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)

Le Corsaire at The Kennedy Center


  • Please log in to reply
163 replies to this topic

#151 Ilya

Ilya

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 174 posts

Posted 25 June 2009 - 03:44 AM

These are mime and makeup jokes, as far as I can tell, invented by this production because the designers thought they would get a response from the audience. Bad taste but also a miscalculation I would think. Show me where the evidence is that these specific mime sequences have historical precedent? And even if they do, they are no longer functional. Those mime sequences are there to be funny. They're not.


My guess is these are functional and funny in Russia, unfortunately. Perhaps someone who watched this production in Moscow can chime in to confirm?

It's sad when arts cheaply play to the basest prejudices of the crowd...

#152 Natalia

Natalia

    Rubies Circle

  • Foreign Correspondent
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,403 posts

Posted 25 June 2009 - 07:40 AM

.......My guess is these are functional and funny in Russia, unfortunately. Perhaps someone who watched this production in Moscow can chime in to confirm?

It's sad when arts cheaply play to the basest prejudices of the crowd...


As the living embodiment of another stereotype, the "Wise Latina Woman," let me add 5cents on this. In Moscow, the laughter for the Maid and Lankedem were the same as in London or Washington -- tee-hee, funny rolly-polly lady and old miser. In other words, I did not notice any more or any less laughter in the three capitols where I've seen the Bolshoi's Corsaire live. Same thing when I saw the Bournonville ballets in Copenhagen, e.g., audiences politely laughed at 'Le Bananier' dance in Far From Denmark. [Bananier gets a bit too close for comfort...a Caribbean dance...almost my native Puerto Rico!]

We feel uncomfortable but we giggle. On to the next scene. People are the same everywhere.

#153 cubanmiamiboy

cubanmiamiboy

    Diamonds Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,272 posts

Posted 25 June 2009 - 07:55 AM

The story of Corsaire includes much to be puzzled by -- and even offended by -- especially when when considers the role that stereotypes have played in the past and even today. However, the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States protects all such expression, even when some or all of us don't like it.

Oh, yes... THAT is really an issue. The time frame for which some cultural-generated stereotypes developed is certainly an important issue, due to the fact that what was acceptable and "funny" at one point may not be many years later, or viceversa, and I guess we all can feel somehow detrimentally represented at one point with certain characters of any given ballet, opera, novels or even TV shows. I have a classical example: I can't stand the portray of the Cuban Ricky Ricardo character of "I love Lucy" with all its accent-mocking jokes and clowny cultural-driven mannerisms. Still, I know that this is probably not considered that important for the majority of the public who grew up watching the series.
If anything, I don't think the character would be well received by a Cuban audience. And yes, there is the First Amendment, but there's also the risk of public embarrassment when suddenly a "joke" is taken too seriously by someone. Letterman anyone...?

#154 Natalia

Natalia

    Rubies Circle

  • Foreign Correspondent
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,403 posts

Posted 25 June 2009 - 08:04 AM

..... I can't stand the portray of the Cuban Ricky Ricardo character of "I love Lucy" with all its accent-mocking jokes and clowny cultural-driven mannerisms. ..... And yes, there is the First Amendment, but there's also the risk of public embarrassment when suddenly a "joke" is taken too seriously by someone. Letterman anyone...?


Forget Letterman. The worst of it is when, even subconsciously, perceived 'emotion' or 'mannerisms' are used to keep Latinos and other minorities from promotions (meaning better job$). Even if the 'non-minorities' in a company are just as clownish...stereotypical mannerisms only STICK with the minorities. That's when the laughs stop.

#155 Helene

Helene

    Administrator

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 11,404 posts

Posted 25 June 2009 - 09:45 AM

[Admin Beanie On]

Discussing the discussion is off limits on Ballet Talk. If you feel a post violates Ballet Talk rules, please use the "Report" button.

No one is obligated to read or comment on any thread they find uninteresting or disappointing.

Discussing aspects of reconstructions is absolutely on mission for Ballet Talk, as is the separate topic of whether to make changes over time to accommodate changing sensibilities.

[Admin Beanie Off]

#156 bart

bart

    Diamonds Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 7,320 posts

Posted 25 June 2009 - 10:15 AM

Thanks, Helene, for that reminder. While I'm personally fascinated by the implications of this discussion, I'd like to refocus if possible to the ballet Le Corsaire. Here comes a confession: I have never found that this ballet deserves the attention and frequence of performance it has achieved -- except as a challenge for bravura dancers. I tend to agree with Drew:

(I have to admit that for me, in any case, Corsaire is no sacred text--and the Jardin Anime, especially in the Bolshoi's splendid version, is the primary reason to see it as a full length ballet at all.

I have a couple of questions which I hope won't be seen as heretical or tendentious by Corsaire lovers: Why IS this ballet revived and revived and revived, while others are ignored? Why does every ballet competition include what appear to be dozens of young people performing portions of it?

#157 cubanmiamiboy

cubanmiamiboy

    Diamonds Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,272 posts

Posted 25 June 2009 - 10:35 AM

I guess this is due to how popular the PDD-(or de Trois)-has became. It is certainly a bravura vehicle, especially for men-(as it is the DQ). Then, at some point they probably got tired of presenting it just as a showcase extract and wanted to give it a proper background. That and the fact that they discovered how more sophisticated and beautiful the original Jardin Animee scene was after the notations is enough criteria to have it considered it a good touring candidate. Personally I don't care too much for the story...(never been a fan of Salgari or any other pirates story maker. Also, comedy acts don't do it for me either...I'm hard at find things "funny" or comic). If you ask me I would TOTALLY prefer to see a fully reconstructed Esmeralda or Lacotte's rendition of "Ondine".

#158 Helene

Helene

    Administrator

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 11,404 posts

Posted 25 June 2009 - 11:15 AM

Never having seen a full-length "Le Corsaire" before, I much prefer the Ali-less version done by the Bolshoi, which in the context of Act I, is so much more of a pleasure to me than any gala/competition stand-alone version. There's so much build up to it with great examples of other kind of dancing, and it's the climax of all that's gone before it.

My favorite parts of "Don Quixote" are not the gala excerpts at all; they are the character dancing and the dream sequence. I really dislike the Don Q Pas de Deux, and I get the hives when I hear the music, which is really inconvenient, since my all-time favorite figure skater is John Curry, and my all-time favorite competitive program of his, his 1976 Olympic long program, was set to this music :)

#159 Natalia

Natalia

    Rubies Circle

  • Foreign Correspondent
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,403 posts

Posted 25 June 2009 - 11:18 AM

Thanks, Helene, for that reminder. .....

Why IS this ballet revived and revived and revived, while others are ignored? Why does every ballet competition include what appear to be dozens of young people performing portions of it?


Yes, thanks, Helene. And I can relate to the Don Q in skating comment...my favorite pair, Mishkutienok/Dmitriev skated to it in TWO Olympics, she wearing a tutu. I'm glad that the tutus-on-skates craze of the early 90s didn't last too long.

It's because Corsaire contains so many wonderful classical set pieces by Petipa and others, each set piece containing various solos, each of which appears in competitions -- Pas d'Esclave, main pas de deux (or trois), Odalisques, Jardin Anime, Petit Corsaire, Eventailles. When I began to follow ballet in earnest XXX years ago, I made a list of well-known solo variations (female or male) by ballet. Corsaire had the 2nd greatest number of variations, just behind Sleeping Beauty with all of its fairies. Paquita Grand Pas was also high on the list. So it's inevitable that ballet competitions will include multiple variations from those three ballets. Variations from Swan Lake? Not that many; only the male & female Black Swan solos regularly make it to competitions...the male variation from the Pas de Trois once in a blue moon...the White Swan solo only once, that I recall.

#160 Hans

Hans

    Sapphire Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,104 posts

Posted 25 June 2009 - 11:27 AM

Thanks, Helene, for that reminder. While I'm personally fascinated by the implications of this discussion, I'd like to refocus if possible to the ballet Le Corsaire. Here comes a confession: I have never found that this ballet deserves the attention and frequence of performance it has achieved -- except as a challenge for bravura dancers. I tend to agree with Drew:

(I have to admit that for me, in any case, Corsaire is no sacred text--and the Jardin Anime, especially in the Bolshoi's splendid version, is the primary reason to see it as a full length ballet at all.

I have a couple of questions which I hope won't be seen as heretical or tendentious by Corsaire lovers: Why IS this ballet revived and revived and revived, while others are ignored? Why does every ballet competition include what appear to be dozens of young people performing portions of it?


One might very well ask similar questions about The Nutcracker, which has even less to recommend it. Le Corsaire, apart from all the classical dancing Natalia mentioned, is light entertainment, not Heavy Art. It reminds me of I Puritani, which has a plot so stupid it makes me want to pull out my eyes, but some very beautiful music.

#161 Leigh Witchel

Leigh Witchel

    Editorial Advisor

  • Editorial Advisor
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,466 posts

Posted 25 June 2009 - 02:00 PM

To take a serious topic frivolously, I'd like to know if any of our experts on Russian ballet can explain the importance of the Mullet to 19th century Russian ballet, particularly Le Corsaire.

In this version, the Mullet appears in all its resplendence on each of the pirates. It's important to note how the particulars of the Mullet reveal individual character - Conrad's relatively straight and severe Mullet hints at his potential to be reformed. Birbantio's lush, curly Mullet speaks to his libertine nature.

The Mullet is essential to the story of the ballet, as evidenced by its ending. Following the shipwreck, Medora appears with her hair unbound and reveals that she, too, has a Mullet, her way of showing her perpetual devotion to Conrad.

Truly, where would Russian ballet be without this hairstyle?

I hope we can discuss the importance of the Mullet in other Russian ballet, as well as in other styles of ballet, notably the French and Danish schools.

#162 Mikhail

Mikhail

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 103 posts

Posted 25 June 2009 - 03:30 PM

I was not going to dive so deep into political questions. I guess the art (especially the old one) should not be approached from that side. I only tried to tell, that if a gentleman comes to a party in a costume but without pants, it would be too snobbish to discuss a color of his tie.

A lot to be said about Le Corsaire, but I will restrict myself by a few topics.

Negress vs. Old Maid

Words change their meaning being transferred from one language into another. “Negr” in Russian has no negative color as in modern English, it was used many times in literature of 20th century. Say, by Vladimir Mayakovsky ("да будь я и негром преклонных годов”) or by Andrey Voznesensky (“мы негры, мы поэты”), or by Evegeny Evtushenko (“и, согбенный, будто в рабстве негр”), etc, etc. Do you think they all were racists? The word “black” (“черный”) is much more dangerous in modern Russian when applied to different nations (not only to Africans, but also to people from Caucasus). So one has to be very careful in translation, and if one finds a discrepancy between Russian and English texts one has to ask himself “why” before to make a verdict. As an example: a translation of verses by Evtushenko into English does not contain the quoted line at all.

Isaac Lankedem

The wrong statements were made here about Isaac Lankedem. Russian speaking readers could find it interesting to have a look at the detailed historical description of different versions of Le Corsaire including the original synopsis of 1858 (the first version in Russia staged by Perrot) and that of 1899 (the last version in Petipa’s life). The latter was taken almost one to one by Ratmansky and Burlaka. “Almost” because both texts contain the name Isaac (as well as “The Negress”), but an epithet “Jew-renegade” is omitted now (probably as unknown to the ordinary audience).

”Closer to the original”

Should be taken cum grano salis. When one refers to the intentions of Ratmansky and Burlaka “to be closer to the original” one should not forget the second part of this statement - “but not loosing valuable artistic achievements of the 20th century”. They tried to create a ballet which would not be dusty museum exhibit. So I think it is quite normal if Conrad replaces nameless cavalier.

This is an approach of the Bolshoi, its know-how: to take an old synopsis as it stands (that is not to change a story, as was done more than once in Soviet time), to preserve what can be preserved from the choreography and to compose the parts lost with the time. The Flames of Paris declined from this route because of evident political reasons, but they will be back with Esmeralda in December (BTW, will you buy the happy end: a poor Gipsy girl is not executed but marries a noble captain of the Royal Guard), the same is planned for the future Desyatnikov-Ratmansky’s Les Illusions Perdues.

Best in the World

I found this approach fruitful. As the result we have in the current Le Corsaire a lot of original dances: a full version of Pas d’Esclave (Entrée is twice longer than usual), a full version of Medora’s variation Finesse d’amour in the 1st act, traditional pd2, Le Petit Corsaire, a full version of Le Jardin Anime (to compare, it is 8-9 minutes longer than le Jardin in Munich, where it was reconstructed by Doug Fullington), traditional pd3 of Odalisques, additional variations of Medora and Gulnara in the 3rd act. This is a brilliant collection of real masterpieces by Petipa.

The story is silly? Yes, who doubts? And who cares? Not me - then even stronger is a motivation to enjoy the pure dance. I watched Le Corsaire in many (about 10) versions and think that Bolshoi’s production is the best. The second prize I would give to Sergeyev’s version which was performed at the Bolshoi for a couple of years at the beginning of 90s.

Is Bolshoi’s Le Corsaire free of disadvantages? No, it is not. Is it perfect? No, it is not. Could it be better? Certainly, yes. Let’s wait until the better production will appear elsewhere. And let’s enjoy the dance of the Bolshoi now.

#163 Ilya

Ilya

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 174 posts

Posted 25 June 2009 - 07:39 PM

Mikhail, thank you for your detailed explanations. I really wish that your explanations, along with the English translation of the 1899 libretto and of all the other fascinating 19th-century information which I had never seen prior to following your link (and neither, I am sure, 99.9% of my fellow spectators in DC), were included in the Kennedy Center program. They would have helped prevent much of the confusion/dismay that the production has generated, and would have provided some badly needed context for it.

Some of my confusion still remains, however.

Reading through your Russian-language 1899 libretto, I do see many references in it to Isaac's Jewishness (thankfully, that libretto uses a more polite terminology than its 1858 counterpart!) The Bolshoi retained only one of these references in their domestic program notes for the current production, and zero in the Kennedy Center notes. I am still puzzled by the arbitrariness of these decisions. I could not find in the libretto any references to Lanquedem's big fake nose. That's another decision that someone at the Bolshoi had to make, and that had nothing to do with following the original libretto or choreography. Ditto with the "rear padding" of the "Old Maid" that Natalia mentioned above. Absent any other documentary 19th century sources for these decisions, they seem quite in poor taste to me.

#164 bart

bart

    Diamonds Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 7,320 posts

Posted 25 June 2009 - 07:44 PM

Thanks, Natalia and Hans, for your replies to my questions.

When I began to follow ballet in earnest XXX years ago, I made a list of well-known solo variations (female or male) by ballet. Corsaire had the 2nd greatest number of variations, just behind Sleeping Beauty with all of its fairies. Paquita Grand Pas was also high on the list. So it's inevitable that ballet competitions will include multiple variations from those three ballets.

This is fascinating, Nalalia. And very helpful to me.

It reminds me of I Puritani, which has a plot so stupid it makes me want to pull out my eyes, but some very beautiful music.

I tend to agree. "Silly" comes in a variety of flavors. Puritani is Serious Silly. Corsaire is Silly Lite. Each has elements that make the audiences keep coming back.


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):