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Tamara Toumanova in [I]Tonight We Sing[/I]


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#1 Ed Waffle

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Posted 20 February 2002 - 02:04 PM

Recently unearthed a tape I made from the American Movie Classics broadcast of Tonight We Sing a biopic portraying in Hollywood terms the life of impresario Sol Hurok. The tape itself is quite dark and the sound is thin. The highlight is Tamara Toumanova dancing (I think) the adagio from Swan Lake.

I will watch it a few more times, but Toumanova, who portrays Anna Pavlova, seems to be grace personified in this snippet. She is as one with the music as anything I have ever seen. She must have been enthralling in person and it is great that this filmed evidence exists.

There is also a scene between David Wayne, playing Hurok and Toumanova in Pavlova’s dressing room. It was hard to concentrate on the dialogue, since Wayne was doing a very broad Russian Jewish accent and Toumanova’s voice, no doubt dubbed, was uninflected Standard English.

Part of the fun of movies like these is casting them with today’s performers—and in this case, deciding who would play the players.

For example, Toumanova. I would suggest Susan Jaffe, but only because I would suggest Ms. Jaffe for any role in anything that involved ballet. Those who know more about both current dancers those of bygone ages will have better suggestions.

Enzio Pinza was Feodor Chaliapin in the movie—Currently, perhaps, Bryn Terfel would play Pinza. Isaac Stern was Eugene Ysaye—I would nominate Anne Sofie Mutter for Stern, or at least as an appropriately gender bent violinist. Roberta Peters played Elsa Valdine—how about Sumi Jo as Roberta? And Jan Peerce was the voice of Gregory Lawrence—I think Ben Heppner would be an acceptable Peerce.

By the way, both Ms. Valdine and Mr. Lawrence are unknown to me as singers—there may have been rights problems with sopranos and tenors, and not violinists and basses, so they were created as suitable stand-ins.

#2 cargill

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Posted 21 February 2002 - 09:33 AM

Ed, were you thinking about recasting Tonight We Sing, or doing a whole other movie about an impressario? I would love to see a Ballet Russes movie: Liam Neeson could be Denham, because he was so elegant, and I am sure there could be some accented role for Meryl Streep. It could center around the rivalries, and have lots of mothers and backstage intrigues, and could revive some of Massine's works, and let ABT's dancers have a chance to do real character roles.

#3 Ed Waffle

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Posted 21 February 2002 - 09:52 AM

My initial thoughts were recasting Tonight We Sing. Hurok defined the term impressario. He had contacts all over the world and seemed to give excellent value for the money he made.

He also had a strong sense of who was important. As I remember the hoardings in front of the Auditorium Theater in Chicago those many years ago, "Sol Hurok Presents" was generally in larger type than anything else, including the featured soloist or company. There isn't anyone like him now.

The movie itself is an artifact of the days when filmgoers would pay to see ballet dancers dance and opera singers sing--possibly as part of a double feature with a gangster or cowboy picture.

#4 atm711

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Posted 21 February 2002 - 04:31 PM

Ed, the first time I saw the "Black Swan PDD" it was performed by Toumanova. I can still feel the electricity that was in the air of that old Met Opera House that night. It was the first time I had seen 32 fouettes performed---and what an introduction!. What makes her so unique is that it's hard to compare her to anyone else. She had a very strong personality and projected it to the audience. In latter day ballerinas, I guess Maria Tallchief in "Firebird" could be compared to her. Toumanova was also my first "Giselle", along with Anton Dolin as Albrecht. She was her most seductive when she danced with Massine, especially "The Three-Cornered Hat"

#5 Pamela Moberg

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Posted 22 February 2002 - 08:10 PM

Yes, Ed, I remember that film, I saw it as a child and found Toumanova absolutely fantastic.
Why not, a remake - a great idea...
Then, you cannot imagine the plans and visions I have for films - for TV or big screen - just find me a producer with a lot of money to spare.
The only thing you hear in this country today is somebody whining "is that really financially possible...?"
Whereupon I scream (I have a very loud voice)
"Culture is important!!!"
How sad, so much one wants to do, so much one wants to see...

#6 Alexandra

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Posted 27 February 2002 - 02:34 PM

Pamela, I hope you keep screaming smile.gif It's an important scream.

Ed, thank you for this topic -- and thanks, atm, for your memories and what you wrote about Toumanova. I've always been fascinated by her. My image of her is that she is very much of her time -- strong personality, lots of perfume -- yet of ours, as well, with that slender body and strong technique. Interesting that Balanchine made second movement of Symphony in C (Palais du crystal) for such a virtuoso.

Did anyone else see Toumanova, live or on film? Any impressions? I wondered, when I saw Asylmuratova, if she was not a bit like Toumanova. Is that completely off base?

#7 atm711

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Posted 27 February 2002 - 03:12 PM

No comparison with Assylmuratova, Alexandra! There was little delicacy about Toumanova's appearance. About the only thing they had in common was their beautiful black hair. At the same time I saw Toumanova dancing, Nora Kaye was also performing the Russian ballerina in Tudor's "Gala Performance". It was a very broad comic performance, made even funnier because we knew it was her imitation of Toumanova. Toumanova was famous for her balances on her very squared point shoes. She could hold a 'developpe al la second' for as long as anyone would want, which she showed to great advantage in the Black Swan PDD--and I would bet it inspired Balanchine to put it into the second movement of "Palais de Crystal"

#8 Alexandra

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Posted 27 February 2002 - 03:20 PM

ATM, I didn't think they looked alike. I thought they were both dark beauties, and both exotic. That was the similarity I thought I saw.

I read in one of the Ballets Russes books -- I don't remember which one! -- that Toumanova and her mother would scour the stage floor to find a little indentation, if not an actual hole, and she'd dig her toe in there for the fouettes!


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