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La Scala in New York

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#16 Michael


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Posted 24 July 2001 - 08:39 PM

Well, just my opinion, but in pursuit of a more balanced view I must say that -- while I thought Murru has interesting dramatic potential -- I found him technically in need of improvement.

His batterie lacks clarity, he completes neither his beats nor his air turns, and his pliee could be deeper. He could also be stronger in his lifts, though he is an elegant and attentive partner, and show a better posture in his back in some positions. Don't get me wrong -- he is an appealing dancer with a lot of potential and a nice, serious approach to his roles. His basic line and proportions are very appealing, he is quite beautiful with an intelligent expression and good eyes and can at times be a fine dramatic actor. But he is not at an Etoile level now as a dancer, certainly not for a company of the first rank.

[ 07-24-2001: Message edited by: Michael1 ]

#17 Guest_shelley washburne masar_*

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Posted 27 July 2001 - 04:58 PM

I saw the performance at the NYCB in which Sylvie Guillem danced Giselle. I thought the sets and costumes by Paul Brown were transformative. The opening image, the low clouds on the down stage scrim, disoriented me marvelously-- taking me out of my time and place into a modern/ minimal version of romantic Weltanschaung. The first view of the great wall as seen behind the opening scrim set up two simultaneous scenes --Albrecht and Wilfred on the right, Hilarion on the left. It both introduced the dramatic difference in the circumstances of the two young men and clued us in to the way the wall would define place cinematically.

As the ( approximately) 70 foot long, by 40 feet high by 4 foot wide wall rotated on its track throughout the first Act, it became a metaphor for the cycle of agrarian life, and the communal circle of peasant community. From where I sat it appeared to be made of sun-baked adobe and thus defined a Mediterranian village. At times the wall rotated mechanically, but early on it was pushed by the men of the village who leaned their shoulders against it to turn it themselves. The metaphor expanded brilliantly in the final scene when the villagers opened the wall as if it were a giant triptych on a peasant altar. The space defined by the triptych then became the inside of a barn as the villagers opened a wagon-sized door in the middle panel of the triptych to reveal a surrealistically large vat of grapes* that reified the back breaking work that defines their communal life.

The simple lines of the dark brown and gray costumes of the peasants were timeless. I enjoyed the color contrast of their Picasso-esque straw hats, the baskets they carried, and the natural wood of the great wooden cart. The accent provided by the wonderful green-lighter than lime, brighter than green grapes- of the mysterious crop* that filled the cart and the baskets, was piquant. Giselle's copen blue dress with its rolled up sleeves was perfect. Her workers blue set her off just enough as the beloved muse of the village in which she was so at home. Her red braid and slenderness expressed a universal -- a beautiful young woman the likes of whom could emerge in any place, any class, any context. Her beauty is a phenomenon of her youth, her loveliness offsets the
darkness of life.

I also thought the peasants' costumes worked well with Guillem's choreographic
choices. She drew out the folk roots of ballet, as the villagers described folk circles and chains in pas de basques, grapevines, pas de bourrees. The calf- length skirts of the women flared, rendering the arabesques and jetes of theatrical ballet natural. From my vantage point I did think the women wore socks and point shoes, but this charmed me as when lovely young women in a Fellini film wear socks with their heels. What did not work for me was the mix of slavic folk steps in the peasant dances and pas de deux. Every time a movement suggested a slavic derivation, my Mediterranean idyll was disturbed. I think Guillem should have stuck with continental folk conventions.

From the stratosphere of the NYCB concert hall, I could read the gestures of the
principles and the villagers read clearly. They were large enough to reach to the heights, but not as stylized as mime. Guillem's gestural choices defined character powerfully as when Giselle tried to deflect her mother's anxiety by drawing her into the dancing. It is true that the intermittent pas de deux between Loys/ Albrecht and Gisselle were not difficult, but I found this appropriate. They moved side by side with the grace and power of young animals. The movement, e.g. parallel grand jetes, was simple, as if their superior grace and power was what set them apart, and drew them together.

The costumes of the aristocratic hunting party were perfect- their palette a range of glistening russet reds. The princess' wore her dark hair in an elegant snood. Her hunting coat opened over trousers and riding boots. She did not dance at all, did not hurry, in contrast to Giselle who darted here and there helping her lansmen make the great company welcome. As the princess sat down at table Giselle stole a touch of the fabric of her coat.

I agree with other balletalert commentators that Giselle's death came precipitously, and I was disappointed that Guillem copped out of her search for natural gesture to convey the heights of romantic passion at this crucial juncture of the plot. On the other hand, I appreciated the natualism of Hilaire's expression as he confronted Albrecht with his sword and bowed to him with sarcastic subservience. I was moved when Hilaire flung himself to his knees beside Giselle's mother as she keened over the body of her daughter.

All in all I found the first act a perfect amalgam of narrative and movement, and a wonderful experiment in new level of mimed gesture. It would have been interesting to compare Sabrina Brazzo's performance with Guillem's. In retrospect, the limited clear colors,the visual strength of the enormous wall, the charcoal silhouettes of the peasants, the sharp green and round shapes of the crop* recalled the late paintings of Braque. [** The "crop" eventually emerged as grapes but they were large, cabbage-sized grapes.]

The set of the second act did not work as well for me. In the opening scene the great boulders that defined the cemetery were interesting, but their ascent did not work. They seemed like awkward lily pads as they hung waist-high and the three Wilis danced around them. In retrospect I appreciated the design decision to present an enormous contrast between Act I and II. The startling absence of the clear geometry of the wall, and the simple circular forms of the folk dancing in Act II dramatized the difference between the peasant world and the mythic afterlife of romantic convention. The circular track of the wall from the first Act was referenced as a glowing neon blue ground track in the second. At one point near the end Albrecht stood outside the circle, Giselle on the
inside gesturing that he could not cross the line. For me the glowing circle defined both the divide between the living and the dead, and the class barrier between the aristocrat and the peasant.

I was too high to perceive the individualization of the Wilis costumes. I saw only that their chiffon skirts were all the same length and thereby not so different from the conventional costume choice. I missed the loves me, loves me not reference altogether.

What I most enjoyed about the dancing was the contrast between Hillaire's and
Albrechts dances until death. Hillaire thrashed through his with the strength of his anguish while Albrecht never lost the polish of his aristocratic training ( fencing lessons, dancing lessons), his was death by entrechat cinq.

It speaks well for Guillem that she collaborated so effectively in her remarkable re-staging. She used ballet vocabulary with an easy familiarity to create an entertaining and moving vehicle for dancing and acting for principle and corps alike. In so doing she achieved a modern film-ready version of a classic ballet.

#18 Alexandra


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Posted 27 July 2001 - 05:57 PM

Welcome, Shelley -- thanks for persevering and for your post :(

#19 Giannina


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Posted 28 July 2001 - 10:38 AM

Ferri was supposed dance Carmen but bowed out because of her pregnancy. I can't help but wonder if she would have fared better than Durante. Any opinions?


#20 Estelle


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Posted 29 July 2001 - 08:37 AM

Giannina, Ferri has already danced "Carmen" at the Paris Opera, as a guest (which is pretty uncommon, as the POB rarely invites dancers "from outside"- but Roland Petit seems to appreciate her very much). I haven't seen her, but she received good reviews.

#21 Giannina


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Posted 24 August 2001 - 10:18 AM

felursus...don't know if the issue about Guillem's ribbon-less pointe shoes has been settled but just in case..... While in London I saw her Giselle for the 2nd time, and since it left me cold the first time I promised myself I'd go in with a different attitude. As a result I spent an ordinate amount of time examining the ribbonless issue. They're there. There're the same color as her legs. With very good opera glasses (and time on your hands) you can see the outline of the indentation the ribbons make on her legs.


#22 felursus


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Posted 27 August 2001 - 12:32 AM

Thanks, Gianina. I was beginning to think that she had somehow glued the shoes onto her legs. Markova used to sew herself into her shoes, but with bare legs Guillem could hardly do that. My glasses are pretty powerful, but then I WAS sitting in the 4th Ring.

#23 Giannina


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Posted 27 August 2001 - 09:53 AM

Jeez! That was an "inordinate" amount of time I spent. I'll blame my error on jet lag.


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