cubanmiamiboy

Reconstructions: Pros, Cons, Why, Impacts

72 posts in this topic

This topic has so many facets. It's fun watching it develop. Thanks, Eric, for taking us beyond Giselle and even beyond ballet. I especially appreciate your comments as to design.

There also was a snobbish belief that the designs for these ballets were done by hacks, with no thought to the aethetics of the actual ballet. But, for me anyway, the reconstructions have largely proven this untrue. I think people were too used to those faded, black and white posed photographs we have--I remember reading with Sleeping Beauty many were shocked at how gorgeously colourful the ballet was, and how perfect the design looked (although I do know many felt it heavy as well--to which I'd ask if they ever saw Nureyev's version...). The 1890 production probably looked dated to Russians by the time it was redesigned, I believe, around 1920, the same way something from 20 years ago would to us, but 100 years later, going back to that original source no longer feels dated, at least to me.
I have to admit that when I have looked at posed and faded photographs from the 19th century, or of dancers in their costumes like the Marie Petipa photo, linked by leonid, I've found them interesting as history but not beautiful. Maybe I'm too stuck in the relative sleekness and simplicity of modernism.

But watching something like the reconstructed Sleeping Beauty, I had an entirely different reaction. I imagined this would come across as impossibly fussy, over-dressed, cluttered with design elements. Instead, these works seemed rich, colorful, vibrant, alive. Modern lighting and fabric technology may have something to do with this, but on the issue of design. I have become a convert. You write elsewhere of these ballets as collaborations in terms of choreographer and composer. Obviously those responsible for the "look" of the piece were important collaborators as well, and essential to the success of the work. And this is pre-Diaghilev, pre-Bakst.

Much musical entertainment today -- music videos, Cirque de Solel extravaganzas, the new type of Hollywood musical, etc. -- seems obsessed with richness of color, light, detailing, pageantry. Bodies move in all directions, becoming elements of a constantly changing picture. In this kind of theatrical world, where the pursuit of the exotic becomes the new norm, reconstructions of the 19th century ballets don't seem out of place,

As for the future, I suspect that historical reconstructions of much loved works like Giselle and Sleeping Beauty will fade away, to be revived only for special occasions and specialist audiences. Of course there is always the chance that they will leave behind certain elements to be added to or imposed upon the contemporary versions. Our emotional and financial investment in this works is already very strong.

Unfamiliar works -- like Atys as revived recently by Les Arts Florissants, or rarely produced ballets like Raymonda -- do have a chance of survival or at least playing a role in re-defining our idea of what these works should look like.

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I have found the picture on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Petipa

Which is odd because contemporaries state she never danced fully en pointe.

And that photo makes it pretty clear (to me) that it's meant to be for the Forest scene--even though it appears to be a posed shot, I doubt they'd put her in front of the wrong set...

Mel Johnson, I know there's always been some controversy about the Lilac Fairy's Prologue variation (I *believe* the excuse was that Marie was given a deliberately too easy variation, with the justification for using a later version being that any other dancer would have done it that way--but I admit to finding the whole thing confusing). From what you posted, you mean for a while in the 1970s the Kirov/K Sergeyev version added a fairy, and had the Lilac Ferry not in toe shoes? How long did this last? I know by the 1983 (?) Kolpokova recording, it's back to six fairies, with Lilac in toe shoes throughout the ballet. Fascinating stuff, and your post raises the very valid point that it's often hard to really know what's authentic, particularly with something as subjective as dance. I think the best reconstructions give us the opportunity to get a sense of what the feel and intention of the original production was, but it's impossible to truly consider them "authentic", and that's OK with me, if the research was properly done.

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I hadn't followed along with all of the WSS discussion, but I must say Sondheim's observation doesn't surprise me. PNB has Robbins' West Side Story Suite in its repertory, and so I've seen it several times in the last couple years -- I think that Robbins did himself a disservice by ending the work with the "Somewhere" number, which has a very bucolic, deMille-like feeling. It's very pretty, but it's not West Side Story.

Right, I forgot that the Suite version ends before the Nightmare as well--I believe Laurents may have even used that as justification for cutting it in his production (the Robbins estate is VERY firm about not cutting his choreography in WSS, Gypsy and Fiddler on the Roof, which has caused some trouble when directors want to do a drastically different version of, say, Fiddler and still have to shoe horn Robbins' choreography into their concept, like with the last, unsuccessful, minamalist Broadway revival).

You nailed it perfectly--tit drastically changes the whole tone of WSS, even just of the Somewhere dream ballet, to end on a note of uplift, and it feels dishonest with what WSS is about, to me.

I'll be very interested in seeing an Oklahoma with recisions -- there's a production currently on tour coming to Seattle where it will have new choreography by Donald Byrd, whose work is generally quite intense and harsh. It should make for some fascinating comparisons!

I try to take the Clipper to Seattle as much as I can afford for theatre and ballet, but hadn't heard of this. I'll be curious to hear about the choreography-the Dream Ballet in particular. I did see the Trevor Nunn revival back in London around 1999 (with Hugh Jackman), which had brand new Susan Stroman choreography. I like Stroman, though she's certainly no DeMille, but I admit I did miss that distinctive Demille vocaublary, although Stroman did an adequate job (the production was filmed, and I believe her Dream Ballet is on youtube). At least with Oklahoma we are lucky that DeMille personally staged nearly all of her original choreography for the film version (we were less lucky with her other major Rodgers and Hammerstein show, Carousel, which she wasn't allowed to supervise due to how difficult she had been on the Oklahoma set, and so it has pretty mediocre choreography, except for the dDream Ballet in that show is fairly close to her original--so close that apparently she sued, and rightfully so).

Tangentially, I think you make a very interesting point about the relationship between Carabosse and the Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty. Pointe or no pointe, I've seen it set up where the hierarchy is very clear -- like Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West -- they are obviously on a different level from the rest of the fairy ranks -- the conflict between the two of them is about a fundamental conflict between good and evil, rather than battling personalities.

I completely agree! I think some productions really do lose this--even common modern production details like having the Prince kill her before the kiss scene, kind of negate this element. And all you have to do is go and listen to the music--the two key themes throughout, and spelled out in the Overture, are Carabosse's and Lilac's--not Aurora's and Desire's...

(It's a bit like in Raymonda how there are several spots where the White Lady's leitmotiv pops into the score, and it personally kinda drives me crazy when nothing in the action accompanies that... But I guess many people wouldn't notice).

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This topic has so many facets. It's fun watching it develop. Thanks, Eric, for taking us beyond Giselle and even beyond ballet. I especially appreciate your comments as to design.

I love that there's a venue to discuss this kind of thing. I remember as a kid falling for ballet in the late 80s, I would try to find everything I could about the original productions of many of these ballets, and come up with scattered articles, booklets, and photographs--with descriptions that nearly always contradicted each other. And I have many friends and family members who love ballet, but frankly, questions of authenticity have no importance to them as long as they enjoyed the dancing and performance (which is probably true of most balletgoers, understandably). I've always had a fascination with theatre design, and it does seem to sometimes get forgotten when discussing ballet productions (unless it's particularly awful or ill suited, and distracts from the performance).

But watching something like the reconstructed Sleeping Beauty, I had an entirely different reaction. I imagined this would come across as impossibly fussy, over-dressed, cluttered with design elements. Instead, these works seemed rich, colorful, vibrant, alive. Modern lighting and fabric technology may have something to do with this, but on the issue of design. I have become a convert. You write elsewhere of these ballets as collaborations in terms of choreographer and composer. Obviously those responsible for the "look" of the piece were important collaborators as well, and essential to the success of the work. And this is pre-Diaghilev, pre-Bakst.

Good point! For a long time, the general impression was that this never existed until Diaghilev, I'm sure many people still think this. It's true that he probably took it to a higher level--hiring famous artists, etc--but it's obvious that a lot of thought from the start went into the design. I know that for the ballets Vsevolozhsky actually designed the costumes for (which include Beauty, Raymonda, and I think Nutcracker and the '95 Swan Lake, but am not sure), he did so as early as when the ballet would be comissioned and a libretto worked out.

And speaking of Diaghilev, it was Benois who wrote rapturously about how Sleeping Beauty re-awakened his love for ballet, partly because he saw every element, includig the designs, as a complete whole for the first time, a ballet "Gesamtkunstwerk". So there are several direct connections there.

I admit, I also always thought that one reason these ballets would never have restored productions was that to a modern eye, judging from the photographs, it would look fussy, over-dressed and cluttered, as you say. Also, audiences would have to get used to longer tutus, even more wigs than the Soviets used (;)), those 'modesty shorts" for the men, etc. But when you actually see the results, for the most part the design simply *works*.

Much musical entertainment today -- music videos, Cirque de Solel extravaganzas, the new type of Hollywood musical, etc. -- seems obsessed with richness of color, light, detailing, pageantry. Bodies move in all directions, becoming elements of a constantly changing picture. In this kind of theatrical world, where the pursuit of the exotic becomes the new norm, reconstructions of the 19th century ballets don't seem out of place,

That's a good point I hadn't thought of. It's true the pendulum of what people like tends to swing one way or the other, and currently I think many audiences going to the ballet appreciate, and maybe even expect, the spectacle--which for a while seemed to be the opposite where people felt it took away from the purity of dance. Probably another reason why story ballets, even brand new ones, seem to currently have by fair the most mainstream appeal. For non regular ballet goers, it's so expensive to go to a major production nowadays anyway, that, for good and bad, it might be a bit like the Megamusical trend--people want to see some of their money up on the stage.

As for the future, I suspect that historical reconstructions of much loved works like Giselle and Sleeping Beauty will fade away, to be revived only for special occasions and specialist audiences. Of course there is always the chance that they will leave behind certain elements to be added to or imposed upon the contemporary versions. Our emotional and financial investment in this works is already very strong.

Unfamiliar works -- like Atys as revived recently by Les Arts Florissants, or rarely produced ballets like Raymonda -- do have a chance of survival or at least playing a role in re-defining our idea of what these works should look like.

(I would have killed to be able to see that revival of Atys). I think you're right. These things go in trends, and to repeat myself, the pendulum will probably swing back again. But I suspect a few companies will keep them in their repertoire, if only to pull them out occasionally for special occasions. (This is why I hope the rumours of Raymonda being filmed are true--and I'm still greatly annoyed that we never got a commercial release of the three Vikharev/Mariinsky Petipa reconstructions, back when they were briefly being regularly performed). I hadn't been to the Mariinsky's website in about a year, and they DO still list The Awakening of Flora and Sleeping Beauty in their repertoire (along with the Sergeyev Beauty which they seem to be doing exclusively now), so that gives me a tiny glimmer of hope--Flora certainly would be a good vehicle to show off students. On the other hand, both versionfs of la Bayadere used to be listed, but the 1890's reconstruction has been now removed... No big surprise I suppose (I know the standard version uses many of the same set designs).

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Mel Johnson, I know there's always been some controversy about the Lilac Fairy's Prologue variation (I *believe* the excuse was that Marie was given a deliberately too easy variation, with the justification for using a later version being that any other dancer would have done it that way--but I admit to finding the whole thing confusing). From what you posted, you mean for a while in the 1970s the Kirov/K Sergeyev version added a fairy, and had the Lilac Ferry not in toe shoes? How long did this last? I know by the 1983 (?) Kolpokova recording, it's back to six fairies, with Lilac in toe shoes throughout the ballet. Fascinating stuff, and your post raises the very valid point that it's often hard to really know what's authentic, particularly with something as subjective as dance. I think the best reconstructions give us the opportunity to get a sense of what the feel and intention of the original production was, but it's impossible to truly consider them "authentic", and that's OK with me, if the research was properly done.

Most of it was happening while I was in the US Air Force, 1970-74. By the time I got out and was able to go to ballets again, the Kirov wasn't touring the US, and I was already transitioning into a museum career. In 1976, I was able to get a look at the N. Sergeyev notations as they were being processed through the Libraries at Harvard, and I was struck by the odd variation I was able to dope out from what I could decipher from the Stepanov notation, which is actually not that counterintuitive, but quirky. News from Leningrad was filtering back that in response to the discovery of the Marussia Petipa photo, that the Prologue to the K. Sergeyev Beauty had been modified to add a NEW fairy - whose supposed name escapes me right now - and that Lilac was relegated to a new role, but still in the stilted post-Soviet manner of deeply compromised mime. The chatter out of Russia was that the overall effect was not much liked, and the interpolations were soon after eliminated. I didn't see the production, but I was around to earwitness the grumblings surrounding it. You hear a lot of interesting things when you're secretary to Robert Joffrey.

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The 1952 Konstantin Sergeyev version that the Kirov brought to Berkeley in 2005 had Lilac, Carabosse + five, translated as Tender Fairy, Playful Fairy, Generous Fairy, Brave Fairy, and Carefree Fairy. (The Diamond, Sapphire, Gold, and Silver Fairies appeared only in the last act.)

I still prefer the Lilac Fairy in a dress in heels as opposed to in a tutu hitting her ear with her pointe shoe. She has much more stature that way.

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That's the same as the original then, I assume. Helene, do you mean you prefer Lilac in heels for the Prologue as well? Because I do agree with you about the rest of the ballet.

Mel, those are terrific tidbits I'd never heard before--all this kind of trivia fascinates me. (The Tim Scholl book talks quite a bit about Soviet SBs before Sergeyev and Grigorovich's, and I've seen photos of the various Bolshoi productions in the Girgorovich Sleeping Beauty picture book--some look ridiculously over the top in a, well, Soviet kind of way--but I'd love to learn more).

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I do like the idea of Lilac in heels for the Prologue. I've rarely seen the Lilac's Prologue variation done without at least some struggle. Although one could argue Lopatkina is Vishneva's equal or better, she didn't come across that way dancing Lilac when I saw her, and she kicked her leg higher than any of the other dancers I'd seen and have since. (I was astonished, because I kept hearing how she was the embodiment of the Old Mariinsky, the essence of classicism, etc.)

It's really a bad set-up when the Aurora out-dances the Lilac, which often happens -- and Aurora gets several tries to be brilliant, whereas its all-or-nothing for Lilac -- when the entire kingdom would go down the drain if it weren't for the Lilac Fairy. It's like she's competing when she dances on point, and chances are she's going to lose.

I think she's more gracious as a mime role. However, it means one less plum role for dancers.

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The Tim Scholl book talks quite a bit about Soviet SBs before Sergeyev and Grigorovich's...

Eric, what I gathered from Schooll's book is that there seems to be a generalized consensus on ignoring the photo of Marie wearing her Prologue tutu and pointe shoes-(even is it is a studio photo...not a performance one). Then, after reading the various explanations from the book, one get the idea that there was indeed a classical variation created by Petipa for her daughter, which was very simple, which didn't survive too long due to the ballerina's diminished-(not absent)- capabilities as a classical dancer, to be replaced for the one danced by Egorova in 1914 and allegedly created by Lopukhov-(which I assume made her way to K. Sergueev staging). Then, at some point in between the two, Pavlova and karsavina danced a different one in their 1907 debuts, of unknown authorship. I personally like the plasticity of character Lilac, and I don't think the ballet looses too much by returning the fairy's original design.

This s what Maries contemporaries had to say

-Fyodor Lopukhov on dancing Marie. L. declares that he was selected as a young corps to support Marie Petipa during the Prologue, an idea that gets supported by the pic of a tutued Marie next to her attendant and wearing pointe shoes.

-Elizaveta Gerdt in non-dancing Marie. Pavel's daughter, who danced as a child in the original production where Marie Petipa was Lilac, declares that Marius daughter NEVER danced on pointe during the first run of the ballet up until retirement in 1907.

-Peterburskaya Gazeta. This newspaper reviews a performance of Anna Pavlova's debut as Lilac in 1908. Vera Krasovskaya suggests that Petipa arranged a new variation-(not danced by Marie before)- for Pavlova and Karsavina who also debuted in the role the same year. Pirouettes and entrechats are mentioned in this review.

-Fyodor Lopukhov on non-dancing Marie. L. also says at some point Lubov Egorova was the FRST ballerina to have danced the classical Prologue variation as we know it today-(hence contradicting his first statement about suppporting the tutu-pointe attired Marie in the Prologue)-, which he himself created for a performance at Krasnoe Selo in 1914. Later on Pavel Gerdt requests for Egorova to pass the variation to her daughter Elizaveta, and the directorate of the Mariinsky theater was explained that this was an original Petipa variation which had been cut off by Petipa himself during the ballet early days do to Marie's inability to dance it.

-Stepanov notations. The notations mention two variations. One with Marie's name on it and the other one sans name.

re: Lilac..

I think she's more gracious as a mime role. However, it means one less plum role for dancers.

...and for the audience to watch.

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I have found the picture on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Petipa

Which is odd because contemporaries state she never danced fully en pointe.

And that photo makes it pretty clear (to me) that it's meant to be for the Forest scene--even though it appears to be a posed shot, I doubt they'd put her in front of the wrong set...

Mel Johnson, I know there's always been some controversy about the Lilac Fairy's Prologue variation (I *believe* the excuse was that Marie was given a deliberately too easy variation, with the justification for using a later version being that any other dancer would have done it that way--but I admit to finding the whole thing confusing). From what you posted, you mean for a while in the 1970s the Kirov/K Sergeyev version added a fairy, and had the Lilac Ferry not in toe shoes? How long did this last? I know by the 1983 (?) Kolpokova recording, it's back to six fairies, with Lilac in toe shoes throughout the ballet. Fascinating stuff, and your post raises the very valid point that it's often hard to really know what's authentic, particularly with something as subjective as dance. I think the best reconstructions give us the opportunity to get a sense of what the feel and intention of the original production was, but it's impossible to truly consider them "authentic", and that's OK with me, if the research was properly done.

Both of these photographs appear to have been taken in a studio as was typical of the period.

The background is 'dressed'in an appropriate manner for the production.

PS

Thank you Cristian for reviving the shoe information and the questions on the LF variation. Its a story that will run and run and run long after we are all gone.

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Thank you Cristian for reviving the shoe information and the questions on the LF variation. Its a story that will run and run and run long after we are all gone.

"The shoe information"... :D

I can almost visualize Marie...

"Daddy...you almost KILLED ME last night with that variation...are you INSANE...?!?! Go look for Mathilde if you want to so she can dance it, because I'm done with it...!" :)

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[MOD BEANIE ON:] I am posting on this thread a copy of a comment by Cristian, posted earlier today on the revived Esmeralda-reconstruction thread. It relates beautifully to the topic of reconstructions in general, and to earlier posts on this thread. The quotation from the Moscow Times review was posted originally by innopac.

[MOD BEANIE OFF]

Innopac's link:

Bolshoi's 'Esmeralda' Production Fails to Inspire

Moscow Times review of 11 Jan.

The new "Esmeralda" will undoubtedly give much pleasure to those content with mere spectacle or who wish to see the Bolshoi become a sort of dance museum. But I can imagine that Petipa himself would not be among those welcoming the addition of yet another reconstruction of his works to the theater's repertoire. Instead of repeated attempts to conjure up, in wholesale fashion, a form of ballet intended for dancers with physical characteristics and audiences with an aesthetic perception quite different from those of today, my guess is that Petipa, a great innovator in his own time, would have much preferred to see his legacy used to inspire new works that move dance forward into territory that still remains unexplored.

Cristian's comment:

This is a very interesting thought, and one that has popped in my head too while reading about the reconstructions. I particularly enjoy the vintage feeling in many things in life-(from ballet restorations to fashion revivals to mid century thrift stores furniture buying, etc...)-but I wonder about the ahead of the times audiences that are basically made of our very ahead of the times societies...Is everyone on the same boat about enjoying this curious-(although beautiful)-specimens...?

Sometimes it can get confusing when several threads address different aspects of the same subject. Especially when the discussion is as rich and multi-faceted as this one.

Link to the Esmeralda thread is the the Bolshoi forum:

http://balletalert.i..._30#entry293112

Link to the film of this Esmeralda production is on Ballet Videos, etc:

http://balletalert.i..._15#entry293020

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On my way to the Milan airport, I picked up a copy of the leading Italian paper, Corriere della Sera....and read the DREADFUL review by Valeria Crippa of the Raymonda-1898 premiere. The headline reads that the only saving grace is Novikova ("Raymonda, stile decrepito a parte Olesia Novikova" - page 18 of hard-copy edition, 13 October 2011). It is a politically-tinged 'review' that blasts La Scala for wasting economic resources on a decrepit dinosaur (similar words). Crippa writes: "In one fell swoop, La Scala has managed to lose whatever youthful new public it has attempted to gain during the past year with it's 'La Scala Under-30' campaign." It also blasts an "enterprise that is conducted just to satisfy a few ballet-history specialists." (Ouch!) Just listening to 'hallway talk' in the days leading to the premiere, I was a bit afraid of this. For example, the gent who spoke at the 'Primo delle Primi' introductory conference on October 6 also displayed a bit of this attitude, although he could not say it outright...because he was being paid by LaScala to preview the premiere! (He spent one hour basically praising the Kirov-Konstantin Sergeyev-Kolpakova DVD and hoping that the 1898 recon would be like it...duh!)

True, Italy -- and the world -- is going through an economic recession but...aren't these the times when we need beauty and art the most?

Frankly, I find "reviews" like Corriere's to be glib and uninformed...and with an Agenda.

If what I saw in Milan earlier this week is "decrepit," then Bring it On, Baby!

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I'm with Natasha about "bringing the baby on", but the thing is ...it is not that easy. One of the most important things for ballet to be successful is to have a continuity...to be passed on, rehearsed, seen in multiple theaters, savored by many dancers, lovingly cared by different generations, its choreography engraved in people's minds. It's got to transcend time and space. That's the only way it will ever "get" into people's bones-(both dancers and audiences). I've been a witness of this phenomenon in Cuba with Giselle, Coppelia and Theme and Variations, and I see it here very clear too by the passionate and knowledgeable way you guys talk about Symphony in C, Agon or Jewels. N. Sergueev's SB has this continuity...being even the base for many productions outside Russia. Then it is natural that Lilac's helmet looks as strange and invasive as it does to many. We discuss ballet here all the time...the majority of us has seen SB a gazillion times-(many even as lucky as Natasha to travel and see different versions), and so maybe we're up and ready for a change-(one that has the glamorous last name of "imperial")-but for someone like Asylmuratova, who grew up and retired with the tutu'ed Lilac, then suddenly seeing her gong back to hills once in a while could prove a tremendous mistake. It took more than 50 years for Sergueev version to be where it is today in people's minds. It will take, I think, more than that for the reconstructions, partially because I don't believe they will be adopted by many companies outside Russia.

I know in the next case it was the choreographer who was up for the change, but...can you guys imagine if a video recording of the first version of Apollo-(choreography, Chanel head caps, tutus and everything)-was suddenly discovered....? How many of us would be up for the change to adopt it with open arms...?

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You make a good point, cubanmiamiboy. To be honest, most of the La Scala recon's steps are so beautiful and (to me) superior to K. Sergeyev, Nureyev and others that they would stand on their own, in more contemporary (yet classical and luxurious) costumes and realistic painted sets...NOT Ratmansky's El-Cheapo minimalistic associates' work, please!!!! Not that there isn't beauty and great worth in K. Sergeyev, Nureyev, Balanchine, Grigorovich, Maki Asami...all are distinct experiences with different sorts of beauty.

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One more thing about reconstructions (well, for now). I'll keep tis brief because, although dance plays an important part, it is somewhat off topic, but I'm involved in theatre and musical theatre, and this same debate constantly comes up. Many argue that a revival that recreates the original production, including choreography, makes the piece a museum piece, when it should live and breathe and be constantly reinterpretated. Again, I think there's room for both views, but there are many musicals, for example, that are a group effort--A Chorus Line (which legally major revivals have to use the original choreography--a rare exception in musicals that mainly only Bennett and Robbins shows have) was created as such a joint venture with music, songs and dialogue written sometimes after, or to, or around the dance steps, and staging.

I saw the recent West Side Story revival on Broadway that Arthur Laurents directed before his death. There's the gossip that Laurents was angry that everyone, Bernstein, Sondheim, especially Robbins, got more fame from WSS than he did for his libretto and sought to emphasize his contribution. But the best parts of the production were the original music, lyrics, dialogue and especially choreography. The new scenery was so so, and the new costumes were no improvement on the often reused originals. And as Sondheim said, when Laurents cut out the final Nightmare part of the Someday Dream Ballet, he inertly ruined the whole dramatic purpose of the ballet.

One last example--It's long been believed that the groundbreaking musical Oklahoma! had a great score, iconic Agnes De Mille choreography, but that the original production was too simple, the designs too bright and abstract, and badly dated--a work that needed a new production to connect to modern audiences. Last Spring there was a major production that attempted to recreate the original--luckily people involved with it were still alive to help--many revelations occured, like some long missed DeMille choreography, the fact that the original costumes and settings actually brought out long forgotten aspects of the musical, that some moments that people felt hadn't made sense before, suddenly did, etc. (the production will air on PBS sometime this Spring, BTW).

Anyway, like with ballet reconstructions, I think it just shows that often they can illuminate long forgotten or neglected parts of these great works, that simply sticking to new productions, or beloved productions from 60 years back, can't.

It would be dull if suddenly every company was doing the same, 1890 derived version of Sleeping Beauty--but there's no risk of that happening. (And if the Mariinsky doesn't start performing their Sleeping Beauty--I believe it's been nearly 5 years now--soon, I hope another company thinks of picking it up--though in the meantime it's exciting to see lesser known works like Raymonda being done this way).

The comparison to musical theater is an good one, EricHG31. If you ever want to talk more about that here at BA, please feel free to visit the Other Arts forum. We have some good topics on the subject. :) Opera also has its examples.

(Off topic - Laurents was well known for stockpiling resentments, so his feelings don't surprise me. It is also true, however, that the writer of the libretto of a musical has the most thankless of the big jobs. If the show's a success, he's unlikely to get much of the credit. If it bombs, often as not the book takes the fall.)

I agree that there's no chance of these nineteenth-century style reconstructions catching on. Too small a prospective audience, and too expensive, although I'm glad the Mariinsky did it once.

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NOT Ratmansky's El-Cheapo minimalistic associates' work, please!!!!

:rofl:

In other words, I am hoping that Sergei Vikharev & Pavel G. will next tackle The Little Humpbacked Horse of the late-Petipa era with the (mostly) Pugni score...as an antidote to the minimalist Schedrin-Ratmansky...which is cute enough but hardly worthy of a Tsar. The backdrops of the Ratmansky LHH could easily be rolled up into a big poster tube. Harrumph!

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On my way to the Milan airport, I picked up a copy of the leading Italian paper, Corriere della Sera....and read the DREADFUL review by Valeria Crippa of the Raymonda-1898 premiere. The headline reads that the only saving grace is Novikova ("Raymonda, stile decrepito a parte Olesia Novikova" - page 18 of hard-copy edition, 13 October 2011). It is a politically-tinged 'review' that blasts La Scala for wasting economic resources on a decrepit dinosaur (similar words). Crippa writes: "In one fell swoop, La Scala has managed to lose whatever youthful new public it has attempted to gain during the past year with it's 'La Scala Under-30' campaign." It also blasts an "enterprise that is conducted just to satisfy a few ballet-history specialists."

This whole attitude annoys and perplexes me. The argument seems to be that these reconstructions deplete funds that would otherwise go for some groundbreaking, brand new work of art, that they only please some mythical (and, the implication is *old*) obsessed ballet fan and scare new audiences, and that they actually regress the dancer's technique. The same basic arguments seemed to exist with those who were against the reconstructions in Russia, as well.

I don't buy it.

I feel that more often than not, if a company didn't do one of these reconstructions, they wouldn't instead spend the funding on some potentially groundbreaking new ballet, they would probably do yet another, most likely derivative "new" production of one of the classics. I would argue that going back to try to discover what made Raymonda so great in the first place, is at this point more important and groundbreaking than doing a new edition based on, say, the Nureyev production. Like with all arts, there's much to learn from going back to the source.

I haven't seen any company that's been dominated byt hese reconstructions. I have the feeling that when Vikharev did his second full length Petipa at the Mariinsky--La Bayadere--that really frightened some who felt the theatre would become a museum piece. But that's a small handful of shows in a large repertoire--and while I find much to love in K Sergeyev's Kirov versions of the classics, at this point int heir life span, I don't find it any more artistically valid to keep them in the repertoire. In fact I'd argue that the reconstructions made the Mariinsky *more* unique in the wolrd of ballet.

I also resent the implication that productions like this scare away the youth. I'm 31 now, but have been a big ballet fan ever since I can remember--literally at least since elementary school. It's very important to keep up new works, and not give the impression that ballet is all tutus and ancient museum pieces. On the other hand, I know many young audiences who have gone to the ballet for the first time, and been disappointed to see a modern work that perplexed them. They wanted to go and see a spectacular 19th century style spectacle--I think these productions DO appeal to many young audience members who see going to the ballet as an event (it's similar to why a lot of younger people start going to the opera). I also think it's rong to say that these pieces no longer can inspire--the arts need to look back as much as they look forward to survive--it's not only forward motion that's needed.

But back to my main gripe--I simply don't buy that these productions are taking up resources and time that otherwise would be devoted to brilliant brand new pieces (and even if they did--would the brand new pieces get enough of an audience to help sustain a company?) Looking at La Scala's website, their repertoire looks very diverse, and I don't see it weighed down by traditional productions of the classics--Raymonda looks fairly unique to it, in fact.

Anyway thanks for the review--I'd love to read more reactions.

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The comparison to musical theater is an good one, EricHG31. If you ever want to talk more about that here at BA, please feel free to visit the Other Arts forum. We have some good topics on the subject. :) Opera also has its examples.

Thank you for pointing me in the right direction--I'm sure I will add to the discussions there. :) (and you're right about Laurents--his memoirs are fascinating, but also fascinating how he managed to alienate nearly all of his friends--but yes being the librettist of a musical is a thankless job, as Sondheim said you're blamed if it flops, and forgotten if it's a hit).

I agree that there's no chance of these nineteenth-century style reconstructions catching on. Too small a prospective audience, and too expensive, although I'm glad the Mariinsky did it once.

I just wish they had been professionally filmed. I heard once that they didn't want Beauty filmed and released (I suspect it was filmed at least for archival purposes), because it was initially thought to be such a selling point--a major, historic production one could only see live. But now that it seems to have been basically dropped, that's a moot point.

I don't fully agree that the audience is too small though. At least for the BIG name shows (Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, etc), often "average" ballet goer audiences will go to nearly ANY production of these pieces--however good or bad. But that may excentuate the point--if a second tier ballet company (or even a first tier), can get by with an easier to perform, cheaper production, then why go through the trouble and expense.

It would be great if there could be a sort of museum ballet troupe--dedicated to this kind of thing, but of course that's completely finanacially impossible. At least it seems like we are certain to get Scala's Raymonda, and the recent Bolshoi works are being released through their live cinema events.

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One random thought about the "shoe information"--I was under the impression that all of Vsevolozhsky's costume designs existed in the archives. Was there one for Lilac in a tutu, or just the mime outfit? Of course that doesn't really prove one way or another what was *performed* but... (and I am aware that others have probably wondered this same thing, but am curious about the result).

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This discussion, more or less began with Helene's thoughts on the PNB's Giselle. I couldn't find this link in the Giselle threads, or anywhere else, but I came across it while reading reviews. It's an hour (and a bit), lecture, with performances, about the version they did, which has some fascinating little bits with dancers demonstrating one version of a variation over another, etc.

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/11925622

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One random thought about the "shoe information"--I was under the impression that all of Vsevolozhsky's costume designs existed in the archives. Was there one for Lilac in a tutu, or just the mime outfit? Of course that doesn't really prove one way or another what was *performed* but... (and I am aware that others have probably wondered this same thing, but am curious about the result).

The answer here will probably depend upon the continuing development and modernization of the Mariinsky archives. As with most places worldwide, the Mariinsky kept an Institutional Archive, but it was hampered by the state of archival science and a terrible understaffing which led to things getting preserved which shouldn't have been, information treasures being trashed, stuff surviving but having become separated from its intellectual content, and all the misery that attends modernizing an old repository. Items surface, and information science is so much better now that interpretation can be made, but a lot of context has been lost, never to be recovered. For all we know, photos of Marussia are there, but mislabeled! This happens a lot in archives.

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Having worked in a much (much) smaller archive, that completely makes sense.

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It just dawned on me...it's time to celebrate the 12th year of the current Golden Era of ballet! Just think of how many Petipa-era ballets have been reconstructed or 'recovered' in various ways in only the last 12 years. Until about 1999 -- the year of the Mariinsky/Vikharev's Sleeping Beauty and the Bolshoi/Lacotte's Pharaoh's Daughter -- the closest that any of us could get to seeing something similar to what the Romanov court saw while Petipa was alive were Soviet or Royal Ballet reworkings, i.e., ca-1946 ballets.

In, say, 1997 or 1998, did ANY of you ever dream that you would one day be seeing all of the following Petipa Era ballets, let alone having DVDs of some or all of these ballets in your video libraries?

From Mariinsky:

Sleeping Beauty-1890

Naiad & Fisherman (Ondine)

Bayadere-1900

Flora's Awakening

From Bolshoi:

Pharaoh's Daughter

Le Corsaire

Coppelia (also in Novossibirsk)

Esmeralda

Magic Flute (Bolshoi Academy)

From Novossibirsk:

Don Quixote (with some portions & costumes later going to the Mariinsky)

From POB:

Paquita (and the one-act "Grand Pas" scene at the Bolshoi)

La Source

From Berlin:

La Peri

From LaScala:

Raymonda-1898

Excelsior (recently revived yet again)

From the Royal Ballet:

Ashton's Sylvia....ok, so it's not Petipa Era but certain has the 19th-C 'perfume' and look...and the lovely Minkus-Delibes score!

From Verona:

The Talisman

In 12 years, we've built a whole freakin' Tsarist repertoire! A cause for celebration for most of us...but I suspect that it irks some, certainly the students of Dudinskaya/K. Sergeyev and others who danced only the Soviet versions in the 50s/60s/70s/80s/90s. (Not that every ballet on the above list falls into the 'Soviet reworkings' category; many had been totally abandoned soon after the Soviet revolution.)

So what's left to reconstruct or rethink in the 19th-C manner? The obvious are 'Swan Lake-1895' and 'Nutcracker-1894,' although at least we can now see elements of those Petipa/Ivanov-era versions at the Royal Ballet, thanks to the work of R.J. Wiley, during Dowell's tenure in the 1980s. Big remaining gaps also include the Pugni/St.Leon-Petipa-Gorsky Little Humpbacked Horse (of which two major 'dansant' scenes have recently been revived: the "Underwater Kingdom" by Burlaka for Chelyabinsk and the "Enchanted Island" for Tokyo Ballet).

My own 'secret wish'? The one-act The Pearl, created for the coronation of Nicholas & Alexandra in 1896...but apart from the portions that were moved to the Underwater Scene of Humpbacked Horse, I don't think that this exists in the Harvard Collection. There's a lot of Humpbacked Horse, though. :)

So three cheers to the noble 'soldiers' who have brought the Petipa Era -- the entertainment of the Tsars -- back to us in a very short span of time. How very lucky we are!

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