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Remembering Patricia McBride


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#46 bart

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Posted 29 July 2009 - 05:26 AM

New York City Ballet dancers Helge [sic] Tomasson & Patricia McBride rehearsing for production of "The Afternoon of a Swan" [sic] at the Stravinsky Festival at the New York State Theater.

:D You mean the stuff we find on the internet isn't always accurate? :)

#47 papeetepatrick

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 04:35 PM

Just to mention that I finally looked through 'Writing in the Dark', and I can't find what she said about McBride and Farrell in 'Liebeslieder'. I don't know where I saw it in that case, because I was sure it was here. Well, I wasn't, was I?

#48 bart

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 05:01 PM

One of the comparisons in Writing in the Dark is on pp. 543-55.

There's another an essay, "Love Song Waltzes," in Croce's Sight Lines, dated June 4, 1984. Although she does not compare the dancers here, she puts them in context of the Liebeslieder revival which you attended.

Liebeslieder is the grand apotheosis of the Balanchine pas de deux, and it is fertile territory for any student of Balanchine's view of women. The four women who hold the ballet together are like four planets revolving round each other; the four men ae satellites. Originally, the ballerinas were Diana Adams, Melissa Hayden, Jillana, and Violette Verdy -- a balanced cast that has been miraculously duplicated in Suzanne Farrell, Patricia McBride, Stephanie Saland, and Kyra Nichols.

[ ... ]Out of the whole group, which includes two different [female and] male casts, only Farrell and McBride have danced their roles before. We cannot help seeing them through the lens of Vienna Waltzes, in which Farrell dances the Rosenkavalier sequence and McBride recreates an image of Fanny Elssler. Farrell's Liebeslieder role is much lighter, and she compensates for it by playing young. For McBride, no adjustment is necessary; she has grown back into the role but not past it, and she's as exciting to watch as Farrell.


Earlier in the thread, I think someone referred to another comparison. Given my bad day-to-day memory, it was probably me. :)

In the meantime, I thought the following casting comparisons might be interesting, especially for those who know the original 1960 dancers.

Original Cast ....... First cast 1984 ........... Second cast 1984

Diana Adams ...... Suzanne Farrell ........ Maria Calegari
Melissa Hayden ... Patricia McBride ..... Heather Watts
Jillana ............... Stephanie Saland ..... Judith Fugate
Violette Verdy ..... Kyra Nichols ........... Valentina Kozlova

It's a kind of revelation to think of Farrell and Diana Adams inhabiting the same choreographya quater of a century apart. In fact, Croce refers to the "Adams-Farrell" role later in the essay. I was rather pleased to find McBride associated with Hayden, since both were great favorites of mine. McBride substituted for Hayden in 1961 the season following the premiere. 23 years passed between her first performance in this ballet from the one Croce reviewed in 1984. What a trooper. What a career.


Even though this is off-topic -- it's intriguing to think of Verdy and Nichols in the same breath, as well.

Verdy ... played a gifted self-dramatist, whose emotion is no less real for being insincere. With Nichols, though, the tragedy is real. She sees and accepts her fate. She is gong to die.



#49 dirac

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 05:31 PM

It's a kind of revelation to think of Farrell and Diana Adams inhabiting the same choreography a quater of a century apart.


Farrell danced the role in the sixties, when Adams was phasing herself out of the company - she assumed many of Adams' old roles. Von Aroldingen took over the role in Liebeslieder when Farrell left, and Balanchine didn't revive it when Farrell returned to the company in the seventies.

#50 papeetepatrick

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 05:36 PM

There's another an essay, "Love Song Waltzes," in Croce's Sight Lines, dated June 4, 1984. Although she does not compare the dancers here, she puts them in context of the Liebeslieder revival which you attended.

Vienna Waltzes[/u], in which Farrell dances the Rosenkavalier sequence and McBride recreates an image of Fanny Elssler. Farrell's Liebeslieder role is much lighter, and she compensates for it by playing young. For McBride, no adjustment is necessary; she has grown back into the role but not past it, and she's as exciting to watch as Farrell.


It's a kind of revelation to think of Farrell and Diana Adams inhabiting the same choreographya quater of a century apart. In fact, Croce refers to the "Adams-Farrell" role later in the essay. I was rather pleased to find McBride associated with Hayden, since both were great favorites of mine. McBride substituted for Hayden in 1961 the season following the premiere. 23 years passed between her first performance in this ballet from the one Croce reviewed in 1984. What a trooper. What a career.


Bart--GREAT! That was it. It all comes back that 'playing young' of Farrell and the 'she's as exciting to watch as Farell', which was why the performance seemed to have an extra charge to it; but also good to be clear on the rest of the cast, which I'd gotten confused. I do think I was reading it standing up at the library a few years ago, but it must not have been THIS volume.

What I like is the earlier paragraph, because I saw the original production as well, so that means I saw Verdy twice, Hayden twice, and probably Diana Adams the one time. But I was there primarily because a friend was one of the pianists, and was not aware of what ballet was at all then. Still, I'm glad to know I was in the presence of those dancers more than I knew, and one that I never had thought I saw.

Wait, no. What I saw was in the early 70s, maybe that was the continuation of the 1961 original? I thought that Liebeslieder had been early 70s, but I'm wrong there, it's early 60s. Maybe it's that my friend was just beginning to do the piano, I think there are two, along with Gordon Boelzener. But I really can't remember right now.

#51 Helene

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 06:07 PM

"Liebeslieder Walzer" is performed in the duo piano version. Conductor Robert Irving was one of the pianists in the original season. I'm not sure how long he continued.

On another topic, Patricia McBride is interviewed briefly in the new Verdy DVD. But she is also filmed sitting quietly next to Bonnefoux as he is interviewed, and she looks beautiful.

#52 Farrell Fan

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 07:25 PM

This may have been in '72, but as I recall (and unfortunately I wasn't there) the Stravinsky Festival was wall-to-wall Stravinsky. No fauns -- or even Swans.

The Stravinsky Festival was indeed wall-to-wall Stravinsky, but there was a faun involved -- not Debussy's but a Stravinsky
song suite for mezzo-soprano and orchestra called The Faun and the Shepherdess. Long time fans of the New York City Opera will remember the great mezzo Frances Bible, who performed it. Thanks to the wonderful little book "The Stravinsky Festival of the New York City Ballet. by Nancy Goldner, I can report that it was done on the third evening of the Festival, June 21, 1972. I may have been there but doubt I would have remembered it without this indispensable book.

#53 Victoria Page

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Posted 23 August 2009 - 03:21 PM

I'm a little surprised that nobody else has mentioned this particular role, so I will. As it has been more than twenty years (yikes!), my memory may well be faulty so please everyone feel free to correct!
The role I remember Patricia McBride dancing in almost as vividly as Tchaikovsky PDD is her role as the Pearly Queen. Obviously it's not her greatest role, but she so conveyed a sense of "isn't this great fun to dance" to the audience that I can still visualize it well today. Partially that was the result of her wonderful interaction with and warmth toward whoever her partner was that night (so well described by others above) but partially it was her great big smile, which on others might appear rather un-ballerina-like but on her never did. I used to sit toward the front of the orchestra and remember marveling at how heavy that costume must have been because you could hear it clacking whenever she turned sharply. She never - at least the nights I was there - seemed the least affected or slowed down by it, much less thrown off by the weight of it. It was perhaps that sense of centeredness that, as much as her joy in dancing, I remember best.

#54 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 23 August 2009 - 03:28 PM

And BTW today is her birthday!

#55 kfw

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Posted 23 August 2009 - 04:59 PM

The role I remember Patricia McBride dancing in almost as vividly as Tchaikovsky PDD is her role as the Pearly Queen.

Thanks for noting that, Victoria. I was fortunate to see her dance that role once in 1979, with Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, whom I guess she had by then married. As you said, she was warm and vivacious -- and unforgettable.

#56 Farrell Fan

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Posted 23 August 2009 - 06:03 PM

The Pearly Queen was definitely one of MacBride's most memorable roles, and she performed a bump and grind in it unmatched by any of her successors.

#57 Helene

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Posted 23 August 2009 - 06:17 PM

McBride was delightful as Pearly Queen. I was lucky to have seen her do the role four times in the 80's, each with Bart Cook.

#58 Jack Reed

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Posted 23 August 2009 - 07:18 PM

Those who didn't get a chance to see the Costermonger pas de deux onstage with McBride and Cook (as Pearly Queen and King) might watch out for it in a video archive, as it was broadcast in a PBS program called "Gala of Stars 1983" in March of that year.

I don't know -- I doubt, actually, that it's the role she'd most like to be remembered for, but she did always seem genuinely to enjoy the fun of it, not least when the donkey which pulled the cart with them (and two little girls) in it out on the apron ad libbed.

One evening this only consisted in taking the cart off into the (audience) left wing ahead of cue, leaving the dancers to run off waving to us, but another time -- well, McBride improvised some large melodrama expressing distress and disgust for a few moments, completely in character, until Peter Martins, already suited up in his bell-bottom whites for Royal Navy to follow, emerged from the right wing with a broom and dustpan to clean up the mess while we howled and roared and clapped. What had "our" company got itself into this time? But they showed themselves the equal of anything.

(Remembering this reminds me how Croce had concluded her review of Union jack, unusually, a long precis, with the words, "Union Jack is like that -- grand, foolish, and full of beans." An understatement on these occasions.)

But Rubies and Scotch were among the "big" roles that I remember her in most fondly. Just these three roles mark an enormous range, and she made them complete.

#59 papeetepatrick

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Posted 23 August 2009 - 07:54 PM

Love the story, Jack.

What disturbs me is that I realize I think I never saw 'Umion Jack'! It's like hearing about it all the time was enough, but even worse than that, I might have seen it and forgotten it (but is that possible?)

#60 carbro

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Posted 23 August 2009 - 08:11 PM

Possible, of course, but not likely. I can understand someone forgetting one of the three sections if s/he hadn't seen it often, but I think Balanchine here provided something for every taste -- or nearly so.


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