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Mayerling and the Royal Ballet


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#16 Estelle

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Posted 10 October 2002 - 03:29 AM

A version of "Sylvia" will be performed at the Paris Opera this season, but it is Neumeier's version, premiered in 1997 (great music indeed, but the choreography isn't very convincing for me...) Around 1979, the POB had danced a reconstruction by the late Lycette Darsonval(POB principal), which probably was quite close to Merante's versin, but it wasn't danced again after that...

#17 Alymer

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Posted 10 October 2002 - 01:48 PM

Sad to say, there is no Ashton trust to look after his ballets. Those who inherited individual ballets (or their heirs, since some of them have now died) either stage the ballets themselves or commission a balletmaster who they feel they can trust. As to the remainder, left to Ashton's nephew, he too would rely on someone staging them.
As far as Ashton's Sylvia is concerned, at least part of it is notated. Anyone who has Keith Money's book, The Art of the Royal Ballet, can find a picture on p 56 of notator Faith Worth with the manuscript in her hand, teaching one of Sylvia's variations to Melissa Hayden. There are still people around who danced the compete ballet and Christopher Carr, one of the RB balletmasters, stated when he retired a short time ago, that he was convinced the ballet could be restaged.
I have also seen a revival of Sylvia at the Paris Opera which was supposed to be based on the Albert Aveline production, and certainly, quite a bit of it looked convincing.

#18 Mel Johnson

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Posted 10 October 2002 - 02:36 PM

However, Ashton's nephew, since so many of the beneficiaries of his uncle's will have died, and the rights reverted to him under the terms of the will, has expressed the need for a Trust, to which he felt David Vaughan was a probable candidate. How far he actually got about putting his expression into action, I have not heard since the days he first expressed misgivings about being so responsible for such a great amount of British cultural patrimony! If he hasn't acted yet, then I guess it's just another paving stone on the road to Hell.:)

#19 dirac

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Posted 10 October 2002 - 02:38 PM

Well, Alymer's point, that there is no Trust at present, is the crucial one. Plainly, the nephew is no Lady MacMillan. :)

#20 Estelle

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Posted 11 October 2002 - 12:26 AM

Originally posted by Alymer

I have also seen a revival of Sylvia at the Paris Opera which was supposed to be based on the Albert Aveline production, and certainly, quite a bit of it looked convincing.


That must have been Darsonval's reconstruction? I wish I could have seen it, I've only seen photographs of Denard, Pontois and a few others in it. But it seems unlikely to be staged again now, only Claude Bessy seems interested in staging some old works of the repertory and it probably is a too big ballet for the school...

#21 Mel Johnson

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Posted 11 October 2002 - 03:39 AM

Originally posted by dirac
Alymer's point, that there is no Trust at present, is the crucial one.  Plainly, the nephew is no Lady MacMillan.  :)


I quite agree, and my point was that since there is no Trust, even though principals in the matter have stated that it's a good idea, just provides another object lesson for everyone about following through on right thinking!:)

#22 ronny

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Posted 11 October 2002 - 04:59 AM

Now, here is the part I don't get:confused:

Why is there all this talk of Ashton and trusts and all that, when Ashton didn't write the music for Sylvia and Ashton didn't create the storyline for Sylvia...

So why can't some big company like the Royal Ballet company just pick out a talented choreographer (who has NEVER seen Ashton's choreography) and say... "here is the music for Sylvia and here is the story of Sylvia".

"Now, make something beautiful out of it!"

#23 Ari

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Posted 11 October 2002 - 06:06 AM

Ronny, we're talking about two separate things here: Delibes's score for Sylvia and Ashton's choreography. Delibes's copyright expired a long time ago, which means that any orchestra or ballet company is free to use the music without charge or supervision by any of the composer's heirs. Ashton's choreography is considered the best of modern attempts to stage the ballet in its entirety, which is why people have been discussing it here. There's nothing to stop any company or choreographer from making a new version.

I don't know whether ballet librettists have a property right in their work. Interesting question.

#24 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 11 October 2002 - 06:12 AM

Ronny, they could if they wished very very hard. . . (it really does sound a bit like you're asking us to resurrect Tinkerbelle. ;) )

Here are things to think about. Potential costs of an entirely new production of a three-act ballet are now in the seven-figure range. New productions are a crap-shoot. For certain companies, a failure on that scale could push it into bankruptcy. There is no copyright protection on the music for Sylvia, but Frederick Ashton has already made the ballet, and considering he's one of the major choreographers of the twentieth century, any effort to preserve his work should be praised to the skies. And out of curiosity, who is this talented choreographer you'd like us to ring up? It's not that I'm exactly seeing someone with that sort of facility for lyricism and narrative out there and currently working.

#25 Manhattnik

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Posted 11 October 2002 - 07:15 AM

I'm sure that for seven figures Peter Martins would rise to the occasion.

#26 ronny

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Posted 12 October 2002 - 03:56 AM

OK, great. I think I am starting to get the picture.

This is how I learn, one question at a time.

Guess I have to start thinking about choreographers in a different light, maybe more like great composers. There is only one Tchaikovsky, I understand that. And it sounds like there is only one Ashton as well.

#27 Mel Johnson

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Posted 12 October 2002 - 04:19 AM

Ronny and I have discussed this point offboard, and my opinion is that when you have 800-pound gorillas of choreographers looking over your shoulder, it's probably best to leave a given score alone, if they've staged a successful version that still exists in recent memory. Now, before Raymonda was well-known in the west, Ashton staged a pas de deux for Svetlana Beriosova and Donald MacLeary from it as a separate specialty, but that's Ashton working with music that Petipa had set, and somebody knew what the original looks like! (Actually, I liked the Ashton a lot better in places than the Petipa!) It's not ME trying to stage an Ivanov-free Swan Lake!

#28 Alymer

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Posted 12 October 2002 - 01:49 PM

Estelle wrote
"That must have been Darsonval's reconstruction"

It was indeed. However, there were two problems with it; one minor, one major and I guess this is why it has never been done again.
The minor problem was the designs which were very elegant but far too 20th Century.
The more important problem was that, according to Verdy who was director of the ballet at the time, when it came down to it, Darsonval could remember quite a bit of the ballet, but there were sections of which she had no recollection at all. And these sections were filled in by (I think) Verdy herself. So while some of it was clearly original, or close to it, other parts were totally modern and of no great choreographic distinction.
It was however, wonderfully danced by the entire cast. It was also the first time I saw Denard in a comic role and realised just how versatile a dancer he was.

#29 Estelle

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Posted 13 October 2002 - 11:59 PM

Thanks for the precisions, Alymer. Probably the problems with the designs could be corrected, but the choreography problem is quite big indeed... I wonder if at that time there still were other people still alive who could have remembered some parts of the choreography?
Darsonval passed away a few years ago, so it would probably be even harder to make a reconstruction now.

I'm a bit jealous that you could see Denard when he still was active, as it was partly a book about him which made me pay attention to dance ten years ago (I saw him a few times on stage, but for open rehearsals or in acting roles).

#30 Alymer

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Posted 15 October 2002 - 01:06 PM

I saw quite a number of Denard's performances Estelle, and he really was something. As well as having all the attributes you would want for an etoile, technique, partnering skills, etc. he had tremendous glamour. Bejart made the role of the Firebird for Denard in his version of the ballet, and with him the piece was really quite memorable. Denard was also good in the classics - I remember seeing his Albrecht and being really impressed by the original detail he put into his portrayal - none of it out of tune with the ballet.
But I think it tends to be overlooked just how impressive the top ranks of the Opera were in the 1970's. There were some really fantastic dancers leading the company at that time. It's not a recent phenomenon.
Sorry - this all way off the original topic.


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