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Who Lost Antony Tudor's Romeo and Juliet?


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#16 bart

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 11:33 AM

[ ... ]Joan Acocella (see Nov. 10 Links) did get some answers:

... Oneís first thought on looking at this duet is: Why canít A.B.T. revive the whole ballet? When I put that question to Kevin McKenzie, the companyís 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 Bermanís opulent sets and costumes would be prohibitiveówell 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?

#17 Dale

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 12:15 PM

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.

#18 leonid17

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 12:25 PM

[ ... ]Joan Acocella (see Nov. 10 Links) did get some answers:

... Oneís first thought on looking at this duet is: Why canít A.B.T. revive the whole ballet? When I put that question to Kevin McKenzie, the companyís 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 Bermanís opulent sets and costumes would be prohibitiveówell 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.

#19 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 12:35 PM

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)

#20 atm711

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 12:41 PM

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.

#21 Hans

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 01:26 PM

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

#22 Mel Johnson

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 02:22 PM

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.

#23 aurora

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 02:54 PM

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.

#24 richard53dog

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 03:27 PM

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 .

#25 leonid17

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 04:03 PM

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

#26 carbro

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 04:33 PM

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.

This certainly seems to be the case with the Balanchine Trust, at least insofar as the fees and royalties are concerned. Several speakers I have heard, on both ends as grantor and producing company, have noted that as Balanchine charged low (sometimes no) royalties, the Trust's main concern is credible, accurate stagings that will help a company grow, not imperil its finances.

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.

Didn't Kevin say that various pieces were sold separately, dispersed throughout the country (or world)? Assuming, too, that original purchasers may have passed the items on to heirs or other purchasers, and even assuming those parties would be willing to resell or lend them back to ABT, locating and retrieving them could also be a long and expensive process.

As a Balanchine-trained ballet watcher, I too tend to minimize the importance of sets and costumes. However, in most of the Tudor ballets I've seen, the designs are intrinsic to the works. Imagine Pillar without the sets, with costumes that don't immediately identify the characters as the familiar ones do. It wouldn't be the same ballet.

#27 miliosr

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 06:16 PM

No harm/no foul if you choose not to play. The whole point of the original post was to provoke a reasoned discussion, which it certainly has accomplished. But if you do want to play, just specify who or what you're voting for. Here's the revised tally:

The Corpse Isn't Dead! = 3
Mikhail Baryshnikov = 2
ABT Board = 1
cowardly administrators = 1
Martha Hill = 1
Kevin McKenzie = 1
Antony Tudor = 1

Using Inflation Calculator, I determined that the 1992 cost of reviving Tudor's Romeo and Juliet would have been a not inconsiderable $1.3 million. Certainly a number to give pause (even then) but with so much possible "upside". In a globalized world where everyone is converging around the same trends (Balanchine Night! Forsythe Night!! In the Upper Room!!!), how refreshing it would be to have a work that is unique to ABT (or New York Theatre Ballet) and to New York! Almost like a delicate flower that only comes into bloom for a few days each year . . .

As to whether or not Tudor's Romeo and Juliet is truly dead, I believe it was Mindy Aloff who wrote that dances don't have theoretical existences -- they only have performance existences. At the moment, I would have to say that Tudor's complete Romeo and Juliet is dead since it has had no life over the last 32 years other than in theory. The tragedy of it all is that the "death" is not a function of a lack of knowledge. As others have mentioned, a nearly complete film exists, the work is notated and there are still plenty of people from 70s-era ABT (including, among others, Fracci, Makarova, Nagy and Prinz) who presumably remember some or all of it and would be willing to help. But without the will to reconstruct it, the $$$ will never materialize to utilize all those resources.

#28 bart

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 08:35 PM

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.

Thanks, richard53dog. This led me to open Makarova's A Dance Autobiography. Those who have access to this book will find some wonderful photos, including one in which she wears the dress with stars. (Black and white only, however.)
p. 237: Makarova as Juliet alone on the balcony.
p. 238: 2 shots with John Prinz and cordps, at the ball. You can see the flats described elswhere on this thread.
p. 239. With John Prinz and Martine van Hamel (as the Nurse). Makrova wears the dress with stars.
p. 240: Makarova and Prinz alone on stage (end of ball scene?)

Here is Makarova on Tudor:

Our rehearsals together were easy and relaxed in spite of our sharp altercations; he would sometimes make me burst out laughing and I would feel purged inside, free of the tension that accompanied my first two years in America. I recall a rehearsal of for Romeo and Juliet in which he showed me how Juliet covers her eyes from the blinding rays of the morning sun which signal her parting from her beloved. "Imagine that you've caught sight of Stalin or Hitler and cover your face in terror," he joked. And I immediately achived the necessary state. But more frequently he did not wish to help me in this way; he enjoyed my helplessness, tossing me like a puppy into the flow of his ballets.


... and on her reservations about about Tudor's (and Delius's) R&J:

I liked dancing his Romeo and Juliet very much, although after every performance I had a strange feeling, as though I had been given an opportunity to express myself and as constantly on the verge of opening my mouth -- but no sound would come, no matter how much I strained. Tudor's choreography was too tight for me, too illustrative, and his compositions reminded me of an animated tapestry in the manner of the Pre-Raphaelites. Meanwhile, I wanted to dance the Juliet of Shakespeare, of whom there is not the slightest notion in the music of Delius -- moderately aesthetic, moderately recherche, pleasant to the ear. Tudor's illustrative or decorative approach -- call it what you will -- corresponds closely to the spirit of Delius's music, but I did not strike any deeper spirutual notes in me, just as the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites leave me cold.

Maybe I was right to mention Delius as one of the possible "suspects." As one who grew up identifying the Rome and Juliet story with Prokofiev, I can't imagine having to adjust to a composer so different in style, tone, and emotional impact. You can't consider choreographic differences (MacMillian, Cranko, et al. v. Tudor) without considering the impact of the music.

#29 FauxPas

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Posted 12 November 2008 - 12:36 PM

At the Tudor evening there was a film clip about the "Romeo and Juliet" reconstruction. Almost all of the ballet was filmed in the 1940's on silent film with Alicia Markova and Hugh Laing. People like Natalia Makarova, Ivan Nagy, Fracci and John Prinz are still alive. The Berman sets and costumes still exist (Hugh Laing's white shirt was on display in the lobby of City Center). However, they were sold and are in various private collections. The holders of the scenic materials are willing to lend the sets out for a reconstruction. However, due to the fragile nature of the material, they would probably have to be recreated and copied from the original pieces. This would cost millions of dollars. However, foundations like the Doris Duke Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Rudolf Nureyev Foundation exist for this kind of project. There is no excuse, really. The money can be found. They just need the will. However, wait another 10 or 15 or 20 years and yes, Virginia there will be no Tudor "Romeo and Juliet".

#30 rg

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Posted 12 November 2008 - 12:41 PM

scans of three publicity photos from Tudor's ROMEO AND JULIET follow. ((none are dated, nor otherwise much identified, except for dancer names.)
shown left to right:
Alicia Markova and Hugh Laing in the bedroom scene.
Nora Kaye and Hugh Laing (2 times) in the tomb scene.
each shows to some degree or other the characteristically angular (for lack of a better word) plastique that seems to have guided Tudor in his choreographic language for this ballet.

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