Jump to content


This site uses cookies. By using this site, you agree to accept cookies, unless you've opted out. (US government web page with instructions to opt out: http://www.usa.gov/optout-instructions.shtml)

Bolshoi's "Raymonda" live in cinemas


  • Please log in to reply
77 replies to this topic

#46 Birdsall

Birdsall

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,339 posts

Posted 01 July 2012 - 06:13 PM

The entire storyline of Raymonda has some inherently un-PC aspects to it -- Christian = good, Muslim = bad, Muslim men are a threat to European women, etc. That's built into the storyline and nothing can be done about it, short of not performing the ballet. That being said, I still felt as if Grigorovich went way over the top in his depiction of Abderakhman. The costume, the brownface, the wild gestures and crazy kookypants dancing. Also, maybe I'm reading the story wrong but isn't Raymonda supposed to be sort of intrigued by this exotic foreigner? In the Bolshoi production she's 100% disgusted all the time. And I would be too, if Abderakhman is as crazy as he is in the Grigorovich production. Ugh, I just didn't like it, especially considering the former USSR/present day Russia's large Muslim population, some of which became world-famous ballet dancers. To me, it's as offensive as blackface.


OMG! I laughed about the "kooky pants dancing" comment! Still laughing. And your comment about how disgusted you would be too.

I think in some productions she is supposed to be attracted to Abderakhman, and I do think Alexandrova overdid the disgust or unease. I think the 80s videos make Raymonda a little more hard to gauge in this respect. I think they are all a little scared in both videos, but not necessarily disgusted. I remember them going back and forth between apprehension and intrigue. I think "intrigued" is the right word especially since Grigorovich choreographed the Danse Orientale for both characters right after the Spanish Dance. In the Bolshoi version the Danse Orientale is the moment he is really trying to win her over and she is TRYING to get into the idea of Eastern culture (my interpretation). I think Alexandrova's disgust is either her invention or the director told her to do that as a new take on the story. I don't remember Bessmertnova or Semenyaka being quite as disgusted, but when I saw this the other weekend I assumed it was simply Alexandrova's stern facial features that made me feel she was too disgusted by him. Now that you bring it up, I think it is a mistake in her interpretation or the director's. I do think she should either be intrigued, as you say, or she should be oblivious, but not really disgusted.

I did find the dancer who danced Abderakham more cartoonish looking in this latest transmission. I think Taranda was all man and would make any Raymonda consider ditching boring Jean de Brienne!!!!

#47 canbelto

canbelto

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,919 posts

Posted 01 July 2012 - 07:39 PM

The way I see it, Raymonda's plot is already very weak. It does add a bit of intrigue if Abderakhman poses more of a threat not just physically, but psychologically. That's why the original 1898 Raymonda works -- Jean de Brienne is only a vision in the first act. In other words, he's sort of this Knight in White Shining Armor that Raymonda idealizes. And Abderakhman is a mime role but he's a flesh-and-blood man, and Raymonda is definitely curious. Or intrigued.

I agree maybe it was an unfortunate choice to make Alexandrova visibly making faces of disgust the entire time. I have to pull out the 1980s video with Semenyaka -- I have it but have never watched it.

#48 abatt

abatt

    Sapphire Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,807 posts

Posted 02 July 2012 - 05:27 AM

I think the plot of Raymonda is very offensive to Muslims, and that is why ABT has not done it in such a long time. The libretto would definitely need some heavy editing/re-writes.

#49 bart

bart

    Diamonds Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 7,320 posts

Posted 02 July 2012 - 06:39 AM

The original 1898 production is usually described as "by Petipa," and I have seen refereces to "Petiipa's libretto." I haven't come across, however, details about where Petipa got the story.

Does anyone know the actual source (or sources) of this story line?

By the way, an interesting 2002 thread about the Raymonda story line is linked here --

http://balletalert.i...story-be-saved/

About the depiction of the Christian-versus-Muslim conflict -- Making the characters French and Hungarian connects the story to the actual Crusades (in what we now call the Middle East).

Russians (representing Orthodox Christianity) seem to have been trying to identify an idealized version of the Roman Catholic Crusades with their own long history of military and cultural expansion in Muslim regions in the Caucasus and Central Asia. By 1898, the date of Raymonda's premiere, Russia had already been fighting to dominate Muslim populations and absorb them into the Russian Empire for several hundred years.

The Soviet Union inherited both the policies and the prejudices of the Tsarist regime when it came to thinking about the Muslim societies to the south. The recent conflict in Chechnya is just one offshoot of this..

Russian artists have long been fascinated with the interactions of Christian and Muslim societies. Gogol visited Palastine; Pushkin visited and wrote about the Caucusus; Tolstoy served in the army in the Caucus and wrote some of his best stories about it as well.

#50 abatt

abatt

    Sapphire Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,807 posts

Posted 02 July 2012 - 06:46 AM

I think La Bayadere is pretty offensive to Indians, but that has not stopped it from being presented.

#51 puppytreats

puppytreats

    Gold Circle

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 751 posts

Posted 02 July 2012 - 06:52 AM

How could, or should ballet, with its language, present stories discussing different nationalities or races, and beliefs about them, in different time periods?

#52 abatt

abatt

    Sapphire Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,807 posts

Posted 02 July 2012 - 07:10 AM

These ballets are presenting Western stereotypes regarding other races and nationalities.

#53 Birdsall

Birdsall

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,339 posts

Posted 02 July 2012 - 07:11 AM

As mentioned above the entire story of Raymonda (dealing with the Crusades as an underlying theme) is really not PC, but it is what happened in history (Christians versus Muslims). And it is still going on, believe it or not. Just recently, the Muslim center near Ground Zero was hotly debated. It would be hard to show any story about the Crusades in a PC light, and actually I think the issues contained in Raymonda are still very relevant.

I do think that the fact that Raymonda has Aberakhman as a guest at her birthday party and the fact he falls in love with her shows some "human" interaction in which humans attempt to see humans as humans and the religious and cultural conflicts fall to the wayside for a very brief moment in their lives. Of course, it is fatal to Aberakhman in the end. I interpret this as how we want to understand other cultures but in the end we most often fail to do so despite a desire to do so.

I think Canbelto is trying to say that despite the non-PC elements, there is no need to dress him up and overdo it and make him into something comparable to an Aunt Jemima. However, I wonder if the costume designer actually looked into the Muslim dress of that time period. Maybe that is how they dressed. I have no idea. Of course, in ballet you have Indians in Bayadere dancing in tutus so costuming in ballet is never 100% historically correct. Maybe my point is silly. It would be interesting to know, however, if any amount of research went into the costume for Abderakhman or if it was just someone's personal idea of Muslims. If some attempt at historical accuracy in all the costumes was made (some middle ages European dress is shown in Raymonda), that might explain it. But if no attempt, then I think Canbelto has a point.

Others have mentioned other offensive elements in other ballets. Personally, I think the Chinese dance in Nutcracker is stereotypical. I am half Asian, but I actually enjoy the Chinese dance when I see it in most productions (often wonderfully danced). It is a problem in operas and ballets.....these are very European art forms based in the attitudes of the time and preconceptions about cultures, and so sometimes something is a bit shocking. I really don't think ballet will ever be PC no matter how much we might want it to be.

#54 Birdsall

Birdsall

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,339 posts

Posted 02 July 2012 - 07:18 AM

Madama Butterfly has always been one of the few operas I had major problems with. I think Puccini's librettists misread Asian culture completely. Their intent was to show how America basically messes up Asia. It was an attempt to be pro-Asian, but in its attempt it is actually very condescending toward Japanese culture. My mother is Japanese and married an American navy guy, but I know she would not wait for years for him to come back. He knew he might not come back so he re-enlisted, married her (despite the navy trying to stop it) and brought her to the U.S. So I feel my mother's story is the TRUE Asian Butterfly story and Puccini's opera is all wrong about how submissive Asian women are.

But slowly over years the music won me over. I no longer have a problem with Madama Butterfly. I love seeing or hearing it, although there are no sopranos who can sing it today, so why bother? It is a tougher role than most think, and I can't stand to hear the screeching you usually hear in it. So I probably won't ever see it again despite the fact I finally now like it! LOL

Anyway, my point is that there is no getting away from the fact that some of these very European based stories in ballet and opera are problematic to many of us. This is probably why so many directors are re-interpreting operas on stage which I am so tired of although have like SOME re-interpretations.

#55 Mashinka

Mashinka

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,198 posts

Posted 02 July 2012 - 08:09 AM

Saracens were for generations the bogeymen and enemies of Europe and Christianity. Apart from the crusades Ottoman expansionism ravaged Eastern Europe (right up to the gates of Vienna), occupied Southern Italy and Iberia, remember El Cid? And the Barbary pirates captured and sold around a million northern Europeans into slavery, if you were looking for villains you looked no further. Raymonda was right to be scared.

#56 canbelto

canbelto

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,919 posts

Posted 02 July 2012 - 03:05 PM

I don't think that was how they dressed. I have a hard time believing Grigorovich attempted to research medieval Saracen attire. My point is that yes many of these ballets and operas have elements that are offensive today but directors still have choices on how "far to go" with the camp and stereotypes. For example in a production of Madama Butterfly the director can choose to emphasize how foolish and gullible Butterfly is and make her a laughingstock or he can show a very naive and loving (and thus sympathetic) girl. Are all Asian women like Butterrfly? Of course not, but that doesn't mean a production of Butterfly can't still give the character dignity.

I simply think Grigorovich went way too far.

#57 Helene

Helene

    Administrator

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 11,407 posts

Posted 02 July 2012 - 04:52 PM

In all the versions I've seen, Aberakhman is a sympathetic and much more interesting character.

Jean de Brienne reminds me of a character in a romance novel I read in college: he sees the heroine bathing in the woods and falls in love and lust with her, but then when he, a noblewoman, finds out she's a noblewoman, he becomes all formal, and she runs away to join the Navy, because she wants passion that he thinks is only for servants.

#58 bart

bart

    Diamonds Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 7,320 posts

Posted 02 July 2012 - 05:26 PM

In all the versions I've seen, Aberakhman is a sympathetic and much more interesting character.

Me too. But not in all the Soviet era productions.

Young Nureyev staged Raymonda for the Royal and danced Brienne with Fonteyn. I never saw that, but I do recall seeing him dance Brienne at ABT.

When preparing a new version of Raymonda for Paris much later on, Nureyev greatly expanded the Abderakhman's role. I have the feeling that Nureyev might have been coming to the conclusion that he wished he could dance Abderakhman himself. The character he created, for another dancer, has passion, sensuality, and STEPS that go far beyond the Soviet versions. As a result, Act III is a dramatic letdown. It is probably heresy, but sometimes I wish I had the chance to see an Act III featuring Raymonda and her Saracen husband.

#59 Helene

Helene

    Administrator

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 11,407 posts

Posted 02 July 2012 - 05:32 PM

I think it depends on which company and what decade: the first "Raymonda"'s I saw were the Bolshoi/Grigorivich version, with Bessmertnova and Semenyaka, both of which were made in the '80's. I don't think the character was unsympathetic in the 1980 Kirov/Kolpakova version, either, even if it didn't have the mesmerizing Taranda in it.

I find Nureyev's version unwatchable for the most part.

#60 Birdsall

Birdsall

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,339 posts

Posted 02 July 2012 - 08:02 PM

I don't think that was how they dressed. I have a hard time believing Grigorovich attempted to research medieval Saracen attire. My point is that yes many of these ballets and operas have elements that are offensive today but directors still have choices on how "far to go" with the camp and stereotypes. For example in a production of Madama Butterfly the director can choose to emphasize how foolish and gullible Butterfly is and make her a laughingstock or he can show a very naive and loving (and thus sympathetic) girl. Are all Asian women like Butterrfly? Of course not, but that doesn't mean a production of Butterfly can't still give the character dignity.

I simply think Grigorovich went way too far.


On the Bolshoi website Simon Virsaladze is listed as the "designer." I don't know if that means he also designed the costumes or just the sets, and if he didn't design the costumes I wonder who did. Would Grigorovich have designed them? I don't know about ballet, but in opera there is usually a costume designer and many of them do research the time period before they make the costumes, although this is becoming rarer, since many stagings seem to just use off the rack stuff from Macy's b/c the story is usually updated (these stories have lasted centuries and moved people for centuries but suddenly in the last 20-30 years they must be updated to make them relevant). I knew a costume designer years ago, and he took his work very seriously. Of course, sometimes finances of an opera company kept him from realizing what he wanted to do.

I am not really defending Raymonda or the Bolshoi's depiction of Abderakham. You have every right to your feelings about the depiction of this character. I think the Mariinsky's Raymonda has a similar costume if I remember correctly. I will have to go back and look.

I have to say I am not very impressed with Simon Virsaladze's designs overall anyway. The Bolshoi really needs a new production of this ballet. I really hate the Michael Jackson cape that Jean de Brienne wears! And I find it hard to believe Crusaders dressed like that, so you might be right that no real thought was put into the costumes. You have just given one more reason to get rid of this production. It needs replacing big time!

It also is hard to like these sets and costumes after La Scala came out with such a beautiful production last October.


0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Help support Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers year round by using this search box for your amazon.com purchases (adblockers may block display):