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The Royal's "new" staging of the 1946 Sleeping Beauty

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In today's Links, dirac has posted an article from the Times of London, previewing the Royal's revival of the 1946 Valois-Sergeykev staging of Sleeping Beauty. Here's the LINK:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,585-2156676,00.html

A 60-year-old Sleeping Beauty is reawakened at Covent Garden

It was a night that everyone loves to remember, even if they weren’t there. February 20, 1946, the night that The Sleeping Beauty reopened the Royal Opera House. Everyone who was anyone was in the audience: King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, the Prime Minister Clement Attlee, a host of other VIPs and celebrities. On stage were Margot Fonteyn and the rest of Sadler’ s Wells Ballet, newly catapulted into the limelight as Britain’s national dance company.

The Opera House seats had to be dusted off for the occasion (they had spent the Second World War in storage, while the venue was converted into a dance hall), dinner jackets had to be rescued from mothballs. Backstage they were still rushing to finish the costumes even as the first notes of Tchaikovsky’s music sounded in the auditorium. But when the curtain rose on Oliver Messel’s lavishly designed Sleeping Beauty, the splendour of this fairytale enterprise cheered the postwar spirit like nothing else.

You could say that this was the night the Royal Ballet (as Sadler’s Wells Ballet was later christened) came of age. From then on, the company would be resident at the Royal Opera House; from that day forth The Sleeping Beauty would be its signature work.

If I had a time machine, February 20, 1946, would certainly be on my radar. So when the Royal Ballet announced that, as part of its 75th birthday celebrations, it was going to revisit the iconic Messel Beauty, my heart was thrilled. Now, at last, we would see what all the fuss was about.

Given the history, this seems llikely to be an extraordinary event. The opening night is May 15. Who's going to be there? What do Royal fans think?

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Thanks, bart. Don't forget that this production is headed to Washington, DC's Kennedy Center in mid-June, including an opening night with Cojocaru/Kobborg. I'm sure that we'll be hearing two 'salvos' worth of reviews -- from London, then from DC.

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Anybody know if there are any photos of this production available online?

So the Royal Ballet doesnt perform the Maria Bjornson-designed production anymore ?? (for those who dont know, this is the rather ultra-modern production that was filmed with Viviana Durante)

I heard that they also had another production that was staged after the Maria Bjornson/Dowell production.

When did Dowell stop being director of the Royal Ballet?

Regarding the article provided by Bart, I always find the "I dont want to dance in a museum" comment made by many dancers/directors, etc. to be interesting....even contradictory if you will....is not a museum filled with old works of art as well as new ones? What is ballet without the old 'classic' works?

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When did Dowell stop being director of the Royal Ballet?
2001.

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So the Royal Ballet doesnt perform the Maria Bjornson-designed production anymore ?? (for those who dont know, this is the rather ultra-modern production that was filmed with Viviana Durante)

I heard that they also had another production that was staged after the Maria Bjornson/Dowell production.

The Bjornson/Dowell production has not been performed for quite some time, yes. Though the choreographic text has been widely praised, the designs were rather jarring for a ballet that has been such a prized part of the RB repertory.

Then, there was Natalia Makarova's production staged only a few years ago, though that production was heavily Russian influenced - both choreographically and stylistically. The sets returned to a more traditional storybook nature, but the spirit of the production was much more Russian than English.

Thus the decision to restage the Messel production for the RB's 75th Anniversary, as mentioned in the article, because Mason felt it that they needed a return to the more traditional RB production of it.

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Don't forget that this production is headed to Washington, DC's Kennedy Center in mid-June, including an opening night with Cojocaru/Kobborg.
And that ought to be unforgettable. :tiphat:

From the Times article Bart linked:

“It was only when all of us had seen what [Makarova] had done that we realised she had given us a production that didn’t feel as if it was ours. It came with a different set of values, both musically and dramatically, and it absolutely wasn’t the Royal Ballet,”
Different values? Is Mason just being diplomatic and trying not to offend Makarova? I hope someone who saw that production will say more about differing values between the Royal and the Kirov. Also, given the Royal's gaudied-up new production of Cinderella, I find the following hard to understand:
“[Messel's] style of costuming was not to have a harmonious palette; instead, he designed very strong individual costumes. Today’s designers don’t see it like that and I didn’t want the costumes to look quaint.”

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:tiphat::clapping::clapping:

This is the production that captured New York (and me) in 1949. It remained my number 1 favorite until the recent Kirov restoration---but number 2 'ain't bad'. I could never understand a company that could give us the Messel production giving us the Maria Bjornson debacle. :dry:

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In a way, this step is the most revolutionary thing a company can do with its productions of classics. Back to square one! There has been so much tinkering, that the basic structure and content of the great works have been compromised, and audiences aren't "getting" what the basic show is all about.

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it's worth recalling that when ABT 'revived' messel's production for its skeaping-staged SLEEPING BEAUTY, the spectacle proved far less 'impressive' than it was said to look in its royal ballet heyday.

i know messel's scheme is being re-furbished and that this is said to be the 'standard' n.sergeyev text, choreographically, with tweaks here and there, including wheeldon's valse villageoise, but it remains to be seen if the result will meet nostalgic expectations and in turn engage today's audiences.

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...this production is headed to Washington, DC's Kennedy Center in mid-June, including an opening night with Cojocaru/Kobborg. I'm sure that we'll be hearing two 'salvos' worth of reviews -- from London, then from DC.

Looking forward to the London reviews. I have tix for opening night at the Kennedy Center, and I have convinced (I think) my teenaged kids to attend. The next generation and all that. I'll try to give some impressions -- totally unqualified to give a review. Can't wait!

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This may be a naive question, but what are the chances the DC shows will sell out? I don't usually travel for performances, but I might be in Virginia then anyway, and I feel like I shouldn't miss this...

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Does anyone know if there is somewhere I can find full casting for the Royal's Kennedy Center run in June? I saw the Kirov's on the KC website but couldn't find it for the Royal - at least as of Sunday.

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I'm going on the 3rd of June. I will tell you what I think. I'm really looking forward to it.

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This may be a naive question, but what are the chances the DC shows will sell out? I don't usually travel for performances, but I might be in Virginia then anyway, and I feel like I shouldn't miss this...
I know that in the past, Standing Room has been available in the Opera House. I never used it, but I have friends who did. You might want to contact the KC if you're willing to keep that last-minute option open.

Meanwhile, you can pretty well track ticket sales on their website by starting the Buy Tickets process.

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"it's worth recalling that when ABT 'revived' messel's production for its skeaping-staged SLEEPING BEAUTY, the spectacle proved far less 'impressive' than it was said to look in its royal ballet heyday."

I was quite familiar with the "Messel" production which lived on with the touring section of the Royal for some years after the Covent Garden company abandoned it. I didn't see the ABT version live, but I have seen photographs and what struck me immediately was that the fabrics were wrong. Messel designed for tarlatan while ABT seemed to be using nylon net, or some other kind of softer fabric, so the tutus lacked structure. Some of the colours looked a bit strident too, but that may well have been colour reproduction.

However, Peter Farmer has redesigned most of the costumes it seems, as well as the decors for the vision scene. The one tutu I've seen photographed looked a bit dowdy to my eyes, but we shall see.

The de Valois/Sergeyev text was admirable I thought, a view which was reinforced when I saw the Kirov reconstruction. It was amazing how close the two were. The only things I would really wish to see changed in the new "Messel" version are Nijinska's "improved" version of the fifth fairy variation plus, I think Aurora and her Prince should have the coda to the Grand Pas - I find innocent Ivan and his brothers are a poor substitute.

But anyway, we don't have long to wait in order to find out.

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The de Valois/Sergeyev text was admirable I thought, a view which was reinforced when I saw the Kirov reconstruction. It was amazing how close the two were.

I think Aurora and her Prince should have the coda to the Grand Pas - I find innocent Ivan and his brothers are a poor substitute.

A few weeks ago, curious about how "authentic" the Royal ballet's text was, I compared the Royal's BEAUTY (w/ Durante) and the Mariinsky reconstruction. I was stunned at how much, after a century, the Royal Ballet retained Petipa's text. Though there were changes, or some would say "improvements", there was a very admirable consistancy between the two, which really says alot about the level of respect and tradition at the Royal Ballet. BRAVO! I dont know if it still being retained, but the Ashton? Act I Valse was nothing compared to Petipa.

By the way, why did Dowell stop being the RB director?

Alymer - what is this about the coda of the Grand Pas?

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Alymer - what is this about the coda of the Grand Pas?

Well, I'll answer, since I dislike this so much. Instead of the Act 3 pdd having a coda, the coda music is taken away and used as a divertissement, I used to hear it called the Three Ivans, but maybe it's more correct as Ivan and his brothers. It looks almost like a variety show act.

So what happens after Aurora's variation, the finale starts

I saw this a number of times with the Royal Ballet in the 70s

I'm not sure where this comes from but I really dislike it.

I'm almost positive that if you look at the An Evening With the Royal Ballet DVD, where they do Aurora's Wedding you can see this.

Richard

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Richard, the original Sleeping Beauty -- the one that truly premiered in 1890; not the Vikharev new-old reconstruction -- went from Aurora's variation straight to the languid Sarabande. The music for the PDD's Coda was used earlier in the act, danced by (I believe) two of the Jewel fairies...it was a female pdd.

Folks tend to forget that the Vikharev reconstructions are not 100percent authentic, e.g., Soviet variation for the Prince, Soviet GrandPDD coda, lack of Sarabande, etc. Whenever the Vikharev new-old Bayadere is performed back home, the Golden Idol solo of the Soviet Era is shown.

p.s. Vikharev tried his best to be authentic but had to bend to the powers-that-be who insisted on the retention of a few famous post-1890 additions.

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Richard, the original Sleeping Beauty -- the one that truly premiered in 1890; not the Vikharev new-old reconstruction -- went from Aurora's variation straight to the languid Sarabande. The music for the PDD's Coda was used earlier in the act, danced by (I believe) two of the Jewel fairies...it was a female pdd.

Folks tend to forget that the Vikharev reconstructions are not 100percent authentic, e.g., Soviet variation for the Prince, Soviet GrandPDD coda, lack of Sarabande, etc. Whenever the Vikharev new-old Bayadere is performed back home, the Golden Idol solo of the Soviet Era is shown.

p.s. Vikharev tried his best to be authentic but had to bend to the powers-that-be who insisted on the retention of a few famous post-1890 additions.

Oh, thanks for the info, Natalia . So, no coda originally.

I can see how their might have been a bit of a committee that Vikharev had to take account of. Still what an accomplishment on these two reconstructions.

So then what the RB is doing isn't really so contrary, just having some character dancing instead of a couple fairies and possibly at a different point in Act 3 .

This makes more sense now!

Richard

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My recollection of the "Messel" production is that Aurora finishes her variation, takes her call and then Innocent Ivan and his brothers burst onto the stage and we don't see the leading couple again until the Mazurka. De Valois copied this sequence from the Diaghilev Sleeping Princess which she knew well. I find it most unsatisfactory and I hope it won't be reproduced.

According to Professor Wiley what happened after the adagio in the original production is in some doubt. It seems that it was followed by a variation which may have been for the Gold and Sapphire Fairies. Then came Desiree's variation, but again according to Wiley, that which appears in the notation was performed by Nikolai Legat who succeeded Pavel Gerdt in the role. Aurora's variation came next, followed in the Legat notation by the coda. Then the sarabande, followed by the Mazurka and the apotheosis.

I've taken this from Professsor Wiley's book, but I guess we need Doug to put us finally right!

I personally like Ashton's Act I Garland dance and I'll be sorry not to see it again, but the reason the then Sadler's Wells Ballet had to have a new waltz was that there were simply not enough men in the company to attempt the original Petipa. It does occur to me that someone ought to put together all those dances that Ashton made for the Tchaikovsky classics into a divertissment. They're too good to be lost.

Solor asked why Dowell stopped being RB director. I guess the official answer is that his contract came to an end and either he, or the board, or both decided that it would not be renewed. Unofficially, I would say he had been there too long, standards were declining, the repertory was in a rut and, importantly for the board, ticket sales were declining. The fact that his final seasons were more interesting is thanks in great measure to Michael Kaiser who took a strong and informed interest in the running of the ballet company.

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It's hard to tell from the notation, plus the fact that the notation was made closer to 1900 than 1890. The coda is notated for Aurora and Desire. There is also a dance for the two fairies. I have always assumed - perhaps wrongly - that this was danced to the now-discarded Entree music, rather than the coda. I *think* the notation bears a "6/8" time signature (the Entree is in 6/8), but I don't have it in front of me and would have to check. In addition, the adagio (with pantomime sentences) and both variations are notated. I love the Legat variation for Desire - very difficult. I would like to see it danced sometime.

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When I first saw this production (in fact, it was my first Sleeping Beauty), I was still a student, and had no knowledge of the Little Hump-Backed Horse, Ivanushka or his brothers, and always wondered who they were! The old Evening with the Royal Ballet film did substitute the "Trepak" from Nutcracker with no essential harm done, if we wanted a cameo from another ballet. And besides, the Royal had no active version of the other ballet in the repertoire. Plus, we got a coda for Aurora and Desiré, which capped the grand pas de deux off nicely. Didn't Blair's variation in that film follow Legat's version, after a fashion?

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When I first saw this production (in fact, it was my first Sleeping Beauty), I was still a student, and had no knowledge of the Little Hump-Backed Horse, Ivanushka or his brothers, and always wondered who they were! The old Evening with the Royal Ballet film did substitute the "Trepak" from Nutcracker with no essential harm done, if we wanted a cameo from another ballet. And besides, the Royal had no active version of the other ballet in the repertoire. Plus, we got a coda for Aurora and Desiré, which capped the grand pas de deux off nicely. Didn't Blair's variation in that film follow Legat's version, after a fashion?

Mel,

You are right about the RB film. I was going on memory, always risky. This Act 3 doesn't match up with the version I saw in my first RB Sleeping Beauties. Desire and Aurora do get their coda here.

Richard

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I have a sneaking suspicion the "Evening at the Royal Ballet" Aurora's Wedding wasn't the 'typical' one the RB was staging, because it also has a Nutcracker divertissement, which just seems bizarre. I might be wrong but I suspect the film was designed to showcase as many Royal Ballet stars as possible in one film. Strangely, Margot Fonteyn is not nearly as good in this film as she was in the 1955 telecast. Not technically, but personality-wise. She isn't as radiant, and oddly, does not smile throughout the entire pas de deux. But the film is valuable if only for Antoinette Sibley's radiant Florine.

As for the Vikharev reconstruction, I'm surprised he took out the Lilac Fairy's variation. I know it wasn't originally in the 1890 production but it's become such a beloved part of Sleeping Beauty that I'm surprised he didn't give a nod to tradition there.

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Canbelto is SO right -- Fonteyn is oddly kinda hectic, and Sibley is fabulous in the" Evening with the Royal Ballet" The other truly wonderful performance was by the Queen (was it Gerd Larson?). ACtually, seems like there was a lot of sparkle in the jewel fairies, fast astonishing footwork -- was that Merle Park?

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