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Balanchine's Angelsvs. Alonso's Matryoshkas


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#1 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 28 December 2008 - 02:21 PM

This is probably something some of the most experienced BT's will know, but I don't. What's up with all those Nutcracker angels? Their parade is not my favorite thing, but I know is a big deal for the little components of many productions-(and their parents, of course). The real fact is that I didn't even know about this popular angelic incarnation of the corps until I saw my first Balanchine production. In Alonso's production she makes the adult Corps members do the same choreography/parade but the costume design does not indicates whatsoever that this are angels. They look more like Russian matryoshka dolls.

So I have a couple of questions:
1-Are there any sketches/pics of these characters from Imperial Productions?
2-Where does the idea of portraying them as angels come from?

Thank you all in advance! :rofl:

#2 Mel Johnson

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Posted 28 December 2008 - 04:15 PM

I don't know if the angels are part of the libretto or not, but in it, the Prince has SISTERS! Several of 'em! They're Russian matryushka dolls, and he directs the Act II mime speech to them!

#3 Mel Johnson

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Posted 28 December 2008 - 06:00 PM

Still haven't found angels, but I have located a hive of bees who appear at the apotheosis of the ballet.

#4 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 28 December 2008 - 06:11 PM

he,he...definitely this ballet doesn't stop amusing me. BEES!! :rofl: Can i see them Mel?

#5 Mel Johnson

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Posted 28 December 2008 - 06:17 PM

I don't have the pictures of Vsevolozhsky's costumes, but I can at least throw you a link to a bunch of essays I wrote ten years ago about the whole show. Click around; most of the links are still good.

The Nutcracker essays on Ballet Alert!

#6 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 28 December 2008 - 06:40 PM

I don't have the pictures of Vsevolozhsky's costumes, but I can at least throw you a link to a bunch of essays I wrote ten years ago about the whole show. Click around; most of the links are still good.

The Nutcracker essays on Ballet Alert!

Thank you so much for the link! (It's funny, but searching Google had taken me to that same link just seconds before you posted it :rofl: ) It is very interesting, indeed, to see that maybe, THERE WERE NO ANGELS WHATSOEVER!, and that those Alonso matryoshka dollls are pretty accurate...
This is what your link says about the old notes on Act II...:

"Act II - The Palace of Sweets in the Kingdom of Confiturembourg

The beautiful and wondrous Kingdom of Confections is readied for the reception of the Prince and Clara, who arrive in a shell-boat, drawn by dolphins, down a river of attar of roses. They are greeted by the regent of the land, the Sugar Plum Fairy, who has been ruling in the name of the Prince, against the day of his return.

The benevolent spirit asks of the exploits of the newly-arrived Prince who recounts the story of the Battle with the Mice to the kingdom, and hails Clara
as the heroine who saved his life. He then introduces her to his little sisters, who are beautiful little dolls studded with gems. They greet her warmly when he tells them of her great bravery."


#7 stinger784

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Posted 28 December 2008 - 06:40 PM

I was under the impression Clara/Marie had died and gone to heaven. :rofl:

Yeah I don't get it either. In some version there are bats as well.

#8 Mel Johnson

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Posted 29 December 2008 - 03:54 AM

The ones with the bats must be the "Back to Hoffman" types.

One of these days, one of these Gothic Revivalist productions will have Frankenstein's monster striding through the show. Same time period, you know. Mary Shelley's book was published in 1818, Hoffman's "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" in 1819.

And speaking of history, now I have to go look for my great-grandfather's copy in German of the Hoffman short stories. I have an English translation of the stories AFTER the Dumas translation to French which was the work that Petipa used to write the libretto. Sometimes, going from language to language can produce some weird effects; for a demonstration, see Pedro Carolinho's English as She is Spoke, which was written by a Portuguese-speaking author who spoke no English, translating phrases from Portuguese to French (which he also didn't speak) and then translating them to English, producing what he THOUGHT was a useful phrase-book for Brazilian tourists to the US. Mark Twain found the well-intentioned chaos of language hilarious.

#9 rg

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Posted 29 December 2008 - 06:16 AM

Nureyev's staging, w/ Georgiadis's designs, included the party relatives reappearing in act 2 with bat wings.
maybe some other production(s) also included bats, but RN's is the one i recall from the stage and from video.

credits as follows:
Nutcracker: Chor: Rudolf Nureyev after Vasilii Vainonen; mus: Peter Tchaikovsky; lib: based on the E.T.A. Hoffmann fairy tale; scen & cos: Nicholas Georgiadis. First perf: Sweden: Stockholm, Royal Swedish Opera House, Nov 17, 1967, Royal Swedish Ballet.//First English perf: London, Royal Opera House, Feb 29, 1968, Royal Ballet.//First U.S. perf: New York City, Metropolitan Opera House, May 10, 1968, Royal Ballet

#10 Hans

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Posted 29 December 2008 - 09:44 AM

As far as I know, the bats started with the Vainonen production.

#11 rg

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Posted 29 December 2008 - 10:06 AM

Nureyev's NUTCRACKER (as well as Baryshnikov's) owes a great deal to Vainonen's production, so i'm not surprised to learn that the bats were taken from what RN knew in Soviet Russia.

#12 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 29 December 2008 - 03:13 PM

rg, and all this time I'd been hoping for you to come up with a lovely old pic on the issue, as is usually the case..! :)

#13 Mel Johnson

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Posted 29 December 2008 - 03:52 PM

Well, at least now we know where Nureyev got the bats for his belfry! :)

#14 rg

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Posted 29 December 2008 - 05:02 PM

historic photos of NUTCRACKER from Russia are all mostly familiar and feature the key characters. w/the exception of the Snowflakes there are few photos of the lesses characters that i know of.
Balanchine may have included angels all on his own. all i know about the traditions of these dancers in his 'tradition' is that he changed them at some point along the way, to the little girls we see nowadays. formerly they were teens, i believe.
if memory servers Suzanne Farrell might even have appeared as one at the very start of her NYCB career. or maybe i've hallucinated this thought.
the Berioshka/Georgian skimming dance they do, however seems to have been in place for a while.
dance writer Anita Finkel wrote of the fact that each holds a sprig of evergreen as a one of the more key moments in balanchine's staging about which she wrote an excellent essay in BALLET NEWS.
there is a long-ish/strong tradition in russia for these skimming, greenery-bearing young women - i think the Berioshka co. that played the States in soviet era had a similar dance, for mature women, skimming the stage beneath floor-length skirts with, if mem. serves, green-sprouting birch branches in their hands.
in any case, i have no historical photos to add to the discussion.

#15 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 05 December 2009 - 08:52 PM

This is probably something some of the most experienced BT's will know, but I don't. What's up with all those Nutcracker angels? Their parade is not my favorite thing, but I know is a big deal for the little components of many productions-(and their parents, of course). The real fact is that I didn't even know about this popular angelic incarnation of the corps until I saw my first Balanchine production. In Alonso's production she makes the adult Corps members do the same choreography/parade but the costume design does not indicates whatsoever that this are angels. They look more like Russian matryoshka dolls-(see this link in this other thread for a clip on this scene on the Cuban version http://ballettalk.in...p...st&p=238672 )

So i have a couple of questions:
1-Are there any sketches/pics of these characters from Imperial Productions?
2-Where does the idea of portraying them as angels come from?

Thank you all in advance! :clapping:


A year later, and after the valuable answers provided by Mel and rg on my original questions-( :rofl: ), I do have a third one to add to the former....

3-Does anyone remembers what these character were in the old Fedorova production?-(Either @ Ballet Theatre or Ballet Russe).

atm711...? :P


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