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Battling Beauties; Russia's Elgin Marbles in USA?


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#16 Ari

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Posted 10 December 2004 - 06:27 AM

To return to the subject of the new/old Beauty: I'm in the process of reading Scholl's book, which is tough going -- it's the worst kind of turgid academic writing, and contains inconsistencies and areas of vagueness -- but the material it covers is fascinating. His argument, in a nutshell, is that The Sleeping Beauty has acquired mythical status in the history of Russian ballet (his subtitle is "A Legend in Progress") and that the 1917 revolution caused a schism in the ballet's history: the authentic text went West with Nikolai Sergeyev ("the most reviled man in Russian ballet") and that Soviet stagers made politically-motivated changes to the Petersburg production that have come to be accepted by Russian audiences as the real thing. I don't want to comment much more on the book until I finish it, but as a lover of the 1999 reconstruction, I'm finding most of Scholl's arguments pretty convincing.

#17 Natalia

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Posted 10 December 2004 - 06:29 AM

I'd call the equating of the Sergeyev Notebooks and the Elgin Marbles a bit of a strained parallel.  The latter are beautiful in themselves.  The former are rather unprepossessing, to say the least. 

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I see what you mean, Mel...but that's not my point. The point is that the knowledge contained in the notebooks -- which apparently isn't duplicated elsewhere in Russia in any other known notebooks -- is part of Russia's cultural patrimony. The great Soviet-era ballet historians, such as Vera Krassovskaya (since departed this world), were deeply offended that the knowledge fell into the hands of non-Russian ballet specialists. [Scholl, of course, has little good to say about Krassovskaya...the doyenne of Soviet ballet historians!] This is a simple version of the events; it's much more complicated, of course.

On the other hand...

The Mariinsky owns the flip-side of the equation: the complete, arranged orchestral scores to which the notated ballets are danced. Russia also 'owns' much of the designs. So no non-Russian troupe can perform the complete ballets without some sort of copyright infringement...even if they try to set ballets via the notebooks.

p.s. When Doug Fullington used the notebooks to stage the "Jardin Anime" section of Corsaire on the Pacific NW Ballet's school last year, it was not an attempt to reproduce the designs or full orchestral arrangement (if memory serves). All he could do was present the steps.

#18 Mel Johnson

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Posted 10 December 2004 - 05:38 PM

Unless there's some sort of special proviso that has been argued for the retention of copyright to the scores of the notated ballets, they are public domain, as they were created before 1926. The same must be said of the newly-made sets and costumes made from the original art. The modern things might be copyright, but the originals are in the clear. I don't really care where the Sergeyev notebooks reside as long as the information contained therein remains accessible, whether by microform, digital reproduction or whatever means. The Russian arts establishment has not been exactly forthcoming with the materials they have, whether by accident or design, and it would be a sad thing for the world if these data were swallowed up by a corporate mechanism only slightly more willing to share information than the KGB.

If we allow this sort of patrimonic argument, we might as well send the notebooks to France, as Petipa was, after all, a Frenchman. He just happened to work in Russia.

#19 Ari

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Posted 11 December 2004 - 05:46 AM

Natalia, if the Russian public so dislikes the production made from Sergeyev's notation, why do they want it back?

#20 Alexandra

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Posted 11 December 2004 - 09:36 AM

The "cultural patrimony" argument is a bit hard to take, since Soviet-era productions of Swan Lake excised every step choreographed by That Frenchman, leaving the acts credited to Our Russian Ivanov intact.

#21 Thalictum

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Posted 11 December 2004 - 09:37 AM

Exactly, Ari and Alexandra, their whole argument is based on circular reasoning. Why not simply allow both versions to co-exist?

#22 Natalia

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Posted 13 December 2004 - 07:33 AM

Natalia, if the Russian public so dislikes the production made from Sergeyev's notation, why do they want it back?

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They don't! That's the crazy thing here. The resentment about the 'notes' being in US hands only comes from the scholars & writers who wish THEY'D have the sole right to review and inspect the precious documents. A few good Ph.D. dissertations could come from this, after all.

Dancers & public could not give a hoot about the notes and would be delighted to never again have to set eyes on the 'new/old' Beauty or Bayadere!

#23 Mel Johnson

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Posted 14 December 2004 - 04:30 AM

The resentment about the 'notes' being in US hands only comes from the scholars & writers who wish THEY'D have the sole right to review and inspect the precious documents.  A few good Ph.D. dissertations could come from this, after all.

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Thank heaven that these folk aren't archivists and librarians. That's why it's a good thing that the books are where they are, where the information is freely available to all who ask.

#24 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 14 December 2004 - 04:44 AM

That's the thing. Natalia said they wanted the *sole* right. They already have the right! :D

#25 Mel Johnson

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Posted 15 December 2004 - 04:17 AM

Right; I'd like sole rights to an oil field, but....

#26 Natalia

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Posted 15 December 2004 - 08:08 AM

So many years of secretiveness and exclusion among the Soviet intelligentsia...no wonder they are a tad resentful (or baffled) when they see the Yankees 'meddling' in their turf.

Have any of you tried to obtain anything from a Soviet...er, Russian...library? Have you tried even to photocopy a page or two, when in a Russian library? My suggestion is to take lotsa ca$h with you...and I don't mean kopecks to feed into the Xerox machine.

In all of my years of research in Russia I can say that one -- and only one -- library-museum was truly user-friendly: the Vaganova Academy Museum. That was due to the graciousness and intelligence of the then-head of it, a lovely lady named Marina Vivien (who moved to Paris a few years ago). Other than that, every experience was like drawing blood from a turnip. They simply do not want to see non-Russian scholars succeed.

Perhaps the subject for another thread.

- Natalia

#27 Herman Stevens

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Posted 31 October 2005 - 09:26 AM

:) If the notebooks were Sergeyev's, why would he have been said to have stolen them when all he did was bring them with him?

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Sergeyev compiled those notes (more than twenty ballets) as an employee of the Mariinsky; that's why they would be regarded as Mariinsky property. (If you are fired from a job, somebody will "escort" you to the door, just to make sure you don't take any company files, including the rolodex with addresses.)

The Mariinsky was in principle a lifetime employer. And as I recall Sergeyev got a grant from the MT to study in Paris to become the Stepanov guy, so without the support of the MT he couldn't even have made those notes.

As for the other point of view: valuable things tend to leave the country when you do a Revolution, kill the Tzar's family and let failed artists commissar it over the ones with talent for a couple of generations...

BTW I think the Scholl book is great, and sufficiently well-written. The only thing that bothers me is this dissertation habit of summing up the content at the end of a chapter - as if the reader is braindead. And I think he tries to get more mileage from the Wagner - Brunnhilde parallel than is warranted.

#28 Cygnet

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Posted 01 November 2005 - 12:46 PM

The only thing that bothers me is this dissertation habit of summing up the content at the end of a chapter  -  as if the reader is braindead. And I think he tries to get more mileage from the Wagner - Brunnhilde parallel than is warranted.

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:wub: Herman I agree with you about the Ring cycle comparison; that was a stretch for me too. I also wish that the 1999 photos were in color. Trust me: Unless you've seen the 1890 production live, black & white photos do not do it justice.

#29 canbelto

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Posted 01 November 2005 - 04:56 PM

Have any of you tried to obtain anything from a Soviet...er, Russian...library? Have you tried even to photocopy a page or two, when in a Russian library? My suggestion is to take lotsa ca$h with you...and I don't mean kopecks to feed into the Xerox machine.

- Natalia

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Natalia, would a nice bottle of vodka work? :P


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