jllaney

Ballet encores vs opera encores?

31 posts in this topic

I remember reading about this in the Times and came across it as a YT clip. An opera tenor singing a very famous aria is "asked" by the audience to sing an encore of the same aria during the performance. He's done it at the met and at La Scalla.

Have we ever seen this in a ballet performance? A dancer perhaps repeating a variation or a pas de deux because the audience demanded it? I could see Nureyev maybe doing it. Has it ever happened at one of the large companies?

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Juan Diego Florez is a marvel. After 20 years of opera listening and attending and every year shaking my head at the decline of the art form he is one of the few singers that excite me. This sort of thing is rare in an actual opera performance. When a famous singer sings a concert of arias or a recital you usually get anywhere from 1 to 6 encores depending on the applause but encores during an actual opera is extremely rare today.

I saw a YouTube video of Osipova encoring her 32 fouettes so it apparently happens in ballet too, but I suspect it is rare also. During an actual opera or ballet it is really an ensemble effort and not The Juan Diego Florez Show, for example. So it could be interpreted as a slap in the face to the other performers to hog the limelight, and that is why I suspect this sort of thing rarely happens today no matter how much the audience would love it! LOL Please, someone correct me if I am wrong about this concerning ballet!

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A famous incident occured when NYCB first toured Russia. The audience cheered for Edward Villella to do an encore. When he did, Balanchine was famously icy towards him.

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Have we ever seen this in a ballet performance? A dancer perhaps repeating a variation or a pas de deux because the audience demanded it? I could see Nureyev maybe doing it. Has it ever happened at one of the large companies?

At the world premiere of Push Comes to Shove in New York in January 1976 at the Uris Theatre, the audience went crazy, as you might expect. After numerous curtain calls, with the audience standing, the entire ensemble repeated the last minute or so of the ballet with the funny poses and deadpan stares at the audience. But they didn't do the entire movement and by then the orchestra was packed up. I suppose that doesn't count as a real encore, but it was a surprise and a nice treat at what everybody realized was an historic event.

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In the long ballet tradition, encores are very rarely encountered. Whether it's in reaction to opera tradition, or an independent development, I can't say, but encores in ballet are exceptional.

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In the long ballet tradition, encores are very rarely encountered. Whether it's in reaction to opera tradition, or an independent development, I can't say, but encores in ballet are exceptional.

That may be true now, although in 40 years of per-going I've never seen one, and the rare ones involving opera stars are widely publicized, which wouldn't happen if they weren't an exception -- maybe because of union time -- but it doesn't seem to be the case in 1960's Moscow:

From Edward Villella's "Prodigal Son" (pp.118-9):

That night I finished the variation [in "Donizetti Variations"], which included double air turns, landing flat in postiion, not moving a muscle or a hair or blinking an eye, to a moment of dead silence. But in the next instant, the audience exploded, applauding in unison and screaming their approval, stomping their feet and crying out, "Bis! Bis! Encore! Encore!". The ovation alsted -- it seemed to go on and on...The audience now started shouting out my name. I kept bowing.

The place was pandemonium. Instead of dying down, the applause and the shouting grew louder and louder...Cries for "Encore" increased in number and volume. The entire theater was going crazy. An encore had never been danced before in the history of the New York City Ballet, there was no precedent for it, and I didn't know what to do. I kept going back and forth into the wing, and then back onstage, bowing and bowing. The stomping and applause refused to die down. In all, I had gone out for something like twenty-two curtain calls.

Next, Hugo Fiorato, the conductor, made a gesture to the musicians in the pit, and they all turned back their sheet music. He signaled for me to start dancing. The audience was still in a frenzy. I figured that if I didn't dance, I'd be bowing all night. There didn't seem to be anything else to do, so I repeated the variation. After the performance I was somewhat stunned, and incredibly elated, but deep down I was worried about Balanchine's reaction. I was afraid he wasn't goin to like it, but he didn't say a word. After a while, however, I knew something was wrong. Days went by, and it became clear. Balanchine was ignoring me. It was obviously because of the encore, but wasn't sure of what to do about it. I did nothing; I tried to cope with the conditions we were faced with in Russia: we were performing during the height of the Cuban missile crisis.

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From Edward Villella's "Prodigal Son" (pp.118-9):

. . . Next, Hugo Fiorato, the conductor, made a gesture to the musicians in the pit, and they all turned back their sheet music. He signaled for me to start dancing. . . .

I wonder if there is any record of Fiorato's recollection of that episode or of Balanchine's treatment of Fiorato later. Were there any interviews of him or perhaps a book about his career? It sounds as if Fiorato initiated the encore. And it's so unfortunate that Balanchine (apparently) did not give Villella some guidance during all those curtain calls. . . to wait it out or start the next section anyway or...

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Have we ever seen this in a ballet performance? A dancer perhaps repeating a variation or a pas de deux because the audience demanded it? I could see Nureyev maybe doing it. Has it ever happened at one of the large companies?

Stepanenko was asked to repeat her fouettés in a performance of Don Q at the Bolshoi. So, instead of the male pirouettes à la seconde, we had Mme Stepanenko do another set. I think this may have been at a gala for her, so there may have been extenuating circumstances.

There was a youtube video of it, but it seems to have been pulled.

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Back in the mid-seventies I saw a Bolshoi "Highlights" program at the Met where Plisetskaya encored the Dying Swan twice for a total of three repetitions of the whole dance.

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Back in the mid-seventies I saw a Bolshoi "Highlights" program at the Met where Plisetskaya repeated the Dying Swan twice for a total of three repetitions of the whole dance.

Nina A did the same thing at Avery Fisher Hall earlier this year.

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Rudolf Nureyev and Cynthia Gregory performed an encore of the Black Swan pdd in April, 1979 - ABT's performance of Swan Lake and the Met. It was absolutely phenomenal! I'll never forget it. Rudi was 41 and danced as if he were 25. The audience was on their feet the entire time - and, of course, roared "encore" after their 2nd pdd. Rudi mimed "sorry, no" by wiping his brow and bowing elegantly.

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Rudolf Nureyev and Cynthia Gregory performed an encore of the Black Swan pdd in April, 1979 - ABT's performance of Swan Lake and the Met. It was absolutely phenomenal! I'll never forget it. Rudi was 41 and danced as if he were 25. The audience was on their feet the entire time - and, of course, roared "encore" after their 2nd pdd. Rudi mimed "sorry, no" by wiping his brow and bowing elegantly.

Oh, how I wish I had seen that. Did they do the encore immediately after completing the entire pdd? Or did they do it at the end of that act? or the end of the ballet?

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I'm reading Mathilde Kschessinska's memoirs at the moment, and there are some references to encores:

(a critic is quoted, page 65 of 'Dancing in Petersburg') "In the third tableau of the same act Mlle. Kschessinska II danced, in incomparable fashion, the delicate variation sur les pointes to the sounds of the harp. At the public's request she had to give an encore of this number."

And on the same page: "After this I took part in the third act of Bluebeard, in which my father and I danced Konsky's mazurka. This dance was so succesful that we had to repeat it."

On page 66, a critic is quoted again: "The talented ballerina moved the whole audience to transports of excitement. There were ceaseless cries of 'Bis' and applause."

And on page 68, again quoting a critic: "Mlle. Kschessinska II scored her customary remarkable success in The Sleeping Beauty. She danced her variations with lightness and her own particular brilliance and polish: in spite of the audience's demands, for instance in the last act, she did not dance an encore."

It seems to have been customary at the end of the 1800's to demand and (sometimes) get encores from dancers.

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I think it was common to do encores in the 19th century. The idea was that people were there for the ballet dancers or the opera singers (and they probably still are), not for the specific work or for the orchestra, etc. But Wagner might be the reason things changed. Wagner is credited as the composer who placed the orchestra in a pit and made the auditorium dark to focus on the drama on stage. He was so adamant about the work being the main focus and not individual performers, and his influence has been profound in music. His influence changed many things. Suddenly, individual performers taking too many bows or doing an encore was stopping the drama and was seen as hogging the spotlight at the expense of the work which was THE important thing, in his mind. Conductors started viewing Wagner's music as ultra important (and they still do). Audiences are much more rabid to hush a noise at Wagner than at Donizetti. Anyway, I think this has caused many conductors to discourage encores usually. This is a guess on my part. I am pretty sure Karajan was against encores. Wagner was also the reason bel canto fell out of fashion, I believe. Bel Canto opera was very showy and showed off a singer's technique, so the singer could throw in all sorts of vocal ornaments/embellishments and practically change what the aria sounded like (an exaggeration but some composers felt that way). Basically, opera (and I suspect ballet) was ruled by the individual performers (star system), and the winds of change made it a crime against the music to show boat and take over the spotlight when the composer's music was supposed to be the Holy Grail. As recent as the 1980s some conductors would not allow singers to embellish music that historically always required embellishing by the singer. Things have changed again. You have singers embellishing in Mozart now (which for a while was a big no-no even though there is a historical precedent). Baroque is in style where a singer must embellish. So I think today people are starting to go back to loving individual singers and wanting embellishment and show boating again. Personally, I love it, but I personally think most singers today can't even sing the notes on the page, so they are better off forgetting about the embellishing of arias! LOL

Anyway, I know more about opera, but I suspect that ballet has followed along the same lines. It was probably common and normal to do encores in the 19th century and before that. The late 19th and early 20th century became very prim and proper about show boating and wanted to have a religious view of the composer's works (not to be touched or not for anyone to take attention away). It became the norm to view encores as disrespectful toward the composer's music, drama, and even to the fellow performers. But things are swinging back toward the actual performers, and I suspect we might see more and more encores. Personally, I hope so. When someone is extraordinary, the audience should demand it!

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A good friend of mine (who works in an orchestra) got furious when he criticized me for being a canary fancier and only caring about the singers on stage, and I made a joke that opera lovers are not there to watch the servants! And the truth is somewhere in between. If an orchestra is terrible, an opera audience will notice and the work will be ruined. The orchestra is a necessary and important part, but, let's face it, the average person is there to see the stars on the stage.

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California, I'm sorry for the delay in responding to you - Nureyev and Gregory encored immediately following the pdd! After the thunderous applause died down, the music started again - and they were off! I assume Rudi had signaled the conductor to start right away. I don't know where they got their energy, but the encore was even better than the first - and they knew it!

The late critic, Clive Barnes, was there, but left early to write his column for the next day's paper - so it was not mentioned. I am sure he was kicking himself for missing it.

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In the matter of encores, I feel that too much attention cannot be paid to the influence of Mikhail Fokine on the practice. He didn't care for stopping a show to do a certain set-piece over again, making no visual and dramatic sense. He was joined in this opinion on the opera side of the house by Feodor Chaliapin. Both worked for Diaghilev in Paris, so the practices of that company must not be overlooked either.

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The original Kings of Dance (Stiefel, Corella, Kobborg, Tsiskaridze) did an encore after their premiere performance at the OCPAC, but never repeated it during subsequent performances or incarnations (NYC or elsewhere that I know of. Also don't know if subsequent versions of KoD with different dancers ever did either.)

Otherwise, I've seen some very long curtain calls (21++), and ovations during performances, but no clear memories of any encores done within a performance.

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Bart Birdsall, I'm pretty sure you're right about Wagner.

For one thing, he wrote a more-through-composed kind of opera than the 'number-opera' that preceded it. Mozart's operas proceed by rezitativ-aria-rezitativ-trio-rezitativ-aria, and each piece liteally has a number -- which I guess is why the word "opera" is plural (plural of opus). Stopping a show to repeat a "number" doesn't really present any great difficulty in the proceedings, since everybody knows where we are. It's like reading an epistolary novel and re-reading one of the letters again.

it used to be common.

Maybe there's some influence from movies -- since hte ongoing stream of images in a movie is a mechanical proposition; it's a "cool medium', it comes on us like fate and you sign on for that when you buy your ticket and walk in.

Interestingly, even in the USA they used to stop movies and show numbers again -- it happened famously with a movie that had a number by the Nicholas Brothers. I can't remember which one, I THINK it was "Down Argentine Way," they had to roll the film back and show it again

it's in their bio "Brotherhood in Rhythm" I'll look it up later.

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Oh Paul -- thank you so much for the link -- I love that number!

And I wonder if the repeatability of numbers from films that included African American dancers was influenced by the fact that their scenes were often designed to be left out when the film was screened in the south. If it's not essential to the throughline of the work, it's easy to repeat, in the same way that Petipa sometimes changed out solos for different dancers.

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Also, Rhythm and blues singing is not unlike virtuoso opera singing. The RnB singers like Patti LaBelle, Aretha Franklin, etc. ad lib endless melismas when singing a song. They will take something like "Over the Rainbow" and totally rewrite the song!!! The emphasis on the voice in RnB makes the singer the primary important figure and that used to be how opera was during baroque and up to Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini (Bel Canto era). Virtuoso singing where you embellish and command the stage and your voice is more important than the actual composition you are singing.....that lent itself to encores, I believe. When you have extraordinary talents on the stage suddenly they become the star of the show and all else including the composer and his composition take a back seat.

With the new popular shows about singing auditions and dancing shows getting popular we might get people more and more interested in the actual soloists of any given work. We might be entering a new time where once again the audiences are less concerned about the actual composer's music and more interested in the soloists, and that would lend itself to more and more encores. However, the composer's work gets neglected somewhat when this happens. But eventually it would swing back around where it will once again be considered a disservice to the composer to show boat, etc. I think it swings back and forth. Neither viewpoint is necessarily wrong, although I personally love the idea of more encores! LOL

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it seems that each type of artistic performance has its own etiquette.

In Ballet there's constant acknowledgment of audience applause after something's been done.

In Opera the singers just stand in their place without going down to the footlights to bow to

audience.

At concerts it's considered bad form to applause between movements.

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it seems that each type of artistic performance has its own etiquette.

In Ballet there's constant acknowledgment of audience applause after something's been done.

In Opera the singers just stand in their place without going down to the footlights to bow to

audience.

At concerts it's considered bad form to applause between movements.

Yes, even during a singer's recital, if she sings a set of Strauss Lieder you will sometimes find an audience applauds after each song, and that is actually bad etiquette. You are supposed to wait until the entire set of Strauss Lieder is done and then applaud and then comes the next set of songs (maybe by Debussy). You wait until all songs in the set are done.

But audiences get excited and an especially well done rendition can cause you to forget and applaud.

It was surprising to me at first when I went to ballets (and I was mainly an opera lover) to hear so much applause throughout the show even when the music is playing. In opera you aren't supposed to even applaud as the curtain starts to go down if the music is still playing (although most audiences do ruining some amazingly introspective moments). Personally, I wish the curtain would not go down until the final note sounds. But that is just me. I think the lowering of the curtain causes an automatic explosion of applause and I have shook my head in disbelief at times. That is a great video of Barenboim's eyes coming out of their sockets at the very end of Tristan und Isolde when the audience starts to applaud before the final note.

Since ballet is a more physical and athletic art form it has developed so that it is normal to applaud when someone does something incredible. I also think that ballet music has the reputation of being less serious music (mainly something to dance to), so it is a lesser crime to interrupt Minkus as opposed to Wagner! LOL

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it seems that each type of artistic performance has its own etiquette.

In Ballet there's constant acknowledgment of audience applause after something's been done.

.

It's fun to see how they acknowledge applause when they are in character, as in, say, Giselle. They most often seem to stay in character, but perhaps make an extra pass across the stage that they don't usually do, or pause for a long time before exiting, but never taking a traditional bow facing the audience. But for some things (such as the black swan pas de deux), bows to the audience seem more the norm and less out of character.

I was startled when the Bolshoi did their full-length Don Quixote at Segerstrom in Orange County in spring 2010. They took full bows after each act, with all the dancers who had been in that act, of the sort we usually see here only at the end of the entire ballet. Was that because many of those dancers would not be appearing in later acts? I remember counting up about 100 dancers listed in the program on that tour, so they didn't need to double up on roles as we see in smaller U.S. companies. Do any Russians know how that practice developed? Is this the standard for all their full-length ballets?

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Current opera standards owe a lot to Feodor Chaliapin (another Diaghilev star), who along with Fokine, objected to the stop and bow procedure onstage in their particular discipline. In opera, the keep-it-rolling ethos among the post-Wagnerians helped Chaliapin. Fokine didn't have another reform movement to back him up, so ballet bows stayed in, if somewhat modified. (MODIFIED rapture! - Nanki-Poo)

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