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Opera Ballet


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#16 zerbinetta

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Posted 20 December 2006 - 01:02 PM

I remember seeing a not entirely successful ballet solo to Maria Callas' recording of "Casta Diva", the great aria from Norma, but no longer remember who danced it or even what theater I saw it in. Perhaps someone here remembers the event better.

There are certainly ballets galore set to ballet music from opera: Balanchine's Ballo della Regina from Verdi's Don Carlos (the French version); Donizetti Variations (from Dom Sebastien); Sonnambula to Bellini music from La Sonnambula & other of his operas (wonderfully stitched together by Rieti for the ballet); Robbins' Four Seasons from Verdi's Les Vepres Sicilienne - the French version of I Vespri Siciliani - along with some I Lombardi & something else which escapes me for the moment.

For Ballo, Balanchine loosely used the theme of the ballet in the opera. A ball is given by King Phillip to honor his bride, Elisabetta (Isabella, actually but that's off subject). A ballet is part of the entertainment. It is about undersea creatures who find a great pearl - La Pelegrina - which Phillip then presents to Elisabetta. Centuries later Richard Burton presented La Pelegrina to another Elizabeth.


:flowers:

#17 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 20 December 2006 - 01:35 PM

This one? (4th paragraph or so down):

http://query.nytimes...752C0A9669C8B63

#18 volcanohunter

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Posted 20 December 2006 - 01:41 PM

It's a pity that La Peregrina is almost never performed in context. Don Carlos is a very long opera even with the ballet removed, but it would be nice to see it in its original grand opera form. The opera would still be shorter than Meistersinger! I'm pretty sure that the La Scala video of Vespri siciliani, while performed in Italian, does include the Four Seasons ballet. Like Robbins, Kenneth MacMillan also choreographed a separate ballet to this music. In general I wish more choreographers would follow Balanchine's lead and rescue ballet music discarded from operas.

#19 richard53dog

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Posted 20 December 2006 - 03:38 PM

In general I wish more choreographers would follow Balanchine's lead and rescue ballet music discarded from operas.



I wish so too. Most of the Grand Operas written for Paris in the mid 19th century had ballets; it was a required element, as it were. Even Wagner had to write a ballet for Tanhauser for it's Parisian permiere.

I remember seeing on a video a ballet of dead nuns from Meyerbeer's Robert le Diable. Wild stuff.


I have to disagree though on adding say Verdi's ballets back into his French operas. For me they are just too long. I've really cut back my opera going because I get to antsy at these 4 hour evenings, particularly at the Met where the intermissions are interminable. Also in that era, attendence was much more casual. The audience would feel free to come late, leave early and wander in and out during the performances. They weren't the (somewhat) more disciplined things they are today.

And let's not talk about the length of Meistersinger!!!!

I'd rather see the ballet music lifted out and used on it's own.

#20 zerbinetta

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Posted 20 December 2006 - 04:21 PM

This one? (4th paragraph or so down):

http://query.nytimes...752C0A9669C8B63

Nope but this sounds a lot more interesting than the one I saw.

I remember it being en pointe, the ballerina in white flowy costume.

I also remember closing my eyes and just listening to Maria. :flowers:

#21 volcanohunter

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Posted 20 December 2006 - 07:10 PM

And let's not talk about the length of Meistersinger!!!!

I've always said that I'd only consider seeing that opera live if I could listen to the overture then leave to go shopping, have dinner, maybe visit a museum, and come back 5 hours later for the prize song and final chorus. :grinning-smiley-001: Unfortunately, opera houses frown on that casual attendance thing these days.

#22 Helene

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Posted 20 December 2006 - 08:27 PM


And let's not talk about the length of Meistersinger!!!!

I've always said that I'd only consider seeing that opera live if I could listen to the overture then leave to go shopping, have dinner, maybe visit a museum, and come back 5 hours later for the prize song and final chorus. :grinning-smiley-001: Unfortunately, opera houses frown on that casual attendance thing these days.

In Gotterdammerung, I always want to hear the Norns, leave for drinks, come back for Brunnhilde/Waltraute's scene, leave for appetizers, come back for Hagen's Watch and Hagen/Alberich's scene, leave for dinner, and come back for the death of Siegfried through the end.

I'm not sure those scenes would make a terribly coherent libretto, though.

#23 SanderO

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Posted 20 December 2006 - 09:33 PM

This thread is veering... but I just came from Zuaberflote and the whole Met production is visually stunning and there is some ballet/point by the birds in Act II. The Met preoductionn of the Magic Flute may not be to everyone's liking but it is amazing to see... no reason to leave for tea.

I have found most of the Met productions visually very powerful though not all the music in every opera is riviting the way a ballet seems to usually be.

But coming back to the original question of this thread... I was really not seeking entire operas that were done as ballets... but some lyrical arias... almost the way ABT did some of Sinatra songs.. short pieces...

#24 carbro

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Posted 20 December 2006 - 10:04 PM

I just came from Zuaberflote and the whole Met production is visually stunning ... no reason to leave for tea.

At just over an hour in length (as has been advertised) not much time, let alone reason, for tea.

I happened to be crossing Lincoln Center Plaza one day as a photographer was posing cast members on the Met's balcony. I can vouch for "stunning," even without the sets and with natural midday light.

#25 Ostrich

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Posted 21 December 2006 - 12:47 AM

SanderO, as I said, I have seen the South African Ballet Theatre (formerly PACT) perform a work to an opera aria as a self-standing piece, and I also just remembered that when the Royal Danish Ballet gave a combined guest performance with SABT(I think in 2004) they put on an experimental one-act ballet. It was The Little Matchgirl and contained a solo to an opera aria. Neither event was that great a success, however, and I can't remember either the dancers or what aria it was.

I think one of the main problems with using opera arias for ballet is that the dancer simply can't hold that arabesque for as long as the singer holds his high C. As a result the choreographer has to choreograph very much "through the music" rather than "to the music" and IMO it takes a very good choreographer to do that successfully without creating what I call a "run on" piece, with too little phrasing, rest and climax. In short, I think ballet works to opera arias will become too "busy" because the dancers simply cannot sustain motion for as long as the singer can sustain his voice, with the result that the dancer has to perform four different steps in the time that the singer holds a single note. Not to mention it being extremely exhausting for the dancers.

#26 volcanohunter

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Posted 21 December 2006 - 01:26 AM

Not to mention it being extremely exhausting for the dancers.

I think this is an extremely important factor to consider. Ballet is frequently an anaerobic activity, not unlike sprinting, which is why the average classical variation rarely exceeds a minute and a half. (Shorter for very fast variations, perhaps a bit longer for adagio variations during which a dancer can actually breathe.) After that the body simply runs out of oxygen. But some arias can go on for 20 minutes. Arias are written with breaks for the singer during which the orchestra plays by itself. It would be difficult to pull off something similar in dance.

#27 Hans

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Posted 21 December 2006 - 03:13 AM

I imagine one would have to perhaps use a soloist and small corps or something like that.

#28 richard53dog

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Posted 21 December 2006 - 08:27 AM

I think this is an extremely important factor to consider. Ballet is frequently an anaerobic activity, not unlike sprinting, which is why the average classical variation rarely exceeds a minute and a half. (Shorter for very fast variations, perhaps a bit longer for adagio variations during which a dancer can actually breathe.) After that the body simply runs out of oxygen. But some arias can go on for 20 minutes. Arias are written with breaks for the singer during which the orchestra plays by itself. It would be difficult to pull off something similar in dance.


A 20 minute aria, yikes!

You're right,about the stamina for a dancer and a singer being timed differently. But a way around it would be , in say a 20 minute piece, to have the dancers used in a relay fashion. Dancer one starts, dances for a few minutes, dancer two, or a grouping of dancers, takes over, and so forth.

I just saw something like this last month in Dark Elegies. Each of the Mahler songs was asigned to a group of dancers, but within the song the dancing was divided up a bit.

#29 SanderO

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Posted 21 December 2006 - 08:51 AM

I am neither dancer or choreographer but I sense that some above are interpreting this question too literally.

Why does a choreographed aria have to be for a single dancer or a pas de deux? It could be like a mini ballet even... I would think it depends on the length of the aria... and most that I am familiar with are not 20 minutes long... In fact, they may be too short to develop something interesting for dance. (I am reminded of a Polina Seminova video I have seen of a "pop song" which was only a few minutes..)

On another "note" there was a John Rockwell review in the NY Times this morning of Richard Move's MoveOpolis which includes dance choreographed to Verdi ... I presumed his opera music. Move's work maybe far from ballet, but at least some choreographer has picked up this opera music as music for dance idea... among the ones mentioned above.

#30 volcanohunter

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Posted 21 December 2006 - 01:34 PM

I would think it depends on the length of the aria... and most that I am familiar with are not 20 minutes long...

Of course not. But there are far more 20-minute arias out there than 20-minute ballet solos. You were asking about ballets choreographed to operatic arias, and thus far we haven't been able to come up with many, so there must be a reason for this. The fact that the average aria is longer than the average variation is an important factor to consider. The fact that song cycles and liturgical works are used far more frequently than vocal operatic music may reflect your point about individual arias not being able to sustain a ballet from either a thematic or musical point of view. It's also possible that choreographers don't believe they can add anything to an aria by setting movement to it, just as Balanchine never choreographed to Beethoven: "Now you could dance Mozart, but Beethoven you can't, unless it's walking. The sound produces [a] certain type of enjoyment, and if anybody moves, you will just disturb and you don't add anything." Of course he also said, "Verdi: from beginning to the end you can dance his opera," yet he only choreographed to music Verdi wrote specifically for ballet. It may simply be that arias and dance aren't that compatible. Perhaps arias don't have sufficient rhythmic consistency or drive to be "danceable."


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