MJ

Stories that should be a Ballet

160 posts in this topic

I've been thinking about Rosa's suggestion about the R&H musicals. I have just seen several performances of a ballet that made a mess of trying to include and explicate all the plot lines of Midsummer Night's Dream, I wonder how much editing would be needed to turn those Broadway musicals into a wordless ballet.

Maybe we should just be grateful to have the already-existing ballets within Carousel, King and I, and Oklahoma. How can you do better than those?

EvilNinjaX, I love the visual possibilities uses that could be made of that "Feather Robe."

Momotaro made me think of the Prince's adventures in Firebird. But there's no Princess to save and marry! That -- in ballet -- is a serious problem. :huh: Any suggestions?

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There's a new book out from Yale Univ. Press: Douglas Smith's The Pearl: A True Tale of Forbidden Love in Catherine the Great's Russia.

The "Pearl" is Praskovya Kovalyova, a young woman born into serfdom who rose to become the star of a nobleman's private serf theater, singing leads in operas and performing in a variety of theatrical works.

Count Nicholas Sheremetv, her owner, had on his estate what was certainly the largest private theater in Russia. It was designed by one of the men responsible for the Royal Opera at Versailles, so you can get an idea of the scale of "private theaters" at that time.

Sheremetev was unmarried but known for his many mistresses and his willingness to exercise droit de seigneur with his prettier serfs. He fell in love with Praskovya, freed her, and wed her secretly. When she became pregnant he confessed the marriage to the Tsar. She died in childbirth, but her child -- a son -- was legitimized. The Count spent the rest of his life worshipping her memory.

The review I read has this to say about her place in history:

Praskovya's story and piety were the stuff of 19th-century folk legend and song, and in the Soviet period her halo as the embodiment of popular genius was burnished.

Maybe this story HAS been made into a ballet. If not, someone should consider it. Turning the Pearl into a ballet dancer would seem to be a necessity.

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I wonder if any of Rogers and Hammerstein's musicals would make good ballets. A full-length Carousel, King and I, or Oklahoma... With the famous scores or original music?

As a huge musical theatre fan, and a fan of R&H in particular, I think the problem is both that there's too much plot to convey more than a feeling for these pieces, and that the music would be hard to use. If they didn't use the songs in some way, audiences would be alienated, but using the music of the songs for a dance piece feels redundant to me. Plus of course many R&H works (especially the early ones) had major dance piece sin them already.

I'm a bit of a Stephen Sondheim nut and was thinking recently how his musicals have such strong rhythms in them. While I'd never suggest, say a ballet of Company or Sweeney Todd (although I think Passion, his most operatic and lyrical score COULD work actually--story and music wise), I've been listening to his one movie score, the incidental (non sung) music for the French film Stavisky from the 70s. It's an absolute gem of a score, with so much music--dark and driving at times, soft and lyrical and melancholy at others, that both suggest a story to me and seem ideal for ballet and dance. It's such a little known score too--by Sondheim standards (the soundtrack is available as a bonus on the Follies in Concert CD) that I don't think even Sondheim fanatics would bring a preconceived story to it. The actual story of the film--a bio pic about famous French embezzler Stavisky, is way too complicated for a ballet, but I think another story could easily be adapted to it--or maybe just abstract dances. Anyway, now that I've had that thought I can't listen to the music *without* imagining dance.

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Some ideas that have been percolating around in my mind:

1) In honor of the 50th anniversary of its release in 2010, create a dance set to all or part of Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain.

2) Similarly, use the music from Paul Weston's 1957 Crescent City to make a suite of dances about New Orleans.

3) "Borrow" the title of the 1958 George Melachrino LP Lisbon at Twilight and make a suite of dances about Portugal using Portugese fado music.

4) In the vein of Martha Graham's Episodes, make a dance about the Dowager Empress Marie of Russia and the Empress Alexandra of Russia. (And, please, spare me the famous quote about mother-in-laws and the dance.)

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Thanks for reviving this thread, miliosr. I like your Sketches of Spain idea. Who to choreograph?

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I'm also intrigued by some of your suggestions, miliosr, and would love to hear more.

(1)Is that the George Melachrino of the Melachrino strings? I don't associate their sound with fado. What was the Lisbon album like?

(2) The 2 Empresses. There was certainly quite a bit of conflict between these 2 women, but it was often expressed in exceedingly trivial ways (arguments over jewelry, precedence, child-rearing, etc.). Neither woman, it seems to me, has the qualities (intelligence, political passion, intense involvement in the larger world, a way of fascinating and either enslaving or being enslaved by men) that make Elizabeth and Mary so fascinating. Other than the sad demise of Alexandra and her immediate family at the end, and possibly the opportunity for gorgeous costuming, I'm having a hard time thinking of what a dance piece centering on their relationship would be like. What situations should be included? (Second thought: now Rasputin and Alexandra might make an interesting story. Sleazy and pathetic, imo, but interesting. Something for MacMillan in his Mayerling mode?)

If we are looking for a mother-in-law ballet, one suggestion might be the relationship of Eleanor Roosevelt and her mother-in-law, Sara Delano Roosevelt. There at least, one would have the advantage of two strong, interesting, pollitically aware women on stage. They would, of course, have to look and MOVE differently from the originals. One could also argue that Franklin Roosevelt was more worth fighting over than the frequently clueless Nicholas II.

If Tudor were alive and still working in his Pillar of Fire mode, I'd offer the job to him.

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Thanks for reviving this thread, miliosr. I like your Sketches of Spain idea. Who to choreograph?

I don't know who would be up to the task of choreographing it. I would like the Corella Ballet to stage it as something unique to them (rather than becoming just another international company with the same old same old repertory.)

I'm also intrigued by some of your suggestions, miliosr, and would love to hear more.

(1)Is that the George Melachrino of the Melachrino strings? I don't associate their sound with fado. What was the Lisbon album like?

Yes. The music is like easy listening fado. Truth be told, I bought the CD because I thought the title was so evocative -- Lisbon at Twilight. Maybe the National Ballet of Portugal could do it (although they seem to be morphing into a contemporary company of the worst kind.)

(2) The 2 Empresses. There was certainly quite a bit of conflict between these 2 women, but it was often expressed in exceedingly trivial ways (arguments over jewelry, precedence, child-rearing, etc.). Neither woman, it seems to me, has the qualities (intelligence, political passion, intense involvement in the larger world, a way of fascinating and either enslaving or being enslaved by men) that make Elizabeth and Mary so fascinating. Other than the sad demise of Alexandra and her immediate family at the end, and possibly the opportunity for gorgeous costuming, I'm having a hard time thinking of what a dance piece centering on their relationship would be like. What situations should be included?

Oh, I would disagree with your assessment. The Dowager Empress, in particular, had a shrewd intelligence regarding the Russian empire and the Romanov dynasty. While the conflict between Marie ("Minny") and Alexandra ("Alix") was waged in superficially trivial ways, the nature of the conflict -- control over Nicholas II and, by extension, government policy -- was deadly serious. During the period 1894-1917, two courts emerged in Russia -- the (much) larger one centered around the outgoing and popular Dowager Empress and the smaller, reclusive one centered around Alexandra, Nicholas and the hemophiliac tsarevitch Alexei. Nicholas followed his wife's advice intstead of his mother's and we all know what the result of that was.

Now, I'm not quite sure how you depict all of this in a dance. The Graham Episodes springs immediately to mind as does the court dance of Limon's The Moor's Pavane . . .

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And speaking of Empresses, I've always thought that incidents from the life of the Dowager Empress Cixi of China could make a good ballet plot, whether you think of her as a villianess or a heroine.

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miliosr, I agree that a ballet be made from the story of the 2 empresses, no matter what one things about them as characters or historical figures.

Certain royal biographers have been more sympathetic to Marie Feodorovna, and even to Alexandra, than have other historians of the period. I don't doubt that there is an audience for their story. (There certainly was for Mayerling.) I just doubt its value or inherent dramatic interest. As a lover of Moor's Pavane, I just can't put these particular Romanovs in the same league as Othello, Desdemona, Iago, and even Emilia.

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Phantom of the Opera, the story of Queen Esther, and the myth of Cupid (Eros) and Psyche would make interesting ballets I think.

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Chicago .

murder, prison, trial ...

In my opinion a trial is a theatre...

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If Angel Corella is looking for new ballets for his company, then he should consider hiring someone to stage Washington Irving's Tales of the Alhambra.

Maybe 4rmrdncr can pass the idea on to Corella!

Some rewriting would be necessary, however, to fit the value and sensibilities of modern Spain and its (once again) large Muslim community.

If any BT'ers are coming to see the company perform in NYC at City Center March 17-20, or attending Angel's March 15 interview/demo with Damian Woetzel, you'll have your chance to tell him. Of course, I'll be present too, and hopefully showing excerpts from my film. (Sorry, but dire economic necessity caused several delays in my ability to work on the film last year and consequently finish it in time for these performances. And how ironic that is, I certainly know.)

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Interesting idea, Joseph, although I foresee some problems with exposition - there's an awful lot of backstory in Dickens' plot.

Thanks for reviving this thread, Rosa.

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I have the impression that more operas could be turned into ballets. I have a few but there's scope for more. The music is available and is often excellent. Petit did 'La Chauve-souris' based on Strauss' 'Die Fledermaus'. Matthew Bourne used the music of Carmen for his 'The Car Man.' Neumeier choreographed 'La Dame aux Camelias' -on which La Traviata- was based using Chopin's music. Others include MacMillan's Manon, and Ronald Hynd's Merry Widow. I accept that ballets of operas might scare many people off, by doubling or squaring elitism.

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Thanks for reviving this thread, miliosr. I like your Sketches of Spain idea. Who to choreograph?

I don't know who would be up to the task of choreographing it. I would like the Corella Ballet to stage it as something unique to them (rather than becoming just another international company with the same old same old repertory.)

The purpose of Corella Ballet, (besides the primary one of providing a classical company in Spain so Spanish ballet dancers aren't forced to emigrate to find a job--eg. at last count it was over 260), is to perform full-length classical ballets in Spain. Remember, for 20 years, there was no classical company in Spain. It was also very expensive for Spanish theatres to import foreign companies, or the larger, more technically proficient, professional companies. So, general Spanish audiences have had a very limited exposure to the "same ol', same ol'" classics and high calibre classical dancers that are SO familiar to us. (Of course I realize this was not so in the larger cities--but even Barcelona has always supported more modern and contemporary dance. Until, Angel has shown them otherwise.) So, although CB, like most international companies today, performs a mix of classical and contemporary repertoire, it is focused on classical works, thereby giving Spanish dancers opportunities they've never had. (BTW:All of the above info is in my doc)

RE: original topic of this thread: I always thought Tristan & Isolde would work. There's all that Wagner music, or "Tintagel Suite" by ...? (sorry can't remember composer), and I think somebody at the RB did do a ballet called "Tintagel" but I think it was more about King Arthur?

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There's a new book out from Yale Univ. Press: Douglas Smith's The Pearl: A True Tale of Forbidden Love in Catherine the Great's Russia.

The "Pearl" is Praskovya Kovalyova, a young woman born into serfdom who rose to become the star of a nobleman's private serf theater, singing leads in operas and performing in a variety of theatrical works.

Count Nicholas Sheremetv, her owner, had on his estate what was certainly the largest private theater in Russia. It was designed by one of the men responsible for the Royal Opera at Versailles, so you can get an idea of the scale of "private theaters" at that time.

Sheremetev was unmarried but known for his many mistresses and his willingness to exercise droit de seigneur with his prettier serfs. He fell in love with Praskovya, freed her, and wed her secretly. When she became pregnant he confessed the marriage to the Tsar. She died in childbirth, but her child -- a son -- was legitimized. The Count spent the rest of his life worshipping her memory.

Thanks for mentioning this book, Bart. I am enjoying it. There is a podcast of the author discussing The Pearl at the Seattle Public Library linked to from his website.

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I would love to see a ballet of Heinrich von Kleist's "Penthesilea." Kleist's concept of drama was, in certain ways, profoundly balletic, and "Penthesilea" itself was first performed as a pantomime. Penthesilea is the queen of a tribe of Amazons who, in order to replenish their population, capture great warriors, and, celebrating an orgiastic "rose festival," use them to become pregnant. Penthesilea and her women attack the Greek heroes as they fight against the Trojans, and she and Achilles fall in love with each other at first sight. He captures her, pretends that he is her prisoner, but then tells her the truth. She becomes distraught. After she is rescued, Achilles challenges her to a duel, intending to allow himself to be capture. He thinks this is the only way that their love can be consummated. She, however, misunderstanding his intentions, and consumed with rage, tears him to pieces, and then takes her own life.

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RE: original topic of this thread: I always thought Tristan & Isolde would work. There's all that Wagner music, or "Tintagel Suite" by ...? (sorry can't remember composer), and I think somebody at the RB did do a ballet called "Tintagel" but I think it was more about King Arthur?

Just spotted this. Never thought of it, but by George, I think it would! But the Wagner music has to be properly treated, none of that horror we heard of hodgepodges of Liszt in 'Mayerling', including that prestissimo Mephisto Waltz: That would have been fine for Mighty Mouse cartoons. Plus, I like very much the idea of an Isolde who is considerably more svelte than Birgit (I know, I know, she's not the only one, but I can't get her out of my mind.)

But this opens the possibility of a lot of operas that might be excellent as ballets in themselves, possibly even including something that is developed from ballets already within operas that could be made into fully autonomous pieces (but that runs into difficulties, since the big ones are often for spectacle..) Of Wagner, 'Flying Dutchman' also comes to mind, but I don't much like the idea of that music being arranged, that glorious overture, Senta's aria which follows the spinning girls' delightful song. Maybe not, but Tristan und Isolde--brilliant if someone can figure out how to do it.

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RE: original topic of this thread: I always thought Tristan & Isolde would work. There's all that Wagner music, or "Tintagel Suite" by ...? (sorry can't remember composer), and I think somebody at the RB did do a ballet called "Tintagel" but I think it was more about King Arthur?

Someone at RB DID do a Tintagel ballet - Ashton. Only thing, he didn't do it for RB, he did it for NYCB. Music was by Sir Arnold Bax, and included several short works including "The Garden of Fand". The title was "Picnic at Tintagel" and it is a lost Ashton. They tried to put it back together again, but nobody could remember it sufficiently.

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Fascinating, and Bax is certainly worthy of respect and was a major composer, but I wouldn't be interested in a new Tristan und Isolde ballet that didn't use Wagner. Although it's indeed regrettable that the Bax/Ashton was lost, that I would be interested in.

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[. Maybe not, but Tristan und Isolde--brilliant if someone can figure out how to do it.

I saw a ballet version of "Tristan and Isolde" with the Royal Swedish Ballet a few years back, choreographed by Kryzstof Pastor. He used the preludes from the opera and the Wesendonck lieder. I remember it being long and dreary with undistinguished choreography.

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Kenneth MacMillan tackled Crown Prince Rudolf, the Emperor Franz Joseph and the Empress Elisabeth (all of Austria) in Mayerling and Jose Limon tackled Franz Joseph's younger brother the Emperor Maximillian of Mexico and his wife Carlota in Carlota. Why not a ballet about the youngest brother of Franz Joseph and Maximillian -- Ludwig Viktor?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archduke_Ludwig_Viktor

Talk about drama -- a mother who wants to marry him off and a brother who ends up banishing him from Vienna. All the story needs is a handsome Austrian cavalry officer to catch Ludwig Viktor's eye and set off some fireworks at the Austrian court. (Who cares if none of it is historically accurate!)

I'm envisioning Steven McRae as Ludwig Viktor and Ed Watson as Franz Joseph (as young men before the events of Mayerling) . . .

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I'm not that knowledgeable, so maybe it's been done, but here goes--there's a fairy tale where 12 sister princesses always are found sleeping in their beds in the morning but their dancing slippers are always worn to shreds. Their father the king wants an answer and promises treasure and a princess for a bride to whoever can solve the mystery. One prince gets help from an old witch by use of a cloak which makes him invisible. He follows the princesses, taking jewelled limbs of trees dripping with precious gems as proof. The princesses hear the snaps and get nervous, but go along anyway. He dances with one of them-the most beautiful (I think she's the eldest) while there. They all sneak back home across the river to the palace in the golden gondolas always waiting for them. The Prince (I think he's a Prince) produces the proof and gets his bride and they all live happily ever after. I would love to see this done in a traditional, even Romantic, style. What music? Beats me. I think the sets and costumes could be beautiful, very dazzling and other-worldly and would be a good story to stage and choreograph in a traditional manner.

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Not so much a story as a "tribute" ballet. It would most likely be the first of it's kind (that I know of anyway.) I'd hope that my obsession with Tchaikovsky is quite obvious. I was listening to his 6th Symphony, The Pathétique, when suddenly :lightbulb:. I built the following 3 act ballet around the 6th Symphony and several other of Tchaikovsky's famous works:

Act I

a. Overture

Symphony #6- Pathétique 1st Movement

b. Scene I- Tchaikovsky decides to become a composer

Piano Concerto #1 in B-flat minor

c. Scene II- Tchaikovsky's first ballet

Swan Lake Act II Scene 1 (Swan Lake Theme)

d. Scene III- A Romance (Composer) for the ages

Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture

e. Scene IV- The Czar's great commission

1812 Overture

f. Scene V- Success as a Composer

Symphony #6- Pathétique 2nd Movement

Act II

a. Entr'acte

Symphony #6- Pathétique 3rd Movement

b. Scene I: "A charming fairy tale come true." Maleficent- Disney's Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty Medley (I know I want the Waltz (Aka Once Upon A Dream) in there, still figuring out a few others)

c. Scene II: The magic of Christmas

Overture/March

Drosselmeyer's Spell/The Battle against the Mouse King

Journey to the Land of Snow

Waltz of the Snowflakes

Act III

a. Entr'acte:

The Land of Sweets

b. Scene I:

Arrival of Nutcracker and Clara

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy

Coda

Divertissement Medley

Waltz of the Flowers

Final Waltz

Grand Adiago

c. Scene II: The death of Tchaikovsky

Themes from Symphony #6- Pathétique 1st Movement

Symphony #6- Pathétique 4th Movement

What do you think?

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