rg

Mikhail Baryshnikov in THE PRODIGAL SON

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scans of two photos, presumably taken at photocall rehearsals in Chicago for NYCB performances there in '79 when Baryshnikov was in the company and dancing the lead in THE PRODIGAL SON.

some less than performance-worthy details aside, mostly due to casual costuming aspects, there is a kind of energy to these shots, giving them some notable performance "life"; neither was previously known to me.

in the shot w/the 'goons' one can see, among others in the ranks, i believe, H. Conde, G.Ebitz, W. Otto?, and B. Padgett?; in the shot with the confidant, i think, the dancer is J.P. Frolich.

post-848-022801700 1315763438_thumb.jpg

post-848-043239700 1315763457_thumb.jpg

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I was thrown off by the bare legs. On the cover of my copy of the 1977 Dance in America video, shot in a studio in Nashville, Baryshnikov wears white tights above the knees, with only the calves bare.

I checked the NY Times and found that Baryshnikov's NYCB stage debut in this role was January 1979, well after the tv performance. Anna Kisselgoff comments on what she calls "some unattractive new costumes, bare-legged for the men, that refer to the original [Diaghilev] production."

From the dvd cover, 1977 Dance in America:

http://www.findinter...tin-soldier.jpg

But .. take a glance at Edward Villella's costume from the late 60s. Looks a lot like Baryshnikov's 1979 costume to me. So, what was supposed to be "new" in 1979?

http://www.danceheri...es/villella.jpg

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the costuming from the 'Choreography by Balanchine' video, w/ the white 'bike-shorts' look recycles what Lifar wore, more or less, originally and what Robbins wore for the 1950 NYCB revival. what Baryshnikov is wearing here is more or less the NYCB standard stage costuming worn, i suspect, since Villella took on the role. (perhaps his book discusses his costume.)

to the best of my knowledge, Baryshnikov didn't wear the costume shown on the video in his stage performances, certainly no NYCB production over the past 40 years or so i've been seeing the ballet in NYC used the 'alternate' Lifar/Robbins costume.

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Thank you, rg! I first saw Prodigal Son during this visit - from the 12th row of the orchestra - and I will never forget Barishnikov crawling home to the Father.

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I saw him do it in Chicago; his first performance in the role, at the Chicago International Dance Festival, in the summer of 1977, but I don't remember what differences there may have been in his costume then. His Siren at the time was Ghislaine Thesmar.

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I saw him do it in Chicago; his first performance in the role, at the Chicago International Dance Festival, in the summer of 1977, but I don't remember what differences there may have been in his costume then. His Siren at the time was Ghislaine Thesmar.

I'm looking at the big hardcover book, Baryshnikov in Black and White, published in 2002:

http://www.amazon.com/Baryshnikov-Black-White-Mikhail/dp/1582341869/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1315835992&sr=8-1

In the Chronology of his performances since 1974, it lists his debut performance in Prodigal as 1977 with the Geneva Ballet. (p. 44) Perhaps that was the Chicago Festival?

In the two costumed photographs for 1977, he is wearing the bare-legged version of the costume. (pp. 98-101)

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I saw him do it in Chicago; his first performance in the role, at the Chicago International Dance Festival, in the summer of 1977, but I don't remember what differences there may have been in his costume then. His Siren at the time was Ghislaine Thesmar.

I'm looking at the big hardcover book, Baryshnikov in Black and White, published in 2002:

http://www.amazon.com/Baryshnikov-Black-White-Mikhail/dp/1582341869/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1315835992&sr=8-1

In the Chronology of his performances since 1974, it lists his debut performance in Prodigal as 1977 with the Geneva Ballet. (p. 44) Perhaps that was the Chicago Festival?

In the two costumed photographs for 1977, he is wearing the bare-legged version of the costume. (pp. 98-101)

i don't know, but we were always told then that it was his first performance (the one in chicago); that was a festival for the benefit of the then Chicago Ballet, and wasn't connected with Geneva.

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i don't know, but we were always told then that it was his first performance (the one in chicago); that was a festival for the benefit of the then Chicago Ballet, and wasn't connected with Geneva.

I tried some googling and found a site that lists this:

"1977: Title role in The Prodigal Son (Balanchine), International Dance Festival of Stars, Chicago"

http://img2.browsebiography.com/bio-mikhail_baryshnikov.html

But who provided the ensemble for him, even assuming he only did excerpts? Perhaps that's where the Geneva Ballet came in.

Another interesting tidbit on that list:

"1974: Title role (cr) in The Prodigal Son (Murdmaa), Baryshnikov Choreographic Evening, Leningrad"

I remember from some biographical reports that he staged one of these special evenings (a one-time-only performance) in the spring before his defection. If that list is accurate, then it appears he had some serious interest in this role, even by a different choreographer! (Who is Murdmaa? Did he "borrow" the Balanchine version?")

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The ensemble was the dancers of the Chicago Ballet, and the father was played by Orrin Kayan, who was a teacher at the Ruth Page School.

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I don't have this article, but evidently Arlene Croce reviewed the performance in the New Yorker in the issue dated July 4, 1977, Vol. 53, Issue 20. The notation I found said:

The article reviews the ballet productions "La Bayadère," performed by Cynthia Gregory and Gelsey Kirkland at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, and the "Prodigal Son," performed by Mikhail Baryshnikov with the Chicago Ballet at the Chicago Civic Opera House in Illinois.

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Here is Croce's review, dated 7/4/77.

The day after Kirkland's debut in [ABT's] Swan Lake, I saw Baryshnikov consume himself in what turned out to be the most appropriate repertory role he has danced since he came to this country -- the title role in Balanchine's Prodigal Son. The event took place at the Chicago Civic Opera House and was preceded by a string of acts billed as the First North American International Dance Festival. Apart from the dancers of the host company, the Chicago Ballet, no Americans took part in the program. It was a night of exotic wonders. One saw the wondrously twisted line of X from Hungary, the wondrously crabbed feet of Y from La Scala, the magnificent new male ballerina of the Paris Opera. The friendliest souls in sight were Merle Park and Wayne Eagling, dancing the Balcony pas de deux in Romeo and Juliet -- and Baryshnikov, who rushed out in Le Corsaire, his motor still racing, and turned a triple assemble so tightly wound that the audience did not realize what had happened.

[ ... ] All the jumps in the Prodigal's role are placed near the beginning. Robert Kotlowitz once described the problems this presents:

It's heart lies in [the ballet's] construction, which has two main lines, physical and emotional, that cross like an X. The physical line opens with a huge burst of energy at the top; but from the opening scene on, it descends quietlyi downhill. Emotionally, on the other hand, it opens superficially and builds steadily upward until the closing scene, when an exhausted Prodigal returns home on his hands and knees and painfully crawls his way across the stage to his waiting father. The problem is to intensify the audience's emotion as the physical movement gets smaller and smaller.

In addition, Baryshnikov had to do this with a sensation-benumbed audience. But the real challenge was the precedent set by the performance of Edward Villella, the greatest Prodigal of our generation. Baryshnikov, who was taught the role by Patricia Neary, once the Siren to Villella's Prodigal, looked a lot like Villella: he had the same explosive attack, the same devouring passion, the same ability to shrink himself physically in the final scenes. But Baryshnikov's own imprint was stronger than the memory he evoked -- not Villella but the Prodigal himself returned.

Ghislaine Thesmar has danced the Siren opposite Nureyev at the Paris Opera. She must be the most elegant ballerina in continental Europe, and on this bill she was a great relief from the roughnecks. Tall, as coldly enticing as Diana Adams but not as hard as Adams made herself in this role, she is a Siren very much in the classic Balanchine mold, and gave what I shall remember as a classic performance. Members of the Chicago Ballet, unnamed, lent strong support in a staging by Frederic Franklin, and the propulsive conducting for the whole evening was by Patrick Flynn.[

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Well if he was taught it by Patricia Neary, and if she was already in Geneva by then, he'd either done it already in Geneva or perhaps was using the performance in Chicago as an "out of town tryout" for the performance there. :dunno:

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Mai Murdmaa, is listed in the NYPL dance cat. as follows:

Murdmaa, Mai.: Choreographer.

(sometimes called Maya?)

she appears, as do her ballets, in Nina Alovert's BARYSHNIKOV IN RUSSIA, where Alovert describes her as director of the Estonian Theater (presumably Estonia BALLET? Theater); she worked Baryshnikov's and (and Makarova') days in and around Leningrad.

Alovert's book has several references in her index.

Murdmaa gave Makarova and Company a Murdmaa premiere: STUDIES, as follows:

Studies : Chor: Mai Murdmaa; mus: Frédéric Chopin (Nocturne in F minor, op. 55, no. 1; Preludes no. 25, 2, 16 & 18; Ballade in F major, op. 38); cos: Rouben Ter-Arutunian; lighting: Thomas Skelton. First U. S. perf: New York, Uris Theater, Oct 21, 1980; Makarova and Company, with Cynthia Gregory.

i've seen her around NYC on occasion, whether on a visit or having relocated here, i cannot say.

Murdmaa's PRODIGAL was evidently an 'original' work, w/ perhaps, influences from Balanchine's version.

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if clarification is needed regarding the two newsphotos at the top of this thread, here goes:

yes, Baryshnikov gave much reported on performances of THE PRODIGAL SON in '77 at the Chicago/International Dance Festival, certainly the first that US writers saw him give; incidentally, the next year, at the same festival, he danced APOLLO, in Balanchine's personally trimmed staging.

the two PRODIGAL photos scanned here, however, are not from that festival, as the their dating notes, they are from '79 when Baryshnikov was a member of NYCB and dancing this role on tour, in this case to Chicago, w/ Balanchine's company. CHOREOGRAPHY BY BALANCHINE notes the dates Apr. 18 - 29 for 1979 NYCB appearances in Chicago.

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Am I remembering rightly that there was another Ballet Russe version with the same costumes and music? Done in Australia? It seems so strange to me that anyone would consider using the same costumes, set and music without the same choreography... maybe the same music, but the same costumes & set? (Or am I, once again, mixed up with some other Ballets Russes curiosity).

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David Lichine created a version of THE PRODIGAL SON for the Original Ballet Russe, as follows:

Prodigal son : Chor: David Lichine; mus: Serge Prokof'yev; lib: Boris Kochno; scen & cos: Georges Rouault. First perf: Australia: Sydney, Theatre Royal, Dec 30, 1938, Original Ballet Russe.//First New York perf: Nov 26, 1940, Original Ballet Russe.

among the more memorable photo references from the production are those of Sono Osato as the Siren.

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if clarification is needed regarding the two newsphotos at the top of this thread, here goes:

yes, Baryshnikov gave much reported on performances of THE PRODIGAL SON in '77 at the Chicago/International Dance Festival, certainly the first that US writers saw him give; incidentally, the next year, at the same festival, he danced APOLLO, in Balanchine's personally trimmed staging.

the two PRODIGAL photos scanned here, however, are not from that festival, as the their dating notes, they are from '79 when Baryshnikov was a member of NYCB and dancing this role on tour, in this case to Chicago, w/ Balanchine's company. CHOREOGRAPHY BY BALANCHINE notes the dates Apr. 18 - 29 for 1979 NYCB appearances in Chicago.

Thanks for the clarification, rg.

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