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Differences among Petipa ballets


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#1 Dale

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Posted 05 June 2001 - 04:53 AM

This is a wonderful thread.. so much to think about. I have to say I've been haunted by the Kirov's reconstruction of Sleepting Beauty ever since I saw it at the Met two years ago. It was facinating to see a ballet with eyes of a different generation. To see a work as it was before TV, films, videos etc...

Doug, I really enjoyed your article on SB when I read it in Ballet Review.

I can understand why (given the social and political connotations of the time) the mime and certain sumptious portions of Petipas ballets were removed but why were the solos, especially if they were more difficult, changed?

And why did Konstantine Sergeyev change Sleeping Beauty? He was considered a very controlling director, did he just want to put "his" stamp on the rep.?

And Doug, why did Lacotte not use the noted choreography where it could be found and fill in the rest through memories and his own in-the-style of Petipas choreography? There is more to bringing a ballet back to life than costumes and scenery. Did Lacotte do the same thing with Paquita at POB?

James, I think you'll find Zakharova's Aurora interesting. She opened the Kirov's run of the ballet at the Met in 1999 and some of the things she did caused a gasp of astonishment to roll around the theatre -- astonished by the things she could do physically and astonished that she would do it in this ballet. Although I appreciated many aspects of her and Vishneva's perofmances, it was generally considered that Altynai Asylmuratova was all-around the better Aurora. Unfortunately, we did not see Ayupova, who did not perform in New York during the run.

#2 Natalia

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Posted 07 June 2001 - 02:43 PM

Doug - I'm very happy to read your final paragraph, regarding the positives in either sort of revival (notation-based or new choreography after the originals, a-la-Lacotte). The mere fact that, in 2001, a full-length PAQUITA & DOCH FARAONA exist is cause for celebration. Sure, we'd love to see original steps. However, since when have any of us seen 'original steps' for NUTCRACKER? Does that make the post-Ivanov NUTCRACKERS...Balanchines, Grigorovich, etc.... bad? Of course not.

I'd be tickled-pink to see *any* revival of the complete music, designs, and stage-action of BARBE-BLEU or KALKABRINO, any time in the future, regardless of steps (notation or not).

What gifts the Bolshoi/POB and Lacotte have given us, with the recent full-length revivals of PAQUITA and DOCH! Unfortunatey, it appears that the Bolshoi has killed DOCH. Perhaps ABT can buy the sets/costumes/musical score from the Bolshoi and you can teach the right steps, Doug? I'm serious. Does anyone have Kevin Mckenzie's e-mail address? Someone should plant the seed.DOCH FARAONA is a beautiful ballet which would nicely meet ABT's full-length-classics mandate. Enough renting of 1960s European productions (ONEGINS, MERRY WIDOWS, etc.). ABT should be reviving the long-lost great classical ballets.

#3 Natalia

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Posted 08 June 2001 - 09:06 AM

Ha-ha, Juliet!! Ok, Ok...I was lucky enough to see DOCH FARAONA last year and it *is* a visually stunning production...Cecil B. DeMille -style sets & costumes....of such splendor that any major ballet company would be proud to own them. No, there were no giant lotus flowers...but there is a cute monkey swinging from the trees (the role of the child Balanchine many years ago, by the way)! Anyhow, I would love to see Doug (or another Stepanov-notation translator) set the correct steps on some major ballet troupe. Sets-costumes-music exist, in some Bolshoi attic.

#4 Natalia

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Posted 08 June 2001 - 10:26 AM

I totally agree, Alexandra. Perhaps I didn't mention that, for "Doch' and 'Paquita', the programmes (playbills) credit *only* Pierre Lacotte as choreographer. The programmes go on to explain that the ballets are "in the spirit of Petipa" (or something to that effect).

Needless to say, it would be preferable to stage a 'Paquita' or 'Doch' from the notations. However, I (and many others, judging from enthusiastic ovations in Paris & Moscow) thoroughly enjoy the "in the spirit of Petipa-style" productions as beautiful works of art, in and of themselves.

#5 Natalia

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Posted 08 June 2001 - 02:02 PM

Alexandra - Here's a teeny-tiny friendly poke :):

The POB 'Paquita' was better than Kool-Aid! It was Spanish Freixenet, compared to Dom Perignon.
****************************************

Back to main topic...

Actually, I am quite interested in Doug's original theme. What are the best versions of Petipa (or Petipa revisions of Romantic French/earlier Petersburg) ballets out there? How many continue to be danced...in full-length versions or in excerpts?

At last count (& from the top of my head), following are the Petipa ballets that continue to be performed, complete or excerpted. Please add to the list, Doug & others, if you know of other Petipa-era ballets being performed in Russia or elsewhere:

- Paquita
- Venetian Carnival ("Satanella pdd")
- Doch Faraona
- Corsaire
- Little Humpbacked Horse
- Naiad & Fisherman
- Vain Precautions/Fille mal Gardee
- Esmeralda
- Vestalka (I've seen excerpts at Vag.Acad.))
- King Candaule-Diana & Acteon pas
- Don Quixote
- Roxana (excerpts now in Don Q)
- Bayadere
- Markitanka (Vivandiere pas de six)
- Diable a Quatre (excerpts at Vag. Acad)
- Coppelia
- Giselle
- Sylphide (Petipa's revision of Taglioni version)
- Talisman
- Sleeping Beauty
- Nutcracker (Ivanov...but of the petipa Era)
- Swan lake
- Cavalry's Halt
- Kalkabrino (solos performed at Vag. Acad)
- Raymonda
- Harlequinade

At least portions of all of the above are still performed somewhere. What may I be missing? I'm interested in knowing what our travelers/scholars may have seen, that is unusual? Where are these excerpts performed? How accurate are they?

[ 06-08-2001: Message edited by: Jeannie ]

#6 Natalia

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Posted 10 June 2001 - 09:21 AM

Drew - Now that you mention it (or 'overheard' it)...the variations of the male soloists in the Act II Gnd Pas Classique (set in courtyard of a big temple) are quite Franco-Bournonvillean. Ditto the Markitanka-Vivandiere pas de six.

The marked change in 'Russian' technique--to incorporate Italian virtuosity and style-- came about (mostly) ca. 1886/87/88, after the initial appearances of the Italian virtuosi (in private Petersburg theaters, such as Kin Grust). This is a huge simplification...but I'm trying to get to the heart of the matter quickly. By the time that 'Sleeping Beauty' appeared in 1890, the Petiopa/Imperial Theaters style was quite different - it had evolved into the 'Petipa' that you & I recognize as such. I'm sure that Doug and others can elaborate on this 'Italian Revolution' in late-19th C. Petersburg ballet.

#7 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 03 June 2001 - 04:29 AM

James, Nureyev declared in interviews that he indeed wanted to reconstruct the 4th act of "La Bayadère". He wanted a real big finale with the destruction of the Rajah's palace. Allegedly there was a disagreement with the set designer Ezio Frigerio, who thought it was too expensive and too difficult to realize. So, no destruction, no 4th act.

I guess you can get some idea what Nureyev had in mind by watching the versions of Makarova (which version Nureyev didn't particularly like, mainly because of all her editing) and Patrice Bart for Munich (who actually reduced it to two acts or four scenes). Personally I don't find any of the two very convincing. The reconstructed scenes lack the weight and impact of the previous ones, not to mention the choreography (Especially when you want to say something after the unsurpassed Shades act, you need to be another Petipa, I guess).

Don't forget to tell us what you think of Svetlana Zakharova in "Beauty", James ;)

#8 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 07 June 2001 - 01:19 AM

Doug and Dale, the choreography of the revived "Paquita" is indeed a reconstruction 'in the style of' by Lacotte. Except for two variations from Mazilier in the first act and the Petipa additions (the Grand Pas and the pas de trois) the choreography is Lacotte's.

I assume that this quest for the "original" in ballet is mostly a recent one and not shared by everybody.

[ 06-07-2001: Message edited by: Marc Haegeman ]

#9 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 08 June 2001 - 03:24 PM

I totally agree with this attribution problem (I guess the 19th century ballet composers suffer the same problem - Adam, Minkus, Drigo and the likes, the attributions often turn out to be inaccurate). Former Kirov soloist Kirill Melnikov once suggested to set up a Petipa Trust in order to protect his work. Yet (thinking about what the Mariinsky had recently done), almost with the same breath he didn’t consider it a good idea to go all the way back to the original "Beauty", disapproving not so much of having "the original steps", I guess, but more of all that goes along with it and which, in his opinion, makes it look old-fashioned (mime, costumes, head dresses).

I am all for reconstructing the original (in music as in ballet) and I have enormous admiration for people working on it. But not the way the Mariinsky has handled the reconstruction of Petipa’s "Sleeping Beauty". Far too much of: "We have the notations and we could have changed that too, but we still preferred to keep the other variation" and all that. Sorry no, that’s a museum of candles and oil lamps, advertising in neon.

If you decide to go back to the original and you possess the proper sources, means and knowledge, then you have to go all the way through with it, otherwise it falls between chairs and still isn't what it pretends to be. And if you can re-produce everything as it was originally done, then I would like to see it performed as it was originally performed. Not just the steps, also the style and the aesthetics of the time.

This will demand extra research, but only then we will have our 5th Symphony as Beethoven intended it. :)

#10 Mel Johnson

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Posted 02 June 2001 - 10:07 AM

There was never another act, but at one point Gautier and St.-Georges were considering a different first act. The scene would have been a ballroom, and the Wilis and Myrtha would appear early to enchant the floor to make the dancers dance unstoppably. Gautier nixed the idea because the peasant/noble interplay allowed him more room for his anti-establishment Romanticism to make its point. If they had gone ahead with the first idea, it would have been an eery precursor to Balanchine's version of "La Valse"!

#11 Mel Johnson

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Posted 02 June 2001 - 10:33 AM

Wendy, "red fire" was a very common and popular effect used in many late nineteenth-century operas and ballet. Gilbert and Sullivan even used it in The Sorcerer. I'm not sure of the chemistry involved, except that it was liquid and was set off manually. The Royal (and innumerable rock shows) used fire in one of its Act III Swan Lakes, but this is easier to control using modern technology.

If Bronia were recalling character shoes on the Lilac fairy, she doubtless has reference to the last act entrance, where the Lilac Fairy appears en suite.

Why don't you take a look at the "Great Ballets" section of the main Ballet Alert! site? Beauty is one of the ballets that's up, and contains a synopsis of invited guests to the wedding feast.

#12 Mel Johnson

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Posted 02 June 2001 - 02:12 PM

Doug, I couldn't agree with you more about the infusion of philology and psychology into the steps chosen for a given ballet. It's been a long-held opinion with me that the choreographers of those nineteenth-century ballets were just trying to be "iconic" - to find a mental picture that would spell that ballet to the viewer.

Now, maybe you can help me - in the second shade's variation in Bayadere, is the "signature" the cabriole, and in the diagonals across the stage, does the caesura/pause in the music happen on an extended end to a cabriole ouverte? Then, the music picks up on a piqué arabesque and so forth.... Often wondered if that were Petipa or the effect of Chabukiani/Vaganova and/or others. It's a cherished memory, though, for me, as it was the first way I ever saw the variation performed, by a dancer named Inessa Korneyeva, with the Kirov in 1964.

#13 Mel Johnson

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Posted 02 June 2001 - 08:01 PM

One of my guesses as to the composition of the awful stuff involves phosphorus and that useless nineteenth-century byproduct of making kerosene (paraffin oil), gasoline. :eek:

#14 Mel Johnson

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Posted 03 June 2001 - 05:30 PM

Thank you, Doug - you have cleared up a question that has been gnawing at my mind for years! I had the advantage of having a couple of spare hours while doing research at Harvard, and used it to profit by briefly perusing "Beauty" and "Swan", just to try and dope out the notation, which I found relatively intuitive, but didn't get around to Bayadere. I'm aware of a couple different hands in there and wonder if maybe Sergei Legat had a hand in there for his brief tenure - I know what Nicolai's hand looks like and that wasn't it.

#15 Mel Johnson

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Posted 04 June 2001 - 11:53 PM

Yes, indeed, forgiveness and redemption and grace (the King, after all, is God's anointed and His representative!)is all part of what Beauty is about. And in the original production, the appearance of Carabosse was meant to point this up! She had her invitation, and she was not danced by Enrico Cecchetti, because he was going to be the Bluebird in that scene, but a senior and very glamourous lady of the company. She showed that not only is forgiveness good for the forgiver, but for the forgiven as well!


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