I wonder if those who saw the MCB version in the theater still have the program notes. Do they explain why they use the name Ballet Imperial? Of the different versions in Helene's message, which are they doing? Presumably Villela leaned toward versions he himself performed at NYCB. Any information on this?
I believe you are technically correct - MCB 'should' be using Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 for the name, but Ballet Imperial is a great name that people have always reponded to. Balancine was in the habit of switching from poetic name to whatever the name of the music happened to be, when he reached a point where he seemed satisfied with his choreography. So the choreography truly becomes one with the music.
cubanmiamiboy, I agree; this ballet desperately wants tutus and columns. The fact that Balanchine often changed his ballets in later years does not mean that the changes were always better (Mendelssohn, for example, was always dissatisfied with the Italian Symphony finale--the greatest finale he ever wrote!--and thank god he never tinkered with it.) ; in fact they were sometimes much worse (the horrendous deletions from Apollo being Exhibit A.) If there is any ostentation anywhere in this work of art, it is in the mediocre (for Tchaikovsky) score which Balanchine turned into a masterpiece--and it is most certainly present there. The grandeur of formal costumes is necessary for that and several other reasons; there are tons of great Balanchine ballets in just this kind of nondescript little chiffon schmattas (sigh) and they are fine that way (Allegro Brilliante, etc, etc.) The PNB costumes ain't Karinska, that is for sure, but they are still better than chiffon here.
I agree JSMU - sometimes the particular costume really matters, and relying on a stripped-down approach only goes so far. As Balanchine's method became more and more concerned with pure dance, the black and white leotards and white chiffons became the norm. It's not really one of my favorite things about Balanchine - it just happens to be.