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A curious staging of Giselle Act II at Brodway Theater, 1946involving Balanchine, Alonso and D. Romanoff.


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#1 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 24 June 2011 - 08:58 AM

I just found this little piece of history and thought nice to share it... :)

http://www.balanchin...efs=1&tvs=#refs

#2 Quiggin

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Posted 24 June 2011 - 12:59 PM

There is a reference to this in an ABT brochure "American Ballet Theatre, 1940-1977" I think. Balanchine remembered this "Giselle" embellishment from his childhood in Russia. However, it didn't work dramatically and was soon dropped.

Lifar tried to do a production with so many flowers that the floor became slick and dangerous (:Crisp?). Denby also has an description somewhere of an amusing distribution of flowers.

#3 doug

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Posted 24 June 2011 - 04:36 PM

Laying Giselle on a bed of flowers stage left goes back to the original production of 1841 and is in all the sources Marian Smith and I recently consulted for Giselle in Seattle, including the Russian Stepanov notations. Although this ending wasn't used in Seattle, I think it works brilliantly dramatically because it represents Albrecht bringing Giselle to his side of the stage (stage left) and, in my opinion, Giselle's redemption. Good for Balanchine! (That said, it's probably easier said than done, stagecraft-wise.)

#4 Quiggin

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Posted 24 June 2011 - 07:08 PM

Here's the source of the Balanchine story I remembered. It came from "American Ballet Theatre / text & commentary by Charles Payne ; with essays by Alicia Alonso, Nora Kaye, Erik Bruhn ... [et al.]" which is full of great information about the formation of ABT and ancillary material on New York City Ballet. Here follow two sections on the "new," mid-forties "Giselle" done when Anton Dolin was away dancing for the de Basil company.

choreography (first paragraph paraphrased):

Six choreographers contributed pieces of choreography to the new “Giselle”. Aside from Jean Coralli, the only one to receive credit ... the other five – Dolin, Tudor, Dimitri Romanoff, Boris Romanoff, and George Balanchine – in the future claimed or disclaimed responsibility in various degrees . . .

Together they restored to “Giselle” some features that Dolin had eliminated: Giselle now made her graveyard appearance on the lowering branch of a tree and at the end sank into a bed of flowers Albrecht had placed her. Balanchine and Romanoff also restored some bars of music, inserting choreography that they recalled from the Maryinsky version. Tudor, as artistic regisseur, made additional contributions in the course of rehearsal, but the end product differed in few respects from the other “Giselle” seen in this century.

The Balanchine-Romanoff “innovations” were deleted after a few performances, so that by the time Dolin’s lawyers threatened suit, most of his version had been restored and Ballet Theatre’s lawyers could reply that his name would be put back on the programs provided that he never again complained about changes, inasmuch as Ballet Theatre rejected his claim to proprietary rights in the choreography of “Giselle.” For his part, Balanchine’s remembrance of occassional rehearsals of “Giselle” caused him to inadvertently lead his amanuensis to write in “Ballanchine’s Complete Stories of the Great Ballets,” “I staged a new version of ‘Giselle’ for the Ballet Theatre, October 15, 1946, at the Broadway Theatre . . .”


costumes:

What the public did not know [about the heavy and plodding costumes of the Wilis in comparison to the lightness of those of Giselle and Albrecht] “was that the immovable Eugene Berman had been budged by the irresistable Alicia Alonso and Igor Youskevitch. Their costumes in both acts emerged traditional in design, well-fitted, and executed in featherweight materials with only a suggestion of Berman blue. Berman suffered his final defeat when Youskevitch calmly but firmly refused to appear on stage in the last act in the canary-yellow tights that Berman insisted would have been worn to Giselle’s graveyard.


Here are some of Erik Bruhn's comments about ABT's "Giselle" when he was dancing it in 1955 with Alicia Markova:

At these rehearsals I made a discovery that astonished me. It was not the realization that there was no such thing as an "authentic" "Giselle", or the recognition that Ballet Theatre had adopted no "official" version . . . I was surprised to discover that in two consecutive weeks a ballerina could easily and unconcernedly dance in two different versions offering seeming opposite interpretations.



Apparently when Youskevitch danced it, Markova/Giselle died in her mother's arms, while Albrecht, although remorseful, lets himself be led away to rejoin his fiancee Bathilde — consistent, Bruhn says, with Gautier's instruction, "his head resting on the shoulder of the beautiful Bathilde, who forgives and consoles him."

But when Bruhn danced with Markova, she said she preferred him "to play it as Dolin had, that is for me to continue holding her in my arms until the curtain fell," so that the audience's attention and sympathy would remain with her. He says he later realized that the emphasis depended on which of the two, Giselle or Albrecht, was in control – and that this was still going on in the 70's when Natalia Makarova was dancing in two similarly contrasting interpretations - with Baryshnikov's, in whose arms she died, and Ivan Nagy where she died in the arms of her mother.


Sorry for all the text and if it's been cited before – but I did find all these variations fascinating. And maybe it's best that there is no "true" version (though great that Doug and PNB did find and establish a base point).

#5 doug

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Posted 25 June 2011 - 09:38 PM

Thank you for all this wonderful information! What a story. I'll have to look up this source.

#6 rg

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Posted 26 June 2011 - 09:54 AM

a black-and-white kinescope of ABT's GISELLE gives some sense of the designs from the '46 production, tho' o'course the colors themselves do not show.
the NYPL dance cat. entry on the film reads as follows:
Giselle :1950. 59 min.
Notes: A condensed version, telecast by NBC-TV. Commentator: Ben Grauer.
Choreography: Anton Dolin after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot. Music: Adolphe Adam. Decor: Trew Hocker. Cast: Nora Kaye (Giselle), Igor Youskevitch (Albrecht), Diana Adams (Myrtha), Dmitri Romanoff (Hilarion), Mary Burr (Giselle's Mother), Edward Caton (Duke), Norma Vance (Bathilda), Michael Lland (Wilfred) and artists of Ballet Theatre, including: Lillian Lanese, Virgina Barnes, Ruth Ann Koesun, Barbara Lloyd, Jenny Workman, Irma Grant, Isabel Mirrow, Liane Plane, Dorothy Scott, Charlyne Baker, Lila Popper, Jack Beaber, Kelly Brown, James Hicks, Vernon Lusby.

#7 esperanto

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 07:50 AM

i remember reading that Giselle is laid to rest on flowers and sinks back into her grave.
I saw Bruhn dance , don't remember who was the Giselle, but when she flung the flowers
behind her, Bruhn leaped and caught them "on the fly". Only time I've ever seen that. all other
performances the flowers fall on to the stage and Albrecht picks them up.

#8 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 08:55 AM

i remember reading that Giselle is laid to rest on flowers and sinks back into her grave.
I saw Bruhn dance , don't remember who was the Giselle, but when she flung the flowers
behind her, Bruhn leaped and caught them "on the fly". Only time I've ever seen that. all other
performances the flowers fall on to the stage and Albrecht picks them up.


It's interesting. I had only seen the flowers picking by Albrecht while in the fly in Cuba, and then when I came here I saw the other version of him just picking them from the floor. In Havana the best bailarines would venture to get the lilly mid-air, while others, more cautiously, would have Giselle stand in a long balance in arabesque holding the flower upright for him to leap next to her and get it. About the bed of flowers, that's just the way Alonso still does her Giselle, but the bed of flowers is placed all around her grave, covering a door trap with a device that goes up and down, so the final scene is very effective, for which Giselle really dissapears in the middle of the flowers...actually during the very last second, when only her hands are visible to Albrehcht and the audience, she grabs two lillies and pass them to Albrecht before completely dissapearing on the ground.

#9 Alymer

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 09:19 AM

Anton Dolin once told a good friend of mine that in his day all Albrechts caught the flowers thrown by Giselle in mid-air. Not to do so was considered to be poor form.
Letting Giselle sink into a bed of flowers stage left is intended to show that she is no longer a Wili, Myrtha has no power over her and she can rest quietly - or at least that's what Ninette de Valois told me. Obviously, you have to have traps in the right places!
The most spectacular ending to the ballet I've ever seen was in Dusseldorf where the production had wonderful filmed effects and at the end Giselle simply disappeared into the rising sun.

#10 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 09:38 AM

Once I saw a kinescope of Alonso during the early 50's in the final scene at BT rising on the air. It was filmed so you could see all the activity in the wings on her back, so one could see the cables used to lift her. Anyway...it occurred to me then that there's certainly a difference in the concept of her being elevated to the heavens as a beautiful , forever young spirit in final redemption vs. going back to the earthy ground in body form, hence hinting the idea of body, human matter decomposition in the audience. I liked very much the kinescope clip.


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