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Words for the ballet


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#1 felursus

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Posted 05 July 2001 - 12:53 AM

Just for fun - and somewhat astray from our serious and sometimes scholarly discussions: the late David Daniels (dance critic for Vogue) was most prolific in creating words to go with ballet music. He was especially creative for Swan Lake. When he wrote out some of them for a RB principal dancer about to do her first Swan Lake in NY, she said she'd have trouble keeping the words out of her head when she danced. For better or worse, here they are:

Odette: (right after her grand jete entrance)
"Oh woe is me that I a swan must be, that I can ne'er be free of Rothbart's fatal charms. Once the daughter of a mighty king was I, who could not flee the evil powers of Von Rothbart."

Odette: (when she's trying to dodge Siegfried)
"I'm the Swan Queen, do not touch me or the evil genius will destroy you. Go away! Or you'll succumb to Rothbart's noxious powers. Hush, now for he fast approaches. Cache yourself in yonder bush! (Aside) He is the Prince if I can charm he he will free me from my bondage..."

Odette: (beginning of pdd - from the developpe)
"My name is Odette, I am Queen of the Swans, Von Rothbart has brought me here to sing my song of woe. A swan I must be, at night I am free, a maid I can be with your love. If I can find a man who will vow his undying love and devotion to me, this bane of my life, the curse of Von Rothbart will fade, I'll be free."

Then in England I picked up two other gems: one from the walz in Act I: "How's your mother? how's your father? how's your sister? how's your brother? How's your mother? how's your father? how's your sister, your brother, your aunt?"

(It didn't help that there was a version in which the dancers went from partner to partner...)

And then there are the famous words to the female Act III solo. Hard to describe WHICH music, but here goes:

"I eat my peas with honey. I've done so all me life. It makes the peas taste funny, but it keeps them on the knife."

(I think this goes back to the idea of "How can you tell the difference between and Englishman and a Continental when they are eating?" Ans: The Continental can get all the different food items on his plate on the fork at the same time EXCEPT peas, but the Englishman can get the peas on it as well.)

Anyway, does anyone else know of any words that have been made up to go with the music?

#2 Jane Simpson

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Posted 05 July 2001 - 07:07 AM

Felursus, this is the only one of your posts I have very determinedly not read! Making up words to ballets is a curse - they will haunt you forever! I once made up some words for a bit of Giselle when I was very young and it has taken me the rest of my life to forget them.

#3 Juliet

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Posted 05 July 2001 - 09:51 AM

I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!

This is the best thing I have read in ages!!!
Made my morning....

The favourite one I know is when Aurora pricks her finger and starts whirling around to the mental tune of "chicken noodle soup, chicken noodle soup, chicken noodle soup, chicken noodle soup..."

Try it, you'll be singing along right with her forevermore.....

#4 Ed Waffle

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Posted 05 July 2001 - 10:28 AM

The opening of "The Ride of the Valkiries" from Wagner's Ring Cycle may be the most well known passage in opera. A very effective non-operatic uses of it is in the movie "Apocalypse Now" in which it accompanies the attack helicopters roaring into battle from the sea.

The rhythm and accents are often difficult for the eight Valkiries. John Culshaw the producer for the first ever recorded Ring told of teaching them the rhythm with the following:

"I'm sick on a SEE-saw,
Sick on a SEE-saw
Sick on a SEE-saw
Sick on a TRAIN"

It really works--actually too well and not only for the listener. More than one of the eight reported singing those English words instead of the German in subsequent performances.

#5 felursus

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Posted 06 July 2001 - 10:59 PM

Sorry if I've offended you, Jane. I guess I've known the words for so long I can watch the performance without necessarily "hearing" them in my head. :D

I've sent the Wagner words on to a friend who is a Wagnerian soprano. I'm sure she'll be amused.

As for Giselle: do you mean:
(Wili variation) "Hold that balance, hold that balance: if you value your life hold that balance! Hold that balance, hold that balance: if you value your job hold that balance!" ??? :rolleyes:

#6 Jane Simpson

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Posted 07 July 2001 - 06:29 AM

No, no - I wasn't at all offended - I'm more than happy for other people to invent words - it's just that I know I would wish I'd never read them!

#7 Alexandra

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Posted 07 July 2001 - 10:49 AM

I think this was the old school way of learning roles, when the steps, music, characterization and mime were all taught at once (before the poor dancers were sent home with their video homework). I've also heard coaches try to give words to dancers so they "don't look blank on stage." There's a bit in the film "Ballet" where Somes is coaching "Symphonic Variations" and he says, very impatiently, something to the effect, "Oh, could you think something? I don't care what it is, just think something so that you don't look so blank???" (I don't know what the "words" for "Symphonic" were.)

#8 Mel Johnson

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Posted 07 July 2001 - 03:22 PM

There also used to be something that went to the hunt music in Giselle: "Here she comes, here she comes, here she comes, the Princess Bathilde...!"

And the words to "Symphonic Variations" are on a thread in Adult Ballet Students, about Henry Danton.

(PS. Oop! Looks like it aged out! OK, here goes: Mar-got FON-teyn, Moira SHEAR-er, Michael SOMES, Brian SHAW, Henry DAN-ton <picking up the next phrase>...and PAM-el-A May.... ;) )

[ 07-07-2001: Message edited by: Mel Johnson ]

#9 NancyHJohnson

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Posted 07 July 2001 - 06:36 PM

For those who have not yet learned the trick of getting rid of musically-related annoying bits stuck in your head, musician Leo Kottke recommends singing, playing, or otherwise performing them backwards, and they will leave you. I don't know if he ever recorded his version of "the Woody Woodpecker song" backwards, but I've been told he does it in concert. I would not knock it until I had tried it.


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