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John-Michael

Why is every one so hard on Minkus and co.?

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I have a question: Why are Minkus, Pugni, and Drigo (to a lesser extent Adam and the Danish ballet composers) always trashed? These scores seem to drive music critics crazy to a point that borders on the rabid. Based on the cds I've managed to collect and performances that I've either see live or own on video I've found 19th century ballet music to be very charming and similar in style to operetta. Granted, it's a bit conventional and simplistic at times but I certainly find them superior to Stravinsky's ballets (I know I've probably revealed my lack of musical sophsitication). Ugly music makes for ugly choreography. Perhaps it has something to do with the dreadful reorchestrations that are usually used. At any rate, I believe in music that sweetness of melody covers a multitude of sin and no music has more sweetness of melody than 19th century ballet scores.

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I think it's because they're often judged by symphonic music standards, rather than theatrical music standards. By that, I mean that symphonic music has to stand on its own, while music meant to accompany theater or dance can be "serviceable" -- not be the main course.

I also think it matters how the music is conducted -- both conductor and orchestra. I've heard "Giselle" and "Coppelia" played by Danish conductors where both scores sound far more rich and, well, serious than they usually do, and I've think Russian conductors get more out of not only Minkus, but Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev, than non-Russian ones. (Yes, it's a generalization, but I've never heard the Tchaikovsky ballets, nor Romeo and Juliet, nor Raymonda conducted the way Bolshoi and Kirov conductors can do it.) Tempi, coloration, dynamics -- the whole 9 yards.

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Having been a former member of the Hilarion Defense League, and we having achieved our goal, to wit: consider Hilarion as a sympathetic character, I must now look around for other windmills!;)

I think I'll form the "Drinkus Defense League", dedicated to the appreciation and enjoyment of musique dansant, as of Drigo and Minkus, hence the name. We can have great big buttons made up that say, "I LIKE LUDWIG", the cognoscenti will think it means that other Ludwig, the deef feller, and leave us be until we nail down a corner of the Met bar for ourselves and start loudly singing the overture from Don Quixote "La-La(tr), La-La(tr), Dumpty-Dumpty-Dumpty-Dumpty-Daaaa-Dump!"

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I love it! I will be quite happy to be a member of the Drinkus Defense League! :) And as far as Adam is concerned, besides Giselle, he happens to be the composer of "O Holy Night". He also composed other ballets which, unfortunately, did not become as popular as Giselle, but this could also be the fault of the ballets themselves and not the music. I do not feel he can be dismissed or trashed!

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I know he's not exactly a ballet composer but could we add Meyerbeer to the Drinkus thingie? I bet a lot of people that appreciate 19th century ballet music also like opera's version of a not great but fun and stupidly maligned composer. The nuns' bachanal from ROBERT LE DIABLE could sort of be a secondary anthem to the DON QUIXOTE overture. And in addition to the I like Ludwig buttons could we have t-shirts with a picture of John Lanchberry with a circle and a line going through it?

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Sure, and throw in Auber, and Herold and Hertel and Paulli, and anybody else who wrote musique dansant!:) Adam wrote scads of operas, some of which are recorded, and the whole tribe is no less serious or enjoyable than other less-maligned composers, like Offenbach, or Sullivan! (Both of whom wrote musique dansant!)

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I have two Adam operas (TOREADOR and POSTILLION DE LONJEMEAU) which I love. I wish there were others available. I'm not a big fan of post-Wagnerian opera which I think had an unfortunate effect on all music, not just vocal. I'm also not a big fan of Sullivan's ballet music. Based on his operettas with Gilbert (I love every one... even THE GRAND DUKE which has a gorgeous orchesteral galop) I thought they'd be fantastic but I rarely listen to his two ballets as they're surprisingly dull. Offenbach is a totally different matter. He seemed to have a facility with non-vocal music that Sullivan didn't have (re: the so-so Irish Symphony) and LE PAPILLON and the ballets in his operettas are lovely.

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Just for the record, Gilbert and Sullivan didn't write operettas; they were opéras-comiques (and one dramatic cantata). Only a fragment of Sullivan's first ballet "L'Ile Enchantée" exists, and the ballet music from Thespis is the longest single survivor of that "lost" work. Interestingly, Sullivan recycled bits of these very early works in his second and last ballet "Victoria and Merrie England", which works just fine as music.

Sullivan had an unfortunate desire to be "taken seriously", so grand operas like Ivanhoe, and the Irish Symphony tend to show the law of diminishing returns at work. As he strove mightily with them, they became worse and worse. The stuff he just dashed off spontaneously was his best! Did you know that, like Mozart, Sullivan composed straight to orchestral score?

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I don't know... I've heard the comic opera vs. operetta argument with Sullivan before and I'm not sure I agree :D. When I think of opera comique I think of works a little more ambitiously operatic than G&S, such as those by Adam and Auber. If G&S, Edward German, and Offenbach are more operatic than operettas such as WHITE HORSE INN, say, or ROSE MARIE I think that has more to do with the time period in which they were composed than with the attention of the composers.

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Well, those people are not completely forgotten, as there is a big RER (a kind of subway) station

just near the Opera Garnier called "Auber", and also Meyerbeer is one of the composers whose names are listed on the facade of the Opera Garnier (I don't remember the others, but will try to note it next time I'm on the place de l'Opera).

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Did you know that Carmen is an opéra-comique? And despite what feuding musicologists may say, Gilbert described the works from Thespis to The Grand Duke as opéras-comiques. Just read the title pages. I would defy any producer to stage a "Pinafore" without an operatic soprano as Josephine, or "Pirates" without a decent coloratura. Linda Ronstadt did it, and the result was horrible beyond recounting.:D

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The terms "Opera-comique," "vaudeville," etc. had to do wit the licensing system of Paris theaters in the late 18th and early 19th centuries (after that, I can't speak for them; they wandered off by themselves). Only one theater was allowed to perform opera; it had a license to perform operas. (A dramatic work completely in song.) Wanting to cash in on opera's popularity, the enterprising folks in the boulevard theaters invented new genres so that they could get a license. The story was sung, but instead of recitative, the connecting dialogue was spoken -- voila, opera-comique. I think there was even a genre where the connecting dialogue was sung and the big speeches were spoken, but I this is from books I read when I was getting my masters ten years ago and it's fuzzy :D

(Vaudevilles were ballets that incorporated popular songs in their scores to cue the action. )

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I agree with the assertion that arrangements of many of the ballets scores being discussed plays a part in their condemnation. I don't think Delibes has been mentioned here, but his score for LA PAS DES FLEURS (now usually called LE JARDIN ANIME in LE CORSAIRE, or referred to as the "Naila Waltz -based on a subsequent arrangement of tunes from the original LA PAS DES FLEURS divertissement) is heard only in arrangements today - and those that I have heard do not do the music justice in any way. Nor do they reflect the subtlety of the original.

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Just how much of Le Jardin Anime did Delibes write? I can guess probably the opening waltz, adagio, and coda, but did he write the variations for Medora and Gulnare as well? Also, the Odalisque Pas De Trois is often placed in Le Jardin Anime--did he write that, too?

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There is a Richard Bonygne cd of LE CORSAIRE in which the original score of Delibes is used for the Jardin Animee scene. In the ABT version everything is by Delibes (although reorchestrated) except for the two variations which I'm pretty sure are by Minkus. As for the pas de trois, the adagio and third variation are by Adam and the remainder by Drigo.

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But ABT doesn't use the original Medora variation in that scene--they interpolate one from Act III of Don Quixote. The original variation as done by the Kirov is shorter, starting in 3/4 time and changing to 2/4, and at a quicker tempo.

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The original LE PAS DE FLEURS was intro-waltz-adagio-interlude-variation-interlude-variation-coda. By 1899, variations from other ballets (PYGMALION and ADVENTURES OF PELLEUS) were being interpolated by Legnani and Olga Preo... Other variations have since been used. Today we hear Delibes' waltz, adagio, some of the interludes, and coda in a radically different orchestration than originally made in 1867.

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