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Accuracy of sets and costumesOpinions?


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#1 scherzo

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Posted 17 July 2007 - 01:53 AM

Do you prefer the sets and costumes (except perhaps the tutus) of a ballet to be closely modelled on designs of the period in which a ballet is set? Or does it not matter to you as long as it works?

#2 SanderO

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Posted 17 July 2007 - 02:50 AM

I don 't know about historical costuming, but I think an illusion is fine, accuracy being less important. I prefer seeing dancers' bodies and if the costumes hide them, I find that undesirable. But some interpretations are silly as in NYCBs recent R&J. I felt that the design of the costumes and their staging couldn't decide if it wanted to look old or new or what. It certainly did not make me think of medieval Verona. But does that matter always?

I often wonder when you see a ball scene, how everyone is in color coordinated dress, and it looks that they all were made by the same designer. I've never seen so much order out there... but maybe those days were different. Aesthetically it can be interesting, even if it lacks verisimilitude. Obviously the costuming is a design issue and along with the sets does add to the mood of the scene. Head dresses for ballerinas look pretty weird at times too.

Choreography with lots of the corps dancing often has the look of a flower growing (for lack of a better analogy), the symmetry, the repetition, the movement of the elements and so the colors would have to be "coorrdinated" and... they are. In fact, in those types of scenes...the corps looks like... well a corps.. not a bunch of individuals. The Met Opera designers do amazing color coordination in their sets and costuming as does the ABT, the companies I am most familair with, but I think color coordination is a rather common tool for production designers. It makes it work as a whole better I suppose... like music.. all the notes belong there. Do you remember the scene in the movie Amadeus, when they accused Mozart of having too many notes? hahahaha

And speaking of Mozart, I am particularly fond of the Met Zauberflot which is visually stunning, but a fairy tale of course. There (fairy tales) you have a lot of latitude with me. The Bolshoi's recent Corsaire production had backdrops which looked like huge 14th century paintings and did not seem to be trying to create the illusion of space and reality as does the ABT's Swan Lake sets, for example.

Imagine a set painted in the style of impressionism for a ballet of the late 19th century for say, Manon? Despite impressionism in vogue in painting, clothing was rather more mundane in the period compared to where painting was going. Such a set would look interesting, but it would be diffuclt to capture that aesthetiic of the late 19th century in all aspects of a production. But then again, we often don't know what the look of a period is until we get a chance to look back and see what "survived". Historians tell us that.

Any aspect of a story/classical production can set it off balance including costuming or sets. It's approaching that fine line, but when they pull it off it is a stunning visual experience.

#3 Mel Johnson

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Posted 17 July 2007 - 04:10 AM

Once they're on paper, original designs don't change, but audiences do. I doubt very much whether audiences today could stand to watch a ballet production with costumes designed around Victorian corsets. Especially on the men. I'd have difficulty with it, even as a curiosity.

#4 Figurante

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Posted 17 July 2007 - 08:28 AM

I think this is an interesting topic. I agree with Mel. I believe the costumes should change with the coming of age. But, for example, I have recently seen Kudelka's version of Cinderella performed by ABT, and I was appauled at the sets. Granted, it was a very different version of the ballet, and I can handle that with respect to new choreography, and an innovative way of telling the story. But the sets were completely Art Deco-esque, and not appealing to me personally. I mean, it still is Cinderella, a classic. On top of this, correct me if I'm wrong.. but Most Balanchine ballets have a design for costumes and sets that can be altered slightly, but not to the extreme flexibility as other ballets by other choreographers. I kind of like that. It keeps a part of ballet history grounded and unchanging. Perhaps this is why I am so obsessive over the correct way to perform Balanchine ballets. I always want to perform them as they were originally, rather than what would suit me best (as some companies do, as I have found, and it appauls me!). In any rate, I am getting off topic. I think that sets and costumes should correspond with the ballet, while still keeping with the times, but not be overly flamboyant (ABT Cinderella), or overly historical.

#5 Natalia

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Posted 17 July 2007 - 10:03 AM

If a troupe is marketing the revival of a classical work as being with 'designs after the original' then I expect to see designs that are very close to the original. Luckily, this has never been a problem with Kirov-Mariinsky revivals of the old ballets, e.g., Sleeping Beauty 1890, Bayadere 1900, Flora's Awakening 1894/95. When Pierre Lacotte designs the costumes for one of his 'after Petipa' productions -- such as Ondine at the Kirov, Paquita in Paris, Danube's Daughter in Tokyo or Pharaoh's Daughter at the Bolshoi -- he definitely follows the original designs.

My problem comes when a ballet troupe markets an upcoming revival as authentic (or 'after the original designs') -- such as the Royal Ballet's boasting that last year's Sleeping Beauty would recreate the celebrated Messell designs of 1946 -- then does not deliver. Now THAT was a disappointment. I was also somewhat disappointed in the modern-style tutus of the Munich revival of Petipa's-by-Liska Corsaire, earlier this year (judging by photos...bare midrifs and such). On the other hand, the costumes for the Bolshoi's own 'after Petipa'-by-Ratmansky Corsaire are superbly old fashioned.

Not to dump on the Royal Ballet; they know how to 'do it right' when they want to do so. For example, they did themselves proud with the 2004 revival of the sets & costumes of Ashton's 1950s 'Sylvia.

#6 dirac

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Posted 17 July 2007 - 10:29 AM

Once they're on paper, original designs don't change, but audiences do.



Exactly. You have to know how to walk that fine line.

Thank you, scherzo, for starting such a good topic. More comments, please!

#7 Natalia

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Posted 17 July 2007 - 12:23 PM

With today's fabrics and costume-making techniques, it is possible to reproduce the beautiful look of 19th-century costumes, while making them comfortable. Half of the joy of the Kirov's 1890 Sleeping Beauty is in the costumes. I wouldn't replace them for the world. Luckily for the dancers, those costumes are comfortable.

#8 dirac

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Posted 17 July 2007 - 02:30 PM

With today's fabrics and costume-making techniques, it is possible to reproduce the beautiful look of 19th-century costumes, while making them comfortable. Half of the joy of the Kirov's 1890 Sleeping Beauty is in the costumes. I wouldn't replace them for the world. Luckily for the dancers, those costumes are comfortable.


True, Natalia, but is the comfort of the dancers - which I agree is always important, of course - is central to the question of what is appropriate when bringing back old costumes. Body types in ballet are very different now and costumes that looked great on dancers back when might look odd today if not adapted carefully.

#9 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 18 July 2007 - 11:59 AM

Do you prefer the sets and costumes (except perhaps the tutus) of a ballet to be closely modelled on designs of the period in which a ballet is set? Or does it not matter to you as long as it works?

Just until 5 years ago, i never saw any other full lenght productions but the ones from my homeland company, Ballet Nacional de Cuba. Hence , when talking about set designs, i guess my senses got used to their financial limitations resulting in minimal backdrops. . That's why when i saw my very first ABT's SL here in Miami, the vision of all that stuffed set, the super opulent costumes and even the introduction of the maypole :excl: , i got distracted from the dancing and kind of overwhelmed...PERSONALLY, i like simplicity and i think tradition can be perfectly respected without overstuffing the stage...
:beg:


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