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#1 bart

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Posted 28 March 2005 - 06:36 PM

Anyone have a list of ballet companies in the US that continue to have a live orchestra? Or how they manage to pay for it?

#2 Helene

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Posted 29 March 2005 - 11:56 AM

There isn't a single list I could find, and there isn't even a single union that represents ballet orchestras. The ones I could find with references to orchestras on the official sites were:

New York City Ballet
San Francisco Ballet
National Ballet of Canada
Boston Ballet
Pacific Northwest Ballet
Pittsburgh Ballet
Houston Ballet

I don't see a reference to an orchestra on the American Ballet Theater site. (Does anyone know if they use pick-up orchestras?)

The orchestra expenses for these organizations are part of the general operating budgets; these are the biggest ballet companies in the country. Orchestra contracts make it difficult for these orgs to tour, as the cost of touring with a live orchestra is prohibitive, and, often, only when special arrangements have been made -- ex: the compromise to have the NYCB orchestra play live every other tour -- can these companies tour.

When smaller companies have live accompaniment at home, it is usually the result of a grant from a company or large donor and/or a special fund for live music. (Oregon Ballet Theater has such a fund.) The orchestra is often a local orchestra, and it may be possible that some of the cost is offset by funds from the orchestra. Oregon Ballet Theater is accompanied by the Portland Symphony Orchestra for many Nutcracker performances, and they were for last fall's program (Concerto Barocco, Orpheus Portrait, and Swan Lake [ Act III].) The Arizona Symphony Orchestra performs Nutcracker for Ballet Arizona, and they'll play for Romeo and Juliet next fall, which was emphasized in the subscription brochure for next season. When on tour, there may be a "house" orchestra, like the Kennedy Center Orchestra, which played for the Joffrey Ballet.

When the ballets are choreographed to chamber music, there is more of an option for live music. OBT was able to use live musicians for last year's spring program in Duo Concertant -- violin and piano -- and Christopher's Wheeldon's Chopin/Weill piece -- violin, piano, and two singers.

#3 BalletNut

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Posted 29 March 2005 - 01:38 PM

I don't see a reference to an orchestra on the American Ballet Theater site.  (Does anyone know if they use pick-up orchestras?)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I know that for the two videos they taped for PBS (Le Corsaire and The Dream), they were accompanied by a local orchestra in Orange County where the performances were filmed.

#4 bart

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Posted 29 March 2005 - 03:54 PM

Many thanks, Hockeyfan228, for such a fantastic answer. Wow!

#5 GWTW

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Posted 29 March 2005 - 07:25 PM

Pennsylvania Ballet is another company that has its own orchestra and it performs at almost all the company's programs. (For instance, PA Ballet's last triple bill had two ballets to recorded pop music and one ballet was accompanied by a solo pianist.)

#6 Jack Reed

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Posted 05 April 2005 - 11:14 AM

The Joffrey Ballet has an orchestra for its performances; whether its their orchestra seems doubtful. (And the Auditorium Theatre's recent practice of amplifying the orchestra - can you believe it? - seems dubious, to say the least.)

#7 Treefrog

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Posted 05 April 2005 - 11:28 AM

Jack, if by "their" orchestra you mean one that plays together only for Joffrey performances, I don't know the answer. But the orchestra that plays is consistently the same one, and there is a resident conductor (Leslie Dunner) who is listed on the Joffrey website as "Music Director and Principal Conductor". (Incidentally, it is a small thing to appreciate, but Dunner is one conductor who knows how to move; he does not look awkward or out of place when taking his bows with the company.)

I am grateful that the Joffrey has made the commitment to live music.

#8 Clara 76

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Posted 07 April 2005 - 08:25 AM

BalletMet Columbus uses The Columbus Symphony Orchestra for all ballets performed in The Ohio Theatre.

I don't know if we have a "music fund" or not.

Clara 76

#9 Jack Reed

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Posted 07 April 2005 - 09:56 AM

Treefrog, I guess I hadn't noticed Dunner's "moving ability" because it's the usual musicians' awkwardness among the dancers that does stand out for me, so thanks for pointing that out. And I too am glad there's an orchestra in the pit; no mistake about it, the Joffrey has taken a big step in the right direction. Now, if the Auditorium management will do its part, we'll hear them as they should be heard. (I thought the amplification problem was worth mentioning on a thread inviting comparisons from different places. I wonder whether any other place pursues this odd-seeming practice?)

bart, you may know better than I, with reference to your second question, that the Miami City Ballet had an orchestra only for Coppelia a few seasons back, because, according to AD Edward Villella's pre-performance remarks, a single donor, if I remember correctly, came forward with the money for that. And last weekend, at the question-and-answer part of another of his talks, in answer to a complaint that an orchestra was missed, he said, first, that when money is tight, he prefers to have recorded music rather than a smaller company or more repetitive repertory, and, second, that if "you guys" can give him $500,000, he'll give back live music "instantly". "We give back what you give us" was his motto.

#10 bart

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Posted 07 April 2005 - 12:50 PM

Jack, I hear they are working on getting support for next year. Let's hope.

#11 Anthony_NYC

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Posted 07 April 2005 - 08:19 PM

Jack, I'm curious, do you know why they amplify? Poor acoustics in the hall? A sop to the tastes of younger audiences? A means of cutting back on the number of musicians they need to hire?

#12 Jack Reed

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Posted 09 April 2005 - 01:21 PM

I can't imagine why there is amplification in the Auditorium Theatre. For years I have attended performances there and have been delighted by the wonderful live acoustics. And the Bolshoi Ballet brought with them an orchestra of substantial numbers, nor is the Joffrey's orchestra chamber-orchestra size either.

And years ago, during the brief existence of the Pennsylvania-Milwaukee Ballet (the name of which always sounded more like a railroad than a ballet company to me), a music-lover friend turned up on the ticket line at intermission during a presentation of Balanchine's Nutcracker: He had come out of curiosity to hear what an orchestra sounded like in the pit there, and was so pleased not only by what he had heard, he said, but also by what he had seen on stage - this was the first act of B's Nutcracker, mind you - he wanted a ticket to another performance.

The place seats 3950, but I have eavesdropped from an upper balcony on conversations between stagehands during rehearsal; that's how good the place is. Somebody in a position of control just doesn't get it, I'm afraid. I suspect an example of the corporate mind, one skimming along on the surfaces of things with no deep appreciation of what they help to present.

The Auditorium, by the way, was the project of the acoustical consultant for Carnegie Hall, a pretty good auditorium itself, which sometimes advertises, with justification IMO, that "the great seats are gone, only the good seats are left" (not that there aren't any dead spots, just as there are in the Auditorium). In the Auditorium, Dankmar Adler used his considerable talent, developed by experience, directly, not as consultant to anyone else: His firm, Adler and Sullivan, had built many theatres around Chicago in the 1870's, including, IIRC, a 6000-seat summer opera-festival venue in Grant Park which proved so successful it was not demolished after one season as intended but left up for two or three years until the flimsy construction made demolition mandatory.

(This has been a long reply, but the subject brought me to the boiling point.)

#13 Anthony_NYC

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Posted 12 April 2005 - 07:01 PM

Thanks for that, Jack. If it were my local house, I'd write a letter of complaint, or at least request an explanation. The musicians, who must hate it even more than the audience, will thank you.

#14 bart

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Posted 15 April 2005 - 11:18 AM

Here are a few updates, culled from other forums.

Plus: According to a post by hockeyfan228 on the Ballet Arizona forum, that company will have live music (Phoenix Symphony) for 4 of 6 programs next year, their 20th Anniversary Season. Romeo and Juliet, Nutcracker, and two all-Balanchine programs (Agon, Apollo, and Rubies -- and Divertimento 15, Sonnambula, and Theme and Variation). :blush:

Minus: Ballet Met will turn to taped music for Cinderella. The Columbus Symphony Orchestra played for previous performances.

#15 carbro

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Posted 15 April 2005 - 12:11 PM

The Ballet Arizona news is especially heartening. When Ib Andersen participated in the Works & Process event, he responded to the question of what he'd do if he had a larger budget in a blink: More live music.


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