MJ

Stories that should be a Ballet

160 posts in this topic

Closer to the exact quote is "It is very difficult in classical mime to express, for example, 'your mother-in-law'." (Balanchine/Mason, Stories of the Great Ballets (1954?)

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Closer to the exact quote is "It is very difficult in classical mime to express, for example, 'your mother-in-law'." (Balanchine/Mason, Stories of the Great Ballets (1954?)

The Rule of thumb for the Mother of of a Groom is:

Show up, Shut up, and wear beige.

I guess you could include a mother in Law, but it would take 10-15 minutes of pantomime to explain to the audience who the Mother in law is. Lest we forget Cinderella involves a Step Mother, I did the pantomime with a painting of my dear departed wife.

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A Marie Antoinette ballet would be beautiful. Think elaborate costumes. I was entertaining this idea with my co-workers after seeing the Sophia Coppola movie.

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I guess you could include a mother in Law, but it would take 10-15 minutes of pantomime to explain to the audience who the Mother in law is. Lest we forget Cinderella involves a Step Mother, I did the pantomime with a painting of my dear departed wife.

Now see, that's a very intelligent way to express "my late wife and my daughter's mother". It would be universally understandable, and not involve a whole lot of classical mime, which the audience (depending on culture) might not get. We keep forgetting the Father in the ballet, who, unlike in Disney, is still alive, but his second wife (the Stepmother) bullies him around, too!

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A Marie Antoinette ballet would be beautiful. Think elaborate costumes. I was entertaining this idea with my co-workers after seeing the Sophia Coppola movie.

I was thinking Napoleon and Josephine would make a great Ballet.

I was looking at the AFI film list of the 100 greatest love stories (I won't link to it, but it is easily Gorgled Yay-hoo'd)

My Culling from The American Film Institute's 400 nominated list includes Chronologically:

Cleopatra (1912, 1963 )

Salome (1922)

King Kong (1933)

Show Boat (1936)

Gone With The Wind (1939)

The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (1939)

Casablanca (1942)

Cabin In The Sky (1943)

The Ghost And Mrs. Muir (1947)

Samson And Delilah (1949)

The African Queen (1951)

An American in Paris (1951)

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Singin' In The Rain (1952)

Kiss Me Kate (1953)

Brigadoon (1954)

Oklahoma! (1955)

Carousel (1956)

South Pacific (1958)

Porgy And Bess (1959)

Some like it Hot (1959)

Breakfast At Tiffany's (1961)

Flower Drum Song (1961)

West Side Story (1961)

Doctor Zhivago (1965)

The Sound Of Music (1965)

Funny Girl (1968)

Sweet Charity (1969)

The Great Gatsby (1974)

Robin And Marian (1976)

Somewhere In Time (1980)

An Officer And A Gentleman (1982)

Splash (1984)

Dirty Dancing (1987)

Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

Working Girl (1988)

The Little Mermaid (1989)

Ghost (1990)

Pretty Woman (1990)

Groundhog Day :) (1993)

Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

Titanic (1997)

Never Been Kissed (1999)

Chocolat (2000)

Some of these movies have great scores, choreo, costumes, or stories that could translate into a ballet well.

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Another thread just put me in mind of a long-unused score, "The Doll Fairy" by Joseph Bayer. The libretto is similar to "La Boutique Fantasque", and if you want a clear conscience (the Massine Estate has the rights on the latter nailed down) and a one-act ballet suitable for and with children, the choreography to the former ballet has been lost forever. You can create on your own, only the composer will be somewhat past reaching. And no, there is no Columbine and two Pierrots - that's "Feya Kukol". You won't hear a note of that music in Bayer. I don't know why the Legat Brothers claimed that it was from "Puppenfee", but I'll bet it had something to do with rights even ca. 1900. The Legat pas de trois is music excerpted from Drigo's Harlequin's Millions, best known today as the basis for Balanchine's Harlequinade.

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Mel recognizes something that the rest of us have tended to leave out: the need for a danceable score that fits the libretto. :(

Another plot that comes to mind is, Turn of the Screw based on an original story by Henry James.Benjamin Britten has already turned this into a successful opera.

Setting: a grand, isolate country house

Cast (6 principals):

-- a new Governess (the protagonist) -- idea as a pre-retirement role for an older ballerina

-- her new charges: a boy (Miles) and a girl (Flora) -- perffect for early adolescent stars of the company school

-- the Housekeeper,Mrs. Grose -- older character dancer

-- two ghosts: Miss Jessel, the previous governess; and Peter Quint, former valet to the childrens' (absent) father

-- Britten added other servants in minor roles

The back-story could be established in a prologue, showing Miss Jessel and Quint beginning an illicit affair, being caught and driven away by the Housekeeper and some of the other servants, and coming to a bad end. The audience should be able to understand this easily. Having the Governess on the stage, travelling -- in parallel but not interacting with the other two -- should also be possible. . The opera starts with a kind of prologue, and perhaps the action could be adapted to the music for that

In James, only the governess "sees" the ghosts; there is always the possibility that she is hallucinating. In the opera, however, the ghosts interact with the children. We will be able to watch them influencing the children, almost "possessing" them. I would follow Britten in this. I would think that dance could do this very effectively -- and with complete clarity for the audience.

Ghosts, lust, possession, child abuse, a spooky country house, a heroine on the verge of a nervous breakdown, a Housekeeper who may or may not be bad herself: this story has a lot to keep the audience involved.

All it lacks is a score (admittedly a rather important problem). Does anyone know if there's an orchestral version of the Britten opera?

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I don't know if there's a suite from the Britten opera, but I've considered the story and think there may be a one-act in it. There may have to be some tinkering with the foreboding in perhaps introducing a corps de ballet of "Night Visions" among whom are found Quint and Jessel. Good heavens, I think we've just nearly reinvented Ninette de Valois' "The Haunted Ballroom", except here the boy dies and not the father!

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If I ever get a chance to do what I want to do, I'd like to try my hand at the semi-Biblical story of Lilith (Adam's first wife, turned all evil and such) or a (very difficult) ballet adaptation of Martin Sherman's play 'Bent'

Although I have friends who insist on a Star Wars ballet...

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If I ever get a chance to do what I want to do, I'd like to try my hand at the semi-Biblical story of Lilith (Adam's first wife, turned all evil and such) [ ... ]

Boy, you'd have a richness of cross-cultural sources for that one! It could be very exotic, and very scarey, depending on how far you went with it.

As a companion ballet ... for the men ... how about Cain and Abel? Has that ever been done?

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If I ever get a chance to do what I want to do, I'd like to try my hand at the semi-Biblical story of Lilith (Adam's first wife, turned all evil and such) [ ... ]

Boy, you'd have a richness of cross-cultural sources for that one! It could be very exotic, and very scarey, depending on how far you went with it.

As a companion ballet ... for the men ... how about Cain and Abel? Has that ever been done?

Noah and his Ark might make an interesting, but tedious, children's ballet. Samson and Delilah would be exciting. Bringing the temple down would take some SFX.

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If I ever get a chance to do what I want to do, I'd like to try my hand at the semi-Biblical story of Lilith (Adam's first wife, turned all evil and such) or a (very difficult) ballet adaptation of Martin Sherman's play 'Bent'

Although I have friends who insist on a Star Wars ballet...

Funny, I think that many years ago former ABT dancer, Bo Spassof, was running a company in Georgia and choreographed Star Wars.

I'd go with something like the Last Unicorn.

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Noah and his Ark might make an interesting, but tedious, children's ballet.

More tedious than interesting, I fear. Ballet already has enough tedious ballets -- a very popular genre, at least for choreographers! Also, if it's tedious for adults, it will probably be more so for kids.

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Definitely "Wuthering Heights." What opportunity, what passion!

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I have a very deep desire to make a ballet with Michael Ondaatje's novel, The English Patient. Using visual support from Anthony Minghella's adaptation and the very very fantastic music by Gabriel Yared.

I keep thinking about the scenes in which Almazy describes the desert and the winds, and how those could make fabulous abstract moments such as the shadows in La Bayadere...

And then the wonderfully tragic love story... It would be fantastic!!

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In my own literary research, I've been reading 18th-century whore biographies, texts that may have inspired Defoe for Moll Flanders and Roxana. Both of those would make interesting ballets; both have, w/in their narratives, ballroom scenes (Roxana gets named "Roxana" because of how she dances).

Are there any ballets where the heroine is a whore? (Plenty of courtesans, I guess...)

Similarly, what about Tom Jones or Joseph Andrews as ballets?

Or, more contemporary, Mann's Felix Krull or Tonio Kroger (leave poor Death in Venice alone for awhile!).

To return to the past, in the right hands, Twelfth Night could be a funny ballet.

Apologies for any repeats.

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In my own literary research, I've been reading 18th-century whore biographies, texts that may have inspired Defoe for Moll Flanders and Roxana. Both of those would make interesting ballets; both have, w/in their narratives, ballroom scenes (Roxana gets named "Roxana" because of how she dances).

Are there any ballets where the heroine is a whore? (Plenty of courtesans, I guess...)

Are you looking at a distinction between whore and courtesan? Certainly lots of courtesans -- Manon, essentially. Marguerite and Armand, and ballet versions of Madame Butterfly, depending on your interpretation.

To return to the past, in the right hands, Twelfth Night could be a funny ballet.

Well, Tudor made "Crossgartered" in the early 30s, but I'm pretty sure it's lost to the world now.

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Ann_hphq, welcome to Ballet Talk! The English Patient is such a complex narrative. I remember thinking, as I watched it, how interesting it would be as a silent film (with subtitles). Assuming that you would have to simplify the narrative, which elements would you select to put into your ballet? How would you handle the central relationships?

[Moll Flanders and Roxana [ ... ]

Ray, an advantage that Abbe Prevosts's novel about the Chevalier des Grieux and Manon had is that it's relatively short and really does focus to an amazing degree on the lives of the protagonists. There's a love story, which means a big, romantic pas de deux -- AND a pathetic death scene for the end.

I haven't read Moll Flanders, but Roxana lacks a single male romantic interest for the woman. It's long and very episodic, a string of mostly dark encounters and brief liaisons. In other words ... no great love, therefore no big pdd. Roxana is a great character and could, I suppose, be a great role for a dramatic ballereina. But I wonder if it would meet the expectations of your typical story-ballet audience. You'd not only have to cut out a great deal; you'd probably have to make up a love interest and redo the plot as well.

What is it about the Mann stories that made you think of them?

Doestoevsky's The Gambler seems like a story that could be reduced into a good ballet libretto. Has Pushkin's Pique Dame (Queen of Spades) been made into a ballet, I wonder. How about his poem The Bronze Horseman? Or his Don Juan piece , The Stone Guest? Surely someone in Russia discovered the dramatic potential of those works during the Soviet era.

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Are you looking at a distinction between whore and courtesan?

Price tag and carrying costs, mostly, I would say.

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I haven't read Moll Flanders, but Roxana lacks a single male romantic interest for the woman. It's long and very episodic, a string of mostly dark encounters and brief liaisons. In other words ... no great love, therefore no big pdd. Roxana is a great character and could, I suppose, be a great role for a dramatic ballereina. But I wonder if it would meet the expectations of your typical story-ballet audience. You'd not only have to cut out a great deal; you'd probably have to make up a love interest and redo the plot as well.

I don't know if I'd call Roxana's liaisons with the Prince and all the previous husbands and lovers dark, except that none of them, of which there are many, are much beyond 2-dimensional. But the novel is wonderful primarily for the writing style. But it's mainly about her constant upbraiding of herself for giving in to temptation and gold and ambition and feeling guilty about it. She is a courtesan, but refers to herself as a whore, but the problem is she has little range of character. She has her sidekick Amy and then tries to reform herself somewhat by helping out her abandoned children from a distance, but there are all sorts of messes that occur with those, and it's all in the written plotting. She's not quite a sympathetic character just because she says she isn't either--she is very repetitious and it's really only Defoe who's interesting. I can't well envision any of those 18th century novels as story ballets, although something abstract and shorter could be made about Roxana, perhaps more than Moll Flanders, Tom Jones or Joseph Andrews. I just see some big pageant of too many plot twists, too much scenery and costumes otherwise. POB did 'Wuthering Heights', but that doesn't seen quite the same. A one-act ballet of Roxana sounds possible, but not all that promising to my mind. None of the characters have any real romantic texture to them, although many of them are comic. Just a one-act piece with only the Roxana Name Dance focussed on with no moralizing could be dazzling, though, now I think of it: Just ignore the inevitable tragic ending and redo it completely, with just the whore-heroine at her social peak. This would be a totally unpunished whore (at least within what is shown onstage) and that would be something refreshing, but even though it's probably been done without pointing it out too strongly before, the world is probably as yet still not interested in something like that. So a 'Roxana's Dance' still sounds more promising than the Fielding, and Moll is too comic. How had you envisioned these, Ray? With all the complicated plot lines spelled out? For some reason, it reminds of a combo of what I read about POB Caligula and the awful Mayerling--on the heavy as lead side somehow. Maybe something primarily decorative is possible for these rococo things and loosely adapted. Actually begins to sound like 'La Valse', though.

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I haven't read Moll Flanders, but Roxana lacks a single male romantic interest for the woman. It's long and very episodic, a string of mostly dark encounters and brief liaisons. In other words ... no great love, therefore no big pdd. Roxana is a great character and could, I suppose, be a great role for a dramatic ballereina. But I wonder if it would meet the expectations of your typical story-ballet audience. You'd not only have to cut out a great deal; you'd probably have to make up a love interest and redo the plot as well.

I don't know if I'd call Roxana's liaisons with the Prince and all the previous husbands and lovers dark, except that none of them, of which there are many, are much beyond 2-dimensional. But the novel is wonderful primarily for the writing style. But it's mainly about her constant upbraiding of herself for giving in to temptation and gold and ambition and feeling guilty about it. She is a courtesan, but refers to herself as a whore, but the problem is she has little range of character. She has her sidekick Amy and then tries to reform herself somewhat by helping out her abandoned children from a distance, but there are all sorts of messes that occur with those, and it's all in the written plotting. She's not quite a sympathetic character just because she says she isn't either--she is very repetitious and it's really only Defoe who's interesting. I can't well envision any of those 18th century novels as story ballets, although something abstract and shorter could be made about Roxana, perhaps more than Moll Flanders, Tom Jones or Joseph Andrews. I just see some big pageant of too many plot twists, too much scenery and costumes otherwise. POB did 'Wuthering Heights', but that doesn't seen quite the same. A one-act ballet of Roxana sounds possible, but not all that promising to my mind. None of the characters have any real romantic texture to them, although many of them are comic. Just a one-act piece with only the Roxana Name Dance focussed on with no moralizing could be dazzling, though, now I think of it: Just ignore the inevitable tragic ending and redo it completely, with just the whore-heroine at her social peak. This would be a totally unpunished whore (at least within what is shown onstage) and that would be something refreshing, but even though it's probably been done without pointing it out too strongly before, the world is probably as yet still not interested in something like that. So a 'Roxana's Dance' still sounds more promising than the Fielding, and Moll is too comic. How had you envisioned these, Ray? With all the complicated plot lines spelled out? For some reason, it reminds of a combo of what I read about POB Caligula and the awful Mayerling--on the heavy as lead side somehow. Maybe something primarily decorative is possible for these rococo things and loosely adapted. Actually begins to sound like 'La Valse', though.

As much as my limited imagination allows, I did envision radical adaptations/reworkings of these eighteenth-century stories. And I guess I was imagining a ballet w/out a traditional romantic narrative--instead, episodic like, say, The Rake's Progress (another candidate for a good ballet?). This would all depend, of course, on a masterful choreographer and dramaturg working together!

And I thought of those particular Mann stories because, unlike Death In Venice, they have a comic edge to them, to pull us away from the "death is sad" cliche of the Mahlerballet. Felix Krull could offer some wonderful opportunities for the male lead to have to act out different characters (Krull is a con man)---not to mention that scene from childhood where he tries on all the different costumes.

I guess a problem with all these stories is that they are often about solitary figures, and we all know about ballets with too many solos....

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As much as my limited imagination allows, I did envision radical adaptations/reworkings of these eighteenth-century stories. And I guess I was imagining a ballet w/out a traditional romantic narrative--instead, episodic like, say, The Rake's Progress (another candidate for a good ballet?). This is all depended, of course, on a masterful choreographer and dramaturg working together!

I have no idea why 'The Rake's Progress' sounds automatically like a much more likely candidate. But now that you emphasize episodic, Roxana does make sense, and is, in fact, already rather episodic. The Moll Flanders plot is more complex and she ends without tragedy unlike Roxana, but rather in eternal penitence, which seems less theatrical; if you've just read Roxana, you were probably struck as I was by the way Defoe saves the whole unravelling into punishment till the very last paragraph--which is just searing, because you'd been pulling for her. Joseph Andrews has all those matters of adoption an coincidental births and confusions of near-incests, etc., that Wilde may have even lifted from there to come up with the what happens by the end of Importance of Being Earnest.

Made me think that Thomas Hardy's novels could also be episodic but not so busily complex. As maybe 'Far from the Madding Crowd' and there's a great tradition of English pastoral music--not just Vaughan Williams either-- that could be drawn from for Wessex unless a new score were commissioned.

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J'aime Lucy

Now, here's a real concept for a popular ballet libretto, assuming all the niceties with Desilu could be negotiated.

What have we got? Well, to begin with:

Stock characters familiar to an entire audience across age lines.

Plots familiar to same, like those drawn from fairy tales.

No real chance of becoming IMPORTANT.*

Mahler would be a Really Bad Choice for music.

Story told by action, about like a silent movie.

Time period is remote from the modern audience, yet accessible.

* - It could be important, just as long as it doesn't try to be IMPORTANT. I mean, if a choreographer tried to explore the inner demons of Ethel Mertz, he'd get thrown out a window.

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Story that should be a ballet: How about Steven Millhauser's short story, The Illusionist? But, rather than the original story line, the movie adaptation?

The Harry Potter proposal earlier is, of course, wonderful. But, hard to choose a coherent sequence. So, would that suggest a series, over several years? The real way to build new audiences.

Moving on, what about Annie Proulx's The Shipping News? Too long, too many dark elements?

Has someone done Austen's Pride and Prejudice?

I'm getting carried away, so shall stop.

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Thanks for those suggestions, dmgoffe. And welcome to Ballet Talk! I hope you'll continue joining us in our discussions. Please check our Welcome forum if you would like to introduce yourself more formally.

I'd vote for a try on The Illusionist, which I know only from the movie. However, wouldn't something have to be done about the slow pace and the sheer dourness of it? Mad Hapsburgs -- a la Mayerling -- do seem to have a market in ballet. How would you handle the rather sudden happy ending? What do others think?

As much as my limited imagination allows, I did envision radical adaptations/reworkings of these eighteenth-century stories. And I guess I was imagining a ballet w/out a traditional romantic narrative--instead, episodic like, say, The Rake's Progress (another candidate for a good ballet?). This would all depend, of course, on a masterful choreographer and dramaturg working together!

I like the idea of Rake's Progress. The episodes have a kind of continuity, and a certain percentage of the audience would have some familiarity, either from the opera or the Hogarth illustrations. Does anyone know if there is an orchestral version of the Stravinsky music? If not, has the Stravinsky estate been cooperative about giving permission for the construction of suites or orchestrations in the Lanchberry manner?

One thing strikes me about Rake's Progress. Isn't the ending bit reminiscent of the Balanchine Don Quixote? I'm thinking of the protagonist's madness, his hallucination-vision of a Dulcinea figure (appearing as Venus rather than the Virgin), all ending in death (without, if I recall correctly, Apotheosis).

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