Jump to content


NutcrackerOnes that actually do it for you?


  • Please log in to reply
123 replies to this topic

#46 Mel Johnson

Mel Johnson

    Diamonds Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,311 posts

Posted 28 December 2008 - 11:12 AM

Nutcracker has always been good to stimulate discussion. During its original run, someone wrote that they were displeased by this "fragile and sugary Nutcracker". But now, it seems, this fragile thing is much like the Potomac Creek Bridge built during the American Civil War. Abraham Lincoln said of the bridge, "It is 400 feet long, and over 100 feet high, and there is nothing to it but bean poles and corn stalks, yet it carries entire loaded trains back and forth all day long!" Sometimes, the apparently delicate can have entirely startling strength.

I've never been entirely happy with the tree flying out, too, and found that in the planning of the transformation effect, Clara and the Prince were to walk INTO the tree, and it "magically" unfolded into an entire forest! I'd love to see how they rigged that effect, but then I remember about Balanchine writing about the Tsar's Finnish Regiment marching away from the Maryinsky after shows. They were the stagehands! With that much people power, no wonder they could make wondrous things happen with the scenery!

#47 cubanmiamiboy

cubanmiamiboy

    Diamonds Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,214 posts

Posted 28 December 2008 - 12:18 PM

But now, it seems, this fragile thing is much like the Potomac Creek Bridge built during the American Civil War.


:rofl:

I've never been entirely happy with the tree flying out, too, and found that in the planning of the transformation effect, Clara and the Prince were to walk INTO the tree, and it "magically" unfolded into an entire forest! I'd love to see how they rigged that effect


Mel, that's how Alonso does it. If you notice on the clips that I linked above, there's a hidden entrance on the bottom of the tree. The whole thing is simple. Once they walk into it the whole set is mechanically lifted-(in the dark, while only a spotlight follows Clara and the Nutcracker)- and then the snow backdrops are already in place.

#48 Mel Johnson

Mel Johnson

    Diamonds Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,311 posts

Posted 28 December 2008 - 01:09 PM

That's why I would love to see how the thing was rigged back in St. Petersburg! Original ballet scores are hard to find; original ballet stage manager prompt books seem to be nearly nonexistent! I've only seen two from productions other than those I was working with myself.

#49 leonid17

leonid17

    Platinum Circle

  • Foreign Correspondent
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,413 posts

Posted 28 December 2008 - 01:15 PM

Nutcracker has always been good to stimulate discussion. During its original run, someone wrote that they were displeased by this "fragile and sugary Nutcracker".


I have avoided the Nutcracker over the last decade having only seen 5 performances. I was taken to a matinee of Peter Wright's RB production two weeks ago and went simply because their were several very interesting debuts. However as good as some of the individual performances were, I find this production inteminably dreary which was not enlivened by a very poor performance by corps de ballet, the braking of props , the stumbling of children and the ROH orchestra who had no semblance of a singing orchestral tone. I understand Mr Wright's later production foir the Birmingham Royal Ballet is generall considered superior to his earlier effort.

Of course the ballet is of a seasonal(Christmas) nature, but it was always intended to be for an adult audience given its dark overtones. I think Roland John Wiley's book on the Tchaikovsky's ballets makes an interesting read(do include all the notes) on the evolution of its production.
My first viewing of this ballet was when I was 16 years of age and it was in a staging by David Lichine with designs by Alexandre Benois and performed by London Festival Ballet. It remained constant in my memory as a yardstick for all performances that is until, I saw two properly adult versions by Nureyev(darkly psychological)and Grigorovich(glorious in production and performance) with outstanding casts.

I cannot judge Blanchine's version as I have only seen it on film and it made no great impression upon me, but then, I was probably going through one of those Richard Buckle moments of,"One more Nutcracker closer to death."

#50 rg

rg

    Emeralds Circle

  • Editorial Advisor
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,434 posts

Posted 29 December 2008 - 10:36 AM

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.

Attached Files



#51 Quiggin

Quiggin

    Gold Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 823 posts

Posted 29 December 2008 - 12:37 PM

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.

#52 canbelto

canbelto

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,841 posts

Posted 29 December 2008 - 03:25 PM

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.

#53 Mel Johnson

Mel Johnson

    Diamonds Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,311 posts

Posted 29 December 2008 - 05:50 PM

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 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?

#54 rg

rg

    Emeralds Circle

  • Editorial Advisor
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,434 posts

Posted 29 December 2008 - 06:14 PM

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.

Attached Files



#55 Mel Johnson

Mel Johnson

    Diamonds Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,311 posts

Posted 29 December 2008 - 06:26 PM

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.

#56 bart

bart

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 7,320 posts

Posted 29 December 2008 - 07:24 PM

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?

#57 rg

rg

    Emeralds Circle

  • Editorial Advisor
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,434 posts

Posted 29 December 2008 - 08:02 PM

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.

#58 Hans

Hans

    Sapphire Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,104 posts

Posted 30 December 2008 - 08:25 AM

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

#59 Jane Simpson

Jane Simpson

    Gold Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 935 posts

Posted 30 December 2008 - 09:09 AM

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.

#60 bart

bart

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 7,320 posts

Posted 30 December 2008 - 10:51 AM

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:


0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Help support Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers year round by using this search box for your amazon.com purchases (adblockers may block display):