MinkusPugni

Nutcracker

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I know there are lots of posts on the Nutcracker, but I was wondering... ever Nutcracker I ever see seems to disappoint me... none of them seem to fulfil the potential of the music and the setting. The one that has nearest fulfilled my expectations is the PNB's version. Which versions do you all love? Which version should I seek out and see so that I can actually be pleased by the Nutcracker?

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mine too re: GB's NYCB production, but not as captured on video alas.

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Well, then we should divide this, because i thought that we were talking only about filmed versions. If this is the case, Wright, as I said earlier, is my pick. Live, I go for Alonso's even OVER Wright's.

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Under all circumstances, I believe it is best to go see live. Video in whatever medium is a substitute, and some substitutes are better than others. Balanchine's works best in the theater, partly because it presents a tremendous dose of magic right there before an audience's eyes within a proscenium, no "camera tricks" involved.

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Balanchine's is my Gold Standard.
mine too re: GB's NYCB production, but not as captured on video alas.

I agree, but I'm often surprised at the intensity with which people not brought up on it say they "disllike it" and prefer ... (fill in the gap). Why? I wonder.

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for starters i've heard from a number of detractors who only know GB's staging from the limited video, and when i suggest they might withhold judgement until they see it on stage, they say, no, they're convinced it's not for them.

and to be sure they could well see it on stage and still not admire it.

but at least then they'll be seeing the ballet for themselves and not some camera's and director's point of view.

also, however scrupulous the Balanchine Trust might be, until i see this prod. produced by a company other than NYCB outside NYC, i'll withhold my judgement on those stagings until i see them for myself.

NYCB has a big school at its disposal for its annual performances, not to mention the full expanse and technical aspects of its Lincoln Center home theater, making compromises on any of the crucial production details might well make the 'live' staging of this work something less than 'accuarate.'

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I think the same thing is true for Pacific Northwest Ballet's movie version from the mid-80's, which also tried to be a film and doesn't have much of the feel of the stage production or Maurice Sendak's sets.

The opening scene with Drosselmeier creating toys was magical on screen, and not part of the stage production; apart from that, the film flattened the performances.

It did, though, introduce me to Patricia Barker, who, even from my exclusively NYC/NYCB-centric viewpoint, was clearly a Balanchine ballerina. When I received a job offer in Seattle almost a decade later, knowing that I would see her and PNB in my new home was a major part of my decision to move.

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Mel makes a very good point about video - the magic is lost in the translation. There is no comparison to experiencing dance live and on video. Vids pale in comparison every time.

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Balanchine's is my Gold Standard.

Definitely mine, too, EXCEPT...in the matter of taping, my memory of McBride/Villella just on crummy black-and-white TeeVee is more meaningful to me in terms of principal dancers than when I've seen the Balanchine Nutcracker live--but not the rest. I love the Balanchine 'Nutcracker', and is, in fact, why I chose not to go see the Kirov last week in Los Angeles and look at hair shirts on illuminated manuscripts instead; while I knew there would be great dancing, I still don't think it can be as gorgeous as the NYCB version. And this is even when hearing repulsively fast tempos making performances undistinguished--versions of 'Waltz of the Flowers' like for Mighty Mouse cartoons or something. But the First Act is perfect.

I suppose you're all referring exclusively to the Nutcracker needing to be seen in person rather than on video, rather than all dance. Because my experience is that the best Sleeping Beauty is the Kirov movie with Sizova and Soloviev more than any I've seen in person, and there are a few other examples--'Appalachian Spring' with Martha and Stuart and Bertram and Matt is even better in the black and white movie than even fine performances I've seen live. Were people talking about live vs. taped in general, or just Nutcracker? Of course, if I could see ENOUGH live performances, I'm sure I'd find that those taped performances I like best were better with the beloved casts than they are on the movies and tapes I love. But as for charm of the whole Nutcracker, the piece is much more wonderful live than recorded, even though I don't like the music to the Grand Pas de Deux, it's about as flat as it gets. I've also seen a lot of Nutcrackers on tape in the last few years, and haven't really cared for any of them, whether Bolshoi, Royal, Baryshnikov and somewhat strange-looking Gelsey, and I think a Kirov one too.

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Yes, indeed, patrick, my own preference spoke pretty much exclusively to Nutcracker. Other ballets may be captured somewhat successfully for the small screen, but IMO, you need to see a complete Nutz "on live". And I, too, recall McBride/Villella on Bell Telephone Hour, and Henning Kronstam and Kirsten Simone as well, dancing the pas de deux. That was, I think, my introduction to the idea that different choreography can exist to the same music - Balanchine vs. Ivanov, take your pick!

But I have noticed over the decades now since Balanchine died, that the headlong tempi to Snow and Flowers have abated somewhat, at least in the initial periods of the dances. Flowers used to rush along until the last ten notes - onetwothreefour FIIIIIIIIIVE~ sixseveneightnineten! No more. Pity! I used to like that fermata. And as to the music of the pas de deux, I still think it's the best thing that could happen to a G major scale! Isn't there a story out there that somebody bet Tchaikovsky that he couldn't make a tune out of a scale?

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for me it's all dance.

dance in 3 dimensions is where i see/understand what's what.

true, there are many treasurable films, but often these are aides memoires - or flashbacks; i've never graham dance anything live so the films of her are irreplaceable but APPALACHIAN SPRING or FRONTIER or NIGHT JOURNEY are only the 'dance' itself on stage, despite often mis- or weak casting.

in the case of some choregraphic works on film, such as Merce Cunningham's BEACH BIRDS FOR CAMERA - the camera version is its own 'thing' and yes being able to go back to the Fonteyns, Nureyevs, Baryshnkovs, Kolpakovas, Sizovas, Solovievs, Farrells, Villellas, McBrides, Bussells, etc. etc. on video is treat but it's for a performer more than for understanding a dance that the 2-D record is best suited from my point of view.

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I know there are lots of posts on the Nutcracker, but I was wondering... ever Nutcracker I ever see seems to disappoint me... none of them seem to fulfil the potential of the music and the setting. The one that has nearest fulfilled my expectations is the PNB's version. Which versions do you all love? Which version should I seek out and see so that I can actually be pleased by the Nutcracker?

Bolshoi Theater Nutcracker directed by Grigorovich is my all times favorite.

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Mary Day's production for the Washington Ballet is the best all around, in my opinion.

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I think it is a given that a ballet choreographed for the stage is going to be experienced differently on video. Especially one with the stage illusions of a Nutcracker. I find the adults simpering portrayals of children in ABT's video unbearable ( but not Gelsey ). It didn't appear so phony from the distance of the stage, but still, I prefer to see children played by children.

I also love the GB, and can still be transported and moved by it after many years of viewing. Theatre is a communal activity, and a Nutcracker performance is best when you are surrounded by excited children. The video is spoiled in my opinion by Macaulay Culkin's smug self conscious performance, especially as the SAB children are so natural.

I enjoyed the San Francisco broadcast tremendously. I would love to see that one on stage!

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A definite agreement on not using adults to portray children; it's a convention that doesn't work. If you want to portray adolescent angst, get a libretto after S.E. Hinton or Judy Blume, and leave Nutcracker alone.

Gelsey seemed to float serenely through Baryshnikov's rather sour show, but a word here to defend the much-maligned Culkin. Facially, he was radiant in the part and he was able to execute the social dances adroitly, but early adolescence was already striking, and the stretch was already taking its toll on the accuracy of his arms and hands. (He was later to recover this skill) He had studied at SAB when he was 7, but by age 12, much of what he had learned was gone! He didn't even do the walk in a circle ("pay close attention to this" in mime) at the beginning of the Act II mime speech. Balanchine wanted people to know about this detail so much, that he even included it in the first of his Stories of the Great Ballets books. That slow and majestic walk is often called "the most difficult step in all of classical ballet!" It's tough to get right, so I have sympathy for Mr. Culkin in his situation.

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couldn't agree more with you Mel on M.Culkin - the derision heaped on him at times borders in my view on child abuse.

i rem. someone's ranting mercilessly about his 'lipstick.' it seemed to me he just had rather red lips, naturally, esp. given the palor of his skin.

the dislike/distaste aimed at this performance also smarted, it seemed, of what i call 'adoniphobia' - blind antagonism to a fine looking young man. one could question the close-ups as directorial problems but why blame Culkin for these. if similar decisions were made for close-ups on a girl, i doubt the same ridicule would have been voiced.

the NUTCARCKER film is not a success and Culkin wasn't carefully prepared enough for his role, but the fault was with those who cast him, and then didn't really ready him for the part, not with him directly.

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I quite agree, rg, and "adoniphobia" certainly seems like an appropriate way to characterize the nastiness which was sent Culkin's way. In 1993, his family was already involved in the squabbling over management rights and parental custody, which came to Mac being declared an "emancipated minor" at age 15! All of this is publically notorious, but I cannot imagine, on my most pessimistic day, what it must have been like to have been him while all that domestic unpleasantness was happening. He indeed was much sinned against, and was a sacrifice to "star power".

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A definite agreement on not using adults to portray children; it's a convention that doesn't work. If you want to portray adolescent angst, get a libretto after S.E. Hinton or Judy Blume, and leave Nutcracker alone.

Gelsey seemed to float serenely through Baryshnikov's rather sour show,

Yes, she did as well as possible, but it always reminds me of an art history class on Italian Baroque painting, the British professor referred to 'a rawther lahge angel, it always looks a bit dangerous to me...', and this was pretty apparent, given that the blessed and blessing angel was filling up half a room. So while Gelsey may be the best one could have if one insists on these adults acting children, even she looks like 'a rawther lahge child.' It is true, though, that she's all I remember well about this video, which I only got around to watching about 4 months ago.

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the dislike/distaste aimed at this performance also smarted, it seemed, of what i call 'adoniphobia' - blind antagonism to a fine looking young man. one could question the close-ups as directorial problems but why blame Culkin for these. if similar decisions were made for close-ups on a girl, i doubt the same ridicule would have been voiced.

The criticism of Culkin was far too harsh but I had the impression it was not so much due to his sex as a bit of 'taking the star down a peg' - quite unfair to a child in any case.

The lips were a trifle distracting, I must allow, although I should never have committed that to print as a working critic.

Kirkland was lovely in that Nutcracker, although I dislike the production. There is so little of her dancing available on commercial video.

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A definite agreement on not using adults to portray children; it's a convention that doesn't work. If you want to portray adolescent angst, get a libretto after S.E. Hinton or Judy Blume, and leave Nutcracker alone.

On the contrary, having real ballet dancers of 17,18 portraying kids aged 13-16 in a profesional production had been a more pleasant experience to me that that of having the impression of going to an elementary school ballet recital. At the end, for me, the more pointe work, the more visually motivated I get, so if none,well... boooooring!

So about leaving the Nutcracker alone, yes....let's leave it to real dancers.

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However, remember, Stanislava Belinskaya was 12. Know who she was? The original Clara. Infantilizing adults is not a comfortable evening's watching, for me.

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I have seen pics of the old Imperial productions, and yes, I am aware that children were used-(as well as in Swan Lake to play little swans, if I remember well). But this fact does no add that much to my perception that little kids diminish-(on my eyes)-a professional production. I see it more as me being part of a different, more demanding audience, that of the XXI Century, in which flying Willis and the likes are gone to give room to more technically daring/dancing-oriented productions. Plus, the denomination of "adult" vs. "kid" is objectionable too. For me 16 y.o is being adult already, (coming from a place where this is the legal start of adulthood), whereas according to American standards 16 y.o's are still kids...

Thanks for the info on Clara's original dancer. I didn't know about her. But well, as the old saying says: "I just know that i know nothing"

:excl:

However, remember, Stanislava Belinskaya was 12. Know who she was? The original Clara. Infantilizing adults is not a comfortable evening's watching, for me.

Oh, just remembering that was the age my great grandmother had when she got married :excl:

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