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#1 felursus

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Posted 20 July 2001 - 10:35 AM

La Scala opened it's stay in New York on Wednesday evening with the Amarcord/Carmen program, which they also presented on Thursday evening. Being unable to attend on Wednesday, I only saw the performance on Thursday.

I enjoyed MOST of Amarcord but thought it needed a lot of pruning: say 15-20 minutes. I also thought much of the choreography was highly derivative. For example, the goose-stepping blackshirts seemed to come straight out of Igor Belsky's "Leningrad Symphony". (Sorry, younger readers, unless there's a video out there ? you wouldn't have been able to see this ballet.) The dancers, however were all excellent and did a commendable job of portraying their characters. I especially liked Biagio Tambone as the fascist official, Massimo Murru as the German officer and, of course, Sabrina Brazzo as Gradisca.

The California contingent will be happy to hear that Durante's fan stayed in her hand, unbroken, during Carmen! It beats me as to why they use a paper fan: I don't think the rustling of the paper contributes in any way to the ballet. I have seen Carmen a number of times in the past - both live and on film - so I am fairly familiar with it. I will confess to not having seen it for many, many years, though: with Eric Bruhn and Kirsten Simone. I had forgotten some details - such as the creative use of the chairs - especially their use to deptict the bandits' horses.

Durante did not wear the "pixie" wig. She had her hair parted at the side and then back into a bun. If we are being picky about details, I thought she might at least have added a couple of spit curls.

I agree with the person who thought that there was no connection between Durante and Murru. I think the problem lay with Durante, as I felt that, while she DANCED the role excellently (probably the best that I've seen), she was about as sexy as a cold, wet washcloth. I felt that she projected the role the same way she does Manon - and Carmen and Manon are two entirely different characters. Carmen is about sex, her love of "strong" men as well as money. Manon is about money, money, money, social position and then love. Any sex that Manon has is merely a means to an end. In that sense, she is something of an innocent, whereas Carmen is predatory in the fullest sense of the word. Durante just didn't bring that out. Even at the end, during the "duel", I felt that she was just counting the drum beats and moving in time to them. There didn't seem to be any tension at all between her and Murru. Murru, by the way, partnered her extremely well but didn't seem to care that much. One wondered if the two just don't like each other.

I'd like to give a mention to the three bandits, who did a bang-up job: Vitterio D'Amato, Beatrice Carbone, and Gianluca Schiavo. Does anyone know which man is the one who wears the red wig? He was really super! Those three brought life to the performance.

The audience reception for both ballets was very warm, and the house was full.

Giselle tonight. The first of four performances. Supposedly Sylvie is doing all of them except the Sat. matinee.

#2 stan

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Posted 20 July 2001 - 01:50 PM

I didn't much care for Amarcord because I had no idea what was going on and the rather extensive program notes in the Playbill weren't much help. I thought it might be because I had never seen the movie. But then I read Clive's review (he also hated it) and he said: "It might have meant more to people who didn't remember the original movie, but I doubt it."

As far as Carmen is concerned, I'm not sure I would describe Durante as a cold fish, but I certainly agree that there are no sparks and that is something that's disastrous for Carmen. I had the same problem with the opera which I saw last season at the Met. Borodina is a wonderful singer but she's just not sexy. There's clearly a limit to how far technique will take you.

#3 Michael

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Posted 20 July 2001 - 08:15 PM

It wasn't the lack of "sexiness," per se.

It was that the drama was not effectively portrayed. Durante remained Durante, visting diva. She never made an entry into her role. Muru was dramatically effective during the scene where he is lured into becoming a murderer, but not otherwise. The Toreador was also weak -- a simpering fellow who didn't take himself seriously and whom you couldn't take seriously either or imagine the real Carmen being attracted to --- And without a strongly charismatic Toreador whom you can imagine actually sparking jealousy to the point of murder, the final scene just will not work.

I was bored by Amarcord. Even with the notes I couldn't tell much what was going on. There were too many characters too. I had trouble telling them apart after a while. Different sweaters for some of the men? The dance patterns for the corps, indeed the entire dance, also struck me as unimaginative and weak.

Presumably this wistfullness for a benign fascist era where the black shirts act like schoolboys and at most make you drink castor oil is something that speaks to Italians of that era more than to me. (Although the late Primo Levi would not have laughed, I would think, although Levi did not lack humour). I'm missing something, I guess. But I was bored by the film too, if I remember correctly.

And I'd gladly see Amarcord (the ballet) again. Perhaps on second viewing it would work. I've too often changed my view of a ballet upon seeing it a second time to condemn this without reprieve after a single viewing.

[ 07-20-2001: Message edited by: Michael1 ]

#4 Terry

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Posted 20 July 2001 - 11:07 PM

Hmm...a little bit of mixed feelings....Overall, however, I enjoyed the performance and I would like to say that I buy her talent, her effort, and her determination as a great artist. In other words, I understood her philosophy towards this new Giselle.

I was a bit perplexed in the scene changes at the beginning of the First Act (sort of reminded me of the LES MIS style...), but as the story progressed, I gradually began see that the rural, modern setting worked. You could see that she was really trying to create a theatrical piece, as she said in her program commentray. There was even live music ON stage during the pdd solos and Giselle's solo. So if some people were disappointed in her rechoreography and her modern setting, well then, in her words, it really isn't what she wanted the audience to look for in her nouveau Giselle. It WAS meant to be completely different.

I've always thought Murru had a lot of potential since his many guest appearances in Japan, and tonight, I realized that he has developed into a even stronger artist than before. He's not the masculine, powerful, aggressive type , but he likes to present himself in a simple manner, that is, he doesn't like to over-do his acting. I personally liked his elegance, his youthfulness, and especially his *classiness* on stage. He works pretty well with Guillem, even though they've yet to establish the kind of partnership that she has with Cope, but he's gettin' there...(I've read that he'll be dancing with her again in Ashton's A Month in the Country at RB next month). He's an artist that I would like to see more often in the future, particularly in pieces that require strong acting skills because I think he posesses great potential for improvement.

I won't keep this too long, but choreographically speaking, I thought Guillem's fine musical instincts were strongly presented in her reconstruction of the First Act, particularly in the peasant waltzes and the peasant pdds. I especially liked the more youthful, playful qualities that she added to the peasant pdd. Her solo was set to the one peasant pdd solo that Ashton had choreographed, and I'm still not sure why she didn't keep the traditional variation, but I think part of it had to do with the fact that she wanted to display her original technical qualities.

If I was working closely with Guillem for this production's costumes, I probably would've made some suggestions. I've read that you could barely see any dancing with the brown socks and the long skirts -- this wasn't too problematic for me in the First Act, as I knew that she wanted more focus on the acting and the drama of the First Act, but I really wish that the wilis could have had more of a spiritual representation. Guillem sort of reinterpreted the characterization of the wilis by giving each one of them an identity (they all wore different wedding dresses) -- she gave them the femininity, womanhood -- the qualities that she felt vital to the portrayal of each of the wilis. (On the side note, this is where I realized how much Guillem had grown as not only an artist, but also as a "woman." We say that the development of one's artistry comes from one's internal development of as a "person," and in this re-presentation of the wilis, I could see Guillem had matured into a woman from that teen-age "etoile" that we had known her for so long. ) Anyway, my point about the wilis is that, again, I would've liked to see a more spiritual side to them as well, and this, I think could've been done (perhaps) with lighter skirts (closer to the costumes that's always been used for the original) .

That's about it for the moment, but I'll post some more if I have any more comments to add. :(

Lastly, the audience went WILD at the end. There was a HUGE standing ovation, and Murru and Guillem both seemed completely thrilled. (Even Murru had some tears in his eyes... :()I was happy for them that they received such a warm welcome.

#5 lara

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Posted 21 July 2001 - 12:17 AM

>>, it really isn't what she wanted the audience to look for in her nouveau Giselle. It WAS meant to be completely different.<<

But in order for a work to be strong, it has to be more than just different.

And after all was said and done it was only different. The restaging and new choreography brought nothing of any merit to the ballet.

I totally agree with you Terry, though about Murru. I think he is a major acting talent waiting to be unleased!

His curtan calls in California were also emotional. It is almost as if he doesn't believe the audience likes him as much as they do. Rather touching I think.

Lara

#6 stan

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Posted 21 July 2001 - 09:28 AM

Doubtless I'm in the minority on this (the audience did go wild at the end) but I hated it. I've been a huge Sylvie fan for many years and loved everything she's done from the classics to William Forsythe (and including that TV thing; what was it called, Wet Woman?). But this was just bad. It seemed like every choice she made was not just wrong but perverse. The costumes: maybe those of you in the orchestra were luckier but from my lofty perch in the 5th ring, I couldn't see any feet at all. And there was no differentiation between the peasants and the royals. For a while I couldn't figure out who Bathilde was. The sets: Not only did the moving wall have no discernible dramatic point but it also served to cut the dancing area in half. I felt like we were back at City Center. And the second act! What's the deal with those Stonehenge-like boulders? For a few minutes I had the horrifying sense that the rocks were going to stay there for the entire act. Fortunately they were lifted and we got, what exactly, some sort of crop circle in Kansas at high noon?

Maybe you could put up with the bizarre staging if the dancing carried the day, but it didn't. I have been to many Giselles, good, bad and indifferent. (For the record, the best was Makarova and Baryshnikov back in the 70's). I have never until now been to a Giselle that left me completely cold.

#7 Terry

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Posted 21 July 2001 - 11:33 AM

lara

Interesting how you said that Murru doesn't believe that the audience likes him much more than he thinks. I completely agree on that one. There's this humbleness to him on stage that comes off as extremely elegant, IMO. I think he deserves to be much more well-known in the US (since he's very well-known in Europe and Japan) and I think this was a marvelous opportunity for him.

#8 lara

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Posted 21 July 2001 - 06:19 PM

Stan,

>>And the second act! What's the deal with those Stonehenge-like boulders? For a few minutes I had the horrifying sense that the rocks were going to stay there for the entire act. Fortunately they were lifted and we got, what exactly, some sort of crop circle in Kansas at high noon?<<

No, stone clouds. LOL! I was wondering the same thing at the beginning of Act II myself.

Did you read my impressions on this ballet in the thead called Guillem's Giselle. My thoughts were almost exactly as yours!

I didn't exactly hate the ballet - because I wanted to see Sylvie dance but I was not happy with much of the production itself.

Lara

#9 felursus

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Posted 22 July 2001 - 01:28 AM

I, too, saw the Giselle on Friday evening. I thought it INTERESTING and, perhaps, even a valid interpretation, but I object to it being called simply "Giselle". There are going to be a lot of little girls in Milan who will think that they have seen the REAL Giselle when they haven't. I wish Sylvie had given it another title - such as (and this is only an illustration) "A Sicilian Giselle" (along the lines of the other variant on the Giselle theme: "A Creole Giselle", which did stick a bit more closely to the original). That aside, I was irritated by a number of things: I thought the little vignette in Albrecht's room a little unnecessary; the noisy and frequent change of scene seemed a bit excessive; I was annoyed by the lack of space on stage caused by the "wall" in Act I; the brown socks looked silly; the courtiers seemed to be dressed in costumes reminiscent of the first half of the 19th C, except for Bathilde, whose outfit (once she removed the coat) looked to be out of the 1950s. The idea of a sword then seemed totally out of place. Why couldn't Albrecht have a monogrammed rifle instead? No one carried a sword then except when in military uniform. Sylvie changed enough in the ballet to figure out a way around that - and Albrecht's gesture of going for his sword would STILL make sense, because when not out hunting or chasing village girls, he probably DID dress in military uniform.

I rather like the peasant pdd, but I do wish Sylvie had left Giselle's solo alone.

By the way, with reference to our earlier discussions about Giselle: I note that Albrecht HAS no landlord in this production. He just leaves his sword by the side of a building. Rather careless of him, no?

In Act II, I spent too much time looking at the brides' dresses. And INDIAN brides? It was a German tale after all! Furthermore we seem to have moved up to the 1950s in wedding dress styles. I did feel sorry for the girls who had to wear long sleeves! As for Sylvie's costume: I gather it was meant to be reminiscent of the Act I costume, but she COULD have put up her hair. The braid retainer looked silly.

Those AWFUL rocks! Since when do rocks fly? Are we to infer that the action takes place under the earth??? What is their purpose - except to be in the way? Why not flying gravestones if you want to do something like that? And as Giselle CLEARLY dies of heart failure, she could have been buried in hallowed groud - which wouln't have been stony. Sylvie need US as consultants!

Another thing I noticed, and this may be a function of differences in stage size: the floor cloth was rather wrinkled, and I was very fearful someone would have an accident.

With reference again to our discussions: remember the point about the circle??? They had some lighting problems on Friday, and for a while only half of it was lit. Sylvie certainly emphasized the magic of the circle in this production - and the lit floor wouldn't let you miss the point.

As far as the choreography went: I kept wondering why she had kept some things: a lot of the chorography for the corps - including the infamous hops across the stage, and for Albrecht, but decimated the choreography for Giselle and the wili solos. Given what a great dancer Sylvie is, it just didn't make sense for her to substitute some non-descript movements for the beautiful solo. If it had been anyone else, one would suspect that the choreographer could no longer dance the original.

All-in-all, I enjoyed it up to a point (execpt, I must add for the hour-long intermission between the acts, which I thought unconscionable). I wouldn't mind seeing it again. It might even grow on me. It just isn't the REAL Giselle, and I think the general audience, who may not know any better, should be clued in on that.

I have a question for the dancers out there: in Act II, it looked as though Sylvie wasn't wearing tights nor did she have ribbons on her shoes. I have very powerful glasses and I kept LOOKING. So how does she keep the shoes on? (Yes, I checked to see if she had applied skin-tone makeup to ribbons - but then there would be some wrinkling, and there was none. :eek:

#10 stan

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Posted 22 July 2001 - 07:43 AM

Lara, I hadn't read any notices because I didn't want to be influenced one way or the other but I see we are of the same mind. As to the "cutting the dance space in half" point, here's an example of what annoyed me. During the Peasant PDD, the guy does some tours en l'air, but since he only has half the stage to work with, he just does a semi-circle.

Someone in a "great moments in ballet" thread mentioned that one of his favorite moments of all time was Baryshnikov doing the brisees en volante in Act II. This is also one of my strongest memories from those classic performances of the 70s. Here, instead of brisees, we get Murru going up and down like a jumping jack. What is the point?

They used to have some pretty bizarre productions of Wagner in Bayreuth, but since it never occurred to anyone to change Wagner's music, the singers soldiered on and often had a great success in spite of the weird staging. Ballet, of course, is different and no one wants museum-like reproductions of 19th century stagings. But surely there has to be some anchor to tradition and surely you should have dramatic reasons for the changes. Here, as I've noted, I thought most of the changes were simply perverse. Certainly, if the point was to highlight the drama, that didn't work since she made a hash of the drama in any event.

#11 atm711

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Posted 22 July 2001 - 02:36 PM

I was at the Thursday night performance and from what I have been reading, I suppose I am one of the few who actually liked "Amarcord"--it had the same strong impact on me that I felt the first time I saw "The Green Table". I loved the family dinner scene, the Confesion scene, the party scene with the Glenn Miller music--and Gradisca's lovely theme music melted me! (Perhaps one has to be Italian to like it). I must also commend Sabrina Brazzo, a ballerina I would love to see again.

In October of 1950 (on our first date) I took my future spouse to see "Carmen" with Jeanmaire and Petit, and since we have just celebrated our 50th Wedding Anniversary this past Saturday we thought it would be fun to revisit "Carmen" together.

I felt Durante was too predatory (she could have been dancing "The Cage")---when Jeanmaire and Petit danced that pas de deux there was a softness and vulnerability evident in both of them. With Durante (although beautifully danced) there was a disinterest, and one expected her to be paid for her services

My spouse's comments?--the program was "better than Balanchine". I think I will need another 50 years to work on a conversion.

#12 felursus

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Posted 23 July 2001 - 01:38 AM

Well, I'm sure Durante WAS well paid - I hear she has a fondness for fast and expensive cars. :rolleyes: Joking aside, I just found Durante very detatched and totally unsexy, so that when Carmen does that bump and grind movement in fifth position people just giggled. Murru tried very hard, but he was unable to make a connection on his own.

Speaking of Murru, I certainly think he deserves to be better known on the international scene. I noticed in Giselle that he very nearly conforms to the Cecchetti ideal of being able to perform a saute in first position so that the heels and the toes touch in the air. Well, that's a physical impossiblility, but I think Murru comes about as close as humanly possible! Performing the repeated entrechats six in the second act of Giselle has been done many times before: notably by Eric Bruhn, so it wasn't something that Murru thought up for himself. I believe this was mentioned during our discussions about Giselle under Aesthetic Issues.

Congratulations, atm711 to you and your spouse on your wedding anniversary. You make me feel like a newly wed - and I've been married for 25 years (this June). May you have many more happy and healthy years together. :(

#13 Alexandra

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Posted 23 July 2001 - 05:38 AM

Felursus, maybe it should be called The Rocky Giselle? Gosh, I hope this one avoids Washington.

Nureyev did the entrechats too. Maybe it's just a question of what one sees first, but I liked them better than the brises. More in period for one thing, and for another, Nureyev would keep the legs flashing, brilliantly, while the chest sunk lower and lower, making it seem as he were dancing through magic, as though Myrtha was controlling his legs.

As for Durante, anyone who would dance Carmen wearing a ballet bun....

#14 Terry

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Posted 23 July 2001 - 05:36 PM

A very nicely and interestingly written review of Giselle: [url="http://"http://www.voiceofdance.org/Insights/features.test.cfm?LinkID=25000000000000102"] La Scala Ballet in New York[/url]

 In dancing for his life, with Giselle egging him on more because she refused to give up than because of her undying love for him, Murru became almost heroic. He had speed, crystalline beats and floating elevation and good emotive power. A technically strong and dramatic Andrea Volpintesta danced Hilarion. He is a dancer to be watched.


Thought some of you might be interesting in getting more opinions about this controversial piece. :(

#15 Colleen Boresta

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Posted 24 July 2001 - 07:00 PM

I saw the July 22nd matinee of Gulliem's "Giselle" and my opinions of the ballet have already been mentioned. (So I'll make this brief.) It was a very interesting ballet, but to me it wasn't "Giselle". I like the idea of realism, and I agree that acting is very important in a ballet, but can't acting and dancing be combined? During Giselle's mad scene, there was very little dancing. Just acting I guess, but I really don't think Gulliem's acting was that good. (Isn't she better known for her technique? It was my first time to see her so I don't know.) To me the mad scene seemed like - there's Giselle running to her mother, there's Giselle sitting on a chair, there's Giselle picking up the sword. I really didn't feel anything during Gulliem's mad scene.

It's already been stated that Gulliem changed much of the choreograpy. She really seemed to simplify it - especially for Giselle. I've seen "Giselle" so many times, and I really diappointed with the choreographic changes made in Act II - especially at the beginning of the pas de deux and Giselle's solo after the pas de deux. But not nearly as much of the male choreography was changed, and I was happy about that. I thought Murru was wondeful, both as a dancer and an actor. He was the one I was talking about when the ballet was over, not Gulliem. And Nick Zeni as Hilarion was also excellent. I was especially impressed with Hilarion's technique when he was being danced to death by the willis. But why wasn't Hilarion thrown in the ditch or dragged off stage by the wilis to die as usually happens in "Giselle"? No, his body was left on the stage to show Albrecht what would happen to him (like he already hadn't figured it out) and then Hilarion had to roll himself off the stage. It really looked bad.


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