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Stories that should be a BalletHere is your chance to be creative!


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#46 Ray

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Posted 15 June 2008 - 08:01 AM

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....

#47 papeetepatrick

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Posted 15 June 2008 - 09:01 AM

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.

#48 Mel Johnson

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Posted 15 June 2008 - 10:19 AM

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.

#49 dmgoffe

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 07:21 AM

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.

#50 bart

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 08:17 AM

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).

#51 Mel Johnson

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 08:31 AM

"A Rake's Progress" has been done, rather a long time ago, by Ninette de Valois. That's not to say that a revival of that work would not be welcome. And while we're on Hogarth series, why not "A Harlot's Progress", or for the more respectable, mostly outside of the demimonde, "Marriage--la-Mode". But why get stuck on Hogarth? Why not Thomas Rowlandson and his "Doctor Syntax" series? Why not James Gillray?

#52 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 08:40 AM

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.


and don't forget the COSTUMES!

a great possibility for a solo by desi, entitled 'lucy you got some 'splaining to do', a short lament by lucy entitled 'waaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh!' and a Little Ricky who wanders in and out of every scene with a pair of drumsticks, and the big 'babalu' finale!

but who would compose the music?

sorry, my flights of fancy are rare. and it isn't even august.

#53 Mel Johnson

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 08:48 AM

And then there's the "Cuban Pete and Sally Sweet pas de deux"....

Composer is not to worry. Wilbur Hatch may be gone, but his memory lingers on in any of a hundred TV and movie composers.

#54 papeetepatrick

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 08:57 AM

"A Rake's Progress" has been done, rather a long time ago, by Ninette de Valois. That's not to say that a revival of that work would not be welcome.



Yeah, that's interesting, and here it is on DVD, music by Gavin Gordon. Erase if this is an interdit link (It's not an online discussion, but rather you can order it here if you want it.
http://www.vaimusic....kesProgress.htm

Here's another piece on it, which I found interesting, from June, 2006. Don't think this is a discussion board either, not sure. (delete if necessary.)

http://www.bloomberg...p;refer=culture

And while we're on Hogarth series, why not "A Harlot's Progress"

That would be either Roxana or Moll, according to whether you want a peaceful retirement or wages-of-sin-is-death ending. Or even Lady Booby, actress become great lady with Joseph discovered to be bastard son at end.

#55 Mel Johnson

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 09:50 AM

If we take the Hogarth, then the ending is clearly the Calvinist style. The final plate of the series is Moll's wake.

#56 bart

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 09:58 AM

"A Rake's Progress" has been done, rather a long time ago, by Ninette de Valois. That's not to say that a revival of that work would not be welcome. And while we're on Hogarth series, why not "A Harlot's Progress", or for the more respectable, mostly outside of the demimonde, "Marriage--la-Mode". But why get stuck on Hogarth? Why not Thomas Rowlandson and his "Doctor Syntax" series? Why not James Gillray?

Speaking realistically, the creation of a full-length ballet involves enormous investment of time and money.
One advantage of Rake's Progress is, I think, its familiarity among a large potential audience. The story-lline by Auden/Kallman is intelligent and works well. You might argue that by eliminating their actual words you have an even more effective dance piece. Stravinsky, similarly, is a name brand -- and a high quality one. Same for the Hogarth paintings.

Question: does anyone know what music Valois used for her version? Would Stravinsky's music work? It was made to be specific to the story, and it would have an originality -- though perhaps not danceability? -- more interesting than the usual pastings together of Lizst and Chopin that one finds in this kind of story ballet.

#57 papeetepatrick

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 10:01 AM

If we take the Hogarth, then the ending is clearly the Calvinist style. The final plate of the series is Moll's wake.


The poor dear, Gawd rest 'er saaaoooouulllll!!! :clapping:

#58 whetherwax

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Posted 12 July 2008 - 08:16 PM

I've just got a CD of Peer Gynt. I know that somewhere there is a ballet BUT i would like a big 'over the top- trolls etc etc.', affair. The music is so evocative.

#59 carbro

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Posted 12 July 2008 - 08:50 PM

"A Rake's Progress" has been done, rather a long time ago, by Ninette de Valois. That's not to say that a revival of that work would not be welcome.

Yeah, that's interesting, and here it is on DVD, music by Gavin Gordon. Erase if this is an interdit link (It's not an online discussion, but rather you can order it here if you want it.
http://www.vaimusic....kesProgress.htm

Whoops! I missed this when it was new. :thumbsup: If you're inclined to order and haven't yet, you can save yourself $20 +/- by ordering thru the Amazon link we provide.

#60 Sacto1654

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 06:19 AM

How about a ballet version of Richard Strauss' opera Der Rosenkavalier? :thumbsup: They can use the orchestral suite as the basis for the music.

Mind you, it will be an expensive ballet to produce because you'll need quite elaborate costumes (the original opera is famous for using them), and you need to do it as a true classical ballet. Somebody wave a lot of money in front of the major ballet company and let's see if they can pull it off.


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