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Leigh Witchel

The Lilac Fairy

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On 3/5/2018 at 10:44 PM, NAOTMAA said:

In the reconstruction videos I've seen it doesn't really look like "love at first sight." That seems to have come in later versons

 

It looks more like a royal marriage arranged by the wise and good Lilac fairy and sanctioned by the King and Queen. Prince Désiré may be in love but Aurora doesn't seem to have any say. Her marriage has been decided for her and she accepts it without question. That was after all the duty any proper royal princess during that era. It was a match made by the heavens, not love.

 

Love is a match made by the heavens. All great lovers are brought together by forces way beyond human understanding and awareness. 

What makes The Sleeping Beauty such a beautiful, powerful, timeless tale is the stirring insinuation that Aurora can only be awakened by the right person—someone who matches her qualities with those of his own … someone who truly loves her and whom she can love back. Without genuine, abiding and mutual love there is no awakening! 

All the "love at first sight" productions of The Sleeping Beauty remain true to the spirit and essence of the story.

 

On 3/6/2018 at 1:02 AM, sandik said:

I've always felt that both the Prince and Aurora were following the dictates of their communities ...

Obviously, the story can be interpreted differently. I view it as being—deep down—about profound love, not about following the "dictates" of other people.

On 3/13/2018 at 9:23 AM, JMcN said:

What are thoughts on Lilac as a tutu role or character role?

SPW's version for BRB has Lilac as a character role and for me that works best.  Her dress is almost a mirror image of Carabosse's and they seem much more equally matched.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

On 3/13/2018 at 1:09 PM, sandik said:

My problem is that I'd like to see it both ways!  The original was certainly much closer to this example from the BRB  [...] as I understand it, Lilac wore an ankle-length gown and heeled shoes, and carried a wand that was about the same size as a walking staff.  This obviously would affect what she was able to do. 

And your observation that she's a visual counterpoint to Carabosse in this costume is very astute.  There are moments in the choreography where that twinned aspect are pointed up, and this costume would certainly reinforce that.

But there are some wonderfully dancey sequences in the score, especially in her variation, and I would be so sad to lose those moments as well.

This is, indeed, an astute observation. Either way, the Lilac Fairy is a wonderful role. However, since this is a ballet I prefer it as a tutu one.

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I think that the Sergeyev notations have Lilac in a tutu for the Prologue (there are notated dances for her) and then in heeled shoes and a longer gown in the vision scene.

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26 minutes ago, cargill said:

I think that the Sergeyev notations have Lilac in a tutu for the Prologue (there are notated dances for her) and then in heeled shoes and a longer gown in the vision scene.

Not just notations. Photos exist of the first Lilac Fairy, Marie Petipa, wearing both costumes, with different types of shoes (pointes with the Prologue tutu and heels with the character dresses).

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5 minutes ago, CharlieH said:

Not just notations. Photos exist of the first Lilac Fairy, Marie Petipa, wearing both costumes, with different types of shoes (pointes with the Prologue tutu and heels with the character dresses).

I do so love the variety of those older dances.  Nikiya was in character shoes in Bayadere's first act too, so there was so much more contrast between it and the shades scene.

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1 minute ago, cargill said:

I do so love the variety of those older dances.  Nikiya was in character shoes in Bayadere's first act too, so there was so much more contrast between it and the shades scene.

Nikiya too? I’d seen this only with Gamzatti but I don’t doubt it. I’ve also seen photos of Kitris in the 1920s/30s sporting heeled shoes in Act I.

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6 minutes ago, cargill said:

I do so love the variety of those older dances.  Nikiya was in character shoes in Bayadere's first act too, so there was so much more contrast between it and the shades scene.

So Nikiya was in character shoes for the second (rajah's palace) scene and pointe shoes for the first (fireside) and third (betrothal) scenes? I, too, had only seen it done with Gamzatti in character shoes in the second scene and the start of the third (before she reenters to dance the pas d'action).

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17 minutes ago, CharlieH said:

Not just notations. Photos exist of the first Lilac Fairy, Marie Petipa, wearing both costumes, with different types of shoes (pointes with the Prologue tutu and heels with the character dresses).

And contradictory accounts on whether Marie did indeed dance on pointe or not on the prologue. I think even first hand witnesses-(I believe Lubov Egorova..?)-declared later on that Marie had NOT dance on pointe, despite that famous photo that exists of her in tutu.

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20 minutes ago, nanushka said:

So Nikiya was in character shoes for the second (rajah's palace) scene and pointe shoes for the first (fireside) and third (betrothal) scenes? I, too, had only seen it done with Gamzatti in character shoes in the second scene and the start of the third (before she reenters to dance the pas d'action).

As I recall from the Maryinsky reconstruction, Nikiya was certainly in character shoes in the first scene, and point shoes in the shades.  I actually don't remember if she was in character shoes other times, but I do remember she did the sad little dance before the poison flower trick carrying a vina (a sort of a guitar).  There are some vestigal gestures sometimes now in that solo , but I guess carrying something would make the modern show-off balances too tricky,

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Posted (edited)
9 minutes ago, cargill said:

As I recall from the Maryinsky reconstruction, Nikiya was certainly in character shoes in the first scene, and point shoes in the shades.  I actually don't remember if she was in character shoes other times, but I do remember she did the sad little dance before the poison flower trick carrying a vina (a sort of a guitar).  There are some vestigal gestures sometimes now in that solo , but I guess carrying something would make the modern show-off balances too tricky,

Thanks for the details. I haven't seen the Mariinsky reconstruction, only earlier Mariinsky productions (e.g. the 1977 video with Komleva), in which Nikiya was in pointe shoes in the first scene. (That's where I saw Gamzatti in character shoes in the second.)

The choreography in that first scene (for her opening solo and for the fireside PDD with Solor) must be rather different in the reconstruction! I'd be less surprised if it were the second scene (the confrontation with Gamzatti) where she was in character shoes, since that scene is mostly mime.

Edited by nanushka

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Here's pictorial evidence:

Anna Pavlova in the opening scene with the jug dance:

dc65071c333d76d3eb156fae6961605d.jpg

 

Scene with Gamzatti:

p1000920.jpg

Betrothal scene:

la-bayadere-anna-pavlova-as-nikiya-ca-19

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Marie Petipa gets a pretty bum rap in Soviet-era writing about the Imperial Ballet. All evidence (photographic and notational) indicates she danced on pointe in the Beauty prologue. The notated Lilac Fairy variation that bears her name includes simple pointe work compared to the other five fairy variations. (I think it is a most beautiful variation.) She also danced the lead in Paquita and Medora in Corsaire, among other ballerina roles, and she was photographed in pointe shoes many times. Contemporary accounts agree that she was an excellent character dancer and a weaker classical dancer. They also agree that she had lots of brio and appeal. Plenty of roles featured changes of shoes between acts. Henriette and Clemence danced in heels in act one of Raymonda and swapped them for pointe shoes in act two.

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All evidence (photographic and notational) indicates she danced on pointe in the Beauty prologue.

In the 1890 première. This is what we owe to the Harvard Collection. For many years even this wasn't certain because, if I am correct, the Lilac Fairy variation wasn't mentioned in reports by Saint-Petersbourg ballet critics. This is all the more telling as, compared, for example, to the Parisian press, those reports of Petersbourg critics often sound as pedantic accounts of what the dancer did. There is much evidence that the Lilac Fairy variation in the Prologue was dropped some time after the première; exactly when?  this is what somebody with a complete command of Saint-Petersbourg press of the last decade of the 19th century can say authoritatively. Marius Petipa's daughter was born in 1857, soon she was also likely too old to dance pointe variations.

To those who are fascinated by the question of the choreographic text of the original Lilac fairy: remember that the text would be different, probably very different, if Marius Petipa were to make it on a dancer other than his "home-trained" daughter.

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A lot of assumptions here about Maria Petipa, late 19th-century pointe work in St. Petersburg, and the Lilac Fairy choreography. I cannot confirm that the notated Lilac Fairy variation represents the 1890 premiere choreography, though I would guess that it does. The notation system wasn't developed until 1892/3. Marie danced the leads in Paquita and Corsaire with Sergei Legat (in Corsaire, they were "second" cast to Legnani and Gerdt in 1899) at the turn of the century and was photographed in pointe shoes in conjunction with those productions. Would pointe work have been abandoned for her performances? My guess is no. The notated pointe work in both Paquita and Corsaire is not strenuous. I'm interested in the evidence that the Lilac variation was dropped in the early years of Beauty. My familiarity with Petersburg press accounts is in no way thorough, but many accounts do not comment on all dances in a ballet. The prologue variations come early in Beauty. They are all quite short and they are not the bring-house-down type. I'll say again that I think the Lilac Fairy variation that bears Marie's name is beautiful and suits the character. Based on what we know about Petipa's approach to choreography and subsequent changes of casts, I agree that he would have choreographed something different for another dancer.

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36 minutes ago, doug said:

Based on what we know about Petipa's approach to choreography and subsequent changes of casts, I agree that he would have choreographed something different for another dancer.

As did Balanchine.

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A lot of assumptions here about Maria Petipa, late 19th-century pointe work in St. Petersburg, and the Lilac Fairy choreography.

A quick summary of views of our Russian colleagues who studied the history of "Sleeping Beauty". Some know the subject rather well (you'll have an ample opportunity to discuss this and other questions with all of them in a day or two).

Quote

A lot of assumptions here about Maria Petipa, late 19th-century pointe work in St. Petersburg, and the Lilac Fairy choreography.

A quick summary of views of our Russian colleagues who studied the history of "Sleeping Beauty". Some know the subject rather well (you'll have an ample opportunity to discuss this and other questions with all of them in a day or two).

Quote

A lot of assumptions here about Maria Petipa, late 19th-century pointe work in St. Petersburg, and the Lilac Fairy choreography.

A quick summary of views of our Russian colleagues who studied the history of "Sleeping Beauty". Some know the subject rather well (you'll have an ample opportunity to discuss this and other questions with all of them in a day or two).

Quote

A lot of assumptions here about Maria Petipa, late 19th-century pointe work in St. Petersburg, and the Lilac Fairy choreography.

A quick summary of views of our Russian colleagues who studied the history of "Sleeping Beauty". Some know the subject rather well (you'll have an ample opportunity to discuss this and other questions with all of them in a day or two).

Quote

A lot of assumptions here about Maria Petipa, late 19th-century pointe work in St. Petersburg, and the Lilac Fairy choreography.

A quick summary of views of our Russian colleagues who studied the history of "Sleeping Beauty". Some know the subject rather well (you'll have an ample opportunity to discuss this and other questions with all of them in a day or two).

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Posted (edited)

I have always understood that the controversy about whether or not Marie Petipa was given a solo to dance in the Prologue of the Sleeping Beauty, and whether she  was much of a dancer at all, has more to do with the dancers' strike of 1905 and the part she is said to have played in it than anything else. The official view of her written by those who stayed in Russia and experienced both the abortive revolution of 1905 and then went on to live and work through the 1917 revolutions portrays her as the villainess  of the dancer's strike and the person who was responsible for Sergei Legat cutting his throat. 

The official version of the events of 1905 is that Sergei Legat who in these accounts is portrayed as the more talented of the two Legat brothers both as a dancer and artist and a man fully committed to improving conditions for the company and society at large was pressurised by Marie Petipa not to participate in the dancers' protests about their working conditions and that she almost certainly  did this at  the instigation of the theatre directorate. We are then I think required to understand that by putting  pressure on Sergei Legat not to participate in the strike she precipitated his suicide a few days later. From there it is but a short step to turn Marie Petipa into an untalented performer and a barely competent dancer. I seem to recall that Fyodor Lopukhov was quite happy to state that Marie Petipa could not dance. In the twentieth century pantheon of Russian ballet villains she seems to have been perceived as  only marginally less villainous than the arch villain  Nicolai Sergeyev and this still affects her reputation as a an artist. Any question along the lines of " If she was that poor a dancer how did she come to occupy the position she held in the company and to perform the roles she was given?" would probably be  given the  answer that it is obviously that case that family connections account for it. After all her father was running the company for which she danced. But that is only a satisfactory answer if you are willing to accept the official account and don't see the obvious flaws in it which begin with why would Petpa have entrusted prominent roles in major new works to an incompetent dancer? 

 

I am sure that some interesting material about Petipa and his ballets will be published this year  but somehow I don't think that the students of the history of the Sleeping Beauty are about to rehabilitate Marie Petipa  as a major Mariinsky performer but it will be interesting to see what, if anything, has altered in the official version of the history of Sleeping Beauty.

Edited by Ashton Fan

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Posted (edited)

There is no need to invoke any contrived explanations, even less so, "to rehabilitate Marie Petipa  as a major Mariinsky performer" in view of  what the serious "students" of the history of Imperial Ballet in Petersburg have already known, and for a long time. The following quote from an article by ballet critic N.Fedorov, published in the issue N° 40 for the year 1900 of the journal Theatre and Art, speaks to us with the immediacy of facts, not imputed "assumptions":
 

Quote

 

On September 24, the ballet repertoire has been augmented by the reprise of the ballet Le Roi Candaule , which was supposed to be performed by the invited Italian ballerina Lina Campani, but was instead produced with Madame Petipa 1re. They say that Mme Lina Campani turned out to be such an inept dancer that the management didn't deem it possible to release it before the public and preferred to pay 3000 rubles in penalties for he breach of contract rather than to disgrace our "exemplary" scene.

Of course, a "sudden illness" of Mme Lina Campani, as the affiche announced, and her replacement as Nisia by Mme M. Petipa 1re, were detrimental to the ballet itself. Foremost of all, Ms. M. Petipa 1re, as an exclusively characteristic dancer, is incapable to dance dances in the classical style and should not.

 

(1re means "première"; it was customary to distinguish between dancers with the same last names, by ordinals, thus "Pavlova 2me" stood for "Anna Pavlova", etc.)

One need not, however, to be familiar with the sources, in order to form a clear idea about Marie Petipa, the dancer. The testimony to the limitations of Marie Petipa as a classical dancer is first of all attested by the very text of her Lilac fairy prepared for her by her own father, who was aiming at demonstrating the best the dancer could do, as was the established custom then. And this was when Marie Petipa was 33, i.e., at the height of her powers.

Edited by Laurent

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1 hour ago, Laurent said:

There is no need to invoke any contrived explanations, even less so, "to rehabilitate Marie Petipa  as a major Mariinsky performer" in view of  what the serious "students" of the history of Imperial Ballet in Petersburg have already known, and for a long time. The following quote from an article by ballet critic N.Fedorov, published in the issue N° 40 for the year 1900 of the journal Theatre and Art, speaks to us with the immediacy of facts, not imputed "assumptions":
 

(1re means "première"; it was customary to distinguish between dancers with the same last names, by ordinals, thus "Pavlova 2me" stood for "Anna Pavlova", etc.)

One need not, however, to be familiar with the sources, in order to form a clear idea about Marie Petipa, the dancer. The testimony to the limitations of Marie Petipa as a classical dancer is first of all attested by the very text of her Lilac fairy prepared for her by her own father, who was aiming at demonstrating the best the dancer could do, as was the established custom then. And this was when Marie Petipa was 33, i.e., at the height of her powers.

Accounts on the mistery of Marie Petipa and her dancing in SB are as many as contradictory. For instance, Elizaveta Gerdt, the daughter of Pavel Gerdt, says that by the time she appeared as a child in the production with Petipa as Lilac, the variation had been dropped from the ballet because Marie just couldn't dance it, and by the time she herself danced the role, she had to ask Egorova to teach it to her, because she, as one of the last Tsarist Lilacs, had reinstitute the variation.  If I remember correctly, Egorova then danced to a variation created by F. Lopukhov. Also, different accounts appear on the steps both Karsavina and Pavlova danced when it was their turn to debut in the role by 1904 which, if I remember correctly, none included the famous variation we know today. Meaning that apparently at some point in the performance history of the ballet this variation, having been danced exclusively by Marie, had been apparently dropped... but with the rest of the character scenes still retained by Petipa's daughter.

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Accounts on the mistery of Marie Petipa and her dancing in SB are as many as contradictory.

 

The accounts you quoted are later, from after 1900, when Marie Petipa was quite advanced in age. The contradiction is only apparent if one realizes that Pavlova and Karsavina, when they were doing Lilac fairy, were dancing a different variation from the variation preserved at Harvard.

 

I found three difficulties in what Doug wrote above ("in Corsaire, they were "second" cast to Legnani and Gerdt in 1899"). First, it is clearly stated in the contemporary press reports that when in January 1899 Marius Petipa brought up reprise of Le Corsaire for the bénéfice of Legnani, he did it by altering previous choreographic text and making it significantly more challenging. If "Marie Petipa" was indeed "second cast", she most definitely would have to dance a different text from Legnani. Second, the very phrase "second cast" raised my eyebrows. In Paris throughout the 19th century most definitely no such notion as the second, third, and so on, casts, existed. This came much later. In what sense "Marie Petipa" could be “second cast”, with Legnani being the first, in not clear to me.

 

Most importantly, however, in the official documents like the Annual Reports of the Imperial Theatres for the 1898/1899 and 1899/1900 seasons, Marie Petipa is said to have performed the following roles:

1898/1899: La Fille du pharaon (Fisherman's wife, 13 times) ; Mlada (Princess Voïslava, 1) ; La Halte de cavalerie (Maria, 3 times) ; Sleeping Beauty (Lilac fairy, 3 times)

1899/1900: Les Saisons (Bacchante, once) ; La Fille du pharaon (Fisherman's wife, 4 times) ; Les Épreuves de Damis (Isabelle, 2 times) ; La Halte de cavalerie (Maria, 3 times) ; Sleeping Beauty (Lilac fairy, 4 times)

plus lots of small appearances, both in ballets and operas.

Médora is not mentioned once.

 

At the same time, for Pierina Legnani the role of Médora is reported 9 times for the 1899/1900 season and 4 times for the 1899/1900 season. During those two seasons, Le Corsaire was performed precisely 9 and, respectively, 4 times. Nobody besides Legnani could dance the principal part.

 

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56 minutes ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

If I remember correctly, Egorova then danced to a variation created by F. Lopukhov.

You remember it correctly, even thought it was found only decades later that the author was Lopukhov. Lopukhov in his memoirs contributed to the confusion regarding exactly when he did it. There are indications that Egprova was dancing the variation already in 1913, perhaps earlier. This is the famous Lilac fairy variation as we know it today. A few years earlier, Pavlova and Karsavina danced a different, shorter variation, apparently to the music from the Prologue's coda.

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Sorry not to have been on for a week. I guess I must stand corrected regarding my assumption that Marie Petipa performed the role of Medora because indeed the Yearbooks do not list her performing Medora in the years listed by Laurent, or thereafter, from what I can see. I wonder why the numerous studio photographs of Marie Petipa as Medora with Sergei Legat as Conrad in the grotto scene of the ballet. (I used the term second cast meaning secondary to Legnani/Gerdt based on the photos of Marie Petipa and Sergei Legat that are similar to the studio photos of Legnani and Gerdt in Corsaire.) Any ideas or avenues for research?

For what it's worth, Marie Petipa is listed in the Yearbooks for 1900-1901 as dancing the title role in Paquita once that season.  She was photographed with Sergei Legat as Lucien in numerous scenes from the second scene of Paquita.

As for the Lilac Fairy variation, two notated versions are preserved in the Sergeev Collection. One is marked M. Petipa and the other (more difficult technically) is without a dancer name. I have not worked on the second of the two variations.

If anyone has citations to confirm the history and chronology of the Lilac variation (when it was or wasn't danced and which version/variation), I am interested.

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9 hours ago, doug said:

 

As for the Lilac Fairy variation, two notated versions are preserved in the Sergeev Collection. One is marked M. Petipa and the other (more difficult technically) is without a dancer name. I have not worked on the second of the two variations.

If anyone has citations to confirm the history and chronology of the Lilac variation (when it was or wasn't danced and which version/variation), I am interested.

Doug..you are THE ultimate source when discussions about notations and variations are in place.🤗. But I would assume that the main sources for the accountability of M. Petipa's extent of her dancing the Lilac prologue variation are those of E.Gerdt and Mme. Egorova's accounts. My wild guess is that she stopped performing it at some point and that it resurfaced when Egorova danced the role. About Lopukhov being its author that is quite a mistery. Maybe that is the second variation you talk about exist in the collection. 

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On ‎6‎/‎13‎/‎2018 at 2:50 AM, doug said:

Sorry not to have been on for a week. I guess I must stand corrected regarding my assumption that Marie Petipa performed the role of Medora because indeed the Yearbooks do not list her performing Medora in the years listed by Laurent, or thereafter, from what I can see. I wonder why the numerous studio photographs of Marie Petipa as Medora with Sergei Legat as Conrad in the grotto scene of the ballet. (I used the term second cast meaning secondary to Legnani/Gerdt based on the photos of Marie Petipa and Sergei Legat that are similar to the studio photos of Legnani and Gerdt in Corsaire.) Any ideas or avenues for research?

Can I ask you which photographs did you see? The ones that are preserved at the Theatrical Museum in Petersburg? Those are all staged, they show Médora, Conrad and Birbanto in the dramatic pantomime scene thought to preserve the original Petersburg staging of Le Corsaire by Jules Perrot. It is entirely possible that Marie Petipa used such a pantomime excerpt for one of her concert numbers.

 

Quote

For what it's worth, Marie Petipa is listed in the Yearbooks for 1900-1901 as dancing the title role in Paquita once that season.  She was photographed with Sergei Legat as Lucien in numerous scenes from the second scene of Paquita.

More precisely, from the second act of Paquita. On the 4 February of 1901, Marie Petipa, in her bénéfice on the occasion of 25 years of her service at the Imperial Theatres, danced the second act of Paquita; as you know, it is pantomime plus a stylized Spanish dance. This was the only time she danced Paquita that season. She never danced the whole ballet.


 

Quote

 

If anyone has citations to confirm the history and chronology of the Lilac variation (when it was or wasn't danced and which version/variation), I am interested.

 

The most up to date study of the history of Sleeping Beauty at Mariinsky was published in Vestnik of the Vaganova Academy, 2017, N°2 (49) , pp. 31-60. Several pages are devoted to what we know about the Lilac fairy variation.

 

 

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Thanks, Laurent. All of these explanations about Marie Petipa make sense and answer my questions. Yes, I am referring to the staged studio photographs of Corsaire held by the Theatre Museum in St. Petersburg. Thanks also for the Sleeping Beauty citation.

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