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Mel Johnson

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Posts posted by Mel Johnson

  1. She has saved Albrecht from death, thus violating the Curse of the Wilis. She will doubtless fare badly under Myrtha for the rest of time, unless Higher Power takes her out of the equation. And another thing, she is compelled to rise from the dead, but of her own will, she returns there. Another sacrifice. Her salvation by assumption is fairly well-documented in early productions, and by pictures of the stage machinery backstage. She doesn't do what she does expecting to be redeemed afterwards, she does it out of Love!

  2. Unless, of course, she is overruled by the BIG Decider. Like many Romantic works, this ballet has its anti-clerical voice, but believes in a just God. Lesser beings interpret justice and right, but the last decision is made by divine action.

  3. It provides an opportunity for Giselle to practice self-sacrifice. If you prefer versions which show or strongly suggest that she ascends to Heaven, then her Christ-like sacrifice is blessed and redemptive, whatever the mortal authority says.

  4. Current opera standards owe a lot to Feodor Chaliapin (another Diaghilev star), who along with Fokine, objected to the stop and bow procedure onstage in their particular discipline. In opera, the keep-it-rolling ethos among the post-Wagnerians helped Chaliapin. Fokine didn't have another reform movement to back him up, so ballet bows stayed in, if somewhat modified. (MODIFIED rapture! - Nanki-Poo)

  5. I've been in productions where she clearly does not come anywhere near stabbing herself, and those where she very plainly does! In fact, one of the Giselles was so emphatic that she broke the skin and started to bleed all over her nice costume, leading to much consternation in the wardrobe department!

    But as leonid says, we have to know what production is being followed, and from where. The Marius Petipa revival has confused matters somewhat, even if brother Lucien was the first Albrecht.

    At any rate, we never see a priest around, so maybe the assumption is that she died without last rites, which at the time was also sufficient to keep you out of consecrated ground.

  6. These are points which still excite controversy even down to today. We've discussed whether Giselle dies a suicide or of a broken heart here, but without coming to a final conclusion, and perhaps we shouldn't.

    To be sure, Gautier was part of the anti-clericalism of a frequently-revolutionary society, and showing Giselle's remains excluded from consecrated ground in the churchyard would be a good device to show an uncaring church. Perhaps her grave marker should be some sort of rustic cross, obviously crafted by her neighbors, showing their true compassion for her. Although Gautier may have been anti-clerical, he does not seem to have been an anti-theist. In several works, he indicates that the church gets in the way of the True Words of their religion, so that is one reason why this ballet can yet develop some passionate debates.

  7. In the matter of encores, I feel that too much attention cannot be paid to the influence of Mikhail Fokine on the practice. He didn't care for stopping a show to do a certain set-piece over again, making no visual and dramatic sense. He was joined in this opinion on the opera side of the house by Feodor Chaliapin. Both worked for Diaghilev in Paris, so the practices of that company must not be overlooked either.

  8. The mime speech in Act II for the Prince has always been there. Balanchine wrote of it in his 1954 edition of his Stories of the Great Ballets. He uses it to discuss mime etiquette and the distinctive walk that the Prince does before he starts his tale. He walked in a circle, as if saying, "Listen to this! Pay attention!" The little circular walk has, alas, disappeared; I always liked that moment. It was apparently gone by the 1993 video with Darci Kistler and Macaulay Culkin, who, in my fairly contrarian opinion, was OK in the Prince role; he just wasn't great, which perhaps was expected of a movie star. The greatest Princes in my memory were Jose Greco's son, Jose Luis, and Jean-Pierre Frohlich.

  9. I'm with you guys on the moving around of the SPF variation and the deletion of the male variation. But I have been able to get accounts of opinions in Petersburg about the ballet when Balanchine was still a student. Seems they didn't like having to wait to see the ballerina dance, and found the little male variation rather reedy-sounding, and not at all satisfactory as a male vehicle. When I found those things out, the changes made more sense. I still find them irritating, but now I know why they were instituted!

  10. In the sketching stage of Petipa's choreographic script, he apparently had wanted an act I divertissement of national dances different from the demi-caractere pieces used in Act II. The male variation in the grand pas de deux is a rather wheezy tarantella taken from this failed sequence. I believe that the Gigue was another piece. Incidentally, the dances were to end with a cancan. It would be interesting to hear what Tchaikovsky did with THAT idea!

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