bart

Drosselmeyers:which do you prefer?

35 posts in this topic

A reviewer in Philadelphia attended Curio Theatre's "The Nutcracker" and has a take on the story and Tchaikovsky.

http://www.citypaper.net/articles/2007/12/13/the-good-nut

Like composer Tchaikovsky in 1892, these playwrights and director Jared Reed work from E.T.A. Hoffman's convoluted, creepy, un-Christmasy tale of monsters, curses, time travel and romance. Their more faithful version features considerably less saccharine, and much more mystery, suspense and magic, than George Balanchine's 1954 ballet.

Share this post


Link to post

See what too much Hoffman does to The Nutcracker? If the paper had sent someone who liked ballet, or at least understood the concept of divertissement, instead of the "more-soigné-than-thou" Cofta, a different opinion might have emerged.

Share this post


Link to post
See what too much Hoffman does to The Nutcracker? If the paper had sent someone who liked ballet, or at least understood the concept of divertissement, instead of the "more-soigné-than-thou" Cofta, a different opinion might have emerged.
Mel, are you sure that anybody actually danced in this production? The reviewer doesn't actually mention that. Odd -- no? :clapping:

Share this post


Link to post

Not terribly. There isn't a lot of dancing in the Hoffman, or even the Dumas translation, except en passant, but a theater critic who at least understands divertissement would be welcome. ("meanders" indeed! That's why you go to see a classical ballet - to watch people dance!)

Share this post


Link to post
Mel, are you sure that anybody actually danced in this production? The reviewer doesn't actually mention that. Odd -- no? :clapping:

It would be, except that I don't think this was a ballet. I think it was a staging with actors, dialogue and puppets. The reviewer compares this "version" to "George Balanchine's 1954 ballet," without indicating that this is or is not a ballet. This may be an apples-to-oranges comparison.

He writes, "West Philly's little-theater-that-could celebrates its final show," again not specifying which discipline/s are involved, and concludes:

Curio's is a rough magic, with puppeteers in clear view and pieces not always fitting together neatly. Cynics may find it unpolished, but the hand-crafted, hands-on love evident onstage beats all the high-tech finery money can buy.

Not every idea succeeds -- human hands poking out from a cutout king flail distractingly -- but every scene boasts inventive surprises, all serving a charmingly realized story that, at 90 minutes including intermission, should mesmerize kids 5 and up as well as anyone who can ponder Drosselmeier's [spoken?] question to brave Marie, "Haven't you ever felt you were part of a larger story?"

Share this post


Link to post

The opening line of the review is

Curio Theatre's current production of The Nutcracker is so often given the qualifier "not the ballet" that adapters Timothy Martin and Drew Petersen should consider adopting it as a subtitle.

I just found it interesting that the reviewer is saying that a theater adaptation is more true to Tchaikovsky than Balanchine was. Hoffmann, I can understand, but Tchaikovsky?

Share this post


Link to post
I just found it interesting that the reviewer is saying that a theater adaptation is more true to Tchaikovsky than Balanchine was. Hoffmann, I can understand, but Tchaikovsky?
Maybe these assumptions reflects a contemporary sense of what "dance theater" is and ought to be. One could argue that this development -- of which Matthew Bourne is only the most successful example -- sounds oddly conservative: miming, emoting, parading, all accompanied by special effects that must astonish with their originality -- just like in the 19th century, though of course with a 21st century edginess and going against the grain.

Change of subject: I've just rewatched the Royal dvd with Anthony Dowell as Drosselmeyer. What a marvellous fusion of balletic movement and character depiction. I wonder if this is how the early Drosselmeier's -- from the original to the Balanchine generation -- were trained to do this role. We have still photos, but can anyone give us an idea of how these early Drosselmeier's actually moved?

Share this post


Link to post

The Drosselmeyer I like best is Pyotr Rusanov (only saw him on video, but still he's my favourite), but I think the fact that I watched the video with him on it over and over again when I was younger (in the Nutcracker ànd in Coppélia - by the way, to me the two characters have exactly the same personality with him in the role..) is partially responsible for that. I saw a production by the Ballet of Flanders and that dancer (I have no idea who he was) showed a bit of a spooky character as Drosselmeyer, and I remember not liking it at all.

But then - I am young and haven't seen many Drosselmeyers yet. :clapping:

Share this post


Link to post
The Drosselmeyer I like best is Pyotr Rusanov (only saw him on video, but still he's my favourite), but I think the fact that I watched the video with him on it over and over again when I was younger (in the Nutcracker ànd in Coppélia - by the way, to me the two characters have exactly the same personality with him in the role..)

Lidewij, that's an interesting observation about Drosselmeier and Coppelius. What qualities do you think that Rusanov brought to both of them?

And what do others think about the relationship betwen these two famous characters? Do Coppelius's come in as many varieties as Drosselmeiers?

Share this post


Link to post
I've just rewatched the Royal dvd with Anthony Dowell as Drosselmeyer. What a marvellous fusion of balletic movement and character depiction. I wonder if this is how the early Drosselmeier's -- from the original to the Balanchine generation -- were trained to do this role. We have still photos, but can anyone give us an idea of how these early Drosselmeier's actually moved?

It's a good question, because Ivanov and his contemporaries used a miming style that almost nobody knows how to do any more. It meshed near-danced motion with classical pantomime, and sometimes newly-invented gestures to convey meaning. In Nutcrackers today, I guess the clearest example is the Prince's mime speech at the beginning of Act II. For "shoe", he points to his pwn shoe. Another example is the danced lullaby that Clara/Marie does with the other girls in Act I, interspersed with the boys marching through playing with their soldier gear and military band toy instruments. Tchaikovsky actually wanted the boys to be playing the gizmos, but it unsurprisingly turned out just noise, so he just advised Ivanov to have them do it, but maybe just a little softer. :thumbsup:

Bournonville preserves this kind of dance/mime, and it can be seen in the Royal Ballet's production of Coppélia, and in a different way in Ashton's La Fille Mal Gardée.

Dowell is actually the example I was thinking of when I mentioned Drosselmeyers who seem about ready to burst into Albrecht. IMO, he takes the dance/mime down the wrong fork of the road. Drosselmeyer is quirky, odd, queer (as Paul has mentioned), although he's not abused by the adults, the kids are sort of repelled by him, until he turns out to be a sort of spellbinder, with magic tricks and toys to show off, like a village's Old Man with wonderful stories to tell. Lidewij is very perceptive to pick up the Dr. Coppélius in him. That's the "Sandman" part of his character. His movements should reflect the same sort of oddness of his costume. In the RB's production, while everyone else is dressed in 19th-century, he's relentlessly 18th! He must be very old!!!

Share this post


Link to post