MinkusPugni

Nutcracker

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Jennifer Fisher's Nutcracker Nation has some interesting background about the various iterations. The first was in 1909, then: 1919 - Alexander Grosky; 1929 - Fedor Lopukhov; 1934 - V. Vainonen (Kirov); 1966 - Y. Grigorovich (Bolshoi).

In the States, William Christensen--who had staged excerpts--mounted a full version in 1944 for the San Francisco Ballet, "encouraged by Russians emigres who had settled in the Bay Area." Balanchine and Danilova, who were traveling through SF with the Ballet Russe," helped reconstruct parts of it.

Alexandra Fedorova reconstructed an "after Ivanov" Nutcracker in 1940 for the Ballet Russe (see rg's program). This Nutcracker, Fisher says, " made short work of the plot, opening with a brief party scene, moving to the snowflake waltz (eventually eliminationed), and to the second act divertissements and grand pas de deux...the Ballet Russe sets look simple--a standing candelabra for the party scene, a painted backdrop of a snow peaked mountain for the snow flake scene..."

Ann Barzel in Ballet Annual comments that when Alonzo and Yousevitch did the Snowflake Waltz around 1956, there were some soviet influences, but they were "tastefully and logically" borrowed. (Barzel also comments on Alonzo's first choreographic composition, Essayo Sinfonico, based on the Brahms Haydn Variations as "sincere but lack[ing] in originality." Elsewhere she is extremely supportive of everything Alonzo was doing in those years and how Alonzo's touch was to be felt everywhere, even on how the corps were dancing.)

Thanks to Cristian to the great links to the Cuban preservation of the Nutcraker--and through those of the Lorna Freijo Nutcracker clip--and getting me curious about the "other" Nutcrackers.

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I think the push to make Clara/Marie danced by an adult, and in some cases for her to take the place of the SPF, comes from the 20th century prejudice against mime in favor of dance. If Clara/Marie is danced by a child, her role is necessarily more mime than pure dance. That's why I enjoy the Balanchine version so much -- it's ironic that the greatest champion of Pure Dance produced the ballet with some of the best mime dancing of all. It's not just the Prince's famous mime in Act 2. There's also the mime of the rats, of Drosselmeyer, of the guests at the party, of Mother Ginger. Each time I watch the Balanchine performance I marvel at how he uses mime in crucial places to amplify the wafer-thin storyline. That's why Balanchine's Nutcracker can survive a ho-hum performance by the principals.

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To give you an idea of the importance of Mere Gigogne's mime, she was a recycled hit character from Petipa's revival of "Le Diable à Quatre". The same mime, a jolly old Mr. Yakovlev portrayed the old lady in both that production, and Nutcracker. There's a photo of him around somewhere, and he does look like a very merry sort who would be good in any comic ballet.

I wonder if he were any relation to the great aircraft designer?

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i'm not sure if there's another photo around of Yakovlev as Mere G, but this is the one i've seen in a few different books.

needless to remark, this particular use of the photo from Warrack's TCHAIKOVSKY makes its own connection to 'the old woman in a shoe' etc.

post-848-1230603249_thumb.jpg

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That's my man! But there's another I've seen of him without the headpiece and with one of the two kids picked up in his arms. He's also out of the costume framework, and in shirtsleeves, rather unusual for that time in a photograph.

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I'm learning so much from this thread. Thanks, rg, for the Ballet Russe program. It's always tantalizing to see Moylan's name in print. Sadly, she seems to have left so few visual traces to remind us of an impressive career. Does anyone know of any performance photos (or possibly even film)? Marie Jeanne is much better documented, visually, than Mary Ellen Moylan.

Thanks, Cristian, for the description of Clara and Fritz entering the Christmas tree as a kind of gateway to the Land of Snow. Do you know where Alonso got this idea -- from Russian visitors to Cuba? from her Ballet Theater days?

I would love to be able to see the stage effect. But I would greatly miss the Christmas tree's miraculous growth -- trembling, pulsing, even lurching a bit from side to side.

Leonid, sorry to hear about the ramshakle performance at the Royal Ballet. What could possibly explain this? Exhaustion? Boredom? Being fed up with too many Nutcrackers?

Quiggin, thanks for the reference to Nutcracker Nation. One more item to go on my ballet wish list!!! Reading Ballet Talk can be expensive. :):)

Canbelto, you express my feelings about the Balanchine Nutcracker better than I could. I have a question about the 1993 NYCB dvd. It's an impeccable performance. But the music is played so very, very quickly! The effect in some sequences was almost like watching a Keystone Cops routine -- precise and lovely, but whirring by at incredible speed. Does NYCB continue to dance Nutcracker at this speed nowadays? I don't recall anything like it from performances in the 60s-80s.

On the other hand, the 2000 Royal Ballet dvd has some of the slowest tempi I've ever heard. Leonid, was this true of the live performance you saw this season?

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grigorovich's NUTCRACKER begins act 2 w/ masha and her prince in a boat amid the evergreen branches of the tree, and gives the sense that the boat in which the two ride was once an ornament on the tree.

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Bart, from what I recall of NYCB's Nutcracker performances from 1998 and 1999, the music was not as fast as the video.

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On the other hand, the 2000 Royal Ballet dvd has some of the slowest tempi I've ever heard.

Bart, it may be relevant that after the recorded performances, Svetlanov 'withdrew' from the rest of the run - no explanation was ever given, that I remember. One of his replacements was Andrea Quinn, who was said to have got through the Act 2 pas deux more than half a minute quicker than Svetlanov.

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Thanks, Hans and Jane. The opportunity to listen to different conductors directing the same score is one of the joys of live performances in a big company. It can also be one of the frustrations. :wink:

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bart -

...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.

My first viewing of Balanchine's must have been in 1958, because I distinctly recall being ten. My latest viewing was in 1998, and I haven't been able to get back since, although I've keenly wanted to. It's really slower than it used to be.

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Thanks, Cristian, for the description of Clara and Fritz entering the Christmas tree as a kind of gateway to the Land of Snow. Do you know where Alonso got this idea -- from Russian visitors to Cuba? from her Ballet Theater days?

The only references she took were those during her American career. She danced the ballet in both companies, BT and de Basil's-(even in her autobiography Suzzanne Farrell talks about the very first time she took part in a ballet performance when she was a kid, a BR's production of Nutcracker in which she played Clara, with Alonso and Youskevitch in the Act II PDD). Also she famously once declared that she had always refused to integrate to the soviet choreographic versions/style and even schooling, due to her well known devotion and reverence to her American standards. atm711 has mentioned that the BT version back then included a very short party scene and Snow Scene from Act I, but didn't mention about how the changing happened...

atm...? :clapping:

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Here are a couple of clips from Act I of the Cuban version that I often refer to, which "does it" for me. The first clips shows Clara and the Nutcracker dancing just before the Snow Scene. The second one is the beginning of Act II, including the Nutcracker's "mime".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKvVpKHfvtM

Hey, thanks for posting these here. Interesting stuff. So much dancing! I'm used to seeing mostly mime during these parts — and the Christmas tree growing in the first clip, of course. If this is your standard, I bet most other productions bore you quite a bit.

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Back to the topic - Balanchine's version of The Nutcracker is the only major version I have seen live, and it is enchanting in every possible sense of the word.

I saw my first Nutcracker at Bolshoi Theater in Moscow and it still appears to me "enchanting in every possible sense of the word". :)

It was Grigorovich's version where Mary and Nutcracker are danced by adults.

GB Nutcracker was the first ballet I saw when I came to New York - I was very surprised (if not shocked) to see no dancing in Act I. I was wondering if this is going to be like that for the rest of the ballet and was thinking about leaving. :clapping:

Over time I grew into loving GB Nutcracker, but I still find Act I quite boring and feel that majical music is being "waisted"

No dancing?! What about the snowflakes?! OK, I get it about the bed scene, with the snow scenery coming down slowly. (Many times this music is used for a pas between a certain Snow Queen and Snow King.) I agree that that music was somewhat wasted in the Balanchine version.

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the attached scan of a Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo program from a Fri. Nov. 4 evening performance, which oddly began at 8:20, comes without the year spelt out, but which may be 1949 or '50, details the way THE NUTCRACKER at the BRdMC was credited, etc.

Cool! Thanks for posting this. November 4 was on a Friday in 1949.

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very many thanks for the dating - i sensed someone here would be able to find the day for a date some 60-ish years ago.

i tried but came up empty.

i'll now write the year on the program itself, so i don't soon forget what you found..

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No dancing?! What about the snowflakes?!

You are right - no dancing apart from snowflakes at the end. :)

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i guess by 'dancing' one refers here to 'ballet' dancing, but act one of GB's NUTCRACKER honors most of the 'dancing' Tchaikovsky and Petipa envisioned for the scenario of THE NUTCRACKER.

there are the dances of the 'dolls' - in GB's case Columbine, Harlequin and the Soldier, and the social dances of the children with the fathers and the traditional, social-gathering concluding dance known then and in the context of THE NUTCARCKER as the "Grandfather's dance" composed to conclude the first scene.

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Balanchine even OVERFLOWS the social dancing by a little bit, causing repeats in the fast section of the Grossvatertanz.

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i guess by 'dancing' one refers here to 'ballet' dancing, but act one of GB's NUTCRACKER honors most of the 'dancing' Tchaikovsky and Petipa envisioned for the scenario of THE NUTCRACKER.

there are the dances of the 'dolls' - in GB's case Columbine, Harlequin and the Soldier, and the social dances of the children with the fathers and the traditional, social-gathering concluding dance known then and in the context of THE NUTCARCKER as the "Grandfather's dance" composed to conclude the first scene.

I was just describing my first impression of seeing George Balanchine's Nutcracker in a contrast with Grigorovich's production in Bolshoj Theather - which is the one I grew up with.

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I just watched a DVD of Nureyev's horrible Nutcracker for the Royal Ballet from 1968. It is very similar to his production for the Paris Opéra Ballet, which makes me wonder who decided it was a good idea for him to choreograph after 1968!

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That would explain it. I notice he doesn't seem to have choreographed anything else for the Royal Ballet.

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Pointe work...

Just a question. Why does it have to be "pointe work" to be considered "real dancing"?

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