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ScheherazadeFokine (and other) versions


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#1 Natalia

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 10:32 AM

It's hard to believe that, until now, nobody has begun a topic on Scheherazade which, during the Diaghilev Era, was one of the best-known ballets around the world! Well, it's about time to get the ball rolling -- now that the Kirov-Mariinsky will be presenting a week's worth of performances of this ballet at the Kennedy Center (Jan 2012 tour)!

So....I basically know only two (2) stagings of the Fokine ballet and the two are quite different (from different sources):

Kirov-Mariinsky, ca 1994 - Bakst designs - staged by the choreographer's grand-daughter, Isabel Fokine, and Andris Liepa. I was totally wowed at the premiere (Assylmuratova & Rusimatov!) in St-P but, for some odd reason, every time that I've seen it on tour (London, NYC, Moscow, wherever), it packs less of a punch every time. One reason is that, as I've noticed on the Paris-filmed DVD edition (with Zakharova/Ruzimatov, ca 2001/02), the scenery is much simpler on tour, e.g., the multi-colored floor covering with several little carpets is missing....or there is only one lamp hanging from the ceiling. I'll be really surprised if the Kennedy Center gets 'The Full Monty' but one never knows.

Louisville Ballet (Kentucky, USA), ca 1985/86 - Bakst designs - staged by Alun Jones & Helen Starr after Fokine (am guessing after the Royal Ballet version since Jones & Starr danced for the RB years ago) - this was filmed for PBS. In some respects, it looks very, very much like the later Kirov-Mariinsky edition....even with a 'pas de deux adagio' for Zobeide and the Golden Slave! In other respects -- such as the absence of the Kirov's three 'pink odalisques' at the start -- it is different.


I've read various reviews criticizing the Mariinsky version because of the insertion of the pas de deux for Zobeide and the Slave...yet my only other viewing of the ballet included a very similar pdd, to the same music. But many 'old timers' swear that there never was a Zobeide-Slave pdd in Scheherazade.

Maybe it's just a coincidence that the only two version of Fokine's Scheherazade that I've seen are quirky ones?

With regard to other (non-Fokine versions), I am familiar only with the recent version by Blanca Li for the POB (the one with all of the pillows!) and another version by the St Petersburg Choreographic Miniatures (Jabocson's) troupe with an altogether different scenario, in which the story-telling character Scheherazade is the heroine.

Scheherazade is one of the most ignored ballets among previously-popular titles. I wonder why? Perhaps it is too luxurious to stage, in today's threadbare economy?

#2 annamicro

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 10:40 AM

With regard to other (non-Fokine versions), I am familiar only with the recent version by Blanca Li for the POB (the one with all of the pillows!) and another version by the St Petersburg Choreographic Miniatures (Jabocson's) troupe with an altogether different scenario, in which the story-telling character Scheherazade is the heroine.


There is also a version by Gheorghe Iancu



#3 Natalia

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 10:54 AM

Thanks, Annamicro!

I forgot to mention earlier that, as a testament to the popularity of Scheherazade in American pop culture in the 20s and 30s, George Balanchine even created a short parody-ballet titled 'Princess Zenobia' within the 1930s Hollywood film On Your Toes. [Perhaps it was also in the earlier Broadway version?] It takes many elements of the Fokine, such as the angry husband coming back from the hunt early, surprising with wife and the slave making love. In the parody, the slave escapes by jumping high to a little window on the 2nd floor! (No massacre at the end, in other words.)

#4 sandik

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 09:21 PM

Scheherazade is one of the most ignored ballets among previously-popular titles. I wonder why? Perhaps it is too luxurious to stage, in today's threadbare economy?


I think it's a combination of things -- the forced "exoticism" of the story puts some people off the ballet, and it was such a staple of the Ballet Russe companies it felt dated to newer groups and artists.

However, Dennis Spaight made a lovely version of the work for Oregon Ballet Theater (I've only seen it on video, but colleagues who saw it live were very enthusiastic). It was set later on the Nashville Ballet and the Eugene Ballet -- I'm not sure if its still in their current repertories.

#5 Mashinka

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 02:09 AM

To the best of my knowledge the closest version of the original is danced by the Monte Carlo company, English National Ballet had something similar but after seeing the last revival a year or two ago it appears some interpolations have crept in. Gediminas Taranda's company have a version which is surprisingly well danced with Taranda himself occasionally appearing in the role of the Shah. Last year Andris Liepa brought the Kremlin Ballet to London for a season of diaghilev's works with Tsiskaridze as the Golden Slave, but apart from From the Monte Carlo Co. they all seem to suffer from the lethal hand of Isobel Fokine.

#6 Alymer

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 02:13 AM

Helen Starr danced with London Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet) and I imagine that the Lousiville version is based on that company's production which, to the best of my recollection, was staged by Nicholas Beriosoff. It had remarkably beautiful - and costly - costumes and decors, copied from the original Bakst designs. Scheherzade has never been part of the the Royal Ballet repertoire, although their productions of other Diaghilev ballets are pretty authentic having been staged by either Serge Grigoriev (Sylphides, Firebird, Petrouchka) or Bronislava Nijinska (Les Noces, Les Biches). I think that at one point Beriosoff came to re-stage the ballet for Festival and a pas-de-deux for Zobeide and the Golden Slave was added which he (Beriosoff) claimed had been choreographed by Fokine himself for a later production.
Personally, I've never found the ballet very interesting except for the designs which are stunning but hugely, prohibitively, expensive if done properly and I'm told that the costumes are very heavy to wear for today's dancers.

#7 Natalia

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 04:55 AM

Thanks so much for these insights, Alymer and Mashinka! yes, Alymer, just before going to the Kennedy Center last night, I re-watched my precious tape of the Louisville telecast and it is indeed N. Beriosoff who is credited with the staging. Also, I noticed that the Louisville leads (Helen Starr & her partner) danced a pdd adagio that, in fact, bears many similarities to what Isabelle Fokine staged for the Mariinsky in 1994 (although quite altered by Lopatkina & Korsuntsev last night).

#8 Mashinka

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 06:32 AM

You know Cyril Beaumont wrote wonderfully accurate descriptions of the action in the Diaghilev ballets, check out his book Michel Fokine and his Ballets. There is usually a copy to be picked up on ebay.

#9 Natalia

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 07:28 AM

Thanks, Mashinka; yes, I have it. It was one of the books that I read this past weekend as 'prep' to this week of performances...along with John Gregory's Les Sylphides-Chopiniana!


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