rg, do you have any ideas about why (or how) this ballet got dropped so quickly? It seems to have been mostly forgotten when the company considered reviving it only a few years later.
I just checked Duberman's biography of Kirstein. I had not recalled that this was the production that led Eddie Bigelow and Betty Cage to mortgage their country houses, and Kirstein to do the same for his Manhattan home.
Their risk-taking paid off: Figure was widely hailed as a masterwork, with even the notoriously rigorous critic B. H. Haggin praising its "richly varied invention.
Robert Garis, Haggins' friend, has said that this was the ballet that made him aware of Verdy's potential for greatness, something he felt was fulfilled in Liebeslieder Walzer
later that year.
My own memories are dim. At that time, my love of ballet was focused on Balanchine's leotard ballets and I wasn't really interested in what must have struck me (erroneously) as an 18th-century pastiche.
i recall a LOT of dancing, possibly even a little too long and over-rich for my blood. The brilliant colors and rich costumes were especially striking in contrast to the City Center theater itself, a drab, shabby, slightly dingy place in 1960.
The Handel music was probably known by heart by most people in the audience. I have read that Balanchine thought this particular music was glorious for ballet. He recycled some of it in Union Jack. However, the familiarity (over-familiarity?) of the score may have worked against the ballet.
I've often wondered whether Figures
was simply too much
for the audience to absorb ... or want to repeat. This was certainly the feeling that many -- myself included -- experienced several years later with Don Quixote
It's possible that even Balanchine may have lost interest in Figures
and wanted to move on. He created Liebeslieder
very soon afterwards. Requiring fewer resources than Figures
, the leaner Liebeslider
made an even greater impression on stage. For me, to be honest, Lliebeslieder
wiped out memories of any number of impressive ballet productions I had seen before, Figures
You must be right in identifying Carol Sumner in the photo. She did dance in this section, though not at the premiere. Haggins' Ballet Chronicles
has a photo of Villella, Suki Schorer, and Susan Borree in Figures
. Both women dark haired. Sumner was a blond, as is the woman in your photo.