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Ashton Fan

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  1. As the topic has shifted its focus may I point you in another direction as far as English fiction is concerned ? The rural novel a genre favoured by great writers such as Thomas Hardy and lesser ones like Mary Webb.Their books are not concerned with the middle classes but with the rural working poor, usually living in remote locations such as rural Dorset, whose way of life, the author and their readers liked to believe, was untouched by the rapid changes which had affected the town dweller.The characters in these novels live simpler and more "real" lives than the town dweller ever can. Stella Gibbons' novel Cold Comfort Farm sends up the entire genre and effectively demolished Webb's reputation. Although it was published in 1932 it is still very funny.Gibbons clearly has the authors of overwrought sentences in her sights. She assists by drawing the reader's attention to her best prose passages and grading them. Enjoy!
  2. I imagine that you will get archival footage of Plisetskaya dancing Bejart's Bolero but shorn of her account of Bejart standing at the back of the auditorium giving her visual cues to assist her in performance because she had difficulty in remembering it. There are plenty of opera goers in Britain who are quite comfortable with the use of the term "Eurotrash" when it is applied to opera productions burdened by their director's concepts.Such productions tell you a great deal about the director's preoccupations and obsessions but rarely give you much idea about the work that the composer and librettist thought they had produced.They are usually described as "challenging" in pre-performance publicity and seem to be prompted by the perpetrator's boundless belief in his or her own genius and fueled by his/her intense indifference to the score and original libretto.The strange thing is that although their ideas are supposedly novel they seem to be driven by fashion. World War I is very fashionable at present.If the war remains fashionable for each centennial year we have another three years to go before we shall be free of that particular concept. I have no problem if the word is used to describe a certain type of trendily fashionable dance work which is little more than a pretentious title accompanied by an accumulation of atmospheric lighting;underwear; a limited range of stereotypical movement and several pages of programme notes proclaiming the choreographer's genius.
  3. As you surmised Drew I said "informed by" knowledge of past performance practice for the very reasons that you outlined. We can not alter dancers physically but perhaps recruiting a wider range of physical types into training would assist as would attempting to cast dancers who are suited to the type of variation to be danced rather than the one size fits all casting that we so often see.It can be very difficult to understand why Ashton should have referred to watching the Prologue Fairy variations as taking private lessons with Petipa as today they often seem dull and uninteresting.If we can not recapture all of Petipa's style there are elements that are within our grasp such as his musicality which is capable of being restored to the stage .It seems to me that a good starting point is to assume when it comes to a work like the Sleeping Beauty that Petipa knew what he was doing with the structure of the ballet and the tempo at which the various sections of it should be danced. He spent a lot of time on that aspect of his new ballet as can be seen from the detailed minutage that he provided for Tchaikovsky. We have all become used to the edited highlights/ Olympic competition performance of Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake in which the choreographic text seems to be placed at the service of the dancers' technique rather than the dancers placing their technical skills at the service of the choreographer. We seem not only to have accepted that new tours de force should be incorporated into Petipa's works because of the "technical advances"that have taken place since they were created but that the music should be distorted in order to accommodate them. The last time Rojo performed Sleeping Beauty she held her balances in the Rose Adagio for so long that I was surprised that we had not been issued with stop watches in order to time her. Of course the problem then was that because the tempo is usually set by the the first night cast those who were not going for gold were put at something of a disadvantage at subsequent performances.Another more significant problem was that by doing this she destroyed the structure of the work and the grand pas de deux in act 3 fell decidedly flat. There seem to be a lot of people about who seem to think that the only bits of Petipa's ballets that are worth showing are the sections which contain obvious dance,even if they then proceed to mangle them to suit current tastes and expectations. The stager has the ability to choose between edited highlights or staging the choreographic context in which Petipa intended them to appear. After all if the choreographer stages a procession or mime sequence that is as much his choreography as are the more obvious dance numbers. I, for one, find it very sad that the Royal Ballet's Sleeping Beauty no longer contains much more than a truncated hunting scene because that scene is clearly intended to ease the transition from the prince's "real world" to a place in which the vision scene will take place. But as the management is no longer prepared to charge a bit extra for tickets because going past ten thirty means overtime payments for the orchestra or to start half an hour earlier the scene is cut drastically.Needless to say I have friends who would happily see it disappear altogether because "it is boring and contains no dancing". Watching films of ballets that you know well can be illuminating as far as showing how much performance style has changed as a result of fashion.There is a film that crops up from time to time on the internet of the Royal Ballet's 1977 production of the Sleeping Beauty the performance style is so different from what we have become used to that it comes as a bit of a shock to the "informed " internet followers of ballet according to whom Merle Park does not do high arabesques because of her advanced age,while the prologue fairies don't know how to dance.The Prologue is particularly interesting as the fairies were drawn from the ranks of the company's principals and were cast to provide the sort of contrasts that the choreographer must have intended. Needless to say their performance style is somewhat different from what we see now as it is quick and light rather than slow and somewhat ponderous. The recording is of great historic significance, it seems to me,as it preserves de Valois' final restaging of the work which replaced two short lived productions by the two men who succeeded her as director. It is the work of a woman who was born in 1898, had worked in the Diaghilev company for a couple of years and had been in the company when the famous London production of the Sleeping Princess was performed.She said that in her production she was restoring the text that the company had previously danced with some modifications all of which were carefully recorded. I should have loved to have had an opportunity to see Ratmansky's Sleeping Beauty. I hope that it is retained in the repertory of both companies that were involved in its staging so that I get a chance to see it.One thing that struck me during the course of the three days during which the colloquium was held and that was the description of Marius Petipa as a performer which was mentioned a couple of times. It would appear that he lacked elevation but was a good actor.I wonder does his own lack of elevation explain his love of petite batterie ? Do we in the West have a rather lopsided view of the man and his work because of the choices that de Valois made about the ballets she wanted Sergeyev to stage for her company? She chose works of great historical significance both choreographically and musically but they are none of them typical of the narrative works that made Petipa's reputation. I can't wait for 2018.In the meantime we would probably be well advised to brush up on our ability to read French if not speak it fluently.It could well come in handy at the 2018 Petipa Conference, if this year's colloquium is anything to go by, and if anyone is going to produce a work on Petipa comparable to the one on Ivanov there is no guarantee that it will be available in English initially. If it is published in Russian it may well find its way into French long before it does into English.
  4. I feel that I must thank Katherine Barber for telling us about this colloquium. I don't think that I would have known about it if it hadn't been for her.The colloquium was held inside Le Grand Theatre de Bordeaux and although the French word "grand"only indicates that it is a big theatre it is extremely grand in the English sense of the word.It was worth the fee to be able to walk up and down the main staircase several times a day.Bordeaux was chosen for the initial conference because the Petipa family lived in Bordeaux for several years after Petipa's father lost his job in Brussels after the 1830 Revolution. The colloquium brought a large number of experts on Petipa, the man, dancer and choreographer together as well as people expert on early systems of dance notation and the revival of nineteenth century ballets in period appropriate form and style. It was fascinating for all sorts of reasons some of which the organisers could not possibly have envisaged.It all began extremely well with everything being translated into the various official languages as and when necessary.On the second and third days there were no English translators available and no copies of the papers to be delivered in French. However all the papers to be delivered in Russian were available to delegates in French translations. I understand that in due course delegates will receive copies of all the papers delivered at the conference.I am not at all clear as to whether they will be made available to the general public in due course.I suppose that the organisers may wait until the bicentenary of Petipa's birth and then gather all the papers delivered at the two conferences and publish them then when they can be certain of considerably more interest and a wider circulation than might be the case at present. What lasting impression did I bring away from the colloquium? I recognise that I may be doing many of the delegates a disservice by saying this, but I thought that a significant number of those present at the conference were more interested in the idea of Petipa than the reality of what his ballets might look like if serious efforts were undertaken to perform his ballets with appropriate technical style and musicality and restore them to a state that he might recognise as his work.I suppose the thing is that while the argument as to whether performance style in music should be informed by knowledge of period practice and performance style has been won, with the result that no one who wants to be taken seriously as a musician would try to argue that Bach should be re-orchestrated and played by a post Wagnerian symphony orchestra because he would have used those orchestral resources if they had been available to him, a significant proportion of those involved in the world of dance don't even recognise the need for a debate about performance style.It will be interesting to see what impact, if any, Ratmansky's Sleeping Beauty and next year's Swan Lake have on the collective dance aesthetic and performance practice both in the West and in Russia.The recent announcement of the new Bolshoi appointment raises the possibility that things might change a bit more than seemed possible even a few months ago. After all Grigorovitch is not immortal is he?.
  5. Anyone planning to come over to see performances at Covent Garden during the Spring season will find that casting details for both Winter's Tale and Frankenstein are now on the opera house's website.Wheeldon has given his unscheduled second cast the opportunity to repeat their roles as second cast in this revival which will please many. All three casts will be worth seeing. Frankenstein looks good on paper too.
  6. Stecyk I take your point about the marketing department looking for trends in attendance rather than individual audience experience.However someone at the ROH was responsible for setting up the arrangements for screening performances in North America and that person ought to be interested if local arrangements are less than perfect. The late notification of venues for screening and mistakes over the time at which they will occur must have had an impact on the size of the current audience and may well put people off attending screenings in the future. Of course the Opera House has no control over what goes on locally but those involved in putting the arrangements in place ought to be made aware of their current audience's dissatisfaction with what is happening on the ground.They have responded to complaints about breaks in transmission at particular cinemas in the past.But of course I don't know if anything more came of the complaints apart from it being acknowledged.But if you do nothing the chances are that the number of venues screening Royal Ballet performances will dwindle to a few in a couple of big cities. Anyone interested in telling the ROH about their experience of the screening or the problems associated with late or inaccurate information about the screening could try putting "Your Reaction to Romeo and Juliet Screening" into their search engine.I don't pretend to understand the workings of the mind that put the ROH website together . It probably seems perfectly obvious and logical to them. It's just a pity that it doesn't seem quite so obvious to mere mortals.
  7. Might I suggest that you post some of your comments about the problem with the Royal Ballet's cinema exposure in North America on the ROH's website where they invite comments on the performances.Someone might notice it there. It is always difficult to know how much information gets back to the people at the top.about the sort of thing that you are describing.I suspect that very little does. It is my impression that the marketing department would be more aptly described as the department that counts the bums on seats at the Royal Opera House.
  8. Naghdi and Ball were two of the most exciting things to happen at Covent Garden last year. They were paired as Olga and Lensky and their debut performance was not simply good for dancers with their amount of experience it was as good if not better than many of the other performances in the run.Just like Hay and Hayward in Rhapsody the previous season it showed an incredibly degree of maturity. Naghdi's performance did not come as quite as much of a surprise as Matthew Ball did.I think that he had been out for quite a time with injury in his first year in the company so there had been little opportunity to spot him as an unnamed but talented dancer in the corps who you eventually get to identify through a process of elimination.Saturday is their official matinee but by then they will have already danced the ballet twice as they were given the open rehearsal and a schools' matinee.
  9. The Harlequinade in near original form enabled John Rich to build the first Covent Garden theatre. Rich was both theatre manager and a famous Harlequin.Rich's Harlequin performed magic and used the advances in stage technology to produce transformation scenes and so on.Over the centuries other aspects of the entertainment came to dominate the action and by the twentieth century very few theatres bothered with the Harlequinade at all. I believe that it was still an afterpiece of the pantomime at Drury Lane as late as the 1920's and even later than that there was at least one manager/performer Ronald Fletcher who retained the Harlequinade in his shows. I saw quite a few pantomimes as a child but none of them included a Harlequinade. In England some of the Commedia characters developed a life of their own.Both Pulcinella and the Clown escaped their allotted roles. Pulcinella became totally independent as Mr Punch while the Clown, in the form of Joseph Grimaldi had by the beginning of the nineteenth century become the central feature of the Harlequinade.Even today anyone producing a traditional pantomime should include one of the standard comedy routines which are a part of the tradition introduced by Grimaldi. In Cinderella the broker's men routine, which involves a series of doors and a chase through them and round the set in most other pantos either a kitchen scene or a scene in which a room is decorated both of which descend into mayhem and mess. The Punch and Judy show was once a staple of seaside entertainment. In the late fifties and early sixties there were still some excellent "professors" about with well worn puppets who performed the Punch scenario with vigour and didn't stint on the violence of the basic plotline. Mr Punch is a wife beater and child killer. Left in charge of the baby by his wife, Judy, Punch loses his temper with the baby who won't stop crying. He kills the child then he kills Judy and attempts to dispose of the bodies by turning them into sausages.He is terrorised by a crocodile who comes after Mr Punch and the sausages. Punch manages to fends the crocodile off with his slapstick. Sentenced to death Mr. Punch outwits Jack Ketch the hangman by asking Ketch to show him what he needs to do in order to be executed; he has difficulty understanding whereabouts on the gallows he should place himself.Ketch exasperated by Punch's incompetence as a condemned man obligingly gives Punch a demonstration and is strung up.Today Punch and Judy shows are far from common and seem to be performed by nice middle class men who don't seem to have mastered the art of using the swazzle and perform a much watered down version with pristine puppets.As you can see the traditional Punch show is far from politically correct but without the violence and the traditional routines Punch and Judy is nothing. As you can see what remained of the Commedia tradition in England was popular and vigorous rather than refined and far removed from its balletic depictions.Laurel and Hardy rather than Fokine. I am not a theatre historian so I don't know if there are recent books on the English Harlequinade but a book on the Pantomime such as "Oh, Yes It Is" by Gerald Frow would be a good starting place as there are copies available on the internet. A swazzle is a piece of metal which the puppeteer has in his mouth and uses to produce Punch's voice.They used ti be made out of Half a Crown coins. I have no idea what they are made from now.Inevitably they get swallowed and it was said that no one could be a "professor" unless he had swallowed his swazzle a couple of times.
  10. Bad News and Good News First the bad news. Osipova is injured and will be dancing none of her scheduled performances this autumn. However her replacement in Romeo and Juliet is Sarah Lamb which means that we will see her with Muntagirov as her Romeo which will soften the blow considerably.Cuthbertson replaces Osipova in Connectomes,Salenko replaces her in Tchaikovsky pas de Deux and Morera replaces her in Acosta's Carmen.I think that quite a few people will be pleased that the company has seen fit to announce the cast changes now. Now some really good news.The new DVD of La Fille Mal Gardee with Osipova, McRae, Kay and Mosley is to be released on 2nd November and is currently available for pre-order. Today is the open rehearsal for Romeo and Juliet, the Trocks are at the Peacock Theatre, the opera season has begun and I have been to three opera performances on consecutive nights. Autumn really is here.
  11. Slightly off track but connected to August 1914 here are a couple of books that should not be missed one a work of fiction and two autobiographies.The first is Joseph Roth's Radetzky March which follows the fortunes of the family of a peasant who accidentally saves the life of Franz Joseph in battle and becomes a man whose heroic exploit is recounted in school textbooks.It ends with the death of a junior officer carrying water to his men at the beginning of the Galician campaign . The second book is a short autobiographical account of the effect of the first weeks of war on a young artist who is on holiday when it is declared. We follow him to war, again in the Galician campaign, where he is wounded and then returns to his parents and a life which now feels unreal. Although the book does not dwell on it, the description of the way in which his fellow guests who only the day before had been on friendly terms with each other react to the declaration of war by sitting in culturally and linguistically defined groups makes it clear that WW I was not only the end of peace but of a way of life that was only possible under the linguistically and culturally diverse empire that was Austria Hungary. Each year when I was at senior school we were given a reading list which I suspect most of us ignored. I can only recall reading one of them and that was only because I had read other books by the same author.The book in question was Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves which tells the reader about Graves' school days and his experience as a junior officer on the Western Front.A quite extraordinary account of what proved for most young men posted there to be a life to be counted in weeks rather than months. It really is a must read book.
  12. Having tracked down and read Solzhenitsyn's August 1914 I can only assume that the muted response that it received on publication was the combined effect of its length and subject matter.It is well over six hundred pages in length and deals with the first few days of Russia's disastrous involvement in World War I rather than following on with the themes which had made his reputation.The Battle of Tannenberg is not of much significance to people in Britain for whom World War I is about the war poets; the.Rush to the Sea;the Old Contemptibles;Mons;the Marne; the Somme;the Western Front; the Dardanelle campaign; the U Boat campaign and the Battle of Jutland not about east Prussia in the first few days after war was declared. I suspect that its subject matter is even more remote and obscure for readers in the US. Apart from the subject matter concerning "far away people of whom we know nothing" the fact that the first seventy or so pages are given over to exposition is,no doubt a barrier to some readers.You do have to want to read it to get through the introductory chapters in which the reader meets the characters both historical and fictional with whom the reader will follow the first few days of Russia's involvement in the "War to End All Wars", but it is worth it. It is fast moving and really brings the campaign to life in a way that I suspect that only someone who has been to war can do.I do not think that Michael Glenny's translation gets in the way of the author in his description of the endurance of the troops and the general incompetence and self serving actions of the Generals on the ground and the General Staff who all seem to owe their positions to their connections or lack of them. I came across a review of the book on a website in which the reader said he was unsure whether it was intended to be a work of fiction or a history which I think is high praise for this type of large scale historical novel which can so easily go wrong. I now feel compelled to read the second volume in this series of novels which deal with Russia in the lead up to the Revolution which was translated into English and am seriously contemplating wading through the third and fourth volumes which are available, but only in French.
  13. Katherine you don't seem to appreciate that it is the Royal OPERA House that you are talking about.Opera is the key word in the name of the organisation and in everything that goes on there.The ballet company plays second fiddle to the opera in most things. A couple of seasons ago we were to have a production of the Sicilian Vespers that was to include all the ballet music.A great deal was made of the fact that all the ballet music was to be performed, the choreography was to be by Kobborg and the dancers were to be drawn from both the Royal Ballet Company and the Royal Danish Ballet. The opera's director decided that he did not want all the music and that he wanted someone else to choreograph what was left and that was it as far as the punters were concerned.We got less information and grovelling from the ROH than we would have done if it had been a singer being replaced.The average opera goer sees the ballet as an entertainment rather than a serious art form,suitable for entertaining the grandchildren but nothing more.. The ROH website is a joke and a bad one at that. Dancer's names are retained on the site for performances everyone knows that they will not be dancing.As far as the front of house staff are concerned they are,for the main part, quite pleasant but dim. I imagine that the tour guides are drawn from the same pool of talent.I am not at all surprised that your guide was vague about coproductions, financing and such things. I am quite impressed that he or she was aware of the ballets that were being performed. After all I know that the powers that be no longer bother to put details of the week's performances up where they can be seen by passers by and that if you ask anyone at the desks in the box office who is dancing that night the best you can hope for is "the Royal Ballet". As far as the lack of information about performances being shown in Canadian cinemas is concerned you could always try letting Mr O'Hare know about your concerns. It is only a suggestion, but he did say when he was appointed that he was interested in suggestions for repertory perhaps he would be equally interested in knowing that his company is not reaching as far as he thought it was.As for failing to acknowledge the involvement of NBC he might even be mortified by the contents of the script that the guide was delivering.
  14. As I understand it there are a number of problems with translating nineteenth century Russian literature. One, which many of the exiles spoke of,was the change in the language after the Revolution.According to the late Kyril Zinovieff the change in the language meant that many allusions and idiomatic phrases in these texts which would have been immediately recognisable to a pre- revolutionary readership no longer register with a modern Russian readership let alone modern translators whose first language is English. An interesting question, of course, is whether this change was any more marked in Russia than the changes which took place in most languages during the course of the twentieth century. In most languages the literary form differs from general usage being more concerned with linguistic and grammatical correctness,heritage and allusion than is the case in day to day speech.The literary form often retains words that are otherwise all but obsolete Although few nations go as far as the French who have a special form of the perfect tense reserved for literary use the literary form of most languages retain words, which if they ever were in common usage, are rarely used in daily speech but can be of use in scrabble. As far as Russian literary language is concerned the most obvious change in the twentieth century was the elimination of the monied leisured class from which the majority of nineteenth century Russian writers were drawn, but there are other factors.The push for universal literacy in Russia also had an impact on its modern literature . A significant number of the short stories written and published after the Revolution were, as I understand it, required to be relatively simple in language and structure as part of the literacy drive.I have always assumed that the persecution of the orthodox church and the adoption of atheism also played their part in cutting the now literate population off from a full knowledge and understanding of their literary past.In much the same way that reading English literature without any knowledge of the King James Bible and the Prayer Book has an impact on reading and appreciating much English literature. The question about how far a translation should attempt to reflect the words and usage of the writer of the original language is an interesting one. Surely it is the difference between a "student's crib", which is a word for word translation however weird the result, and a rendition of the work in readable form. I am not sure that I need a translation that shows me that it is common practice to switch between tenses in the way that happens in some of the most modern translations. If it is commonplace in Russian prose then it will have no impact on the Russian reader unlike the English reader for whom the effect of this uncertainty of tense may render the prose heavy going, if not, unreadable. For everyone who finds the student revision notes type of translation a revelation because it reminds the reader that it is a work of foreign writer, there is someone who finds the resulting prose jarring, awkward,off putting and weird. Now that would not be so bad if there were a large number of translations readily available at the one time but that is not the case everywhere.At the present moment it seems to be the case that the most recent translations are pushed relentlessly and you have to search for the older more readable ones, even on the internet. I am not sure what proportion of the population, other than students, read literature.A relatively small one I expect. Of those who read literature voluntarily only a small portion seem to read translations of foreign classics and far fewer read modern works in translation.I am not convinced that translations that a significant number of readers find annoying and jarring are the way to encourage people to try foreign literature. As far as Russian literature is concerned many potential readers are put off the works of nineteenth century authors by the idea that their books are heavy tomes that would have benefitted from the intervention of a ruthless editor;peopled by characters whose names seem to change page by page and whose lives are involve lots of suffering and are rarely touched by humour.I am not sure that the body count is any higher in Russian literary works but lots of people believe that characters in these works are more inclined to suicide than the average perhaps it is a stereotype but it is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of other European literatures. I know that it is just a question of picking up the right book in a readable translation but the fact that the short story seems to be completely out of fashion does not help. There are plenty of Russian short stories but because the form is not fashionable you have to look for them and in order to do that you have to know that they exist. I think that the best starting point for getting to know Russian literature are works like the Captain's Daughter and Chekhov's short stories.Works that entrance and infuriate because they are so perfect in their construction and economy.You would love to write like that but you know that you never will because, unlike Chekhov, you were never anointed with oil. I think that I may be able to answer my own question about Solzhenitsyn's four volume work about the coming of the Revolution. The first two volumes were translated and published in the West.I wonder how well the second volume November 1916 sold ? I imagine that Western publishers thought that the two volumes set in 1917 weren't worth the effort of translating given the likely sales.It will be interesting to see whether they will take the same view in 2017.Perhaps the third and fourth volumes will be published in English then. .
  15. As far as Bulgakov is concerned I understand from a friend who speaks Estonian that a more complete edition of the Master and Margarita has been published recently and has been translated into Estonian. I wonder how long before it appears in English? His other works are well worth reading. A Country Doctor's Notebook,in which a newly qualified doctor is let loose upon the world,terrified by one procedure which haunts him a bit like the question you dread seeing on an exam paper; he finds support from the nurses who work with him.At the end, during the civil war, he has a run in with someone on the other side who is armed.He survives the encounter and when he is aked by a listener whether he killed the other man his reply is wonderfully enigmatic. He says, if I recall correctly, "I am a doctor". The Heart of a Dog in which a man's heart is transplanted into a dog by an eminent professor;the result is something pf a disaster.The White Guard, the civil war from the point of view of an ordinary middle class family on the losing side and Black Snow. The latter a brilliantly funny account of the attempt of the innocent writer Maxudov's experience of having a play staged by the Independent Theatre ( a thinly disguised Moscow Arts Theatre).Even in translation it is a comic masterpiece. To add to the discussion about translation the editions that I have read were all translated by Michael Glenny who writes idiomatic English. I had a look at the Guardian article about translations and I am afraid that I found the modern examples that were quoted in the piece exceptionally poor.They were the sort of thing that as a school child required to translate from Russian into English you would have had returned to you with an order to write it in recognisably idiomatic English rather than Russian as English. Every language has its idiomatic phrases for which there is no direct word for word translation which as a school child you have to learn.I think that the words used in English and French for the activity of rendering a foreign language into the local one contain the warning that you will not receive a verbatim account of the original. You know, if you have any knowledge of a foreign language that when you read a work in translation it can not be a verbatim account of the original text since there are idiomatic phrases that do not transfer from one language to another and in every language their are phrases and words that bring a lot of cultural baggage with them. You trust that the translator will have sufficient knowledge of both languages to achieve the same effect as the original in his or her translation. If the original text has an idiomatic phrase that has something significant in it which can not be translated then you write good English and use a footnote.What you don't want is a translation that creates a wholly erroneous impression. The Guardian article gave two translations of the same descriptive passage. In the older translation the translator had chosen to describe the bird's nest as a "rook's nest" in the more uptodate translation the words chosen was "crow's nest " which conjured up all sorts of unintended images. I would agree with the person who mentioned Victor Serge he is really worth reading. The Case of Comrade Tuleyev is excellent, as is Men in Prison and the other titles in the Trilogy.One thing I would like to ask and it is this whatever happened to Solzhenitsyn? All the while he was in Russia and having trouble with the authorities there he was the great man of literature.When he came to the West he became critical of the West and eventually went back to Russia. He was engaged in producing a twentieth century War and Peace. The first book August 1914 was translated and published in the West. I believe that at least one further volume was published in Russia but I am not aware that it has been translated and published in the West. Does anyone know about this work ? Did it get published in translation anywhere in the West? Is Solzhenitsyn a case of a writer being suppressed at different times by both sides? Has his name slipped from general consciousness because he was not that good a writer or was he dropped because he did not remain grateful and positive about life in the West? It really does puzzle me. "
  16. The French are still very much attached to projects that reflect the glory of the country's arts. Petipa is famous for the work that he did in Russia but he was born and trained in France. I expect that the Colloquium is seen as restating his significance as a great if not the greatest French choreographer of the nineteenth century and as such will almost certainly receive significant state subsidy. France may be reviewing the amount of money that the state contributes to the arts but it has not abandoned the idea that it should make contributions. It is definitely not the UK or the US when it comes to such things. I do not expect that anyone will have required the organisers to cover their costs by sponsorship or other means.The cost of the colloquium will no doubt encourage people to attend who might not otherwise be able to do so and those who attend will,no doubt, continue to speak about it for a long time to come.So the standing of France and French arts will receive a boost and its soft power will be enhanced. It sounds like a great offer if you can go and on top of that Bordeaux is well worth seeing.
  17. Putrov is a fascinating case.First Marquez was hired to dance with him then she was no longer dancing with him.Bit by bit he seemed to work his way through the female principals who were small enough to dance with him. Eventually Sarah Lamb was the only person who was dancing with him and then there was the Cinderella matinee during which he nearly dropped her twice during the ballroom scene. I don't recall exactly what he was due to dance or who was due to dance with him after that performance.Although I know that he danced Colas a short while afterwards and that Helen Crawford danced Lise although she had not originally been cast to dance the role at all. Soon after these performances he left the company.
  18. Of course the biggest question is whether Kevin O'Hare will adopt the cheque book solution to this loss or the develop from within solution? The casting of Hayward as Alice and Manon and Naghdi and Ball as Olga and Lensky last year suggested the existence of a development plan of some sort.Evidence of the existence of a plan received a boost when we discovered that Hayward and Naghdi are both due to make their debuts as Juliet this season while Ball is to make his as Romeo. The information that ballet casting details will in future not appear in the house magazine but would be available before booking opens has added to the expectation that management is serious about developing its own dancers rather than recruiting from outside the company, as the explanation given for this was that it would enable management to take more account of dancers' development when casting ballets later in the season.The idea that the company is interested in developing its own dancers is important not only because the company has been recruiting really talented young dancers from the school for years and then doing little or nothing with them but because of the case of Xander Parish who gave a face to the problem. Parish whose height,might have at one time, have guaranteed him the opportunity for promotion spent several years in the company doing little more than basic corps work. Then he was given the opportunity to go to the Mariinsky and dance there. During his time there he has danced a wide range of roles including the prince in Swan Lake, Albrecht,Romeo and Apollo considerably more than he was likely to have danced here. I suspect that O'Hare will not want to be held responsible for a similar failure to identify and use talent that is under his nose . He will have factored into any plans that he has made the fact that Acosta is retiring this year and Watson, barring injury,will retire in a year or two.It is to be hoped that the plans will not be driven off course by Pennefather's sudden departure.
  19. I think that this has come as more than a bit of a surprise to a lot of people.It is unclear whether Pennefather is giving up dancing or merely moving company. It is particularly sad as this year's casting suggested that the management had finally recognised that he and Lamb brought out the best in each other. They gave the best La Sylphide that I have seen by non Danish dancers in an unscheduled performance occasioned by a n injury to Rojo. A performance that led people sitting around me to say that they had seen other casts but this was the one that had shown them why it was an important work and an essential part of the repertory. Then there was their Manon which was head and shoulders above anything that the casts that performed in Moscow were capable of delivering. For a dancer who has been plagued by injury he has chalked up a considerable number of great performances. He will be missed as he was exceptionally good in the princely roles. A prince who is an impeccable partner,dances with elegance and refinement knows how to use stillness and is not afraid of it and knows that princes don't sweat. Now of course the question is who is going to replace him and dance with Lamb in Romeo and Juliet? There are quite a few people here who hope that it will be Golding because that might mean that Francesca Hayward will be given someone other than Golding for her debut as Juliet. I don't think that there is anyone here who understands what the Artistic Director sees in Golding.Indeed there are plenty of people who say that they accept with resignation that have to buy tickets for his performances in order to see the dancers he is partnering. I think everyone recognises what Muntagirov can bring to the company and so far he has delivered the goods.All his performances have been extremely good but the outstanding ones have probably been his de Grieux with Lamb , his Jack with Hayward as Alice and his Colas with Morera as Lise. A Colas who "charmed with his youth" and who together with Morera gave an altogether warmer performance than the one that McRae and Osipova delivered . The jury is still out as far as Golding is concerned a decent Basilio but other than that what?The charitable have ascribed his lack of success to the roles that he has been given.But after a whole season that does not hold much water.Perhaps someone could say what his New York Oberon was like.I know that his debut here wasn't that highly regarded so it was a bit of a surprise that it was thought good enough for New York.But then if last year's tour to Moscow and the company's New York residency is anything to go by, it seems that O'Hare is more concerned with showing off the big names than showing the best casts and giving audiences the best performances. But then as he hired the man, no doubt he believes that he is worth showing off. And of course if he wants to keep his "stars" he has to keep them happy.But then there is no accounting for taste. I think that most people hope that Muntagirov rather than Golding represents the. future as O'Hare sees it.
  20. Ashton's didn't make flashy display pieces which only exist as exhibitions of dance.Generally the more difficult the choreography the easier and more natural it should look.The audience's response to the reconciliation pas de deux in The Dream is not "wow" that was really difficult but "ah" how beautiful, The same is true of the end of the Fanny Elssler pas de deux where the response to Colas' one arm lift is not to comment on its difficulty but on its appropriateness as the culmination of the pas and as an expression of the couple's love for each other. It is rather disappointing that the Voices of Spring pas de deux was included in the" odds and sods" part of the mixed bill.It isn't as if there aren't other short pieces that could have been used such as The Walk to the Paradise Garden which Ashton made as a gala piece for Park and Wall to music by Delius which Vaughan described as a masterpiece or a piece from the sixties made for Beriosova and MacCleary to music by Glazunov.But I don't suppose that O'Hare knows about them I think that the entire tour revealed O'Hare's lack of knowledge of his company's history,repertory, strengths and weaknesses. and was more than a bit provincial.And as for discovering that the set won't fit the theatre that is just amateur.
  21. I have just come across a review of the company's performances in New York in which the reviewer says that the Voices of Spring is derivative of Asaf Messerer's Spring Waters. Given the origins of this piece I have always assumed that Ashton intended it as a send up of that sort of gala piece. Voices of Spring started life as the entertainment that Prince Orlovsky provided for his guests in a production of Die Fledermaus at Covent Garden. It was provided for a stage audience that knew and cared little for ballet and performed to a real life opera audience most of whom probably felt the same about ballet.It was danced very much tongue in cheek by its original cast.Somehow over the years quite a few dancers who should have known better have lost sight of the joke or perhaps they are just too fixated on technique for its own sake to recognise that anyone can find such show off stuff as remotely funny or absurd.
  22. I do not think that it is enough to say that Massine like Callas was a one off. All great artists are unique but there are experiences and stimuli that can be made available to students that can be the difference between mere competence and true creativity . Rambert discovered an amazing number of choreographers de Valois did not. Was that a matter of luck on Rambert's part or was it something to do with her wide cultural experience and the encouragement and support she gave? She supported Tudor while de Valois doubted his professionalism. This reveals a very different and more open approach on Rambert's part. Who we are and who we are capable of being is a very subtle mixture of nature and nurture, this is true whether we are talking about the development of a child or an artist. While it may be true that Massine might, even today, obtain some sort of dance training he would not have got into the Bolshoi school. His training is particularly interesting since during his time at the Imperial School at Moscow he received a thorough training in ballet and obtained stage experience in the straight theatre as well as dance and had the opportunity to play character roles in the theatre and ballet This is not the sort of experience that is available to anyone now.It has been suggested that Massine's approach to ballet creation was a natural offshoot of Gorski's approach to staging ballets. Gorski was the man who, according to Petipa, had destroyed his Don Q by destroying the floor plan.The description of Gorski's approach to ballet, placing greater emphasis on character than classicism; breaking up the symmetry of the corps;introducing character steps and expressiveness sounds very much like a description of Massine's works. The suggestion being made by someone with far more knowledge of ballet than I have was that the emphasis on physical perfection of the currently fashionable type is in itself a factor that reduces the possibility of finding great choreographers. Somewhere I read a comment that most choreographers are dancers who for one reason or another find that they can no longer dance very few go into dance with choreography in mind, By reducing the size of the pool by only training the fashionably physically perfect we are inevitably reducing the chances of finding great rather than competent choreographers..
  23. The history of the Royal Ballet's Swan Lake is a bit more complicated than has been suggested. I think that the most important thing is that when changes are made to the choreographic text the audience is always told exactly what has been changed and by whom. The Vic Wells Ballet danced its first Swan Lake in 1934.In setting the choreographic text Nicholai Surgeyev used the choreographic record that he had brought out of Russia. He mounted a second production for the company in 1943 in which it would appear that the Pas de Trois was in Act 3 rather than Act 1.In 1952 there was a new production which is described as "Sergeyev's production revised by de Valois". This production saw the Pas de Trois in Act1 and the first of Ashton's additions to the text in the form of a Pas de Six in Act 1 ,which I understand found its way into the Touring Company's production, and the Neapolitan Dance danced by Alexander Grant and Julia Farron. The next production was staged by Robert Helpmann with designs by Carl Toms. It received its first performance in December 1963.It consisted of a Prologue and three acts and contained choreography by Ashton,Nureyev and Fay. Ashton contributed a Prologue,a Waltz for twelve dancers and a Pas de Quatre in Act 1.He provided a Dance of the Guests ,Spanish Dance,Neapolitan Dance for Act 2 and a completely new Act 3.Nureyev provided a Polonaise for Act 1 and a Mazurka for Act 2 while Maria Fay set the Czardas in Act 2.It does not say so but this must be the production in which Benno ceased to be an active dance participant at the lakeside.A lot of the Ashton choreography for this production found its way into the Swan Lake that Markarova mounted for ENB. This was recorded and issued on DVD starring Schauffus and Hart.Unfortunately the camera man preferred close ups of Mr Schauffus to the dancers performing.the Pas de Quatre. The cast in this section includes a very young Leanne Benjamin. In 1971 there was a new production or perhaps it is better described as a revised production since there was not enough money for a new production. This was according to Zoe Anderson an amalgam of the productions danced by the Covent Garden company and the Touring Company.This production in four acts retained the Ashton additions of the Waltz and Pas de Quatre in Act 1;Dance of the Guests,Spanish Dance and Neapolitan Dance in Act 3 and his choreography for Act 4. Act 1 included de Valois' Peasant Dance and Nureyev provided a moody solo for the price at the end of the act. Designs were by Leslie Hurry. There was a further revision in the 1972/3 season. The Prologue was cut.The Pas de Trois was restored to Act 1 while the Ashton Waltz was retained as was de Valois choreography for the Peasant Girl. The Pas de Quatre was moved to Act 3 where it joined Ashton's Spanish Dance and Neapolitan Dance.The Mazurka was dropped from Act 3 and Ivanov's Act 4 replaced the Ashton version.This version was danced until 1979. In 1979 there was a new production under the supervision of Norman Morrice, the then director.Designs by Leslie Hurry.Act 1 retained the Ashton Waltz while Act 3 retained his Pas de Quatre,Spanish Dance and Neapolitan Dance and Act 4 reverted to his choreography. De Valois' Peasant Dance was retained in Act 1 as was Nureyev's Solo for the Prince.This production is the one that is available on DVD with Dowell and Markarova dancing the lead roles.Perhaps I should say that it is not an entirely accurate account of how the ballet was danced at that time since Markarova resolutely dances through the section that every one else mimed and in addition her Act 2 was regarded by most as impossibly slow and unmusical.It seems quite normal now. Strange how fashion operates in ballet. In 1987 Dowell mounted his own production with designs by Yolande Sonnabend .It marked a return to the Ivanov/ Petipa version of the ballet.Originally Dowell had intended to include new choreography in Act 1 for the section which originally involved a maypole and retain Ashton's Neapolitan Dance in Act 3. However Ashton was sufficiently upset by the decision to remove all his additions that his Neapolitan Dance was not restored until the 1992/93 season some four years after Ashton's death. This version is available on DVD.A lot of people have loathed this production since its first performance. This has little or nothing to do with the choreographic text although the Bintley waltz is pretty twee and a very poor substitute for the Ashton one. Most people who dislike it do so because of the boorish behavior of the prince's friends and above all Sonnabend's designs which are pretty tasteless particularly in Act 3. I have to say that it has always puzzled me that the RB has not been able to have more than one version of a ballet like Swan Lake available to it at any one time. The original version has to be available and shown regularly but the version danced by the company from 1972/3 or even better that danced from 1979 has great choreography in it. I will admit that I felt let down when I first saw the original Ivanov last act as I my first Swan Lakes had included Ashton's version.It is said that the audience would be confused but anyone interested in ballet would be interested in the other version or versions and the people who go just to say that they have seen Swan Lake will only feel cheated if they do not see the thirty two fouettes. I imagine that many of you will be aware of Cyril Beaumont's book The Ballet Called Swan Lake originally published in 1952 and recently republished by Dance Books.But for those that do not. It is a mine of information.It contains accounts of the origins of the ballet and goes into some detail about the reordering of the score and the additions made to it to provide a score that met the choreographical needs of Petipa and Ivanov. It also contains quite detailed accounts of the text of the ballet as set by Sergeyev as well as details of alternative versions of some variations.Some former dancers of the RB have said that as students they used the detailed account of the choreography as a training resource.
  24. MacMillan's Song of the Earth is an austere evocation of Mahler's great orchestral work.It must come as something of a shock if your knowledge of his work is based on seeing Romeo and Juliet and Manon and I somehow feel that the management's decision to cast big name dancers who are known to the New York audience may have added to the shock since the names Acosta and Nunez may well have raised expectations of a totally different type of ballet than the one that was performed. While MacMillan does not follow the text slavishly some understanding of the general themes of each section will add to your appreciation of the images that his choreography creates. The dancers are not given any opportunity for bravura display,competitive dancing or acting and anyone who stands out because of his speed or the height of his jumps has singularly failed to understand the work that he is performing. It is a ballet without starring roles if you associate starring roles with bravura technical display. It requires dancers with real stage presence who dance elegantly; beauty of execution not technical display is essential. The three characters are named but the Man and the Woman are not really individuals but universal types.The ballet is about the transitory nature of life.The Messenger of Death or the "Eternal One" as he is called in Germany is not a bravura role.He is not threatening merely an inevitable part of life.In the first song "The Drinking Song of Earthly Sorrow" MacMillan shows the Man with five other men celebrating the fleeting joys of life.Death claims the man."The Lonely One in Autumn", the slow movement,shows the Woman and three other women who dance with four men,this section ends when Death summons the man with whom she has been dancing."Of Youth" shows young men and women enjoying themselves in games near a green and white pavilion near the end the text refers to everything being mirrored in the pool surrounding the pool the men up end themselves suggesting both the reflections in the water and incense burners."Of Beauty" shows a group of girls picking flowers who are joined by a group of young men riding horses. The loveliest of the girls send the riders "glances of yearning". The "Drunkard in Spring" shows the Man drinking with two men accompanied by Death who eventually carries him off. The last section shows the Man, the Woman and the Messenger of Death.When the Messenger of Death leaves he takes the Man with him. The Woman is alone among the corps de ballet which it seems to me emphasises the loneliness of the bereaved. The Messenger of Death and the Man return they follow the Woman as she moves among the corps de ballet. She is aware of their presence but they are always just out of sight.I wonder whether MacMillan was also thinking of Marvell's lines"At my back I seem to hear Time's winged chariot drawing near"? Finally the Woman is summoned. The ballet ends as the three dancers move slowly towards the front of the stage as the mezzo repeats the word " forever". As the curtains close the three are still in motion suggesting eternity.The role of the Woman is for a dancer of grace and beauty. With the right cast this ballet is incredibly moving.
  25. Anyone trying to decide whether or not to go to the mixed bill of The Dream and Song of the Earth might like to note that the next two performances of Song include dancers in the three main roles who get to the heart of the ballet.Both Morera and Cuthbertson are exceptionally fine in the main female role and the Messenger of Death is one of Ed Watson's finest roles. For me Song is MacMillan's masterpiece.His full length works pale into insignificance when compared with it and if the company were to perform it every year I should be very happy.
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