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Ashton Fan

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  1. I could not agree more about the opportunities that the old touring company gave to young dancers and choreographers. I think that David Wall said that when he first arrived at Covent Garden he was in awe of his new colleagues until he realised that he had danced more Siegfrieds than any of his colleagues who were dancing it there had. SWTB and its successors gave opportunities for young dancers to dance an extremely wide repertory from the nineteenth century classics, pre war works such as Capriol Suite, Les Rendezvous and Les Patineurs right the way through to the latest works created by its own choreographers and by Ashton. It enabled young dancers and choreographers to learn stage craft and make mistakes away from the glare of publicity. Something singularly lacking at present. I know that Ashton created a pas de six for act 1 for the touring company's Swan Lake which I am told was very beautiful.The interesting thing as far as I am concerned is the number of Important dancers who served their apprenticeship there. There was an obvious decline of standards in the main company which started to show during the later years of MacMIllan's directorship although it was not too obvious because he was able to make his major works on dancers who had been trained and formed by De Valois and Ashton. If I were asked to identify the causes of the decline I would say first de Valois' failure to secure the continued services of Vera Volkova and second MacMillan agreeing to disband the touring company. I know that it was replaced by the New Group which was supposed to bring choreographic enlightenment to the provinces but it probably put more people off ballet for life than it recruited to the cause.Eventually it was replaced by the Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet but it took time for it to acquire the nineteenth century classics and its remit did not include acting as a feeder for the main company. Arguably the gap in development opportunities for both dancers and choreographers still affects the company to this day. While I recognise that a company resident at an opera house has to mount a significant number of full length ballets every year those in charge of the Covent Garden company seem to lack the vision to adjust the repertory to include the delightful ballets that helped develop the Vic Wells company and Peter Wright's Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet. It has always seemed to me that a formula which worked very effectively for those two companies would work equally well at Covent Garden.It would not be a complete cure all but it would certainly help.Putting on ballets that are technically and stylistically challenging but don't carry the weight of performance history such as the Two Pigeons is a good start except we have had too many dancers cast who don't require development opportunities and ticket sales have been poor. This combined with the out and out critical failures such as Raven Girl, Connectomes and Acosta's Carmen is likely to result in the AD having less freedom over programming in the coming seasons, So we will be back to the same limited range of works programmed regularly with the annual Ashton mixed bill of rarities that should be staple repertory works and all the works restored to the stage by Mason will slip back into the shadows.
  2. JANE, Thank you for that information. I thought that Casse Noisette did not stay in the repertory of Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet for very long.It is good to have confirmation on that point. I sometimes wonder where the ROH recruit the staff who put information about productions on their website and how long they stay. It would appear that whoever it was who put the article together failed to identify Antoinette Sibley as one of the three dancers in the photograph of Sibley, Dowell and Nureyev which was included in it.This leads me to suspect that the same people are probably also involved in putting the ballet programmes together because the production photographs in them frequently fail to identify the dancers correctly. It seems to me that whoever was responsible for the article was so taken with the idea that Nutcracker is an essential part of Christmas at Covent Garden and has been since the year dot that they failed to understand that the photographs of the 1951 production were nothing to do with what was happening at the Royal Opera House. While Nureyev was the first person to stage a full length Nutcracker for the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden it was not a regular part of Christmas at the Royal Ballet until Dowell's directorship. I have always thought that not only was it lazy programming on his part and even lazier programming on the part of his successors to programme Nutcracker at Christmas, year in and year out, but unfair on the ENB. After all ENB relies on its box office takings at Christmas to cover its touring losses.As the Royal Ballet does not undertake domestic tours it has always seemed particularly mean spirited for the Covent Garden company to enter into direct competition with one of the few classical companies which does.It is not as if the Royal Ballet has no other ballets it could programme at Christmas. You mention the Alexander Bland history of the Royal Ballet's first Fifty Years. I have a copy but it is in storage at present. So the answer to your question is yes and no.
  3. Ashton's Casse Noisette was created for the Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet's first US tour in 1951. It was in two scenes and omitted any story element. According to the Birmingham Royal Ballet website it included Ashton's choreography for the Snowflake and The Kingdom of the Sweets. When Sadler's Wells Ballet became the resident company at Covent Garden de Valois created a new company as a training ground for young dancers. This second company originally called Sadler's Wells Opera Ballet, which suggests that it was providing dancers for the opera company resident at Sadler's Wells, had by the time of the 1951 tour become known as the Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet. There is no indication in the Royal Opera House Performance Database, which is far from complete, that Ashton's Casse Noisette was ever danced at Covent Garden by either the resident company or by Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet.
  4. I know that Peter Wright is credited with the choreography for the 1958 film. Perhaps his autobiography will cast some light on what is his and what derives from Sergeyev's pre war productions.It is quite possible that Peter Wright's choreographic input was limited to rearranging things so that the dancers were in the right position for the cameras,which were far from mobile then, rather than altering the steps that were danced.I think that is probably the reason why de Valois gets a credit for the Royal Ballet's Coppelia which had been set for the Sadler's Well's stage. I recognise that Markova and Dolin introduced the Christmas Nutcracker tradition to London. I have always thought that it was a mistake to make it such a regular feature at Covent Garden, where it now graces the stage four years out of five.I recognise that a revival was inevitable this year because of Sir Peter Wright's ninetieth birthday. A little more variety at Christmas would do us all a lot of good. Coppelia has not been seen at Covent Garden for some years and then there is Cinderella. Mashinka do you know whether Mona Ingoldsby ever staged the Nutcracker? It seems to me that someone needs to write an inclusive history of ballet in Britain in the twentieth century by which I mean one that is not just a history of the Royal Ballet.I know that there is a general lack.of interest in ballet history but such a book is needed. It would be beneficial to us all to put de Valois and her company into context by showing what other people were doing at the time. It would need to discuss the work of people like Ingoldsby and Darrell,and of companies like Ballet Rambert as a classical company and Western Theatre Ballet which became Scottish Ballet. There might be difficulty in finding a publisher but that does not mean that such a book is not needed.
  5. I am not sure that there was much of a tradition of the Nutcracker at Covent Garden before Peter Wright's 1984 production. There do not seem to been any performances of it at the Royal Opera House until Nureyev's 1968 production and that production was not performed only at Christmas. In fact Christmas Past at Covent Garden seems considerably more interesting than Christmas Present Before the Nureyev production the consensus seemed to be that while the score is probably the greatest of Tchaikovsky's ballet scores the choreography was not of comparable quality.Nureyev's production was clearly based on the version that he knew from his time at the Kirov.The link between the two acts,at least by the time that I first saw it, was created by Clara's relatives appearing in the divertisements in the second act. A bad case if too much party and too much excitement. It was a production that appealed to adults and children although some thought it rather dark. Several seasons elapsed between the final performance of that production and the first performance of Peter Wright's production. Although it is now a staple of the repertory I think that quite a few people were disappointed by it when they first saw it. I know that several people were amused by a report that de Valois when asked what she thought of the new production had said words to the effect that she could see no reason to replace the Nureyev production because it was excellent and the best she knew of. Sir Peter's production lovingly tended by him has now acquired the patina of age and authenticity and no doubt there will be an outcry when it is finally pensioned off.The changes to the choreography which Sir Peter has made, since 1984, enable Clara and Hans Peter to play an active part in both acts. Clara is now played by a company member rather than by a student from the school. Pre 1968 the company seemed to rub along quite well at Christmas with Cinderella and ballets other than Nutcracker.. As to what the 1930's productions looked like the ICA Classics DVD of Fonteyn and Somes dancing Tchaikovsky Ballet Masterpieces may provide a clue..
  6. Great Swanhildas I should have liked to have seen? Genee is definitely at the top of my list, followed by Lopokhova, Nerina,Beriosova and Jenner. Not necessarily a great Swanhilda but an intriguing one De Valois who took over from Lopokhova. As to the impact that Genee had on her audiences according to Ivor Guest there were people in the audience at the Vic Wells initial performance of Coppelia whose response to Mrs Keynes was that she was not a patch on Genee.Clearly her 1906 Coppelia had left a strong impression on those who saw her. Someone asked whose choreography she danced, well, according to Guest, it was devised by her uncle, a dancer, who adopted her when she was a child. Great Swanhildas I have seen. I think the best was Brenda Last a dancer who lit up the stage with her first entrance in every ballet she danced and had a technique that was so quick and clean She was also a great Lise and danced that role more times than anyone including Nerina.I also loved Barbieri and Hatley in the role. It was in SWRB repertory for years but not danced at Covent Garden,for some reason, which is why we never saw Collier as Swanhilda.As far as recordings are concerned ICA Classics have issued a DVD of a number of ballets in which Nerina appears. One is a heavily cut two act Coppelia with Nerina as Swanhilda and Helpmann as Coppelius. The cuts make you wish that it included act 3 as the dancing is so full of life. Here is a story about the RBS Covent Garden matinee that you might enjoy.In 1976 the ballet was Coppelia Susan Lucas was Swanhilda and David Bintley was Coppelius,at nineteen he was one of the best I have ever seen. The performance was great fun but one of the critics chose to point out that Lucas had wobbled a bit when she performed the section with the mirror. Nerina wrote a letter which was published in which she suggested that the critic concerned did not know what he was talking about. As I recall she said that if anyone knew what was, and was not, easy to dance it was her rather than the critic and that far from being easy to dance it was very difficult to perform that section really well and she had not noticed the defects that the critic claimed to have observed.
  7. Well Two Pigeons and Rhapsody are due to be screened in January with the first night cast from this run due as the cast for the screening.Anyone interested in the critic's response to the revival can find them on Ballet co Forum's web site's links with the daily press for yesterday and today. I don't think that Cuthbertson's 2011 Sleeping Beauty was her finest hour either. But I have seen her give much better performances and I do not think that I lower my standards when I watch her performances.I will admit that I am averse to the Rose Adagio being reduced to an Olympic event.with Aurora clearly going for gold as it has the unfortunate effect of distorting the ballet's structure and rendering the the third act's grande pas de deux considerably less than grand, I seem to recall that Cuthbertson had the best part of eighteen months off with injury followed by ME before this performance.Perhaps management was at fault as I think it was when Darcey Bussell, fresh from maternity leave, was first night cast of Sylvia. That perhaps was explicable as the ballet had been absent from the stage so long but it did not stop it being a daft decision. .Each of us have dancers we would prefer not to see and the answer is not to book for them.If someone says that the dancer concerned is very effective in a role the answer is either to go and see them in the role which entitles you comment about their performance or to stay away. If you choose to stay away from that dancer's performances then you are not in a position to comment on them. .
  8. Last night saw a major revival of Ashton's Two Pigeons at Covent Garden after a gap of thirty years. While.London has not been without performances of the ballet during that time as both Birmingham Royal Ballet and its predecessor company have occasionally performed it in London and the Royal Ballet School used to perform it quite often as part of its annual stage performance the fact remains that the Covent Garden company has chosen to ignore it.We did not even get the final pas de deux during the Ashton centenary celebrations.Its absence from the stage would have been understandable if it was a bad ballet but it is actually a very good ballet with three great roles for the principal dancers. The first night cast Cuthbertson, Muntagirov and Morera were excellent.I will say a bit more about the ballet and their performance when I have seen some of the other casts. The quality of the performance has set the bar very high for the other casts during this run and makes the neglect of this work in the last thirty years totally inexplicable. Eagling's Frankenstein has left few lasting memories and would not be on my list of ballets that need to be revived.It had some excellent stage effects but I think that the most important thing about it was that it was the first ballet in which Jonathan Cope was given a role of any significance.He was the monster.
  9. 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!
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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?.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. 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. .
  23. 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. "
  24. 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.
  25. 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.
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