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Jane Simpson

Royal Ballet season 2005/6

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The Royal Ballet announced its plans for next season today. Full details can be found from

http://info.royaloperahouse.org/News/Index.cfm?ccs=739

Highlights

Monica Mason's contract as Artistic Director has been extended to 2010. (She was initially appointed for 4 years)

The company has abandoned Makarova's production of Sleeping Beauty and is marking its 75th anniversary by a new one, produced by Monica Mason and Christopher Newton after Nicolai Sergueev, and with decor based on the Oliver Messel production. First night is May 15 2006.

Johan Kobborg produces La Sylphide - the first time it's been done by the RB. Alina Cojocaru and Ivan Putrov get the first night, Kobborg dances with Cojocaru at some later performances. Flemming Flindt's The Lesson is in the same bill some nights, others have Ashton's Les Rendezvous.

New to the repertoire: Glen Tetley's Pierre Lunaire and new works by Alastair Marriott and Matjash Mrozewski

Returning to the repertoire: La Fete Etrange, Gloria, Ballet Imperial, Afternoon of a Faun (Robbins), Polyphonia, the Rake's Progress

Kenneth Greve returns to dance in Manon with Zenaida Yanowsky

Ashton's Homage to the Queen is to reappear - but only the Air section is recreatable as there was no film and no notated version, so David Bintley, Michael Corder and Christopher Wheeldon are to do a section each to complete the work.

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The company has abandoned Makarova's production of Sleeping Beauty and is marking its 75th anniversary by a new one, produced by Monica Mason and Christopher Newton after Nicolai Sergueev, and with decor based on the Oliver Messel production. First night is May 15 2006.

This is great news (considering the reviews of Makarova's production). The Royal seems to be going back to its roots. Which Sleeping Beauty will be touring the U.S.?

And another company doing Ballet Imperial... I hope the Royal will bring back its BI rather than the "Ballet Imperial" Colleen Neary has been staging around the world (it's really Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2)

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This is great news (considering the reviews of Makarova's production).  The Royal seems to be going back to its roots.  Which Sleeping Beauty will be touring the U.S.?

And another company doing Ballet Imperial...  I hope the Royal will bring back its BI rather than the "Ballet Imperial" Colleen Neary has been staging around the world (it's really Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2)

I assume they'll take the new Beauty to the US (that's summer 2006, right?) - the Makarova one is now history.

Ballet Imperial is to be stage by Patricia Neary and the sets are 'Eugene Berman realised by Anthony Dowell' - I think that's what we had at the last revival in the 1980s but I don't have anything here to check.

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Thank you Jane for clarifying.

I remember when Ballet Imperial was last done by the Royal. There was an interesting article in Dance Now by Stephanie Jordan about how the RB was to put on BI as it is now performed at NYCB (and all the companies who mistakenly call it BI even though it is the 70s production). But the Royal was moved to go back to an old rehearsal film and some notations and brough back, as close as possible, the production from the 50s when it was set (and tweaked) for the Royal by Balanchine. I hope that's the production that the Royal performs.

[Just a note. I have nothing against Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2. I love the production done by NYCB. I just don't like when that production is passed off as Ballet Imperial, which had mime and some different bits of choreography.]

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The company has abandoned Makarova's production of Sleeping Beauty and is marking its 75th anniversary by a new one....after Nicolai Sergueev, and with decor based on the Oliver Messel production.

My secret wish has been to see the Petipa-N.Sergeev with the Messell decors. The best of both worlds. There is a Santa Claus! Thank you, powers from on high!!!

Ah...but I see that neither Petipa's nor Ashton's Garland Dance will be shown. Instead, Christopher Wheeldon will choreograph a new one.

On a separate note, it's great to see that Sarah Lamb has been assigned the lead in two full-length early-season ballets. Yes!

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What do Londoners think of the season? From afar, it looks like Mason is programming thoughfully. My taste isn't completely hers, but I can see her taste in the programming and I respect it. She's trying to create a balance, and at the same time she is trying to bring back things she personally liked.

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While I'm delighted that the Royal is getting back to its roots in Beauty, I wonder how the Messel designs are going to look today. When ABT used them in the mid-70s, they looked old-fashioned, and this is 30 years later. While they were wonderful for their time, tastes change. The Royal's announcement says that Peter Farmer will adapt the original designs. It should be interesting to see what he'll do.

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As a Londoner, I wasn't enthusiastic on hearing that we'd be getting R&J, Manon, Nutcracker, Giselle all in one season - I feel like I saw them all just yesterday! But the new casts, Zenaida Yanowsky and Kenneth Greve, Mara Galeazzi and Federico Bonelli in Manon, Sarah Lamb, Lauren Cuthbertsen, Rupert Pennefather in Nut (he's presently in the corps de ballet and will be parterning Tamara Rojo no less!), not to mention the possibility of new and younger R&J casts that was mentioned elsewhere, are really something to look forward to and I suppose it allows the company to dance lots of works new to the dancers. The mixed bills look terrific - La Sylphide, Tamara's debut in Marguerite and Armand, La Fete Etrange, Pierrot Lunaire, Afternoon of a Faun, My Brother My Sisters, Rake's Progress stand out for me particularly, and I'm so pleased that Sylvia, La Fille and Requiem are coming back. (I was so hopeful that Rhapsody and Symphony in C would be too, but oh well.) And the new Beauty as well - a bit shocking to have another one so soon! So I'm half a bit "hmmmm..." but almost everything in the mixed bills is new to me so it's all very exciting. :D

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I saw photographs of ABT's Beauty with the Messel designs - though not alas a live performance. In the pictures the costumes didn't look very much like the Messel originals and I remember thinking at the time that it might be to do with the fabrics used - they seemed too light and filmy. So, it will be interesting to see how they come up. But I should add that I thought the designs for Makarova's production were quite the best thing about it although I'm told that huge compromises had to be made over the decors because ROH couldn't handle them.

I don't think we've seen the Berman designs for Ballet Imperial at the ROH since the original staging. The last revival was, if I recall correctly, one of the managements many vain attempts to encourage visual artists to have a crack at designing for dance. Berman had white white wigs and the double headed eagle on the backdrop.

I gather that the reason for the new garland dance in Beauty is that Monica Mason wants to incorporate children.

All in all I think it's quite an interesting season. Personally I could do without Manon and Romeo - but I guess they're box office. And I'm surprised by the casting of Fete Etrange. I don't see either Bussell or Yanowsky as the Young Chatelaine, (a role created by Maude Lloyd) but who knows...... I hope at least they find a decent singer.

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I saw photographs of ABT's Beauty with the Messel designs - though not alas a I don't think we've seen the Berman designs for Ballet Imperial at the ROH since the original staging.  The last revival was, if I recall correctly, one of the managements many vain attempts to encourage visual artists to have a crack at designing for dance.  Berman had white white wigs and the double headed eagle on the backdrop.

In the pictures that accompanied the Dance Now article, Bussell and Durante wore white wigs. The tutus were sort of take-offs of the Berman designs (black velvet with those "Berman" star points).

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I think its great news that M. Mason's excellent work as A.D. is being

affirmed with an extended contract. She is very deserving.

Its also great news that the Royal is going back to the original Messel/Sergueyev production. I suspect there must be alot of anticipation for this revival,

(much like it was when Madame staged the back to basics 1977 Walker production). Thank you Monica!

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I gather that the reason for the new garland dance in Beauty is that Monica Mason wants to incorporate children.

Thanks for posting that, Alymer. I was wondering why they weren't using one of Ashton's versions -- he did two, didn't he?

It should be interesting to see what aspects of the Kirov's "historical" Beauty Mason and Newton will use in their new/old version. I can't imagine that they won't be influenced by it. Surely, from now on, all traditional productions of Beauty will have to take this reconstruction into account?

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I interpreted "Sergeyev/Messel" to mean that they (the powers that be at the Royal) really want to go back to their own, Royal Ballet, roots and, for that reason, I would suppose that they will not be looking to the Kirov's 'historical' beauty. Perhaps it is an unavoidable reference point, but I wouldn't be surprized if there were a lot of people who would prefer that it not be.

For so many years, the Royal thought of Sleeping Beauty as a signature work -- a foreign body that had become, as it were, naturalized. I assume Mason's goal is to recapture that naturalized classical heritage. I think this in particular because, although the very ambivalent reviews of Makarova's production suggest much that didn't work, they did not suggest a wholesale disaster or anything that might not have been improved with some reworking -- and the Sleeping Beauty is not cheap to produce. So why go back to Sergeyev/Messel if the aim (realistic or not) is not to return to their own models and keep references to alternative variations out of the picture? (If that isn't the aim, then why not tinker with Makarova's for a season or two more before giving up on it completely?)

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Would one of you explain to the ignorant among us [me] what the Messel production is?

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So why go back to Sergeyev/Messel if the aim (realistic or not) is not  to return to their own models and keep references to alternative variations out of the picture?

But isn't the Kirov's "historical" Beauty based on the Sergeyev notations? (Nikolai Sergeyev, not Konstantin, who made the Soviet version.) That's what Natalia was talking about on another thread when, before the announcement of this new production was made and we assumed that the Beauty the Royal would be bringing here next year was the Makarova production (which was based on the Konstantin Sergeyev version), she said how ironic it would be if the Kirov brought the 1890 version -- because for years we associated the Royal with preserving the historical record and the Kirov with going its own way, and this would be the reverse!

Amy, the "Messel version" is the first, famous production of The Sleeping Beauty that Nikolai Sergeyev helped Ninette de Valois and Frederick Ashton stage for the Sadler's Wells Ballet (as it was at the time) and that the company brought to America in 1949.

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What a wonderful season! It's so imaginative, so balanced, so.... so ADULT! May Ms. Mason's repertory signal a new, 21st century international trend!!!!

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I agree -- a well-thought-out season. Makes me envious.

But, regarding the original Messel designs: am I correct in thinking that this is the version that we see on film with the young Margot Fonteyn? (Don't know the date, but it's the one that is always shown in Fonteyn documentaries. My copy was videotaped from TV long ago and has no credits.)

If so, what is so great about this look? I am impressed that people are so delighted to see it return -- but the posts sos far contain almost nothing specific about what elements of the production/ sets/ costumes/ etc./ are admirable --or why. (This question intruded into the thread on bad costuming, when several people mentioned the entire current production as something they destested). Once again: will someone be specific about what makes the Messel designs so worth restoring?

Edited by bart

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Ari -- you may know more about this than I -- did the Kirov reconstruction look to you like the Royal's old version (i.e. pre Ashton/Macmillan/Dowell)?

I do think the Kirov reconstruction at least claimed to seek a level of literal archeological faithfulness that the traditional Royal production never, to my knowledge, did. The Lilac Fairy solo is an obvious difference and the Royal also had, over the years, various little additions by Ashton, including an awakening pas de deux (that I assume this production will not include) that signaled that the Royal thought of Beaty as "theirs." I rather assume, and even hope, that that is the approach they are taking -- "their" Beauty. Even the choice of Wheeldon for a new garland dance fits this picture. What I would really love to see would be a return to a more "Ceccheti" style of dancing -- which the Kirov version does not remotely aspire to...but that may be a farfetched idea on my part.

(The only Royal production I saw before Dowell's was the one Ashton did in 1970. And I don't have the kind of memory that would have enabled me to make a serious comparison between that production and the Kirov's new-old version which I saw when they first performed it at the Met in New York. I am not without bias, since without question the Sleeping Beaty performances I have seen that most answer to my "inward" eye's image of the ballet were performances of the Konstantin Sergeyev (i.e. Soviet) version danced by the Kirov during a tour of the U.S. in, I guess, the eighties. But at the risk of exposing myself as a Sleeping Beauty dilettante I suspect that had more to do with the purity and quality of the classical dancing than the details of the production--about which I don't have expert knowledge or recall.)

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Ari -- you may know more about this than I -- did the Kirov reconstruction look to you like the Royal's old version (i.e. pre Ashton/Macmillan/Dowell)?

I do think the Kirov reconstruction at least claimed to seek a level of literal archeological faithfulness that the traditional Royal production never, to my knowledge, did.  The Lilac Fairy solo is an obvious difference and the Royal also had, over the years, various little additions by Ashton, including an awakening pas de deux (that I assume this production will not include) that signaled that the Royal thought of Beaty as "theirs."

Well, this is a complex subject. I hope that ballet scholars with greater knowledge than me will jump in here.

I never saw the Messel production danced by the Royal (except on film) so I can't compare it to the Kirov's reconstruction. But I do know that both versions used Nikolai Sergeyev's notations as a base. Konstantin Sergeyev, who staged the Soviet version that Russian audiences are so familiar with and love so dearly, went his own way -- what Tim Scholl, in Sleeping Beauty, a Legend in Progress, calls "drambalet," "one that well represents the Soviet ballet's hobbyhorses of the postwar period."

Beyond the N. Sergeyev choreographic notations, the two productions differ quite a bit, partly because de Valois and Ashton were intent on fashioning the ballet to suit their company and their style -- as everyone who stages Beauty, or any old classic, for their own company, IMO, must do -- and partly because the Sergeyev notations, and the memories of the Imperial era ballerinas they had access to, were all that they knew of the original production. I'm sure they would have been grateful for the historical information that was available to the Petersburg stagers in 1999. They probably would not have used it all, since they were interested in creating a Beauty specially tailored for their company, but I'm sure they would have welcomed the opportunity to pick and choose which aspects of the original to include in their own production. The Kirov/Maryinsky, by contrast, doesn't have the problem of adapting the ballet to their company, since it was made for their company! The issue for them was rather how much of what was done in 1890 is still viable today.

Another difference between the productions is that the Royal's was staged when Sergeyev was still alive, and apparently he changed his mind a good deal. The Kirov's production was done after his death, from his notation.

Incidentally, in his book Scholl argues forcefully that the Lilac Fairy always had a variation in the Prologue (actually, the Sergeyev notation indicates two). She wore a tutu in that act and danced on pointe -- there are photographs.

Once again:  will someone be specific about what makes the Messel designs so worth restoring?

Bart, when people say "the Messel production," they're using it as a shorthand for the whole production, not just the costumes and scenery. This production is famous and holds a special place in ballet history because it preserved, better than any other production at the time, Petipa's choreography and the whole team's (Petipa, Tchaikovsky, Vsevolozhsky) ideas about the ballet. At the time this production was mounted (1946), ballet in the Soviet Union had taken off in its own direction -- one that did not preserve the glories of the Imperial ballet era -- and no other company in the West was bothering to step into the breach. The production is famous for other reasons, partly having to do with Messel's designs -- it was the ballet that de Valois staged to mark her company's move to Covent Garden, where it became Britain's National Ballet, and it signalled a dazzling end to the era of wartime privation with gorgeous, colorful, lavish costumes and scenery.

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Ari, thanks for the clarification. I can certainly see that this would be dear to many people's hearts. especially the association with faithfulness to Petipa's original approach.

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Ari -- thanks from me as well...

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it was the ballet that de Valois staged to mark her company's move to Covent Garden, where it became Britain's National Ballet, and it signalled a dazzling end to the era of wartime privation with gorgeous, colorful, lavish costumes and scenery

I think that not only did Sleeping Beauty signal an end to wartime privation, it was also exceptionally appropriate - and therefore captured the zeitgeist - as it deals with the restoration of order and the triumph of good over evil.

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it was the ballet that de Valois staged to mark her company's move to Covent Garden, where it became Britain's National Ballet, and it signalled a dazzling end to the era of wartime privation with gorgeous, colorful, lavish costumes and scenery

I think that not only did Sleeping Beauty signal an end to wartime privation, it was also exceptionally appropriate - and therefore captured the zeitgeist - as it deals with the restoration of order and the triumph of good over evil.

However, it may have looked gorgeous but the costumes were subject to the general clothes rationing and were not quite as lavish as they looked - wartime privation might have ended but post-war privation hadn't. There was a lot of improvisation in them (pipe cleaners and paper doilies are often mentioned) - maybe you don't need to throw money at a production to make the right theatrical effect?

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The RB season does look exciting indeed ! And what a sharp contrast between the RB's and the POB's policy: Monica Mason looks as motivated in preserving her company's heritage and respecting its history as Brigitte Lefevre isn't (see for example the homage to Ninette de Valois vs the absence of Lifar in the POB's programming). If I still lived in Paris, I guess I'd just start saving some money for Eurostar tickets instead of POB tickets... ;)

By the way, I haven't had a look at the press releases yet, but are there any plans of foreign tours for the RB ? (I'm not sure, but it seems to me that their last French tour was quite a long time ago, alas).

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Greetings! Does anyone know any details concerning the October 6 Royal Ballet performance? Is it a gala? :unsure:

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