miliosr

Who Lost Antony Tudor's Romeo and Juliet?

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With both ABT and New York Theatre Ballet resurrecting a pas from Antony Tudor's Romeo and Juliet this year, there has been much discussion to the effect that Tudor's Romeo and Juliet (last seen in its entirety in 1976) is unrevivable as a complete work. Assuming this is so, I want to take a page from the board game Clue and challenge Ballet Talkers to solve the following mystery: Who Lost Antony Tudor's Romeo and Juliet?

Clue enthusiasts try to solve the mysterious death of a "Mr. Body" at (appropriately enough, Tudor mansion) by sifting through a list of suspects, weapons and rooms to determine the who, how and where. For the purposes of this game, we will be more concerned with the "who" rather than the "how" and the "where". Clue features six possible suspects -- Mr. Green, Colonel Mustard, Mrs. Peacock, Professor Plum, Miss Scarlet and Mrs. White. The Ballet Talk version of Clue will replace these six suspects with the following list of suspects (in descending order from the serious to the ridiculous):

1) Antony Tudor -- Tart-tongued choreographer fails to establish work outside of ABT during his lifetime; thereby consigning it to dustbin of history.

2) Tudor Trust -- Dithers around for 20 years since namesake's death; failing to muster appropriate resolve and funds to restage it while memories are still sharp.

3) Mikhail Baryshnikov -- Former artistic director of ABT (1980-89) who replaced the Tudor version unique to ABT with the MacMillan version, which can be seen anywhere in the world.

4) Kevin McKenzie -- Current artistic director of ABT (1993-Present) who claims poverty as a reason for failing to revive the Tudor version but manages to find funds for gaudy, big budget revivals (Sleeping Beauty), big-budget star vehicles (The Pied Piper) and ill-advised attempts to chase contemporary dance trends.

5) Balanchine Trust -- Quasi-religious sect spreads the gospel of its founder all over the world; thereby diminishing interest in other approaches to ballet.

6) Peter Martins -- NYCB artistic director had perfect opportunity to revive Tudor's abstracted version of Romeo and Juliet and cover himself in glory; instead stages ill-advised (and expensive) new version.

7) Mark Morris -- No reason he should be on this list other than he strikes me as the kind of person who would love to be a character in Clue. :dunno:

8) The Swamp Thing -- Supernatural being given to displays of evil and malice. :wub:

Ballet Talkers are free to add their own suspects and, unlike regular Clue, have -- Murder On the Orient Express-style -- multiple culprits. The "how" and the "where" are not crucial for the game's purposes but, if you want to keep to the spirit of the original board game, you can add those elements. Here are examples from the original game and our game as guides:

Original: It was Miss Scarlet with the wrench in the Billiard Room.

Ours: It was Antony Tudor with perverse neglect at Lincoln Center.

Obviously, I'm being more than a little tongue-in-cheek with this. But I'm hoping the sleuths on this board can put together some reasoned deductions as to how this great work got to the point of being lost and who -- if anyone -- is to blame. (And if you can't get into the spirit of the game -- DON'T PLAY!!!)

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Martha Hill....distracted him with a teaching job when he should have be supervising a revival.

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I go with the multiple-perpetrator model from Orient Express.

Major responsibility: ABT (Baryshnikov and McKenzie) with Other Priorities -- in the America's Super-Star Company Competition.

"The Usual Suspects":

-- Balanchine Trust with Failure to Promoter Other Choreographers -- a great crime indeed! -- in theaters all over the world.

-- Peter Martins Some people blame him for everything, so there's no need to specify a weapon or crime scene. Please note that he has given a job to the Swamp Thing (Suspect #8) in his version of Swan Lake. A case of putting someone on the payroll to shut him up? Also, Martin's decision to mount his own R&J -- only 60 years after Tudor's -- is very suspicious.

-- Frederick Delius: with a Score NOT by Prokofiev -- in the Orchestra Pit.

-- Audiences: with Philistinism -- at the Box Office.

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Brilliant so far. Keep them coming -- Police Commissioner Denby and Lieutenant Croce are anxious for the results of this investigation! :(

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Well, what if it isn't lost?

Then, according to Mr. McKenzie's opening remarks it would be very expensive to remount. I suppose some risk/reward analysis would come into play. It was not particularly popular in its time, and has been replaced by a cash cow. On the other hand that was then, and now Tudor is seeming to be well-received.

So, what if it isn't lost? Last Feb 8, at the post-performance discussion at the NYTB Tudor show there was a lot of talk about R + J. From the stage, not very encouraging at first, but many in audience seemed to know (or know of) this part, that part and so on, until a consensus seemed to develop this might really be recoverable, at least in major part. Now all these folk looked like experts, seemed trustworthy, appeared to know each other,... So maybe this thread is asking the wrong question. If everyone got together, perhaps NYTB is the place to support in an effort to bring it back. What I saw of Tudor there was as valuable as Tudor at ABT. And probably might cost them a penny on ABT's dollar. Even I. Even now. Could contribute to such a cause.

OK, I'll go hide, don't want to be a party-pooper!

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I'm not positive it's lost, but what killed it was the Great Change in ABT's Aesthetic, turning it from a company whose repertories were built on triple bills -- of mostly created works -- into a a company that concentrated on 19th century classics. At the time there were remarks made about "having to compete" with the Royal Ballet. I remember there was talk about discussions about what to do about "Romeo and Juliet." They recognized that this was a rare work and didn't want to lose it, but it was out of fashion. (If I had to finger anyone, I'd pick The Board.)

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Could we evoke National Treasure and bring in the Library of Congress? Or at least Nicholas Cage?

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I'm not positive it's lost, but what killed it was the Great Change in ABT's Aesthetic, turning it from a company whose repertories were built on triple bills -- of mostly created works -- into a a company that concentrated on 19th century classics. At the time there were remarks made about "having to compete" with the Royal Ballet. I remember there was talk about discussions about what to do about "Romeo and Juliet." They recognized that this was a rare work and didn't want to lose it, but it was out of fashion. (If I had to finger anyone, I'd pick The Board.)

From what I read some years ago, the Dance Notation Bureau had an almost complete notated score for Tudor’s “Romeo and Juliet”. Perhaps it is now completed?

As to revival, administrations across the world have lost faith in reviving a good number of old ballets for fear of their reception by modern audiences, as alluded to above by Alexandra.

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Interesting theories. Here's the tally so far:

Mikhail Baryshnikov = 2

ABT Board = 1

cowardly administrators = 1

Martha Hill = 1

Kevin McKenzie = 1

The Corpse Isn't Dead! = 1

(bart -- I went w/ your major suspects.)

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The Swamp Thing -- Supernatural being given to displays of evil and malice. :wink:

:pinch:

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Well, what if it isn't lost?

Then, according to Mr. McKenzie's opening remarks it would be very expensive to remount. I suppose some risk/reward analysis would come into play. It was not particularly popular in its time, and has been replaced by a cash cow. On the other hand that was then, and now Tudor is seeming to be well-received.

Forgive my ignorance but I don't see how it could possibly be lost. I am old enough to have seen it in its last ABT performances. Surely there are still enough people around who performed it.

Also, again forgive my ignorance, why would it be such an expensive project? It can't possibly compare to the cost of some other projects (I'm thinking of that work in which Carmina Burana was coupled with another piece ...).

I would love to see Tudor's R&J again. This City Center season was pretty sold out, as far as I could see. Perhaps there is an audience for it. I would love a longer City Center season for ABT, but that is a different topic.

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...

Forgive my ignorance but I don't see how it could possibly be lost. I am old enough to have seen it in its last ABT performances. Surely there are still enough people around who performed it.

Also, again forgive my ignorance, why would it be such an expensive project? It can't possibly compare to the cost of some other projects (I'm thinking of that work in which Carmina Burana was coupled with another piece ...).

I would love to see Tudor's R&J again. This City Center season was pretty sold out, as far as I could see. Perhaps there is an audience for it. I would love a longer City Center season for ABT, but that is a different topic.

Agree, Vipa. But Joan Acocella (see Nov. 10 Links) did get some answers:

... One’s first thought on looking at this duet is: Why can’t A.B.T. revive the whole ballet? When I put that question to Kevin McKenzie, the company’s artistic director, he answered that he would love to. Not long after he took over the company, in 1992, he said, he hired someone to research the possibility of remounting the ballet. The report he got was that, while most of the choreography was recoverable (there is a lot of early film, and also notation, of the ballet), the cost of re-creating Berman’s opulent sets and costumes would be prohibitive—well over two million dollars today.

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...

Forgive my ignorance but I don't see how it could possibly be lost. I am old enough to have seen it in its last ABT performances. Surely there are still enough people around who performed it.

Also, again forgive my ignorance, why would it be such an expensive project? It can't possibly compare to the cost of some other projects (I'm thinking of that work in which Carmina Burana was coupled with another piece ...).

I would love to see Tudor's R&J again. This City Center season was pretty sold out, as far as I could see. Perhaps there is an audience for it. I would love a longer City Center season for ABT, but that is a different topic.

Agree, Vipa. But Joan Acocella (see Nov. 10 Links) did get some answers:

... One’s first thought on looking at this duet is: Why can’t A.B.T. revive the whole ballet? When I put that question to Kevin McKenzie, the company’s artistic director, he answered that he would love to. Not long after he took over the company, in 1992, he said, he hired someone to research the possibility of remounting the ballet. The report he got was that, while most of the choreography was recoverable (there is a lot of early film, and also notation, of the ballet), the cost of re-creating Berman’s opulent sets and costumes would be prohibitive—well over two million dollars today.

Ummm :pinch: I wonder how much was the overall cost of the presidential campaigns.. :wink:

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...

Forgive my ignorance but I don't see how it could possibly be lost. I am old enough to have seen it in its last ABT performances. Surely there are still enough people around who performed it.

Also, again forgive my ignorance, why would it be such an expensive project? It can't possibly compare to the cost of some other projects (I'm thinking of that work in which Carmina Burana was coupled with another piece ...).

I would love to see Tudor's R&J again. This City Center season was pretty sold out, as far as I could see. Perhaps there is an audience for it. I would love a longer City Center season for ABT, but that is a different topic.

:wink:

Agree, Vipa. But Joan Acocella (see Nov. 10 Links) did get some answers:

... One’s first thought on looking at this duet is: Why can’t A.B.T. revive the whole ballet? When I put that question to Kevin McKenzie, the company’s artistic director, he answered that he would love to. Not long after he took over the company, in 1992, he said, he hired someone to research the possibility of remounting the ballet. The report he got was that, while most of the choreography was recoverable (there is a lot of early film, and also notation, of the ballet), the cost of re-creating Berman’s opulent sets and costumes would be prohibitive—well over two million dollars today.

:pinch::off topic: I wonder how much was the overall cost of the presidential campaigns..

:off topic: I'll say.... :rofl: If this is too far from the spirit of the game, just delete mine, please. I couldn't resist Cristian's l'attitude and think that had something to do with it too.

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[ ... ]Joan Acocella (see Nov. 10 Links) did get some answers:
... One’s first thought on looking at this duet is: Why can’t A.B.T. revive the whole ballet? When I put that question to Kevin McKenzie, the company’s artistic director, he answered that he would love to. Not long after he took over the company, in 1992, he said, he hired someone to research the possibility of remounting the ballet. The report he got was that, while most of the choreography was recoverable (there is a lot of early film, and also notation, of the ballet), the cost of re-creating Berman’s opulent sets and costumes would be prohibitive—well over two million dollars today.

Does anyone know how important the sets, costumes, etc., were to this ballet. My assumption while reading this thread has been that the choreography itself is truly worthy of revival. Couldn't it be done more simply, with reduced sets and costumes? I find that that approach often makes you look more closely at what the dancers are actually dancing. Or have ABT audiences come to demand opulence in such things?

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I hope atm711 chimes in on this, but this excuse always seemed very feeble. Suzanne Farrell has done several productions with reduced sets or sets done that were inspired by the original sets (I'm thinking about her Don Q and La Sonnambula productions) and I did not enjoy them any less because of it. The staging, choreography and performance was what mattered most.

This Romeo and Juliet was done in the 70s - Makarova did it - so there must be dancers around who remember the staging.

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[ ... ]Joan Acocella (see Nov. 10 Links) did get some answers:
... One’s first thought on looking at this duet is: Why can’t A.B.T. revive the whole ballet? When I put that question to Kevin McKenzie, the company’s artistic director, he answered that he would love to. Not long after he took over the company, in 1992, he said, he hired someone to research the possibility of remounting the ballet. The report he got was that, while most of the choreography was recoverable (there is a lot of early film, and also notation, of the ballet), the cost of re-creating Berman’s opulent sets and costumes would be prohibitive—well over two million dollars today.

Does anyone know how important the sets, costumes, etc., were to this ballet. My assumption while reading this thread has been that the choreography itself is truly worthy of revival. Couldn't it be done more simply, with reduced sets and costumes? I find that that approach often makes you look more closely at what the dancers are actually dancing. Or have ABT audiences come to demand opulence in such things?

Would a lot depend not on what ABT want but what the Tudor Trust have to say in this matter?

Romeo and Juliet is a Tudor ballet I have not seen. I telephoned a friend (justnow) who had seen the ballet and his opinion was that the costumes would not be so expensive but the architectural setting that Tudor had required might well be very expensive.

Everything first of all, depends on the ABT having a real desire to revive the ballet. They say they have looked at the possibility, so it may happen in the future.

As everyone is aware, the rules of the ball-game for life changed dramatically in the last few months.

Today, the arts, like almost everything else, will probably be subject to financial limitations until worldwide economies stabilise. Until this happens, expensive revivals and likely the number of new ballets produced, may well be curtailed. I live in hope for Tudor revivals in America as his centenary has been ignored in the UK.

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have ABT audiences come to demand opulence in such things?

That would be a pity, and a shame. Thanks to the non-opulence/just-focus-on-the-dancing mantras the cuban audience has been able to have total access to full lengths, and somehow i got educated on the idea of not paying that much of attention to sets and costumes. (Which now thinking a little :off topic: i remember how strange was for me the first time i heard the audience clapping to the sets displays when the curtains went up)

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If ever sets and costumes were important to a ballet---this R&J is it. It was Botticelli come to life. The dancing for most of the cast is very stylised; it has been called "dramatic pantomime". It can be slow moving, which gives one a chance to enjoy the costumes. (more like the old court ballets). There is one beautiful sequence of the bridesmaids in their flowing Botticelli dresses. Considering some of the disasters BT has spent money on I would hope they would try to revive this one;--it's their heritage. With all the scenery chewing productions of R&J out there--this would be a wonderful thing to see again with their original sets.

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I wonder what happened to the old sets and costumes...that's not something you just throw away, is it?

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Sets are surprisingly and dismayingly fragile things, and most places used for storage in NYC and environs are not well suited to long-term preservation, as the New-York Historical Society found, much to its distress. Designers used to have a "no-reuse" provision in their contracts, which stipulated that their sets had to be destroyed (usually by taking them out to the Jersey Flats and burning them. I watched Hello, Dolly! put to the torch once) after a production closed or was declared out of repertoire. Sometimes, they had a "limited reuse" provision, which allowed productions to sell certain kinds of setpieces to educational or religious institutions, but that they had to be repainted; I used to be able to see this at the United States Military Academy, which apparently had a sweetheart deal with the Metropolitan Opera. It was a hoot to be backstage at the old Cadet Theater with the flats marked Don Giovanni, and the step units marked Werther, etc.

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I wonder what happened to the old sets and costumes...that's not something you just throw away, is it?

I believe they said at the Tudor night that the sets had been sold. I wonder if they are still in existence and if, perhaps the owners might loan them to the company--you would think it would behoove them to do so.

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If ever sets and costumes were important to a ballet---this R&J is it. It was Botticelli come to life. The dancing for most of the cast is very stylised; it has been called "dramatic pantomime". It can be slow moving, which gives one a chance to enjoy the costumes. (more like the old court ballets). There is one beautiful sequence of the bridesmaids in their flowing Botticelli dresses. Considering some of the disasters BT has spent money on I would hope they would try to revive this one;--it's their heritage. With all the scenery chewing productions of R&J out there--this would be a wonderful thing to see again with their original sets.

I saw a number of performances back in the early 70s with Makarova/Prinz and Fracci/Nagy(I think Nagy partenered Fracci). My memory is not all that detailed except that I was swept away by the piece. It was as atm describes a "total package" as they would say today, Berman's drops were very detailed and although mostly canvas, very structural and the costumes very Rennaisance-through-the-looking-glass-of-the-1940s. Tudor's choreography was centerpieced in the staging with the physical and musical atmosphere that Eugene Berman created.

I have a hard time, with the memory limits I have, trying to reimagine the piece with a different setting. Part of the problem is that Tudor's "language" is not longer so current and it has become on it's own somewhat of a period piece so Romeo and Juliet might appear sort of bare in a less elaborate setting.

It's not just that the physical settings were lavish but rather that they contributed to the overall effect. It's not really the same thing as , say, a Sleeping Beauty with a lush production.

There are a number of photos in Charles Payne's 1978 coffee table book American Ballet Theater, including a few from the revival in the 70s. Especially striking is Juliet's blue costume with yellow stars (I remember this one the best). These give a good idea of the overall effect.

I guess this all boils down to the question is the original setting the only one possible? I would like to think no, with the right creative force. But certainly the original production where the physical elements, the music, the choregraphy, and the dancers (I didn't see the original dancers, though!) were all part of a whole.

Some time back, I think Leigh(?) posted that he believed the origanl sets and costumes were still in existence but were very fragile .

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With both ABT and New York Theatre Ballet resurrecting a pas from Antony Tudor's Romeo and Juliet this year, there has been much discussion to the effect that Tudor's Romeo and Juliet (last seen in its entirety in 1976) is unrevivable as a complete work. Assuming this is so, I want to take a page from the board game Clue and challenge Ballet Talkers to solve the following mystery: Who Lost Antony Tudor's Romeo and Juliet?

Clue enthusiasts try to solve the mysterious death of a "Mr. Body" at (appropriately enough, Tudor mansion) by sifting through a list of suspects, weapons and rooms to determine the who, how and where. For the purposes of this game, we will be more concerned with the "who" rather than the "how" and the "where". Clue features six possible suspects -- Mr. Green, Colonel Mustard, Mrs. Peacock, Professor Plum, Miss Scarlet and Mrs. White. The Ballet Talk version of Clue will replace these six suspects with the following list of suspects (in descending order from the serious to the ridiculous):

You have devised an amusing game which could find application to a lot of scenarios concerning ballet and you have gained an enthusiastic response.

I was initially reluctant to join the game except to try to explore some actuality and factuality in response to contributions made.

Re: Suspect No.2

I do not know anything about the Tudor Trust as ditherers. I do know that in 2004 I was able to see 4 Tudor Ballets with Ballet West staged by people who had worked with Tudor who had pretty sharp memories as far as I remember. So the Tudor Trust does appear to meet its remit at times and not so long ago. It has been my experience that Trusts, Foundations and those that have inherited individual rights to ballets have not gone out and exploited their status for merely a financial reward. (Well not many).The reason for this is that they are aware of a "duty of care" in respect of creators wishes.

Part of the problem may be Suspect No 1 [and his attitude(s)] and how he couched his wishes. He is reputed to have been both stern and meticulous and I would not be surprised if he has in writing guided the production of his works for all time. He may have also left directions on the settings.

Is there a Eugene Berman estate involved? I can imagine Stravinsky sitting with Berman(born in Moscow) giving his fellow Russian advice on business matters and royalties

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