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Differences among Petipa ballets

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#16 cargill


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Posted 04 June 2001 - 08:50 AM

Doug, I certainly agree with you about the dangers of imposing grand philosophical schemes on 19th century entertainment, but do you think I am out of line in feeling that the Kirov's new old Sleeping Beauty was making a comment on the importance of mercy versus justice? I thought the extended King's mime scene made his decision to spare the knitting ladies so much more key to the ballet. Carabosse, after all, was only asking for justice, since she was insulted, but the King, who was within his rights to have the knitting ladies hanged, was able to rise above justice to forgive them. And inviting Carabosse to the wedding seemed to reinforce that idea, unlike the more apocoliptic good vs. evil versions based on the Royal Ballet's version.

I hadn't realized that the Maryinsky version was redesigned. I seem to remember some of the original reviews (read in translation only!) were somewhat critical of the costumes. Was it redone when Vzevolovsky left?

And about differences of style within Petipa ballets which have been lost, I think it is too bad that ABT dropped Medora's character solo on the boat. It was done in the Boston production and was just charming, and was a refreching break from all the classical pointwork.

#17 Mel Johnson

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Posted 04 June 2001 - 11:53 PM

Yes, indeed, forgiveness and redemption and grace (the King, after all, is God's anointed and His representative!)is all part of what Beauty is about. And in the original production, the appearance of Carabosse was meant to point this up! She had her invitation, and she was not danced by Enrico Cecchetti, because he was going to be the Bluebird in that scene, but a senior and very glamourous lady of the company. She showed that not only is forgiveness good for the forgiver, but for the forgiven as well!

#18 Dale


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Posted 05 June 2001 - 04:53 AM

This is a wonderful thread.. so much to think about. I have to say I've been haunted by the Kirov's reconstruction of Sleepting Beauty ever since I saw it at the Met two years ago. It was facinating to see a ballet with eyes of a different generation. To see a work as it was before TV, films, videos etc...

Doug, I really enjoyed your article on SB when I read it in Ballet Review.

I can understand why (given the social and political connotations of the time) the mime and certain sumptious portions of Petipas ballets were removed but why were the solos, especially if they were more difficult, changed?

And why did Konstantine Sergeyev change Sleeping Beauty? He was considered a very controlling director, did he just want to put "his" stamp on the rep.?

And Doug, why did Lacotte not use the noted choreography where it could be found and fill in the rest through memories and his own in-the-style of Petipas choreography? There is more to bringing a ballet back to life than costumes and scenery. Did Lacotte do the same thing with Paquita at POB?

James, I think you'll find Zakharova's Aurora interesting. She opened the Kirov's run of the ballet at the Met in 1999 and some of the things she did caused a gasp of astonishment to roll around the theatre -- astonished by the things she could do physically and astonished that she would do it in this ballet. Although I appreciated many aspects of her and Vishneva's perofmances, it was generally considered that Altynai Asylmuratova was all-around the better Aurora. Unfortunately, we did not see Ayupova, who did not perform in New York during the run.

#19 James Wilkie

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Posted 05 June 2001 - 08:23 AM

Dale Thank you for giving me that insite to Zakharovas Aurora. I am looking forward to it. I am not sure as to whether I will like it because of her high extensions and I am not sure as to whether they are suited to the role of Aurora she has an incredible body that can do so much but I have my reservations, we shall what and see. I shall report back later! :)

#20 doug


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Posted 06 June 2001 - 06:15 PM

Cargill, you may well be right about the Kirov's new BEAUTY and its emphasis on mercy in the Act I opening. Or . . . they might simply have wanted to open the cuts in the music, therefore necessitating an extension of the action? Just a thought.

I'd have to check on the Maryinsky redesign of BEAUTY. It may have been redesigned by Korovin when Gorsky revived it at the Maryinsky on Feb 16, 1914. That sounds right to me. This was apparently when the new Lilac Fairy variation was added by Lopukhov.

Mel, I hadn't thought that Sergei Legat did notation work, but I can't rule out the possibility. I've found that most notations made after 1903 are in the hand of Nikolai Sergeyev, with the exception of variations and excerpts that were notated by students.

Dale, I'm not sure why Konstantin Sergeyev changed the classic ballets, but I assume he wanted to put his stamp on productions and perhaps also felt the need to "update" them - ? Most of his BEAUTY changes came in the Prologue, with the choreography for the large corps of Lilac attendants. The fairy variations were retained but became awfully watered down, as well.

Being a purist, I like to see dances in their original form, so far as possible. Obviously bodies and aesthetics change, but it is possible to retain the steps. AGON looks so different now from the filmed version of 1960 but the actual steps have changed very little.

Re: DAUGHTER OF PHARAOH, Lacotte felt it was not possible to revive the ballet from notation and also felt the ballet was too long. Not being a reader of Stepanov notation, a decision to stage the ballet from notation would have greatly altered his plans and contribution to the revival.

The new POB PAQUITA appears to be similar to PHARAOH in this regard, although I have not seen it so I can't make a good judgment here, and I've also not worked much with the PAQUITA notations.

James, I haven't seen Perm but I have heard now and again that their productions of 19th-century Russian ballets have changed less than the Kirov productions.

Moving on to SWAN LAKE, I like the fact that young student girls performed as swans in the first lakeside scene. They remind me of the young girls in MOZARTIANA - not cute, but simply smaller people.

Children were used on a regular basis in 19th-century ballets and I'd love to see a return to that practice. I suppose having a school connected to the professional dance institution is often the deciding factor.

#21 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 07 June 2001 - 01:19 AM

Doug and Dale, the choreography of the revived "Paquita" is indeed a reconstruction 'in the style of' by Lacotte. Except for two variations from Mazilier in the first act and the Petipa additions (the Grand Pas and the pas de trois) the choreography is Lacotte's.

I assume that this quest for the "original" in ballet is mostly a recent one and not shared by everybody.

[ 06-07-2001: Message edited by: Marc Haegeman ]

#22 doug


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Posted 07 June 2001 - 01:43 PM

You're right, Marc, that not everyone shares the desire to see original steps in ballets. Good thing, too, or we wouldn't have a lot of the wonderful productions that are around today. However, the notion of retaining the original steps isn't particularly new. Karsavina was writing about 'lost steps' in "Dancing Times" in the 60s and Arlene Croce figured out early on that dances ascribed to Petipa weren't necessarily by him.

I also think that improved communication (this sort of message board, for example) and greater access to resources have begun to allow these issues to be researched and discussed.

For me, it ultimately comes down to correct attribution. The mid-late 20th century saw an incredible amount of misattribution of choreography to Petipa that was really the work of others (or in such altered form as to be unrecognizable as Petipa's). Other arts genres - music, visual arts - would not tolerate these misattributions, particularly when used for marketing purposes. I don't feel there's anything inherently wrong with changes to old choreography (although I don't understand why a completely new ballet isn't made in the first place), but those changes should be correctly attributed. Using Petipa's name to sell a production that includes very little of his choreography is wrong, in my opinion. I think the US suffered the most here, taking as gospel truth many 'after-Petipa' productions that bore little choreographic resemble to his real work.

This issue is slowly being addressed, as far as I can tell. Attributions are being sorted out. Those working to recover old steps are contributing, as are those choreographing new versions of old ballets and taking responsibility for them. Good things, all around.

#23 Natalia


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Posted 07 June 2001 - 02:43 PM

Doug - I'm very happy to read your final paragraph, regarding the positives in either sort of revival (notation-based or new choreography after the originals, a-la-Lacotte). The mere fact that, in 2001, a full-length PAQUITA & DOCH FARAONA exist is cause for celebration. Sure, we'd love to see original steps. However, since when have any of us seen 'original steps' for NUTCRACKER? Does that make the post-Ivanov NUTCRACKERS...Balanchines, Grigorovich, etc.... bad? Of course not.

I'd be tickled-pink to see *any* revival of the complete music, designs, and stage-action of BARBE-BLEU or KALKABRINO, any time in the future, regardless of steps (notation or not).

What gifts the Bolshoi/POB and Lacotte have given us, with the recent full-length revivals of PAQUITA and DOCH! Unfortunatey, it appears that the Bolshoi has killed DOCH. Perhaps ABT can buy the sets/costumes/musical score from the Bolshoi and you can teach the right steps, Doug? I'm serious. Does anyone have Kevin Mckenzie's e-mail address? Someone should plant the seed.DOCH FARAONA is a beautiful ballet which would nicely meet ABT's full-length-classics mandate. Enough renting of 1960s European productions (ONEGINS, MERRY WIDOWS, etc.). ABT should be reviving the long-lost great classical ballets.

#24 Drew


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Posted 07 June 2001 - 07:35 PM

Lacotte's version of Pharoah's Daughter (or Paquita for that matter) may be wonderful and perhaps Kevin Mckenzie should aquire it -- I have no opinion on this -- but I don't see how it can be called a "revival" or a "classic" when the CHOREOGRAPHY is almost entirely new, albeit "in the manner of" Petipa etc. If ballet is in any respect a serious art form on its own account, the "steps" very much do matter. There was a recent thread discussing an article by Joan Accocella addressing "revivals" of Nijinsky's ballets and discussing this issue...To use Accoccella's example, what would it meant to "revive" Beethoven's Fifth Symphony on the basis of some written descriptions of the premier, some records of the composer's tempi and keys, and maybe some indications of the orchestration but gee...um...er...having almost none of the NOTES. Nineteenth-century choreography may not be as "autonomous" as music (a complex question), but choreography is the substance of balletic art if the art counts for anything substantive at all.

Again, this is not an opinion on the artistic merits of Lacotte's productions -- I haven't seen them, though I remember Jeannie's glowing report on Paquita! -- but how can they be thought of as revivals? I admit, though, that I personally find it pretty questionable for a performing art to try to renew itself by doing pastiche versions of its older repertory. If the occasional production works (as Lacotte's do, in the eyes of many), of course that's great.

On the other hand, if actual notation exists for some lost "classics" and if an artist with enough creativity and musicality to bring notation to life were to appear on the scene to stage those works (big ifs), the possibility for genuinely enriching ballet's heritage would be greater than some pseudo-revival. I don't mean a pious attempt to make everything exactly as it was (impossible anyway and, in my opinion, not even desirable) -- but stagings that would at least try to give one more of a genuine sense of ballet's choreographic heritage.

#25 Juliet


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Posted 07 June 2001 - 08:48 PM

Dear Kevin McK:

Should've spent the money on Pharoah's Daughter rather than the Pied Piper.......
give Cleopatra a run on the Egypt theme....
lots of special effects, (but please spare us any inflatable lotus blossoms!),
kiddie corps,
a whole line of coordinating stuff to make the marketing people go pitter-pat,
you wouldn't have to do any of your own choreography ,
goddesses and divas are a lot more appealing these days than rats.

Think of the possibilities! You could bring it to Washington instead of Nutcracker....we'd love it!

[ 06-07-2001: Message edited by: Juliet ]

#26 Natalia


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Posted 08 June 2001 - 09:06 AM

Ha-ha, Juliet!! Ok, Ok...I was lucky enough to see DOCH FARAONA last year and it *is* a visually stunning production...Cecil B. DeMille -style sets & costumes....of such splendor that any major ballet company would be proud to own them. No, there were no giant lotus flowers...but there is a cute monkey swinging from the trees (the role of the child Balanchine many years ago, by the way)! Anyhow, I would love to see Doug (or another Stepanov-notation translator) set the correct steps on some major ballet troupe. Sets-costumes-music exist, in some Bolshoi attic.

#27 Alexandra


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Posted 08 June 2001 - 09:33 AM

I'm with Doug and Drew on this one. I think Doug hit it with his comments that planting Petipa's name on something is mere marketing, and I agree with Drew that the "notes" (steps) are integral to the work. What goes on in ballet could not go on in music, not merely because music has a more accessible notation, I think, but because the music audience (including critics) is more educated. Dance people -- fans and critics -- get sold the Brooklyn Bridge month after month, it seems.

Ashton's "Fille" is one example of a revival that's rechoreography. It doesn't pretend to be Petipa, although it doesn't pretend to be completely original either. (Much of the "stage business" is from prior productions.) But Ashton was a choreographer, and his ballet could stand on his name. Same with Balanchine's Nutcracker and Coppelia. (I don't know if the Royal still has the Ivanov reconstruction, done with John Wylie, that did use the Stepanov notation in rep or not.)

Otherwise, the interest in these "revivals" is because of the desperate need for new classical choreography. If the same energy were put into that as in the new Faux Classics, I think we'd be better for it, but I think the revivalists aren't skilled enough to do that. Hence they dig up the past. There are ballets from the past that I would adore to see, but not through the imagination of a less-than-master choreographer guessing just which four-note theme Beethoven may have used open that lost symphony -- to go back to Drew's reference to Acocella's article.

#28 Natalia


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Posted 08 June 2001 - 10:26 AM

I totally agree, Alexandra. Perhaps I didn't mention that, for "Doch' and 'Paquita', the programmes (playbills) credit *only* Pierre Lacotte as choreographer. The programmes go on to explain that the ballets are "in the spirit of Petipa" (or something to that effect).

Needless to say, it would be preferable to stage a 'Paquita' or 'Doch' from the notations. However, I (and many others, judging from enthusiastic ovations in Paris & Moscow) thoroughly enjoy the "in the spirit of Petipa-style" productions as beautiful works of art, in and of themselves.

#29 Alexandra


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Posted 08 June 2001 - 12:14 PM

Thanks, Jeannie. I'm sorry if I implied that Lacotte was revising without the proper notation in the program. I didn't mean to. I think we've all acknowledged that the productions are popular, but I do think the point that Doug raised, that it's a question of marketing, is a good one. To coarsen his point a bit (sorry, Doug) we know that champagne sells, but we're not allowed to market ginger ale as champagne. In ballet, that rule doesn't apply.

I do think there is an element of trying to piggyback off Petipa's name. If I, a bad painter (and I am a very bad painter, or at least was the last time I tried it, in third grade) can't sell my portraits either because portraits are out of fashion or they're no good, but can wiggle into a niche because, say, everything Leonardo did burned and now exists only in descriptions by writers, I might not have a market for my own "Girl with a Smile," but would get a lot of attention for: "Revived! Years of painstaking historical research and mixing original Renaissance paints: Leonardo's Mona Smiles Again." Except it wouldn't look like the "Mona Lisa" -- and wouldn't even if I could actually paint.

I don't have any problem with people liking the revivals. (And I don't think anyone was trying to say that.) If I'm given Kool-Aid and I've only had water, I'll love it. If somebody says, "Psst. Have you tried champagne?" I might like it better. I won't know about the champagne if I'm only given the Kool-Aid. Of course, I may well prefer the Kool-Aid, but at least I'll know.

[ 06-08-2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]

#30 Natalia


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Posted 08 June 2001 - 02:02 PM

Alexandra - Here's a teeny-tiny friendly poke :):

The POB 'Paquita' was better than Kool-Aid! It was Spanish Freixenet, compared to Dom Perignon.

Back to main topic...

Actually, I am quite interested in Doug's original theme. What are the best versions of Petipa (or Petipa revisions of Romantic French/earlier Petersburg) ballets out there? How many continue to be danced...in full-length versions or in excerpts?

At last count (& from the top of my head), following are the Petipa ballets that continue to be performed, complete or excerpted. Please add to the list, Doug & others, if you know of other Petipa-era ballets being performed in Russia or elsewhere:

- Paquita
- Venetian Carnival ("Satanella pdd")
- Doch Faraona
- Corsaire
- Little Humpbacked Horse
- Naiad & Fisherman
- Vain Precautions/Fille mal Gardee
- Esmeralda
- Vestalka (I've seen excerpts at Vag.Acad.))
- King Candaule-Diana & Acteon pas
- Don Quixote
- Roxana (excerpts now in Don Q)
- Bayadere
- Markitanka (Vivandiere pas de six)
- Diable a Quatre (excerpts at Vag. Acad)
- Coppelia
- Giselle
- Sylphide (Petipa's revision of Taglioni version)
- Talisman
- Sleeping Beauty
- Nutcracker (Ivanov...but of the petipa Era)
- Swan lake
- Cavalry's Halt
- Kalkabrino (solos performed at Vag. Acad)
- Raymonda
- Harlequinade

At least portions of all of the above are still performed somewhere. What may I be missing? I'm interested in knowing what our travelers/scholars may have seen, that is unusual? Where are these excerpts performed? How accurate are they?

[ 06-08-2001: Message edited by: Jeannie ]

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