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Drosselmeyers:which do you prefer?


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#16 Paul Parish

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Posted 11 December 2007 - 09:22 AM

Balanchine was the best.

He needs to be an old bachelor with an obsession for gadgetry, someone who'd blow his nose on his handkerchief after taking it off the nutcracker he'd just fixed -- eccentric, queer in the old-fashioned sense (and maybe in ours), whose bridge back to society is made through his fantastic understanding of what appeals to the imagination of a child.

#17 Mel Johnson

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Posted 11 December 2007 - 09:24 AM

Good point. In the apotheosis at the very end of the ballet, the original production didn't have the Prince and Clara/Marie fly off in a sleigh, as in the Balanchine version, but remain to reign over the Kingdom of Sweets. The backdrop flew out, and they were seen in front of a gigantic beehive, which sort of looks like the Imperial Crown of Russia, which is surrounded by dancers dressed as bees. A beehive is good. It has honey inside, but outsiders should beware, for bees can sting! (a little political statement there) Balanchine's version does remain true to the original general plan, but with the nephew/Prince added, there's an additional dimension of possibilities as to what's happening. (Maybe they're flying back home to her house!) It satisfies the backstory, which you don't have to know to enjoy the ballet, whether it's in the nephewless or nephewed version. And there's another creepy thing about some productions. Nephew and uncle have to relate to one another in that traditional relationship. Some stagings verge creepily into near pedophilia. Ick. :)

You gotta love Stukolkin's too-long breeches (obviously Dr. D. was much stouter at one time) and his sailor's stockings!

#18 rg

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Posted 11 December 2007 - 09:36 AM

TV publicity photo of Balanchine as Drosselmeier in his prod. for television in 1958? the year 1947 is written in pencil on the back but that's likely an error since the 1954 NUTCRACKER wasn't telecast until '57 & '58. (the annotation in CHOREOGRAPHY BY BALANCHINE says it was telecast both years but only gives '58 as the year balanchine performed Drosselmeier. (the NYPL seems to have a number of stills taken of balanchine for the '58 telecast, so that date might be the correct one here.)

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#19 Mel Johnson

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Posted 11 December 2007 - 09:47 AM

Balanchine was the best.

He needs to be an old bachelor with an obsession for gadgetry, someone who'd blow his nose on his handkerchief after taking it off the nutcracker he'd just fixed -- eccentric, queer in the old-fashioned sense (and maybe in ours), whose bridge back to society is made through his fantastic understanding of what appeals to the imagination of a child.


Yes, to all points. It is useful to remember that part of the backstory is not only based on "The Nutcracker and the King of the Mice", but also "The Sandman" which is also a basis for Coppélia.

#20 Marga

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Posted 11 December 2007 - 01:06 PM

Shaun O'Brien, hands down, with Balanchine in second place. I grew up with the NYCB Nutcracker as an integral part of our Christmas celebrations. As a child, I did find Drosselmeyer to be a bit frightening, but it seemed right that he be. It reflected the way some adults in my own life (in the 50s) frightened me. In a good way. I almost enjoyed being nervous when they were around! Drosselmeyer was a validation for that kind of grownup. He is kindhearted beneath his façade, and most certainly well-meaning for his strictness. That is the kind of father (and uncles) many children had in the first half of the last century and children got used to growing up under a firm hand. It brought its own brand of the security every child needs, the feeling that they are protected by you, even when afraid of you.

Balanchine was absolutely wonderful in the role, but I would've been very happy to have Shaun O'Brien as my own uncle.

As to the changes of stage set, and after having to get used to Clara (now Marie) and the Nutcracker Prince taking to the air in a sleigh (I really missed the walnut shell boat :( ), my least favorite is moving the clock to center stage. It was always in the corner before, and that's where I expected to find it, as in any grand living room. When Drosselmeyer appears in place of the owl, it was scary-delightful to see it happening in the corner of the room, where the clock belongs. Bringing this piece of action into the middle of the stage removes some of its magic for me. It makes the nightmare's clock too prominent, as if we would not have noticed this transformation on our own and had to have it shoved in our face.

#21 bart

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Posted 11 December 2007 - 01:25 PM

Fantastic replies, all. Thank you. :(

A small point regarding the placement of the clock. The current MCB Balanchine production keeps the corner location. Unfortunately, Drosselmeyer (here with a flapping cape, unlike Balanchine in the photo or the NYCB productions I remember from my own youth) were entirely invisitble to a good part of the house! :wallbash:

#22 Helene

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Posted 11 December 2007 - 03:45 PM

My favorite Drosselmeyer is Francisco Moncion in Balanchine's version. I saw him perform the role in the '80's, I think just before he no longer appeared on the list of dancers. He was gentle and kind to Marie, and although she would have to face an ordeal, he created a magical world for her when it was over.

Although I dislike "Nutcracker" interpretations where there is a Freudian battle between the adult Drosselmeyer and the Prince, I very much like Kent Stowell's take on the role. Appropriate to the Sendak sets is the story of a girl on the verge of becoming a teenager, and that period is fraught with anxiety and new understanding (and mis-understanding) of the assumptions of childhood. Drosselmeyer isn't just a meanie who picks on children, like the uncle who makes cruel fun and expects the child to laugh at his own expense, or the aunt who gets joy out of pinching cheeks that much too hard: he's a strange, older man who treats Marie like a child, but also gives her the shivers as a tween. During the second act, when he plays the Pasha, she avoids him as much as she can, enjoying the spectacle, but having the underlying anxiety that there's something dangerous, or not quite right. It really captures the quality of anxiety dreams that turn nightmarish; the adult ballerina, a representation of Marie, might be mature physically, but psychologically, she is mainly the younger Marie. It plays the very fine line of "ick," but always at that adolescent state.

#23 bart

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Posted 11 December 2007 - 05:00 PM

[ ... ] I dislike "Nutcracker" interpretations where there is a Freudian battle between the adult Drosselmeyer and the Prince [ ... ]

Didn't this occur in the version that Baryshnikov put together for ABT in the late 70s 0r early 80s? Drosselmeyer lost that particular competition and Marie (Clara?) danced and danced as a newly recruited citizen of the Land of Sweets.

I don't recall the ABT Drosselmeyers, but I do remember feeling odd about the way the character was defined.

P.S. Cygneblanc responded to my request and posted the following in the thread about a Paris Opera Ballet performance of Nutcracker.

I can't say tonight's Drosselmeyer was very memorable, so I will rather refer to my old tape, Laurent Hilaire being Drosselmayer.

Here, Drosselmeyer's part is a part involving a lot of pantomine.

He's quite mysterious but not sinister and definitively not at all spooky. He isn't a charlatan or a buffon either. I thin he's rather a caring uncle, but always distant and can have some fun but not on the buffon's mode. His mysterious temper is always there but he also seems very concerned about Clara when the Nutcracker is broken.

I believe this mysterious trait and this restrained attitude are linked with the fact that in Nureev's translation of the story Drosselmeyer and the prince are one. The prince is the opposite of Drosselmeyer in the sense he doesn't have a restrained attitude and isn't mysterious. He's a beautiful and loving prince !

Merci, cygneblanc! The POB thread is here: http://ballettalk.in...p...c=26175&hl=

#24 Helene

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Posted 11 December 2007 - 05:05 PM

[ ... ] I dislike "Nutcracker" interpretations where there is a Freudian battle between the adult Drosselmeyer and the Prince [ ... ]

Didn't this occur in the version that Baryshnikov put together for ABT in the late 70s 0r early 80s? Drosselmeyer lost that particular competition and Marie (Clara?) danced and danced as a newly recruited citizen of the Land of Sweets.

I don't recall the ABT Drosselmeyers, but I do remember feeling odd about the way the character was defined.

Yes, the one that was taped and shown on TV, with Kirkland.

#25 Mel Johnson

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Posted 11 December 2007 - 05:43 PM

That was Alexander Minz, and his Drosselmeyer had a subtext so sub, that nobody could figure out what it was! It brought out the worst in the armchair psychiatrists: "He represents Baryshnikov's relationship with his father." "He represents Kirkland's alienation from her sister." "He's been smashed the whole time, and is just wandering around getting in everybody's way."

#26 Helene

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Posted 12 December 2007 - 05:35 PM

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

http://www.citypaper...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.



#27 Mel Johnson

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Posted 12 December 2007 - 07:15 PM

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.

#28 bart

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Posted 12 December 2007 - 07:17 PM

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:

#29 Mel Johnson

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Posted 12 December 2007 - 07:28 PM

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!)

#30 carbro

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Posted 12 December 2007 - 09:22 PM

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?"




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