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Ballet encores vs opera encores?An aria encore within an opera


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#1 jllaney

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 06:05 PM

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?

#2 Birdsall

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 07:20 PM

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!

#3 Helene

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 01:27 AM

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.

#4 California

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 04:29 AM

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.

#5 Mel Johnson

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 05:24 AM

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.

#6 Helene

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 11:19 AM

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.



#7 California

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 11:30 AM

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...

#8 emilienne

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 06:38 PM

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.

#9 lmspear

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 07:45 PM

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.

#10 puppytreats

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 08:17 PM

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.

#11 toeprints

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 11:13 AM

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.

#12 California

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 12:11 PM

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?

#13 Lidewij

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 05:29 AM

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.

#14 Birdsall

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 05:50 AM

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!

#15 Birdsall

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Posted 06 February 2012 - 05:58 AM

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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