Jump to content
Kathleen O'Connell

Are there ballets that should no longer be staged?

Recommended Posts

pherank:

Quote

Adding a 'disclaimer', shall we say, to program notes is a very one-sided approach.

I always like book reviews and art history notes where the reviewer follows the trajectory of a work, how it was initially accepted, its controversies, and how we see it now. This is often done in a scholarly and entertaining way in the NY Times, and the New York and London Reviews. What's often the case is that there are reviewers who "get" the work early on and clearly. For instance there was a very understanding review of Robert Frank's "Americans" done in the New York Times when the book first came out but which everyone forgot about afterwards, so there was subsequently the myth that it was universally panned. And Kevin Thomas wrote a very appreciative review of one of Truffaut's most underated movies, "The Soft Skin," in the Los Angeles Times when it was first released. The "stations" a work of art passes through, its endless lives, are always fascinating.

Program notes could devote a paragraph to a kind of "historical intent" of the work without boring anyone too much. I agree that SF Ballet has done many excellent "Pointes of Views" pre-ballet programs. However, the ones I've sat in over the past ten years have only taken in a tiny fraction of the audience members who would see the ballets during the 10 day run, and the q&a s have been limited in number and in scope.

Regarding Nancy Goldner's interpretation of "Bugaku,", which she develops in much greater detail than what I quoted above, there are earlier reviews that also signal that this is tricky territory. Jack Anderson says,

Quote

Alone at last, bride and groom dance a highly erotic pas de deux that is also a battle of wills. No longer demure, the bride is someone with whom the groom must contend.

Clive Barnes:

Quote

Mr. Schaufuss was feral, there was a suppressed violence to his movements, a coarseness to his interpretation that almost denied the role's conception. Edward Villella played it was a menacing gentleness, and that seemed right. Mr. Schaufuss dances it with a gentle menace, and that seems subtly wrong. The ballet is not meant to be a rape but a marriage.

I thought Robert Garis's take was amusing in that he almost puts a Hollywood ending to it:

Quote

Balanchine had never before invented anything as perilously close to the unacceptable as turning Kent’s extended leg into a phallus. But this erotic adventure was produced with his familiar tact and taste … And to cap it off their [Kent and Villella’s] dance identity gave a witty American normalcy to this work of extreme artifice.

 

Edited by Quiggin

Share this post


Link to post

This is a fascinating discussion. :) I have not as much experience as most of you, but nevertheless....Just a thought: Here in Germany and Austria when Shakespeare plays are presented they are done so of course in German, and there often are chnages to the text, perhaps in part because it has already been translated, so one can presumably continue to translate further, or for clarity or other  reasons.(of course it is the same with any other plays which were originally written in a language other than German; they are all translated, as are all films dubbed)

I guess that is often done with choreographies, too, though perhaps not those which are so well protected that the permission to stage them is attached to the promise to do so faithfully. I wonder if the "translation" of text and the inevitable changes - however subtle - that brings with it, could (or does) have a parallel in choreographies. I would think it surely does; though perhaps not quite as strongly in the purely classical ballets as in more modern pieces. 

I agree that it seems  a huge issue is to  figure out what is important, what is the essence, of a work, and how to preserve that while also allowing it  to exist within the times and the culture at present; especially if the companies/ performers  are financiallly dependent on audiences coming and paying. 

One reason some European countries so lavishly support the arts is so  the artists are not forced to follow current ideas of what is "good" or "worthy". Of course, there is constant debate about what is good or worthy or what is "art", but that is indeed another subject. 

-d-

Share this post


Link to post

In Britain political correctness is not as prevalent as in the US, it exists strongly in some political circles but in general the concept is viewed with scepticism by the public as a whole.  In the arts it is embraced in the theatre (no white actor may now play Othello), but not in the other performing arts where white tenors continue to sing Verdi's Otello.  In fact the opera and particularly the RO go further and further with unwarranted scenes of sex and female nudity.  The current Rigoletto opens with a scene of such extreme sexual violence and nudity I had to look away, yes the opening is described in the text as an orgy but in decades of performance this has been shown without the need to cast the audience as voyeurs.  In the online programme notes there is a warning of the graphic content but I feel sorry for those parents introducing their kids to one of the most tuneful operas in existence to find them faced with X rated content, it must have been excruciatingly embarrassing for them.

Share this post


Link to post
2 hours ago, Mashinka said:

The current Rigoletto opens with a scene of such extreme sexual violence and nudity

Dear Mashinka have you forgotten about the Michieletto "William Tell" production in summer of 2015 ? We received an email alert from the ROH regarding the rather explicit rape enactment at the opening scene a couple of days before we were due to fly over to see it. However I must confess I saw nothing that would shock me ...... but then I belong to a different culture !  :D:D (Signed : Seyd Pasha !)

Edited by mnacenani

Share this post


Link to post

Who could forget it?  Never ever heard so much booing in my life, though I think most of the anger was aimed against the inappropriate use of Rossini's famous ballet music.  It also came after a series of rubbish RO productions.

In defence of the Brits, they are not as prudish as some imagine, I remember a production of Purcell's Fairy Queen at Glyndebourne and repeated at an Albert Hall Prom, where the stage was invaded by a hoard of the cutest Easter bunnies ever seen that began by dancing and then started doing what rabbits do best in every permutation of the Kama Sutra.  The audience was hysterical with laughter.  What offends is violence towards women, particularly graphic in the Rigoletto I saw earlier this week.

Share this post


Link to post
Quote

In the arts it is embraced in the theatre (no white actor may now play Othello), but not in the other performing arts where white tenors continue to sing Verdi's Otello.

Well, it’s hard enough to find a tenor of any hue who can sing a decent Otello, so the opera houses can’t afford to be too choosy.

For centuries Othello was the only major Shakespearean role black actors who essayed the classics could play. (Sidney Poitier once turned down an offer to play Othello for television because it was the designated deserving-black-guy role.) It’s my hope that one day things will loosen up a bit and white actors and singers will be able to don black body makeup to play the role without echoes of Amos ‘n’ Andy, because Othello/Otello really does have to be dark – you need that visual contrast, you need to see him surrounded by whites.

Share this post


Link to post
5 hours ago, dirac said:

Well, it’s hard enough to find a tenor of any hue who can sing a decent Otello, so the opera houses can’t afford to be too choosy.

For centuries Othello was the only major Shakespearean role black actors who essayed the classics could play. (Sidney Poitier once turned down an offer to play Othello for television because it was the designated deserving-black-guy role.) It’s my hope that one day things will loosen up a bit and white actors and singers will be able to don black body makeup to play the role without echoes of Amos ‘n’ Andy, because Othello/Otello really does have to be dark – you need that visual contrast, you need to see him surrounded by whites.

This reminds me that Orson Welles played Othello in one of his great, essentially homemade, personal film projects (earning the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1952). He wore makeup to look more 'swarthy'.

othello1.jpg

Edited by pherank

Share this post


Link to post
On 19/01/2018 at 3:10 PM, mnacenani said:

Dear Mashinka have you forgotten about the Michieletto "William Tell" production in summer of 2015 ? We received an email alert from the ROH regarding the rather explicit rape enactment at the opening scene a couple of days before we were due to fly over to see it. However I must confess I saw nothing that would shock me ...... but then I belong to a different culture !  :D:D (Signed : Seyd Pasha !)

It was substantially toned down after the first night as a result of the initial reaction.

Share this post


Link to post
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×