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Balanchine's Pulcinella


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#1 bart

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Posted 22 November 2009 - 05:44 PM

A coincidence -- watching Miami's Symphony in three Movements this weekend and, later, a clip of Basler Ballett's version of Pulcinella -- got me thinking about the Stravinsky Festival and specifically about the Balanchine-Robbins Pulcinella.

My memories are hazy and fragmented -- impression of a dance number for Violette Verdy; Edward Villella doing physical comedy in mask and baggy commedia dell'arte clown suit; a stage packed with people (not all of them dancing), costumes, and scenery.

Taper's biography of Balanchine includes several wonderful rehearsal photos. (If you wish to see Balanchine demostrating to Verdy a graceful way to kick a ballerina on the derriere, please turn to page 300. :) )

Did anyone here see this production back in 1972? If so, what did you think? If not, it would still be most interesting to hear what you know about it. Was it ever revived? If not, why not?

#2 rg

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Posted 22 November 2009 - 06:38 PM

i saw it.
it was filmed w/ villella and sumner (in verdy's role) but no Balanchine and Robbins in the film, if mem. serves.
don't think it was ever revived.
Villella was a real scamp of a character and performer throughout.
it was his ballet, more or less.
there were numerous/multiple pulcinellos (children) in it too.
there was role for a buxom woman played by a man.
there was mad meal scene with a pot of string representing tangles of spaghetti.
there was coffin w/ skeleton flying up and out of it.
the Eugene Berman decor was colorful in its Bermanesque way. and prettily painted.
it was filmed in the '73 batch of Berlin films. it was shown on tv in europed eventually but i don't think it was aired here.
there were clips on a bbc? stravinsky docu.

#3 Farrell Fan

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Posted 22 November 2009 - 07:52 PM

I saw it too and I still have a vivid memory of Balanchine and Robbins doing a beggars' dance together, wearing raggedy clothes and sneakers. rg has done his usual superlative job of recollecting some of the other things that happened. :)

#4 bart

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Posted 22 November 2009 - 08:00 PM

There's a great picture of Balanchine and Robbins in costume in Taper. But with those commedia dell'arte masks, I'm sure I never even knew who they were. :)

#5 Jack Reed

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Posted 07 February 2010 - 01:54 PM

There may be another film of part of it, a rehearsal I walked into one afternoon at Saratoga. I don't remember the date, but maybe I can find it if anyone wants it.

Anyway, I had visited the box office at the SPAC (Saratoga Performing Arts Center) and heard the music coming over the trees from the pavilion and decided to see what was going on, unless or until somebody said, "Stop!"

Nobody did, and I walked into the nearly empty pavilion and took an ideal seat; there were a few people seated in the first rows, and behind me a large camera was set up on a robust tripod, too large for a typical still camera, so I think it was a movie camera. The only onstage bit I remember now is a small character, a child I think, making their way from our left to right downstage, with John Clifford closing in in a menacing way on an arc from upstage, and then Mr. B. motioning him out of the way to take his place. The action repeated with Mr. B. coming up on the "victim" as I think the small figure was -- the stage action and body language told me that -- and closing the distance too fast, and so he raised his hand alongside his face and called out, "Faster!" to the small figure, who hastened on.

I think I may have seen the finished production in the theatre (the New York State Theatre, if memory serves) once or twice, but I didn't get my head around it and can scarcely remember anything about that, except that Croce, in the course of her complaints about it, didn't like Berman's decor -- "full of rafters and laundry" -- seemed to have that right, too. (Berman's costumes and decor for Danses Concertantes were superb, IMO.) The ballet didn't last long, I believe.

Sorry to ramble after rg's succinct evocations, but I did want to testify about the possibility of that film's existence.


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