cubanmiamiboy

La Sonnambula is approaching...

54 posts in this topic

OMG...only three days before curtain rises to give way to MCB program II. Once more, I'll face three new to me ballets, two Balanchines and one Tharp-( :dry: )

In this thread I would like to gather ANY info/input you can give me about "La Sonnambula"...anything, from past performers to what to expect, what do you recall...you know, whatever can shred some light on the ballet. I thank you guys for always being so responsive to my inquiries. I will open two other threads for the other two ballets on the program, Western Symphony and the Tharp one...( :dry: )

:flowers:

So..who wants to start...?

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Cristian, this is an old-style Ballet Russe work -- originally called Night Shadow. It's heavy on atmosphere and mystery. To give you an idea of the piece, here's the cast list from the 1946 premiere to which I've added the 1960 NYCB premiere cast (in parenthesis. Finally, I have added the MCB dancers I saw when the company last did this, in March 2005.

The Sleepwalker; Alexandra Danilova (Allegra Kent) -- MCB: Haiyan Wu, Jennifer Kronenberg

The Poet: Erik Bruhn (Nicholas Magallanes) -- MCB: Luis Serrano, Carlos Guerra

The Coquette: Maria Tallchief (Jillana) -- MCB: Patrica Delgado, Callie Manning

The Host, or Baron: Michel Katcharoff (John Taras) -- MCB: Bruce Thornton, Isanusi Garcia-Rodriquez

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if you can locate these vids, the following were filmed and telecast (the second was commercially released).

Balanchine and Cunningham: an evening at American Ballet Theatre / co-produced by WNET/New York and Danmarks Radio ; produced by Judy Kinberg and Thomas Grimm ; directed by Thomas Grimm. 1988.(60 min.)

Host: Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Danced by members of American Ballet Theatre.

Writer, Holly Brubach ; lighting, Jorgen Johannessen, Tim Hunter.

Duets / choreography, Merce Cunningham ; music, John Cage (Improvisation no. 3) ; design, Mark Lancaster ; danced by Melissa Allen, John Gardner, Jennet Zerbe, Clark Tippet, Amy Rose, Robert Hill, Amanda McKerrow, Gil Boggs, Kathleen Moore, Ricardo Bustamente, Christine Spizzo, and Wes Chapman.

La sonnambula / choreography, George Balanchine, staged by John Taras ; music, Vittorio Rieti after themes of Vincenzo Bellini ; scenery, Zack Brown ; costumes, Theoni V. Aldredge ; danced by Leslie Browne (coquette), Michael Owen (baron), Mikhail Baryshnikov (poet), Alessandra Ferri (sleepwalker), Johan Renvall (harlequin), John Gardner, William Stoler, Robert Wallace (acrobats), and others.

Dancing for Mr. B.: Six Balanchine ballerinas [videorecording] / a production of Seahorse Films in association with WNET/New York ; produced and directed by Anne Belle ; co-directed and edited by Deborah Dickson. New York, N.Y. : WNET/Thirteen, c1989.(90 min.)

Notes: Narrator: Marian Seldes.

Executive producer, Jac Venza.

Dance contents (choreography by Balanchine except where noted otherwise). Excerpts from: Serenade / danced by the ensemble -- The nutcracker / danced by Moylan -- Rehearsal (1947) of The four temperaments / Sanguinic danced by Moylan and Fred Danieli ; Choleric danced by Le Clercq -- Firebird: Berceuse and pas de deux / danced by Tallchief and Michael Maule -- Concerto barocco / danced by Diana Adams and Le Clercq -- Scotch symphony / danced by Tallchief, Eglevsky, and male ensemble -- Don Quixote pas de deux / choreography after Marius Petipa ; danced by Tallchief -- Stars and stripes / danced by Hayden -- Agon / danced by Kent and Arthur Mitchell -- Symphony in C / danced by Kent, Conrad Ludlow, and ensemble -- Tchaikovsky pas de deux / danced by Hayden and Edward Villella -- Apollo / danced by Farrell and Peter Martins -- Ballo della regina / danced by Ashley -- Swan lake: Act II / choreography staged by Alexandra Danilova after Lev Ivanov ; danced by Kistler and Cornel Crabtree -- The four temperaments: Sanguinic / danced by Ashley and Daniel Duell -- Rehearsal of La sonnambula, danced by Kistler and Ib Andersen.

additionally, over the years some scans of early stagings of THE NIGHT SHADOW were posted here, variously.

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this was also telecast but not released commercially, to the best of my knowledge:

Confessions of a corner maker 1981. 49 min.

Notes: Telecast on CBS Cable, New York, June 15, 1982. Producer: Catherine Tatge. A production of CBS Cable and the Twyla Tharp Dance Foundation, Inc. Executive producer: Merrill Brockway.

Choreographed, written and directed by Twyla Tharp. Lighting design: Ralph Holmes. Costumes: Santo Loquasto. Performed by members of the company of Twyla Tharp and Dancers.

CONTENTS. - Bach duet. Music: J. S. Bach's Suite no. 3 for orchestra. Performed by Christine Uchida and William Whitener. - Baker's dozen. Music: Willie "The Lion" Smith, adapted by Dick Hyman. Performed by Rose Marie Wright, Tom Rawe, Jennifer Way, Shelley Washington, Christine Uchida, Raymond Kurshals, William Whitener, John Carrafa, John Malashock, Mary Ann Kellogg, Sara Rudner, and Gary Chryst. - Short Stories. (Part 1) Jungleland, music: Bruce Springsteen, performed by Jennifer Way, Tom Rawe, Sara Rudner, and John Malashock; (Part 2) Lover boy, music: Supertramp, performed by Shelley Washington, Raymond Kurshals, William Whitener, John Carrafa, Katie Glasner, and Mary Ann Kellogg.

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A note about La Sonnambula's music: the score was composed by Vittorio Rieti, and is based on themes and arias from a number of Bellini operas (I Capuletti ed i Montecchi, Norma, I Puritani, and La Sonnambula). The plot, however, has absolutely nothing in common with Bellini's opera of the same name. Since I know the operas well, I find it very disconcerting to watch a ballet set to what sounds like a mixtape of Bellini's greatest hits -- minus the words and the voices to boot! It's not all that different from the music for Western Symphony, come to think of it ....

I wish NYCB and / or the Balanchine Trust folks would go back to calling it Night Shadow -- a much more evocative title, IMO, and more in keeping with the ballet's mood. Bellini's opera has a happy ending and there isn't a poet in sight ...

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Christian, you might want to pick up a copy of Nancy Goldner's little book, Balanchine Variations, which has wonderful essays on at 22 Balanchine ballets including La Somnambula. I easily found copies through the Amazon link at the top of the page.

I'm looking forward to your impressions of the ballet once you see it.

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if you can locate these vids, the following were filmed and telecast (the second was commercially released).

Dancing for Mr. B.: Six Balanchine ballerinas [videorecording] / a production of Seahorse Films in association with WNET/New York ; produced and directed by Anne Belle ; co-directed and edited by Deborah Dickson. New York, N.Y. : WNET/Thirteen, c1989.(90 min.)

Notes: Narrator: Marian Seldes.

Executive producer, Jac Venza.

additionally, over the years some scans of early stagings of THE NIGHT SHADOW were posted here, variously.

Just to add to rg's comment, I noticed the other day that the Dancing for Mr. B program is now available from Kultur Video on DVD. It's been out two years but me, wrapped up in my own world, didn't realize that it was commercially available again. So if anyone else was looking for this, you can go through the Amazon window above and order a copy.

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Kathleen...your post was very enlightening. For some reason I always thought that this ballet followed Bellini's opera pattern.

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It's got a story, but it's not like most story ballets. It was the first Balanchine I saw, and to put it mildly, I didn't like it at all, and avoided Balanchine until "Bouree Fantasque" was on a program I wanted to see at ABT, and which hooked me. Years later, I came to like "La Sonnambula" very much. It is not typical of the Balanchine rep, at least that which has survived.

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Here is Jennifer Kronenberg as la sonnambula, from the last time MCB danced the work:

http://3.bp.blogspot...asonnambula.jpg

... and Allegra Kent, NYCB, 1979

http://www.nycballet...Shop/kar-04.jpg

The part requires the ability to communicate a sense of vulnerability but also amazing internal strength.

Kent was the best in my experience: the otherworldliness, the strange ability to feel the presence of obstacles without seeing them, the ability to impersonal gossamer while also being strong enough to move forever on point. Kent was down at MCB to set the ballet last time around; I wonder if she will return (as she did for the reprise of Bugaku.)

Kronenberg is a taller dancer than Kent, with less of the gossamer. But she also combines strength and vulnerability. Haiyan Wu, the other sleepwalker of 2005, is a slight dancer who seemed to lack the stage presence and strength the role requires, most visibly in her obvious struggle to carry the Poet's body in her arms.

And .... piece de resistance ... Danilova and Magallanes, in the original Night Shadow:

http://xoomer.virgil...aMagallanes.jpg

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Christian, you might want to pick up a copy of Nancy Goldner's little book, Balanchine Variations, which has wonderful essays on at 22 Balanchine ballets including La Somnambula. I easily found copies through the Amazon link at the top of the page.

I'm looking forward to your impressions of the ballet once you see it.

A copy is being place in my amazon shopping chart as I'm writing! :thumbsup:

I will definitely be back to report.

bart...thanks for those pics. Kronemberg looks beautiful... :wub:

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Cristian, here's a link to MCB corps member Rebecca King's blog. This post (1/04/2011) discusses preparations for La Sonnambula and includes comments by Allegra Kent:

http://tendusunderap...sonnambula.html

Moderator note: To avoid confusion, here is a reminder about the Ballet Alert rule re linking to blogs. Although we permit linking to blogs of dance professionals, dance critics, and mainstream press, we do not allow linking to fan blogs, however excellent they may be.

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Chrisian, one of the interesting things of the original production (yes, Christian, I saw that) were the elaborate masques and head pieces. They were quite beautiful and added a lot of mystery to the surroundings. Best of all the dancers was Tallchief as the Coquette---never to be equaled in the role. My favorite sonnambula though is Allegra Kent---so out-of-this-world.

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The blog's info is very helpful, bart...thanks for posting it...but I just couldn't help but to notice this...

"So, there always has to be drama right? So cue drama. The Croquette ,jealous of the Poet's interest in the Sleepwalker, informs the Host of the Poet's flirtations throughout the evening".

Oh, I'm so silly... :rofl:

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if you can locate these vids, the following were filmed and telecast (the second was commercially released).

Balanchine and Cunningham: an evening at American Ballet Theatre / co-produced by WNET/New York and Danmarks Radio ; produced by Judy Kinberg and Thomas Grimm ; directed by Thomas Grimm. 1988.(60 min.)

Host: Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Danced by members of American Ballet Theatre.

Writer, Holly Brubach ; lighting, Jorgen Johannessen, Tim Hunter.

Duets / choreography, Merce Cunningham ; music, John Cage (Improvisation no. 3) ; design, Mark Lancaster ; danced by Melissa Allen, John Gardner, Jennet Zerbe, Clark Tippet, Amy Rose, Robert Hill, Amanda McKerrow, Gil Boggs, Kathleen Moore, Ricardo Bustamente, Christine Spizzo, and Wes Chapman.

La sonnambula / choreography, George Balanchine, staged by John Taras ; music, Vittorio Rieti after themes of Vincenzo Bellini ; scenery, Zack Brown ; costumes, Theoni V. Aldredge ; danced by Leslie Browne (coquette), Michael Owen (baron), Mikhail Baryshnikov (poet), Alessandra Ferri (sleepwalker), Johan Renvall (harlequin), John Gardner, William Stoler, Robert Wallace (acrobats), and others.

This is currently up in four parts on Yahoo video, if you want to catch it there before it's taken down: http://video.yahoo.com/watch/3527055/9774301

It also has a young Julie Kent in the 'danse exotique' with Gil Boggs :)

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these may have been scanned for this site previously, but if not, here are 3, undated Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo publicity shots from the early years of THE NIGHT SHADOW, all documenting Dorothea Tannning's original designs.

1] Alexandra Danilova and Frederic Franklin as the Sleepwalker and the Poet

2] Frank Hobi and Ruthanna Boris in the Blackamoors Dance

2] 2 masked ball dancers, as a Fan and Fish - perhaps Frank Hobi and Joy Williams

post-848-085208400 1294274359_thumb.jpg

post-848-040584700 1294274378_thumb.jpg

post-848-073603700 1294274398_thumb.jpg

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Ow wow...those pics are beautiful, rg...! (I specially loved the "fan and fish" duo...) Has the ballet changed a lot in terms of costume design...?

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Thanks for those images, rg! As you can imagine, they're startling in the best way to those of us who saw the ballet from Kent's day at NYCB on.

Cristian, I hope you haven't overlooked the glimpses we get of the ballet in the intro by Villella on this page:

http://www.miamicityballet.org/Sonnambula.php

Here we see their costumes, which are different from but essentially similar to* the ones in the video linked to by Bradan (which seems to have been up for over two years), but more important, of course, we see some of the action.

*Whoops! See below, in Post #34. (The headresses on the blackamoors changed a little bit over the years, but that's not what I meant, incorrectly, as it turns out.)

Edited by Jack Reed

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re: NIGHT SHADOW/SONNAMBULA designs, yes, the changes have been serveral at NYCB and are different variously around the world of ballet companies.

Joy Williams (Brown) told me when i writing an essay for a recent Tanning exhibit here in NYC's Drawing Center, that she recalls so many difficulties w/the Tanning masks that a number fell off in the dress rehearsal and in some cases may not have made it to the stage thereafter.

the following is from the Balanchine Catalogue on line, and cuts off during Balanchine's lifetime, subsequent to the Frances/Levasseur re-design, there were at NYCB two others both by Alain Vaes, the second of which adjusted the first which apparently got damaged in Saratoga soon after it appeared on stage at Lincoln Center:

<<

Note: At a masked ball with entertainments, the Poet pays suit to the Coquette, who is escorted by the Host. After the guests go in to supper an apparition in white enters, a beautiful Sleepwalker. Entranced, the Poet tries to wake her, but she eludes him. The jealous Coquette informs the Host who, enraged, stabs the Poet. The Sleepwalker reappears and bears the Poet's body away. The role of the Poet was choreographed on Frederic Franklin, who could not perform at the premiere owing to injury.

Revisions: The Entertainers' dances (also called DIVERTISSEMENTS) have been changed often by the many companies that have staged the ballet. Examples in three principal companies include: Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas: MOORISH DANCE sometimes substituted for BLACKAMOORS' DANCE; until about 1950, HARLEQUIN DANCE omitted; 1950, SHEPHERDS' DANCE (PASTORALE) changed from two couples to one, HOOP DANCE replaced by ACROBATS' DANCE for three (various combinations of men and women). New York City Ballet: 1960, name changed from Night Shadow to La Sonnambula, HARLEQUIN DANCE restored (for a man instead of a woman; frequently altered for various performers), ACROBATS' DANCE retained from de Cuevas production (HOOP DANCE omitted); 1967, SHEPHERDS' DANCE (PASTORALE) changed from two couples to a pas de trois for a virtuoso man and two women; 1979, BLACKAMOORS' DANCE eliminated. American Ballet Theatre: 1981, HOOP DANCE rechoreographed by John Taras as GYPSY DANCE, BLACKAMOORS' DANCE retitled DANSE EXOTIQUE.

New Productions by Balanchine Companies: 1960, New York City Ballet, with scenery and lighting by Esteban Francés and costumes by André Levasseur.

>>

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A note about La Sonnambula's music: the score was composed by Vittorio Rieti, and is based on themes and arias from a number of Bellini operas (I Capuletti ed i Montecchi, Norma, I Puritani, and La Sonnambula). The plot, however, has absolutely nothing in common with Bellini's opera of the same name. Since I know the operas well, I find it very disconcerting to watch a ballet set to what sounds like a mixtape of Bellini's greatest hits -- minus the words and the voices to boot! It's not all that different from the music for Western Symphony, come to think of it ....

I wish NYCB and / or the Balanchine Trust folks would go back to calling it Night Shadow -- a much more evocative title, IMO, and more in keeping with the ballet's mood. Bellini's opera has a happy ending and there isn't a poet in sight ...

I also find the music a bit unsettling as the ballet unfolds. Like Kathleen , I'm familiar with the Bellini operas that the score is derived from. In a sense it's not too much more than just an arrangement of the Bellini tunes and I'm not crazy over this kind of thing to begin with.

And for people that are familiar with Bellini's opera, I think Night Shadow is a more appropriate name, easier to pronounce (Sonnam-BU-la is a bit tricky) and doesn't lead expectations towards Bellini's operasemiseria plot.

All that said, La Sonnambula/Night Shadow is a slightly quirky but pretty interesting and evocative piece.

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Oh I don't know Richard53dog, once I finally started to pronounce La Sonnambula correctly it made me feel instantly smart and worldly, at least for a few days! It does sort of trip off the tongue in a romantic, mysterious way.

I love the pictures of Danilova as The Sleepwalker. I'm used to seeing only blondes (Kistler, Whelan) dance this role. She seems less ethreal and more sensual. More moody. I like it.

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And here I've been pronouncing it Son-NAM-bu-la all these years!

But I agree whole-heartedly that in effective performance it can be quirky and evocative, to the point of unsettling. As Edwin Denby put it (in November, 1946, reflecting on seeing the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo original the previous season),

The progress of the piece is "romantic" - it is disconcerting, absurd and disproportionate; but its effect when it is over is powerful and exact. It gives you a sense - as Poe does - of losing your bearings, the feeling of an elastic sort of time and a heaving floor. As a friend of mine remarked, "When it's over, you don't know what hit you." Night Shadow bears no resemblance to the recent Balanchine "classic" pieces - no resemblance to their firm dance lilt and their formal transparence; though it is not a mimed piece, its effects are related to mime effects.

That characterizes pretty well the effect on me, watching the performances at NYCB decades ago, with Allegra Kent as the Sleepwalker, Karin von Aroldingen as the Coquette, and Shaun O'Brien as the Baron (I can't see my Poet's face well enough in memory to recognize him, so there must have been a few, probably Nicholas Magallanes and - ah, there he is - definitely Peter Schaufuss among them), and of course the old magician himself on his stool in the (audience left) wing to keep on eye on things. How well and in what ways MCB's performances compare this time I consider to be worth seeing (in the Broward CPA, in my case). I haven't seen the entire video linked to above yet, but so far I don't consider Ferri a very effective Sleepwalker.

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I've only heard it pronounced So-NAM-boo-lah by opera announcers. I must not have been listening carefully enough.

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For me "La Sonnambula"-(in Spanish La Sonambula...same pronunciation)-is easier than "Night Shadow"

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