Nancy Reynolds writes (in Repertory in Review):
Or Balanchine's Cortege Hongrois, which was intended as a farewell valentine to Melissa Hayden. The original ballet had an elaborate flower procession, concluding with Balanchine himself bringing out a bouquet for Hayden.
I think the appeal of these Very Special Occasion ballets tends to dilute when it's no longer that Very Special Occasion. Just my opinion, of course.
Good point. I seem to remember reading that Balanchine said something privately to the effect that after Hayden left, Cortege would be a nice little piece for McBride to do. Don't know how accurate that was.
Reynolds says that Farrell and Mazzo also danced the Hayden role. According to the Balanchine Catalogue, the apotheosis was eventually omitted at NYCB.
After Hayden was gone, one might have expected that the apotheosis would be cut -- there is a slam-bang ending to the dancing, with full company on stage just before it -- but no. It has remained [as of 1977], as perhaps one more of Balanchine's numberless tributes to the ballerina, his eternal star. Fittingly, the first to inherit Hayden's role was the Company's prime candidate for new first ballerina, McBride.
One would think that this ballet would not survive the original -- and highly emotional -- context of Hayden's retirement. I didn't see it except with Hayden, but there seems to have been more to it than just a one-time-only tribute. The ballet, as I recall, was a kind of sampler of grand Russian imperial styles, with big opportunities for both classical and character principals, soloists and corps.
The Glazounov score was lovely and familiar (though Reynolds says the effect was "tired"), the costumes were opulent (though Reynolds found them "gaudy"), and the roles were theatrical and grand in scale (though Goldner called the choreography "hackneyed").
It think that some of the criticism has been a bit extreme, to say the least, and that audiences would love it, even today.