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Posts posted by odinthor

  1. Thanks for the interest!

    I glanced over the collection and have made a hasty stab at listing the items which appeared to indicate the holdings of Stepanov notations of Petipa's choreography for operas.  These are the operas concerned, which I list by composer:

    Berlioz, Les Troyens

    Bizet, Carmen

    Borodin, Prince Igor

    Cui, Prisoner of the Caucasus

    Dargomyzhsky, Rusalka

    Delibes, Lakmé

    Glinka, Life for the Tsar

    Glinka, Ruslan and Ludmila

    Gounod, Romeo & Juliet

    Massenet, Esclarmonde

    Meyerbeer, Huguenots

    Meyerbeer, Prophète

    Nápravnik, Dubrovsky

    Offenbach, Les Contes d’Hoffmann

    Ponchielli, Gioconda

    Rimsky-Korsakov, Snegúrochka (The Snow Maiden)

    Rimsky-Korsakov, May Night

    Rimsky-Korsakov, Serviliia

    Rimsky-Korsakov, Sadko

    Rimsky-Korsakov, Tsar’s Bride

    Rubinstein, Demon

    Serov, Judith

    Tchaikovsky, Queen of Spades

    Tchaikovsky, Cherevichki

    Verdi, Aïda

    Verdi, Rigoletto

    Verdi, Traviata

    Wagner, Tannhäuser


    Some heavy-hitters there!--with a few intriguing obscurities.  The nice thing about resurrecting these "for-opera" ballet sequences is that the would-be restorer wouldn't have to confront the Mt. Everest of a bulky manuscript for a full-length three-hour ballet; surely most of these pieces are ten or twenty minute performances, a less daunting investment for a restorer or dance company, and in almost all cases making use of published and currently available music scores from known and appreciated composers, with works mostly having names (both composer and opera) of a familiarity which would make them appealing to the Public.  It's not an all-or-nothing:  If one such modest effort would go well, then the restorer/company could embark on the next such modest one with increased confidence and likelihood of success.  Lastly, I can't imagine but that Petipa's personality would mandate that he enter into these pieces with extra zest, and put his best foot forward to show off in his choreography for these, for the pieces to function as, so to speak, calling-cards in one genre giving a taste of what riches he had to offer at full-length in his other, "native," genre.

  2. We see among the works of Petipa preserved in Stepanov notation in the Sergeyev Collection a handful of works intended, as I understand, for the ballet sequences in a number of operas--LakméAïdaLes Contes d'Hoffmann, and so on.

    I can imagine, even aside from their being included in opera productions, that these would provide in and of themselves a most interesting suite or suites for production simply as ballet presentations.  They would add further diversity to the classic ballet repertory.

    Have any of these Petipa opera-born works been reconstructed from the Stepanov notation, and presented?  Perchance have any survived by tradition in the presentations of their operas (in other words, through performance tradition rather than through reconstruction from the Stepanov notation)?

  3. Do we know to what degree Petipa scuttled the previous choreography when he rechoreographed an existing ballet?  At times I have the feeling that the previous choreography has at least "colored" much of what Petipa's rechoreography/revision presents. 

    Unless he always completely changed everything, obviously it would vary from ballet to ballet; but I'm interested in knowing what remains of the work of previous choreographers in Petipa's rechoreographies.  Perhaps at times Petipa simply fine-tuned what he regarded as occasional miscues in the original.  We may have more of St.-Léon or Perrot etc. than one might at first think.

    (One is also almost tempted to enquire as to what remains of Petipa's choreography in today's production of Petipa's ballets; but that's a separate question!)

  4. Thanks for your thoughts!  Surely somewhere--book or research paper--there's an extended study of ballet in South America, with details of productions...?


    The signature seems to be "R de los Heros".  I'd very much like to see more of his/her work.  Online searches have yielded nothing applicable, neither text nor images.  The theatrical costume design folks in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London are unfamiliar with this artist, yet clearly these were produced by a professional familiar with costume design.


    The bird symbol on one gentleman's shield appears to be very close to an Incan symbol for a Condor; the designer appears to be drawing on that cultural background.  It could be that the production adapted a traditional Greco-Roman tale to make use of local color/national heritage.


    These works have now been protectively reframed and are hanging proudly in my home, sparking appreciation, comment, and thought.  Someday the details of their origin will come to light!

  5. Still trying to pin down something about the production these delightful sketches presumably come from, or who the artist/designer was.  The female has something of a Medea vibe; but the story of Jason and Medea doesn't concern rival men, which would seem to be the implication of the spirit of the sketches.

    Does anyone know someone who has done research on the Ballet scene in South America in approximately the 1950s?  (Of course, just because the pictures came from a collector in Argentina doesn't mean that the production was in Argentina or South America.)

  6. I wonder if anyone has any ideas about what production these costume designs were evidently intended for (and who the artist/designer might be)...?


    Here is the artist's signature (which for the life of me I can't construe):


    I recently purchased these three gouaches.  The seller indicates that they came from Argentina, and guesses a date around 1940; another design expert, not knowing of the 1940 guess, thought "1950s."  (I seem to recall vaguely that Massine had a South American tour or two in that era.)

    Here's a sharper image of one:


    Any thoughts would be warmly appreciated!

  7. Saw it last night.

    Was entertained but underwhelmed.

    No questioning the commitment and ability of the dancers; but I did not feel the spirit of Isadora was evoked.  The movements were too tight and nervous.  The presentation was too concerned with being symbolic and allusive.  The ever-undulating thisses and thats made me sea-sick.  Afterwards, I felt neither a greater understanding of Isadora nor--taking Isadora out of the equation--understanding nor empathy with the faux-Isadora.  I was unable to set aside the notion that character Terpsichore looked halfway between an Indian in a white-feathered headdress and the figure of Liberty on turn-of-the-century coinage and stamps.  The extended Soviet sequences will I am sure resonate more strongly with Russian audience members, which is to say that non-Russian I had had enough of them very quickly.

    In all fairness, my enlightened audience-neighbor enjoyed the production; and the ever-generous Segerstrom audience gave its customary standing ovation.  You see, if we give something a standing ovation, it helps convince us that yes we most certainly must have seen a wonderful show.

  8. Asking forgiveness for presenting a wall of text--I'll restrain myself after this--but I've run across a page which I feel puts across the essence of what Massine was doing with music vis-à-vis dance.  (From Massine a Biography, by Vicente Garcia-Marquez, p. 122; the text relates to 1919, London.)


    "[...]  In the evening the company presented its first performance, Les Femmes de bonne humeur, with a new, more realistic décor by Bakst. To Diaghilev's immense relief and deep satisfaction, Les Femmes and its dancers were a sensation. The ballet's cinematic movements and simultaneous action were a revelation to British balletomanes. Wrote The Observer: 'The merry adventures are unfolded with a rapidity of action that only perfect precision can sustain, and it is this precision with which every gesture is linked to its accompanying musical phrase that is the secret of this remarkable feat of stage production . . .  The result is not only a brilliant work of art, but the most exhilarating entertainment. Wordless wit is not easy of accomplishment, but Massine's choreography has attained to it.'  Still, the work's distinctive style and rhythm took the general public by surprise, and even ballet aficionados found it a bit puzzling. The dance historian Cyril Beaumont described his own first impression: 'I was not sure whether I liked the ballet or not. The unusual speed of the performance was a little bewildering, and I could not get accustomed to the jerky, puppetlike quality of Massine's choreography, so different from the rounded and flowing movements of Fokine's compositions.' Only after repeated viewing did he determine that Massine's 'dances did far more than accompany the music and accord with its rhythmical structure; they really translated the spirit of the music in terms of choreography.'"


    This is just what I get from Massine:  Not dancing accompanying music, but dancing which is a representation of the music and its spirit, an incarnation of the music in dance terms, a presentation in which the music and the dance have become one.

  9. Thanks, Quiggin, for that excellent overview and discussion of Massine!


    Massine is mentioned in various places, I seem to recall, as being extremely inventive; it's probably a case of having so much to give, and wanting to pack it all in.  He became aware, as time went on, that his complexity could be daunting; or at least I recall in his autobiography several remarks from him to that effect.  In talking about a revival of his Mam'zelle Angot, for instance, he writes, "In the course of producing this ballet [...], I found that much of the original choreography needed simplification.  I also altered much of the ensemble grouping so as to give a less fragmentary background for the principals [...]" (p. 231).


    I enjoyed that dynamic Symphonie Fantastique clip, thanks, and found it rather enthralling (isn't that part of the rehearsal filming video they did, the one that I believe had Erik Bruhn early in his career, as a non-principal?).  My read on Massine's conceptualization is that, whereas we're used to focusing on particular dancers or small groups, he imparts the experience as we experience the wall of sound of a symphonic work:  Not violins and trumpets and flutes etc. picked out of the tapestry of sound and enjoyed separately or in little consorts, but all together integrally simultaneously as a unit.  An interesting personal vision!


    Edit:  I just ran across the following interesting paragraph, which expands on a passage in Quiggin's post:  "Andre Levinson, the prestigious Franco-Russian ballet critic noted for his partiality to the classical tradition, congratulated Massine on his achievement in Les Femmes de bon humeur: 'The inspiration of this humorous ballet is so adroit, the execution so homogeneous and free from constraint, the whole so well composed that I freely surrendered myself to the sweetness of living that exquisite hour of forgetfulness.' He considered the ballet 'a living and original work where the past only appears in the form of a distant suggestion, an echo softened by the passage of centuries.' (Levinson once had severely criticized Fokine for relying in his ballets on 'ethnography and archaeology' when reconstructing the past.)  Levinson admired Massine's choreography for combining 'a sense of delicacy with a feeling of fitness in which the laws of the classic dance are rarely abrogated, its normal movements distorted and parodied, heightened and dispersed by the rhythm.' He described Massine's style as 'perpetuum mobile, a movement falling on each note, a gesture on each semiquaver, a continual fidget to which we owe the breathless and spirited animation of The Good Humoured Ladies; now, this restless style, with its insistence on distorted or broken lines, is bound to the imperative of polyrhythmic musical movement or tyrannical syncopation that a Stravinsky imposes on the orchestra'" (quoted from Massine a Biography, by Vicente Garcia-Marquez, pp. 101-102).  Thus the "abstract nervousness" of Edwin Denby.

  10. My word.  A Parisian friend, on seeing my recent Facebook blather about Massine, writes to me and tells me that one of his clients worked with Massine in one of the late incarnations of the Ballet Russe, has broached my interest to the client, and the client wonders if I have any questions.  If I get any answers of interest, and can relate them without any breach of confidence or privacy, I'll share them here...

  11. 3 hours ago, miliosr said:

    The Joffrey's Fall 1974 repertory (10/09-11/08/74) included Massine's Le Beau Danube, Parade and Pulcinella. There was even an all-Massine evening with all three works.


    The rest of the Joffrey's pre-1950 repertory for that season included Bournonville's William Tell Variations, Fokine's Petroushka, Jooss' The Green Table and Limon's The Moor's Pavane. How's that for a repertory?


    Outstanding and exciting!  I'd feel honored and enriched to see such offerings today.


    I'm fairly sure I saw the Joffrey in L.A. about then doing at least Parade, Petroushka, and The Green Table.  (And maybe I've just forgotten the others; it was about then that I started attending ballet, and I wouldn't yet have been hip to the significance of the various choreographers and their works.)


    And so, anyone who has any sway:  Start talking up Massine, and the serious stuff (I wonder if his own choreography of Sacre du Printemps is recoverable...?) as well as the light pieces.  We can't let Massine fall by the wayside...

  12. 1 minute ago, sandik said:


    Thanks for the Gaite clips -- those costumes have aged better than I thought they might.  And I'd forgotten that Lorca Massine is still staging -- I imagine that he holds the rights to all the works.



    Yes, it looks like it; or Theodor Massine.   See http://massine-ballet.com/html/revivals.php :  "For revivals the original Léonide Massine Ballets of the Ballets Russes and Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo have been documented on film and are available for remounting of these ballets.  In addition the Massine Ballets have to be restaged in cooperation with a repetiteur approved by the Massine Estate.  Restagings have been conducted by Lorca Massine, www.lorcamassine.com.  Please send all enquiries to Mr. Theodor Massine."

  13. I'm sure I saw The Good-Humoured Ladies performed at the L.A. Music Center, albeit quite some time ago (late 1970s?), though I can't quite recall the company (Joffrey?  ABT?).


    And--this is a pretty watery statement, but for what it's worth--in something I read in the last day or two (M's autobiography? something I ran across on the net?), I believe it was M himself who stated, with relief, that one of his more obscure pieces had been set down in notation (I forget which), and there seemed to be some implication that others of his output had also been notated.


    At the very end of his life (about the time I was seeing The Good-Humoured Ladies ), for the Marin Ballet he was preparing (re-choreographing?) none other than The Nutcracker, which would be an ideal show for Massine.  That's not so terribly long ago.  Does anything remain of the notes or ideas for this final effort of Massine's?


    Edit:  This is of interest:  http://massine-ballet.com/html/revivals.php

  14. A simple question:  Why is there so little Massine around?  What little I've seen of his choreography I've found exciting, sensitive, distinctive, intelligent, stageworthy, and--even in the light stuff--deeply-felt and masterfully composed.  I'm in the middle of reading his autobiography, and my appreciation of him is redoubled by becoming aware of not only what he observes and the depth and breadth of his reflections but also the varied richness of his output over so many years--so many works I had never even heard of before.  Surely it is time, and past time, for a Massine renaissance, surveying the rare pieces as well as the better-known ones...

  15. My quick reaction to Saturday night's performance:  Entertaining, sophisticatedly sweet (not cloying), choreography was postmodern classicism, vibrant and imaginative; music was charming and good while playing, but darned if a bar of it lingers in the memory.


    All of my audience neighbors were completely enchanted.


    Natalia has hit all the nails on their various heads in her postings; no disagreements.  Cornejo was wonderful, both dancing-wise and acting-wise.  All the dancers were dedicated, inhabited their parts, and--best of all--seemed to be having a great time.


    The tiniest negative, the only one I can come up with:  The (giant-headed) Doctor touches his head a few times, and it was hard to tell in some instances if it was dramatic gesticulation or rather that the head "felt wrong" and needed to be adjusted.


    Yes, it's a splendid must-see.  It's a show that--perhaps thankfully--doesn't have a deeper meaning (nice to have a vacation from Deep Thoughts).  Just sit and let the wonderful artistry wash over you.

  16. 42 minutes ago, Josette said:

    When going out for curtain calls in front of the curtain with Ekaterina Borchenko, Vasiliev did a scissor-split jete and the audience went berserk.  This happened three times, with Borchenko jete-ing out to the front of the curtain on the third occasion.  Though I would not run to the theatre to see Vasiliev dance and would have loved to seen Leonid Sarafanov as Conrad instead, there's no denying that Vasiliev is highly entertaining and a true stage animal.  I personally prefer watching technique such as an occasional fifth position and turnout instead of gymnastics without much line, but others feel differently.


      I saw Friday and Saturday nights, where the only change in casting was in the pas de deux in Act I with Victor Lebedev (charismatic, wonderful dancer with expressive port de bras, I agree with MadameP above) and Mikho Naotsuka on Friday night, and the 19-year-old American Julian MacKay (amazing polish from such a young dancer, he should have a terrific career in front of him) and Irina Zhalovskaya, who has extraordinary control in turns. 


    Ekaterina Borchenko's performance as Medora on Saturday had more warmth than on Friday. She is a beautiful woman and looks the regal ballerina.  It was a pleasure seeing 32 single fouettes, which I think are more rigorous  than the multiple fouettes where you releve less times and can go at your own speed.    I loved Anastasia Soboleva as Gulnare, who only dances in Act III.  She was  charming, mischievous, delightful, effortless in her dancing, and musical - a complete delight.


    Though I am not a Le Corsaire fan, the dancers were totally committed to the fluff and gave it their all.  The audience lapped it up. 


    Thanks (about what happened after I left)!  I'm usually a stay to the bitter end sort, so was chagrined when I realized something was happening without me.


    Yes, the audience was very receptive Saturday night, which doubtless energized the dancers.  Everyone was a winner.


    My audience neighbor was very impressed with MacKay, as I was--very lyrical and smooth.  His lifts need a little work; but I'm sure he's working on that as I type this.


    The performers last Saturday from the top of the bill to the bottom all get an enthusiastic thumbs up from me, whatever use they can make of that; but I have reservations about the production (as opposed to the dancing).  Quite some long time ago indeed, I saw a production from I believe it was the Bolshoi; and though I don't associate Farukh Ruzimatov with the B., I'm certain he was the Ali, and he turned in an unforgettable performance, and the production was splendid and opulent, from the shipwreck at the beginning to the sailing off to new adventures at the end.  --My point being that I'd happily empty my wallet to see another such production of Le Corsaire; another iteration of this cropped and re-arranged production, eh, not so much . . .

  17. Saw the Saturday evening (Nov. 19) perf. of Le Corsaire at Costa Mesa. I was a bit taken aback to find the production not starting with the familiar shipwreck scene etc., a scene which enriches the ballet dramatically as well as providing a production with a chance to strut its stuff in theater-craft and wow the audience. I was then disoriented to find the quondam Ali the slave role much much reduced and the choreography scrambled, the Pas d'Esclave gone from Act II.  Needless to state, ballet is not a history lesson; but, gee whiz, the pirates' ship seemed to be a Spanish galleon from the 1500s (corsairs would have used not only a much later ship but also a much much lighter and less bulky one), the drop showed a map from the reign of James II (reigned 1685-1688), and if I'm not mistaken the action of the piece is supposed to be taking place around 1800-1820.  The set and dancing in this production seemed very tight and claustrophobic on our notoriously (and wonderfully) big Segerstrom stage. That said, I very much enjoyed the show; and Vasiliev gave his characteristically exuberant performance. But he wasn't just self-involved; he consciously bonds with the audience:  I'm sure I'm not the only person in the audience whom he locked eyes with during the performance. This is generous in a dancer and serves to spread and intensify the spirit of the event on both sides of the proscenium. At the end, I thought the curtain calls were over and stepped away; but I heard at least two loud roars behind me as I walked through the front of the house, and am consumed with curiosity as to what I missed.  Can anyone tell me?

  18. I attended the evening of the 11th. It was danced beautifully and with concentration and verve by the uniformly disciplined and expert dancers in the company; the stark, brutalistic sets were impressive and appropriate; the Tchaikovsky score (a pastiche) was splendidly performed, though I wouldn't say the pieces were always well-chosen. And so we come to an interesting dichotomy: I enjoyed it as a display of outstanding dancing expertise; and I enjoyed the vigorous, fresh, and intriguing conceptualization of the choreography; but, as a depiction of a story, it left me completely untouched. To see it was a bit like reading an intricate and obscure roman a clef: Unless, on a meta plane, you knew from moment to moment what it was referring to, it was frequently difficult from seeing what was being presented onstage to put together just who was who and what was what; and for those very familiar with the tale, a good deal of time is spent looking for evidence of certain incidents and nuances of the story which . . . just aren't there in this telling. The gesticulation tapped a vocabulary which is far from universal--just so much mysterious hand-jive, I'm sure, to most onlookers. In the intermission, I heard much mystification being expressed; and about a quarter of the already-skimpy audience did not return for the second half. The intensity of the dancers impressed me, just as it did on the previous visit of the Royal Swedish Ballet (and I very much look forward to their return!); and, on an intellectual plane, I appreciated the choreography. But I felt neither the danger nor the passion of the relationship between our two star-cross'd lovers.

  19. About the Russian trio: California, I see where you're coming from on this, and would feel the same way if the choreographer weren't a Russian native; but my read on this is that making them three sillies is a sort of gracious joke from Ratmansky: He's saying, "Yes, I'm Russian, and we're very proud of our extraordinary ballet history and notoriously wonderful dancers; but here I am in America and I'm going to show that a Russian can poke a little fun at his fellow Russians." Had Nutcracker had an "American Dance," and made its dancers loonies, I'd feel insulted; but I take this as a sort of good-natured bonhomie.

    And, Kaysta, I liked the Bees and the Waltz of the Flowers too, and very much. (Earlier in the show, during the Battle I think, I remember reflecting to myself that Ratmansky was very lose to being a modern Petipa--same imaginative, daring spirit.) For those non-balletomanes in the audience who didn't know the female dancers were supposed to be flowers, I wish there had been some way to clarify this (somehow, perhaps, detaching from an enormous and obvious "plant" at the beginning, or something). I'm sure many were confused why there were bees flitting about.

    (Meantime, not sure why, but the "quote" command doesn't want to work for me here when I'm responding, not just now, but lately.)

  20. As previously mentioned in prospect, was at the Saturday evening perf. (last night). Just a few notes to record. A general word: The dancers were committed and focused, but--the audience was not very receptive, it seemed to me. I finally laid this to the account of the audience being largely made up of not balletomanes but rather families doing a Christmas event and so unfamiliar with what to appreciate and how to appreciate it. Our Harlequin (Craig Salstein) and Columbine (Luciana Paris) were, I thought, particularly splendid, and I was startled by the weak or indeed non-existent response by the audience, same with the Russian Dance in Act II. Setting the audience aside: The kids in the production--pardon me, the young dancers--were unusually amusing, professional, and successful: George Buford (Little Mouse), Justin Souriau-Levine (Fritz), Seth Koffler (young Nutcracker), Claudia Schuman (young Clara) as the top-liners, but all the young'uns are to be complimented. Marcelo Gomes and Hee Seo gave lyrical and confident performances, beautifully so. At one point, just before the end of the entrée of their pas de deux, something went momentarily awry, I think (did anyone else notice this?): I saw Marcelo's face take on a startled look for a split second, and he braced his body as if about to lunge to catch an off-balance Hee Seo (I didn't see what happened to make him react this way). They quickly both got a look of relief on their faces, and it seemed to me that they shared a little smile of "Whew, barely averted a disaster!" for the next moment or two. Ratmansky's vision of The Nutcracker has very much to commend it, with its freshness and wit (though I miss the weirdness and menace of Alexander Minz's Drosselmeyer in the familiar TV Baryshnikov version). Last night, I felt one or two of the Bees were contemptuous of their role; nevertheless they all danced with appropriate pollinating fervency. The Pacific Symphony gave a sensitive, beautiful performance; and the Southern California Children's Chorus was flawless--the whole effect of the Snowflakes number--dancers, music with chorus, scenery--brought an appreciative tear to my eye.

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