Jump to content

This site uses cookies. By using this site, you agree to accept cookies, unless you've opted out. (US government web page with instructions to opt out: http://www.usa.gov/optout-instructions.shtml)

Problematic Classic?

  • Please log in to reply
5 replies to this topic

#1 Mme. Hermine

Mme. Hermine

    Rubies Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,149 posts

Posted 19 February 2002 - 10:30 AM

Jennifer Dunning, in today's review of The Prodigal Son, says it has "always been a problematic classic."

I found this strange. I first saw this ballet in the mid-1970s, when Baryshnikov did it with the Chicago Ballet. I've seen it at many intervals across the years. It really hit me right away. I felt it was powerful and emotional. I wasn't worrying about classifying it. I wasn't worried about whether the movement in it was of one era or another because the era didn't mean anything to me, given its immediate effect. If I've ever not enjoyed a performance of it, it's been when I felt the dancers weren't able to do it well, full-out, with conviction. Would love to hear the thoughts of others.

#2 Alexandra


    Board Founder

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 9,301 posts

Posted 19 February 2002 - 10:41 AM

I wondered that, too, Mme. Hermine (and THANK YOU for posting a topic suggested by something on Links!!!). Perhaps the ballet just doesn't hold together for her? She explains "problematic classic": "A somewhat willing 1929 collaboration by Balanchine, Prokofiev and Georges Rouault, engineered by Diaghilev for his Ballets Russes, "Prodigal Son" is a rough-edged evocation of the biblical story as depicted in a series of Russian pictures."

I hadn't thought of it as a series of pictures before -- I agree with that. There are a lot of European 19th century ballets that are organized by "picture" instead of "scene". I've always thought that it was a conscious way of storytelling -- putting out "pictures" along the way and bringing them to life. But it isn't an organized, linear method of storytelling. I don't think that's a flaw, just a different way of doing it.

Anyone else?

#3 Mme. Hermine

Mme. Hermine

    Rubies Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,149 posts

Posted 19 February 2002 - 11:23 AM

thank you, alexandra! i agree that the story is not told in a linear fashion. but in a way it acts as a sort of 'memory' ballet for me. i'm not sure exactly how to explain that except that in my mind(don't know about anyone else's!) i remember things in pictures, or tableaus, and not so much in a linear fashion. so the way the story is told always seemed very natural to me.

#4 rg


    Emeralds Circle

  • Editorial Advisor
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,512 posts

Posted 19 February 2002 - 12:10 PM

i'm not sure if there are specific or oblique or coincidental references here to source material suggested by 'the station master' (sometimes called 'the post master'), a short story by pushkin, wherein, and i haven't actually read said story, a character in the narrative is taken by a series of three prints--etchings(?) engravings(?) woodcuts(?)--delineating the story of the prodigal son. this specific, pictorial reduction of the parable was said to have been a key inspiration to the gestation of this ballet chez diaghilev. i'm not sure if the pictures are real, and thus familiar to many russians or imagined, generic ones. [i have just noted that nancy reynolds's 'repertory in review' includes a description of pictures in her entry on 'prodigal son'. p. 103]

[ February 19, 2002: Message edited by: rg ]

#5 Mme. Hermine

Mme. Hermine

    Rubies Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,149 posts

Posted 19 February 2002 - 12:18 PM

Well that's very interesting and something I didn't know. Here is what seems to be the relevant part of the story:
Thereupon he began copying out my pass, and I examined the pictures that adorned his humble but clean dwelling. They illustrated the story of the Prodigal Son: in the first, a venerable old man in a night-cap and dressing-gown was saying good-bye to the restless youth, who was hastily receiving his blessing and a purse of gold. Another vividly depicted the young man's dissolute conduct; he was sitting at the table surrounded by false friends and shameless women. Farther on, the young man, in a three-cornered hat and ragged clothes, was herding pigs and sharing their meal; his face expressed profound sorrow and penitence. The last picture showed his return to his father: the kind old man in the same dressing-gown and night-cap was running to meet him; the prodigal son was kneeling; in the background the cook could be seen killing the fatted calf, and the elder brother asking the servants about the reason for such rejoicing.

#6 dirac


    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 29,665 posts

Posted 19 February 2002 - 05:25 PM

I also noted the phrase "problematic classic" and I just took it to mean, "I like it, with qualifications," or "the early Balanchine that's not so good as 'Apollo.'"

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. (If it doesn't appear below, your computer's or browser's adblockers may have blocked display):