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Apollo -- which approach? which dancers?


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#61 kfw

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 11:01 AM

if Boal is staging the ballet, that is the version that he danced and that he knows. According to the Balanchine Catalog, the birth scene was removed in 1979 for a revival with Baryshnikov,. Boal might have seen the work with the birth scene until about age 14, but not at NYCB after that.


Boal did dance the complete version with Suzanne Farrell Ballet however.

#62 Helene

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 12:20 PM


Frustrating news -- after several seasons performing the mid-career Apollo (birth scene and stairs) as staged by Francia Russell, Pacific Northwest Ballet is going to do the later version with no birth and no stairs (and so no ending on the stairs). I know, I know -- it was his ballet to change if he wanted to -- but I really love the older version.

Sigh.


He also cut some great music. Farrell said in her book she was sufficiently surprised by that to remark on it to him - "You don't usually cut music like that." "No, I don't," he replied. End of discussion. ("Shut up, he explained.")

You're right -- I had forgotten about that. That makes the decision more curious: perhaps he prefers the short version, having experience both. Thank you!

#63 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 04:40 PM


Frustrating news -- after several seasons performing the mid-career Apollo (birth scene and stairs) as staged by Francia Russell, Pacific Northwest Ballet is going to do the later version with no birth and no stairs (and so no ending on the stairs). I know, I know -- it was his ballet to change if he wanted to -- but I really love the older version.

Sigh.


He also cut some great music. Farrell said in her book she was sufficiently surprised by that to remark on it to him - "You don't usually cut music like that." "No, I don't," he replied. End of discussion. ("Shut up, he explained.")



It's not as if Balanchine never did violence to music, although messing around with "Apollo" is a uniquely criminal offense as far as I'm concerned. He lopped off the first movement of Mendelssohn's "Scotch Symphony," reordered the movements in Tchaikovsky's "Serenade," and cheerfully mixed and matched bits of Vivaldi and Corelli for "Square Dance." He plumped up the score for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" with extracts from other of Mendelssohn's works. (Although in fairness, I think that only "String Symphony No 9" is actually truncated.) He eventually got around to setting all of Tchaikovsky's "Suite No. 3" but until 1970 only used the "Theme and Variations" movement. Etc etc etc. And don't get me started on the concoction of Bellini's greatest hits that he used for the score for "La Sonnambula."

The reordered movements in "Serenade" really bug me; I understand that Balanchine needed the "Elegie's" death and transfiguration music at the end to tie up the drama, but the "Finale" (the "Tema Russo") is so clearly a FINALE (with recapitulated themes and everything) that to my ears at least it sounds ludicrous to hear it in the middle of the ballet.

I like the birth scene and the apotheosis on the stairs too.

#64 Helene

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 05:28 PM

I love the scenes after the birth, where Apollo is "de-swaddled", and like a young colt, has to find his legs. He's given the lute: he doesn't just appear with it.

#65 Paul Parish

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 11:30 PM

" the "Finale" (the "Tema Russo") is so clearly a FINALE (with recapitulated themes and everything) that to my ears at least it sounds ludicrous to hear it in the middle of the ballet."

I totally agree......

#66 dirac

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 11:37 AM

It's not as if Balanchine never did violence to music, although messing around with "Apollo" is a uniquely criminal offense as far as I'm concerned. He lopped off the first movement of Mendelssohn's "Scotch Symphony," reordered the movements in Tchaikovsky's "Serenade," and cheerfully mixed and matched bits of Vivaldi and Corelli for "Square Dance." He plumped up the score for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" with extracts from other of Mendelssohn's works. (Although in fairness, I think that only "String Symphony No 9" is actually truncated.) He eventually got around to setting all of Tchaikovsky's "Suite No. 3" but until 1970 only used the "Theme and Variations" movement. Etc etc etc. And don't get me started on the concoction of Bellini's greatest hits that he used for the score for "La Sonnambula."


I would suggest those are somewhat different cases, however. "Apollo" held a unique place in the canon, Balanchine worked on it with Stravinsky, the music was intended for ballet. It does seem to me that Balanchine's diddling with it is particularly curious.

Parenthetically, in Balanchine's defense I can understand or any other choreographer would choose not to set all the movements of a symphony or a suite if it doesn't work for what he has in mind - he left off the first movement of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 3 for "Diamonds" and it's easy to see why. And I find his use of Mendelssohn far easier on the ears than Lanchbery's and Ashton's. Editing isn't necessarily the issue so much as how it's done, perhaps.

#67 Quiggin

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 12:59 PM

"Apollo" probably has been in continuous flux over the years. The birthing scene is based on some Martha Graham exercises Balanchine saw a student doing, according to an interview Lynn Garafola did with one of Balanchine's dancers - this was much later than the twenties. Before the staircase was a mountain in the first production, and according to Danilova the accents were quite different in the seventies than the twenties.

Balanchine might also wanted to have "Apollo" conform more to the tone of "Agon," which in the 1982 Stravinsky Festival filming, looks extremely austere, even more than the 1957 original. In that "Agon" Daniel Duell and Maria Calegari are great and so fluent, and the rhythms of the groups are perfect, yet on the whole it's rather chilling. It may have been a reflection of the seventies esthetic in the arts, of minimalism and conceptualism, Cunningham and Cage and what was going on downtown.

"Square Dance," according to Arlene Croce, almost doubled in length after it became abstract in part due to the addition of the solo for Bart Cook. It almost becomes an agon too.

#68 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 02:29 PM

It's not as if Balanchine never did violence to music, although messing around with "Apollo" is a uniquely criminal offense as far as I'm concerned. He lopped off the first movement of Mendelssohn's "Scotch Symphony," reordered the movements in Tchaikovsky's "Serenade," and cheerfully mixed and matched bits of Vivaldi and Corelli for "Square Dance." He plumped up the score for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" with extracts from other of Mendelssohn's works. (Although in fairness, I think that only "String Symphony No 9" is actually truncated.) He eventually got around to setting all of Tchaikovsky's "Suite No. 3" but until 1970 only used the "Theme and Variations" movement. Etc etc etc. And don't get me started on the concoction of Bellini's greatest hits that he used for the score for "La Sonnambula."


I would suggest those are somewhat different cases, however. "Apollo" held a unique place in the canon, Balanchine worked on it with Stravinsky, the music was intended for ballet. It does seem to me that Balanchine's diddling with it is particularly curious.

Parenthetically, in Balanchine's defense I can understand or any other choreographer would choose not to set all the movements of a symphony or a suite if it doesn't work for what he has in mind - he left off the first movement of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 3 for "Diamonds" and it's easy to see why. And I find his use of Mendelssohn far easier on the ears than Lanchbery's and Ashton's. Editing isn't necessarily the issue so much as how it's done, perhaps.


Well, at least he waited until Stravinsky was dead! Posted Image

Funnily enough I'm not particularly bothered when 18th/19th century music written specifically for the theater is cut, rearranged, or augmented with material composed for another work: that was part of standard theatrical operating practice then and remains so today. What Balanchine did with "A Midsummer Night's Dream" certainly wasn't at odds with that tradition -- and we're the lucky beneficiaries of his skill in knitting together a lovely score. But I nonetheless persist in thinking of 18th/19th century concert music as wholes that shouldn't be cut, even though in Beethoven's time (and later) concerts were more like variety shows and it wasn't unusual for shorter pieces to be inserted in between the movements of a symphony. (Obviously this is before we got all snobbish about not clapping between movements. Time was when musicians were disheartened if you didn't clap between the movements or even applaud at the end of a cadenza. But I digress.) Still, they're meant to be heard as wholes. Plus, first movements are often formally the most rigorous part of a multi-movement work, so it seems to me like a special indignity when they're cut. I suspect it comes down to what one is used to hearing. I really do miss the first movement of "Scotch Symphony" ...

#69 sandik

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 03:27 PM

Re Serenade

" the "Finale" (the "Tema Russo") is so clearly a FINALE (with recapitulated themes and everything) that to my ears at least it sounds ludicrous to hear it in the middle of the ballet."

I totally agree......


I know what you're talking about, but I have to say that in some ways this dislocation makes the ending even more mysterious for me.

#70 sandik

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 03:31 PM

... Balanchine might also wanted to have "Apollo" conform more to the tone of "Agon," which in the 1982 Stravinsky Festival filming, looks extremely austere, even more than the 1957 original. In that "Agon" Daniel Duell and Maria Calegari are great and so fluent, and the rhythms of the groups are perfect, yet on the whole it's rather chilling. It may have been a reflection of the seventies esthetic in the arts, of minimalism and conceptualism, Cunningham and Cage and what was going on downtown.


I hadn't really thought of this specific cause -- you may have put your finger on something here!

"Square Dance," according to Arlene Croce, almost doubled in length after it became abstract in part due to the addition of the solo for Bart Cook. It almost becomes an agon too.


I would very much like to see a Square Dance with caller someday, though I would be loath to lose the solo. I am still even sadder, though, to lose the opening of Apollo, and the ending on the staircase...

#71 kfw

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 05:25 PM

I would very much like to see a Square Dance with caller someday, though I would be loath to lose the solo.


Don't the Joffrey do Square Dance with both a caller and the solo? They definitely had the caller at the Kennedy Center in 2000, and I'm pretty sure I remember the solo.

I am still even sadder, though, to lose the opening of Apollo, and the ending on the staircase...


So am I. The birth and the ascent both move me.

#72 Helene

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 04:56 PM

We may get some insight into Boal's reasoning at the "Balanchine Then and Now" presentation on 2 April at the Phelps Center, for Peter Boal and Francia Russell's "exploration of the work of George Balanchine over the span the great master’s career, focusing on his earliest work still performed—Apollo." Company dancers are part of the presentation, and we may see side-by-side comparisons of some of the material.

#73 sandik

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 05:31 PM

we may see side-by-side comparisons of some of the material.


Oh, I hope they take advantage of the opportunity to do just this. The side-by-side Bluebird variations they presented last year were astonishing!

#74 melange

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 05:50 PM

I rather prefer the current version of Apollo, although, admittedly, maybe because I'm just used to it. One of the things that moves me the most about it is the finale; the way Apollo turns and slowly walks away, followed by the muses, ending with the sunburst pose. It fits the music perfectly and it seems to me that Balanchine took a very nice flourish and turned it into something truly extraordinary. See the contrast by watching Baryshnikov do the current finale here:



Then watch the same thing in an earlier version here (it's at the 1:51 mark).

By the way, to anyone who saw the Baryshnikov performance live: you have my undying envy.



#75 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 08:49 AM

Look what I found on the Jacobs Pillow Dance Interactive site (Posted Image California for the heads-up!) -- a (way too) brief clip of one of my favorite Apollos, Nikolaj Hübbe, performing the pas de deux with Darci Kistler in 2002.


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