Question: was Copenhagen as isolated and provincial as we tend to think it was? Weren't there important French and Italian influences in his background and early life?
Also, royal court -- even a small and relatively unpretentious one -- must have had some sort of magnetic effect on wandering artists and connoisseurs of ballet and theater, of which there were many in Europe at the time.
Or, is Bournonville one of those rare people who, having been given a good start through his family connections, goes on to work and create more or less in isolation -- sui generis -- in spite of or maybe even because of the placidity and provincialism of his environment? Perhaps he was one of those creators who seem to require peace, quiet, stability, and support -- rather than stimulation, variety, and risk.
To answer the first part of you question, I think possibly there is not much in translation to form an opinion about the cultural life of the first half of the 19th century. Copenhagen was at the centre of an important trading nation at the time of Auguste Bournonville and Norway was part of its Kingdom as were/had been parts of Germany, East Africa and the West Indies.
It is difficult for very many people to appreciate the amount of Handel operas and music that has been played of late as they find it difficult to engage with the style. If you can't engage with Bournonvilles ballets it is not that they are weak or unsophisticated, I would suggest it is the inability to make the journey to meet the genre.
Auguste Bournonville’s ballets are exceptionally sophisticated (not as described elsewhere) as was the choreographers background and as indeed was the great man was himself.
The father of Auguste was the French born Antoine who had been born into a theatrical family who had studied with one of the greatest names of ballet history Jean Georges Noverre who had performed at Fontainebleau and has been called the creator of ballet d’action and world famous for his” Les Lettres sur La Danse et sur Les Ballets”.
It was from this kind of background Antoine (described as beautiful as Apollo) was confirmed when he was appointed to premier danseur at the Royal Swedish Opera a post he would depart from following the assassination of Gustav III.
From Sweden Auguste gained employment with the Royal Danish Ballet in Copenhagen. Here he was to dance in seminal works by Vincenzo Galeotti, (a pupil of Gasparo Angiolini) who had collaborated with Gluck at the Vienna Court theatre and spent some time as balletmaster at the St,Petersburg Imperial Theatres.
Auguste was not just a scion of ballet history royal blood he was a scion of imperial ballet ballet history blood.
Auguste Bournonville path to glory was not too dissimilar to Balanchine. Both, for dancer choreographers, had a privileged social backgrounds compared to most dancers. Both had a privileged artistic and historical background, Balanchine’s musical training by descent via Tchaikovsky, goes back to the Johannes Ockeghem in the 15th century.
Bournonville’s ballets capture commonplace characters with a vivid reality in narrative works that achieve an economy of expression which is highly sophisticated. That is to say his characters are as
real as those that appearing in Shakespeare plays.
It takes the admiration of a genre, to be able to rise above critical reception of Bournonville’s sophistication which has not been tainted
by familiarity and study of 20th century aesthetics.
There has recently been a Bournonville revival in Copenhagen which although it is a new work look at, we are still far short of knowing a quarter of this mans ouevre to fully judge him. We measure Petipa’s
unseen works because studies in English have been available for more than fifty years. This is not entirely the case of Bournonville.
Galeotti was the starting point for Bournonville, as Petipa (who was musically trained) was for Balanchine.
Ashton came from a distinctly upper middle class background and although not having the advantage of the Imperial School had distinguished Russian teachers and studied choreography with Massine and Nijinska.
The answer Bart, is that the toffs have it. (TFIC)
Was Bournonville a victim of the dramatic social, industrial and technical changes of the late 19th century and early 20th century as happened to Petipa?
Has anyone counted recently the number of works by Balanchine that have not been revived? Were they just plain bad or unsophisticated?
I have avoided dates as I am not at home to confirm them and have late made a correction thanks to Alexandra spotting an error in confusing names of Antoine and August. (ADDED) Truly I do know the difference.