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Peasant pas or not?


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#1 BalletNut

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Posted 25 April 2001 - 05:56 PM

Many productions of Giselle include a peasant pas de deux as a divertissement in Act 1. Some, like SFB, have increased the number of dancers in it to make a pas de cinq, for instance. Others leave it out altogether, in the interest of advancing the plot. I personally think that it is a charming piece of choreography when done well. My question is, why is it so much a part of the ballet that one notices when it isn't there? Are the peasants Giselle's friends? Is the pas de deux meant as an entertainment for Bathilde and the nobles as well as for us, the audience? Is it just to give talented soloists an opportunity to perform? What's the point?

[ 04-25-2001: Message edited by: BalletNut ]

#2 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 25 April 2001 - 06:09 PM

All of the above, BalletNut! They are Giselle's friends, it is to entertain the nobles as well as the audience, and it is an opportunity to give talented soloists some good classical dancing! It is also, with the exception of Giselle's solo variation, really the only major section of classical dancing in the first act, so, if not there, it is missed.

In the Nat'l. Ballet of Canada production they made it a pas de quatre, which was quite nice, actually. Since there are two female and two male variations, that works out rather well.

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 25 April 2001 - 06:42 PM

I once took the 12-year-old son of a friend to see "Giselle." It was his first ballet. I'd given him the outline of the story. He was following it. Then they started the ppd and he grabbed his program and bent over, holding it to the light that the Kennedy Center seats have on their sides. An instinctive reaction, I thought, to the "what does this have to do with the story????"

I also think it detracts from the classical dancing that's in the act (there isn't anything big and showy besides the solo Victoria mentioned, which is a much latter addition by Petipa, but both Albrecht and Giselle dance in the first act). I think the lore is that, at the premiere, two of the Opera's leading dancers pressed for part of the action, as it were. I've read that version, at any rate; don't know if it's true.

In ABT's current production, they have a little bit of mime that helps set it up -- Giselle is very eager to dance for Bathilde, but her mother holds her back and gestures to her two friends, who do the honors in her stead. In that production, and the old David Blair one, the ppd dancers are introduced at the beginning, the first time the villagers come in. The two who will dance the pas de deux sit on the bench for an instant; my guess is this is a later addition.

I've enjoyed performances of the ppd -- I loved Marianna Tcherkassky in it -- but when it's over, I'm always jarred back to the story.

#4 Andrei

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Posted 25 April 2001 - 10:54 PM

One more reason. The auditorium has to have some breath before a dramatic conclusion, forget for a second about the plot, so the culmination will take us ungard.

#5 Mel Johnson

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Posted 26 April 2001 - 05:45 AM

A first-class example of an original meaning of "divertissement" - "amusement" - "to lead on with the purpose of diverting the attention from the primary activity". Queen Victoria was famous for having used "We are not amused", allegedly upon finding herself being parodied by a gentleman of the court, but further research uncovers that she was using the phrase as a sort of catch-all in Privy Council meetings dating back into the 1840s as a sort of call to order when somebody tried to change the subject under discussion, i.e., "I want to stay on topic, keep to the point!" :)

Whatever primary evidence may emerge about the nature of Nathalie Fitzjames and her "first-refusal contract", at least the use of a divertissement for the purpose of adding a breather before giving the audience a little jar with "hey! Pay attention! Here goes the story again!" is perfectly in tune with its time.

#6 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 26 April 2001 - 06:20 AM

We shouldn't forget that the original choregraphy included a second pas de deux for Giselle and Albrecht/Loys (the "pas des vendanges") in the 1st Act, replaced by Petipa with the famous variation and now partly lost (?). It would be interesting to know how this one fitted in the story.

#7 Alexandra

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Posted 26 April 2001 - 10:46 AM

Marc, Mary Skeaping reconstructed that pas de deux -- which means, I'm sure, that it was at least half-imagined -- for her "back to the sources" production. I have only a vasgue memory of it, but I think it happened during the crowning-Giselle-queen-of-the-harvest segment, when the peasants asked both of them to dance.

It's odd that that one got dropped, isn't it? Although in the 19th century, one often reads complaints that there was "too much dancing" in this or that ballet.

#8 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 26 April 2001 - 11:44 AM

Thanks, Alexandra. According to the complete score a variation of that lost pas de deux is now danced by Albrecht in the beginning of the ballet (after the waltz). The pas de deux comes indeed right after Giselle has been crowned queen of the harvest and before the galop.

#9 Alexandra

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Posted 26 April 2001 - 12:17 PM

I think having Albrecht and Giselle dance a pas de deux (rather than the peasant pas de deux) would address Andrei's very good point that it's good to have a diversion for the audience so that the drama of the ending is a real shock, as well as the point several have made that the pdd is jarring. I think it's jarring, not because it's dancing as much (now that I think about it) that we don't know the people. Somehow, in the third act of Napoli, the tarantella dancers fit in because we know it's a wedding and we can presume they're guests. In "Giselle," though, we don't really know it's a harvest festival until the harvest festival bursts upon us, and in many productions, ppd happens before that moment.

#10 BalletNut

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Posted 26 April 2001 - 03:26 PM

Tomasson actually includes that pas de deux for Giselle and Albrecht in his production for SF ballet, and the group dance right before the mad scene serves as its coda.

#11 diane

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Posted 25 October 2004 - 12:01 PM

Resurecting a very old thread here...... :(

Does anyone know of a recording which includes the peasant pas de deux?
(I mean a CD or some other audio recording, not a video or DVD; it is the music I want)

Thanks.

-d-

#12 BalletNut

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Posted 25 October 2004 - 05:15 PM

Yes, there is, I believe it is on the Royal Orchestra Covent Garden recording, conducted by Richard Bonynge. Forgot what label it is, don't know if it is still in print, but it comes on 2 CDs. Hope that helps.

#13 rg

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Posted 25 October 2004 - 05:39 PM

the 2-CD NAXOS recording of GISELLE (#8.550755-6) conducted by Andrew Mogrelia is complete and includes on CD 1 the complete PAS DE DEUX DES JEUNES PAYSANS (Burgmuller).
as you may know this is a budget label so if it's still in print it shouldn't be too expensive.
there are doubtless other recordings which others can recommend and specify.

#14 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 26 October 2004 - 07:17 AM

On the Philips/Mercury label, Fistoulari's complete recording of "Giselle" has the Peasant pas de deux as well. And yes, as BalletNut mentioned, Bonynge on Decca too.

#15 diane

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Posted 26 October 2004 - 10:05 PM

:) :wink: Thank you very much!!

-d-


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