What would an "historical version" of Giselle look like?
Posted 07 February 2002 - 11:24 PM
It's been discussed here before that the "Old" Kirov Sleeping Beauty is not 100% authentic, but even given that, there are some very clear things we can extrapolate about the original version. The most striking of them to me was the episodic nature of the work. It's not so much the changes in choreography or performing style I notice, as how the ballet has gradually become more symphonic, even though Act III is a series of set pieces. And this is a change that I don't feel is a deterioration.
If we could take a time machine back to 1841, would we find Giselle was more episodic as well? It's become one of the most powerfully integrated of ballets by now - what would we see different in 1841, both cosmetically or stylistically and also structurally?
Posted 11 February 2002 - 06:28 PM
Experts on the Romantic era would know much more about this than I, but I'd think that there must have been a lot of mime that's been cut over the years to make room for more dancing.
Posted 11 February 2002 - 08:41 PM
Posted 11 February 2002 - 10:43 PM
[ February 11, 2002: Message edited by: aubri ]
Posted 12 February 2002 - 10:46 AM
As is well known, the Peasant Pas de Deux with the ghastly lifts is a later accretion, as is that awful solo on pointe for Giselle , and there is stuff in Albrecht's solos that does not look right, from a Perrot standpoint.
Swathes of the original score have been cut out. Joan Sutherland's husband, Richard Bonynge, a conductor, had a recording out some years back with the full score by Adam.
There was of course far less pointe work.
Serge Lifar is the one who added the camp bit at the beginning of Act One where Albrecht swooshes in his purple cloak, with the bunch of big fake "tasteful" lillies. Kitsch to the Nenth Degree. Lifar to the hilt. Perrot wanted it sober. Well, sober today, it ain't.
Most importantly, Perrot did not see his play as a romantic dream. There was a short final Act, where the Prince returns to reality, and to Bathilde.
Carla Fracci had that reconstructed for a production she did with her husband about fifteen years ago, at one of the Festivals in Italy.
Lastly, but not leastly, one should not forget that Perrot and Bournonville were schoolmates, students of Gaetano Vestris at the Opéra. In 1840 or 41, whenever, Bournonville was in Paris during one of his bouts of exile, and was actually VISITING Perrot during the weeks he was working on Giselle. I find that terribly exciting to think about. it is also the period Bournonville began to compose 'Napoli'.
In other words, if we are to dance it right, 'Giselle' should be danced in the so-called "Bournonville" style, which is actually that of the immortal Gaetano Vestris. Please, no leaning forward, no drooping, no wilting - do not mistake the notoriously feeble level of contemporary draughtsmanship as shewn in the sketches and paintings one sees of dance in the 1840s, for what REALLY went on in the studio and on stage. What those painters meant to shew by having the dancers lean forward, was EPAULEMENT.
[ February 12, 2002: Message edited by: katharine kanter ]
Posted 12 February 2002 - 11:07 AM
Ashton tried to restage "Giselle" with its original ending, Katharine, working with Karsavina. (He also choreographed a new solo for Sibley in the peasant pas de deux.) It didn't go over -- it was thought too old-fashioned. I know the Danish critics, especialy Aschengreen, are always harping on this. They want the old ending. So Peter Schaufuss gave it to them -- I don't think much else in that production was old, nor very solid (Giselle dripped real blood from the sword) but it did have the original ending.
Much of what we have today is really by Petipa -- including the grand pas classique for Myrthe and her chums that starts the second act. What it would have looked like before....more round, less linear, circles rather than diagonals. Myrthe used to dance with Albrecht, really dancing him to death, I've read.
I agree with Katharine on epaulement. What started my love affair with Danish dancing was watching two weeks of Giselle rehearsals there (Kronstam's production) including several rehearsals with Mette-Ida Kirk as Myrthe. Now, she'd been dancing the role for several months, but they were still refining it -- think of that! And two, 30-minute rehearsals concerned nothing but epaulement. I'd never seen a Myrthe with epaulement before -- she flies. It's gorgeous.
Bournonville hated Giselle, for what it's worth. Nasty people say it's because he was jealous of Perrot. Danes say, as though they'd heard it at the company water cooler, "He didn't like it that the hero lied." He also felt it sentimental; it took me a long time to understand what he meant by that. (That a ballet about a peasant girl who dies from a broken heart is sentimental. His great Romantic ballet, Valdemar, has the heroine give up everything to save her country.) I think "Folk Tale" was Bournonville's answer to "Giselle" and can imagine him sitting in the theater, watching, thinking, "But the hero (with whom, of course, he would identify) is lying. What could possibly make a nobleman lie like that? How could he turn his back on his betrothed? I know! What if she's really a troll...."
I must say I can't get angry at Petipa for changing it, even if I would like to see the roundness and softness of the original. Had he not done so, we would not know the ballet.
Posted 12 February 2002 - 11:39 AM
Posted 12 February 2002 - 11:46 AM
There's a film called "Young Catherine" (about Catherine the Great of Russia before she was The Great) that has a wonderful five-minute ballet in it. The theater is lit by hundreds of candles. They blaze -- it's diamond light. The audience is all dressed in icy pastels -- I'm sure this is the designer's idea, but it certainly worked, showing the 18th century ballet in all its optimism during the age of enlightenment (light).
The 19th century, a time of revolt, revolution and death, needed gas light for its ghosts.
I do think they talked all through the performances, though. There was an essay in a book published at the 1992 Bournonville Festival all about rats in the theater. Patrons carried umbrellas and those seated in the orchestra had to fend off the rats during the performance. Ah, the good old days smile.gif
Posted 12 February 2002 - 11:53 AM
The choreography is referred to in the rep but only via stage directions that are included in addition to the mimed conversations.
Posted 12 February 2002 - 12:00 PM
As Aubri wrote, Pierre Lacotte staged a reconstruction for the Ballet de Nancy, but I don't know how authentical it was (Lacotte himself admits that there are quite a lot of things in his "Sylphide" which are not authentical, for example pointes for the corps de ballet, and a trio from "L'Ombre", so perhaps it was the same for his "Giselle").
Doug, what is a "repetiteur" in that context?
That sounds fascinating anyway.
Posted 13 February 2002 - 11:00 PM
Posted 17 February 2002 - 07:08 PM
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