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Balanchine and GiselleWhy no Giselle?


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#16 emilienne

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Posted 16 April 2014 - 01:40 PM

(I suppose the term refers to their circulation numbers, like 10,000, instead of millions.)


Jack, Raritan's circulation is around 3500-4000 in 1999. I don't expect this number to have increased much, though I'm not sure how they count institutional and digital subscriptions to academic journal repositories that would contain Raritan such as Jstor, Ebscohost, etc ad infinitum. Edit: That's the only concrete circulation figure that I could find. Neither the magazine's website nor Ulrich's Periodicals Directory list a current circulation figure.
 
Anyway, if you are affiliated with a university, the article should be accessible through your institution's subscription to these fine repositories. 
 
Interesting fact from said article: Violette Verdy once danced Giselle with Edward Villella at Boston Ballet in 1968.

#17 Jack Reed

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Posted 16 April 2014 - 03:00 PM

Okay, I was mainly trying to distinguish between Raritan and Time!  I knew I was overestimating their circulation.  Maybe The New Republic or The Nation gets up to my number?  Yours are more typical for the genre, like The Hudson Review, where the excellent music critic who signed himself "B. H. Haggin" wrote his ballet criticism, decades ago. 

 

More to the point, Bernard Haggin, a great admirer of Verdy, among others of Balanchine's dancers, put several images of those performances in his 1970  book, Ballet Chronicle (long o.p.), on pp. 198-199, and on pp. 201-209 a series of isolated moments and movement sequences from "the film made by Gerald Fitzgerald of the Boston Ballet's 1969 production."  (A little Googling turns up almost nothing except for a couple of images on Boston Ballet's web site I find much less exciting, but knowing something exists may help in its discovery.)



#18 Quiggin

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Posted 16 April 2014 - 03:25 PM

I agree with Jack Reed about Balanchine being of different minds about a subject – like most artists he seemed to be throwing people off the track, or reposition the past to meet present needs. In a documentary somewhere he winkingly says this is the step we do when we do Giselle, when of course they didn't do Giselle at the time (except perhaps for Serenade).

 

The NY Times review of the production of Giselle that abatt cites doesn't credit Balanchine with the actual choreography but instead says:

 

 

The production would have more unity, and greater justice would have been done Mr. Berman, if Balanchine were called in to revise the choreography and Stravinsky to fix up the music...

 

Quite clearly everybody was out of step last night but Mr Berman despite a superb cast … As it was [Miss Alonso] might have been dancing it on the back of an elephant in Ringling’s circus… Stanley Herbetter, who has previously done an excellent Hilarion, was completely smotherd in his red flounces, which cut through the blue scenery and blue tutus (Mr. Berman had transformed the work into a “ballet bleu”) like a knife...

 

GISELLE IS DANCED IN STRANGE DECOR, NYT Oct 16, 1946

 

Balanchine did a short Sleeping Beauty for Ballet Theatre which was triple billed with Giselle (Nana Gollner, Igor Yoskevich, and Diana Adams) and Jerome Robbins' Interplay:

 

 

The evening opened with the second presentation of Balanchine’s new arrangement of Princess Aurora with Nora Kaye, serene, scintillating and elegant in the title role; John Kriza again, as Prince Charming, and Janet Reed dong a charming first “Bluebird” pas de deux with the assistance (if that is the word) of Eric Braun, who has excellent elevation even when his is nervous.

 

GOLLNER AT BEST IN ROLE OF GISELLE, NYT April 23, 1949

 

But Tim Scholl writes a complicated argument in From Petipa to Balanchine that Balanchine was always doing Sleeping Beauty, that the precious stones of SB also figure in colored costumed original Symphony in C and in Jewels. Which is how painters and writers work – anxiety of influence or whatever. As Cezanne was redone by Matisse and Picasso, so was Petipa by Balanchine.



#19 kfw

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Posted 16 April 2014 - 04:12 PM

The NY Times review of the production of Giselle that abatt cites doesn't credit Balanchine with the actual choreography

 

That was me, and I should have been more specific than "traditional." Here's what the description at that link says:

 

Balanchine, working with Romanoff, arranged the traditional Maryinsky staging of Giselle's grave scene in Act II: Albrecht prevents Giselle from disappearing into her grave and lays her on a bed of flowers; but Giselle sinks away, and only the flowers remain. This interpolation lasted in repertory for only a brief time.



#20 canbelto

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Posted 16 April 2014 - 04:23 PM

If Balanchine wasn't all that fond of the music of Giselle, he did always speak VERY fondly of two very famous Giselles, Olga Spessivtseva and Tamara Karsavina, and his memories of watching them when he was a student at the Mariinsky. I think he respected the "classics" more than he cared to say. Of course he wanted to promote his vision of classical ballet but his memories of watching the Mariinsky when he was young seemed sacred to him.



#21 Quiggin

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Posted 16 April 2014 - 05:01 PM

 

The NY Times review of the production of Giselle that abatt cites doesn't credit Balanchine with the actual choreography

 

That was me, and I should have been more specific than "traditional": Here's what the description at that link says:

 

Balanchine, working with Romanoff, arranged the traditional Maryinsky staging of Giselle's grave scene in Act II: Albrecht prevents Giselle from disappearing into her grave and lays her on a bed of flowers; but Giselle sinks away, and only the flowers remain. This interpolation lasted in repertory for only a brief time.

 

 

Sorry kfw,I was reading the thread upside down down while trying to post. The Oct 16, 1946 NYT review characterizes the grave scene like this -

 

 

In the last act however the old and impressive ending in which Giselle sinks into the tomb has been replaced by a bit of bathos in which Albrecht now tucks her awkwardly into a waiting grave and pulls the hinged grass over her…

 

 

Interesting that John Martin thought that Stravinsky should be called in to spruce up the music. "The orchestra played quite badly, no doubt embarrassed by the inappropriateness of the late Mr. Adam's music," he says.



#22 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 17 April 2014 - 02:09 AM

 

More to the point, Bernard Haggin, a great admirer of Verdy, among others of Balanchine's dancers, put several images of those performances in his 1970  book, Ballet Chronicle (long o.p.), on pp. 198-199, and on pp. 201-209 a series of isolated moments and movement sequences from "the film made by Gerald Fitzgerald of the Boston Ballet's 1969 production."  (A little Googling turns up almost nothing except for a couple of images on Boston Ballet's web site I find much less exciting, but knowing something exists may help in its discovery.)

 

Of which I'm assuming that the following may be a segment (from a fundraising program of 1991).

 



#23 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 17 April 2014 - 04:46 AM

So far, I see they're giving away some other material from the current issue, where Goldner's article appears, but not hers.  But the magazine may be available in shops that try to carry everything, including such "little" magazines.  (I suppose the term refers to their circulation numbers, like 10,000, instead of millions.)

 

You can order a copy of the current issue ($10 plus postage) using the form at this URL: http://raritanquarte...-Order-Form.pdf  Note that Raritan isn't set up to take online orders -- you'll have to mail in the form with a check. There's a number to call for details re availability and P&H charges. 



#24 sandik

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Posted 17 April 2014 - 08:26 AM

As I understand it, Adam's score for Giselle includes one of the first examples of the character leitmotif, and that music historians would consider it a significant work for that element alone. 

 

With the notable exception of works like Nutcracker, Swan Lake act 2, and Coppelia, Balanchine was much more interested in creating new work than in staging older ballets.  I don't know if it was a specific lack of regard for Giselle as Giselle, or just his general predilection to look forward rather than back, but I hesitate to read more into it than is already established.



#25 Helene

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Posted 17 April 2014 - 08:32 AM

Also, as we learned when PNB did its first Giselle a few seasons ago, the modern, heavy orchestrations obscure the subtle and atmospheric nature of the score, much the way the Stokowski Bach arrangements change the character of the music, even if the notes stay the same.

#26 Eileen

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Posted 17 April 2014 - 10:24 AM

Very interesting and true, Helene. We are not hearing the Giselle of the 19th century on modern orchestral instruments and arrangements.



#27 Jack Reed

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Posted 17 April 2014 - 04:42 PM



Of which I'm assuming that the following may be a segment (from a fundraising program of 1991).

 

 

 

 

 

 

For what it's worth, the middle part of this clip is from a different part of the ballet from the images in Ballet Chronicle, but even so, I don't see any resemblance between this ballerina and Ms. Verdy.



#28 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 02:02 AM

Maybe someone will come along who knows who she is.



#29 rg

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 06:20 AM

if the question here is the identification of the dancer as Giselle doing the back-traveling sequence of entrechats, is looks very like Verdy to me.

also what other dancer in a historical promo of this sort would Boston B. feature: Verdy's Giselle perfs. w/the troupe were a coup for E. Viriginia Williams. admittedly this is brief and hardly sharp footage but it records the 'look' on record one place or another i've seen for Verdy's Giselle; i don't have Haggin nearby.

my sense is that the Giselle clipped into this is clip is Verdy.



#30 Jack Reed

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Posted 18 April 2014 - 08:50 AM

I'm happy to defer to rg's keen eye, and I'm glad to accept that this is Verdy after all.  Glad at the prospect of one day experiencing it myself from the films Goldner refers to - plural - films made with Boston Ballet and then with the National Ballet (which became the Washington Ballet), because with the help of the Goldner article which I've now been able to access by emilienne's suggestion, I've come to consider that Verdy's conception of Giselle was extraordinary. 

 

Here's Goldner's title and first paragraph:

 


 

                                                                       Leap Before You Look: Honoring the Libretto in Giselle

 

                                                                                               NANCY  GOLDNER

 

The first move that Violette Verdy makes as Giselle when she steps out her cottage door is to approach the audience, extend her arms in shy greeting, and smile.  Then she begins her circuit of the stage in large jumps.  The one thing that seems to be on her mind is the pleasure of dancing.  Only after she completes her tour of the stage does she cup her hand to her ear, acknowledging that she has heard someone knock on her door.  Since it's the knocking that brings Giselle out of her house, you might suppose that she'd immediately seek out the knocker.  Indeed that's what all Giselles do.  But not Verdy.  The most important thing to do, she writes in Giselle, A Role for a Lifetime, is to establish Giselle's passion for dancing.  Dance first, look second.




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