qualities again.

The matter contained in some of the other parts of the ballet, particularly for the corps told me that Nureyev had either never learned the Gypsy scene or was otherwise occupied whenever it was going on. At any rate, it looked not so much like anything out of the Russian tradition, but instead oddly copied the corps work in Roland Petit's "Paradise Lost" of ungrateful memory.

Nureyev must have reworked many of his ideas from the first time he staged this work for the Vienna Opera Ballet, when he partnered Ully Wuhrer as Kitri. Some of the transition ideas are carried through from the old Russian version in which the ancient Knight battles a giant spider to get to Dulcinea who leads him to the Great Hall of the Dryads. A nice touch here, and deserving of preservation in other stage productions.

And a word about the Dryad scene - I had been pleased on the whole with the standard of dancing preserved by this video - after all, it was made in 1972, and much as I hate to admit it, that was quite a while ago, and at a time when standard in many companies was not what it is now!

What a pleasure to watch a splendid spitfire of a Kitri like Lucette Aldous and see her transformed into the classically pure Dulcinea of the Dryad scene. I further enjoyed the arrow-shooting Amor, but lamented the excision of the delightful Amor variation! What was the problem? It's less than a minute long!

The ensemble in this scene was wonderfully drilled and schooled, so that I found myself wondering if I had happened on a bunch of "ringers" from Canada, so cleanly was their work and presentation. And not a single badly cobbled corps grouping in the whole thing! Still, everbody knows where old ballonÚs go to die - the Dryad scene of Don Q!

I was also further pleased by the clear roles Espada and Mercedes play in the drama; too many productions make them just sort of interesting bystanders - here they were active participants! And it was a pleasure to see the old Don returned to a central role in this production and not have a ballet that would better be called Basilio!

Another really telling point about the goodness of the production is the integration of children, real honest-to-gosh children, in the crowd scenes, and as, of course, the puppet show. It was good to see Cadiz and the Manchegan plain peopled with a more realistic population than in productions where everybody's at least a late teen.

Cinematographically, this production is vivid and vibrant with much color and action, in fact, perhaps too much action as the camera cuts away from actual dancing to cover some comic shtick up right! (Why do they always do that?)

And the contrast between Nureyev's acting (opera-house scale) and Helpmann's (motion picture scaled by a wise veteran!) was incredibly unfavorable to the former as he just looked hammy sometimes, while Helpmann could steal the show with lift of an eyebrow!

I had not wanted to get a video of this production for fear of what I might see (OK, I did miss some of the Bolshoi one-arm lifts, but Nureyev came from the Kirov, after all) but now I can recommend it most heartily to those who have not seen, as I had not, and especially if you have two or three other versions, to compare and contrast. See this when it is rerun! :D

[ 06-07-2001: Message edited by: Mel Johnson ]

#5 dirac

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Posted 08 June 2001 - 05:50 PM

I can't comment on the show since I missed it and I'm hoping that the other PBS stations in my area run it again soon. I did want to veer off topic to add to Ed's comments on the poor quality of the public programming on his local station. We have some of the same problems here, but the difficulty doesn't seem to be bad taste so much as not enough money and the need to attract eyeballs. Hence Antiques Roadshow, Yanni at the Acropolis, Suze Orman, Deepak Chopra, Michael Flatley discussing the evolution of his artistic vision, and so on.

Oops. This reply was supposed to go up to the Don Q thread on another board, but I'm afraid it's stuck here. My apologies.
:D

[ 06-08-2001: Message edited by: dirac ]


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