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Desire vs Florimund


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Estelle, in answer to your query about the nomenclature of the Beauty's prince, I looked up Roslavleva's Era of the Russian Ballet, which I haven't reread in years (in fact I dusted it down a few days ago because John-Michael was asking for full-stage photographs of the Imperial Ballet). R confirms that Desire was the name of choice in 1890, and Demidov's Russian Ballet: Past and Present, which was published in 1976, makes it clear that it remained current during the Soviet era (he lists Desire as one of M Liepa's roles). Brinson and Crisp's Ballet for All uses Florimund in its synopsis of the plot, a sure sign that it originates with the RB, and probably with Dame Ninette herself, for who else would have authorized such a change when even an alteration to the length of Albrecht's tunic had to receive her imprimatur? In their opening blurb for the ballet, however, B & C list Gerdt as having danced "the Prince" in 1890.

Back to the gold waltz (as if we'd ever left it!): In the course of reading R on SB I came across the following (long-forgotten) sentence, and it made me sit up sharply:

The remarkable suite of Precious Stones was danced as brilliantly as the sparkle of their facets by Anna Johansson--Diamond Fairy, Klavdia Kulichevskaya--Gold Fairy, Yelizaveta Kruger--Silver Fairy, Maria Tistrova--Sapphire Fairy. (118)

No talk of excisions there, and the word "suite," along with the painstaking enumeration of each soloist, suggests on the face of it that the pas de quatre was staged in its entirety. If R is quoting a contemporary review, it would be interesting to read the whole, and see if more light is thrown on this mysterious topic.

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About the gold waltz and the jewels pas de quatre: fortunately there is no mystery anymore. Wiley has dealt with the pertinent primary sources. We know the four ballerinas mentioned danced at the first performance in 1890 (see Wiley, A Century of Russian Ballet, p. 364). According to the notations, which I have in front of me, all but Diamond began the intrada, with Diamond dancing solo for the second half. Silver variation danced by Silver, Gold and Sapphire; Diamond danced Diamond variation. All four danced the Coda. The Sapphire variation music was cut. The Gold variation music was interpolated into Act II as Aurora's variation, in place of the music Tchaikovsky composed for Aurora. See Wiley, Tchaikovsky's Ballets, pp. 181 (Act II) and 184 (Act III) and Appendix H, pp. 401-411 for a discussion of the performance score.

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I think it probable that "Prince Charming," which the SWB had inherited along with the new fairy names from the Diaghilev revival, was scrapped as being too reminiscent of the British pantomime tradition, and therefore according ill with the grand new Covent Garden venue of 46. However that hypothesis wobbles in relation to the fact that the ballet's title was at the same time changed back from Princess to Beauty. Mel has given us D's jocular explanation for the change, viz. that there were no beauties to dance Aurora (quite untrue, in fact, for Trefilova and Spessivtseva were both exquisite, and Lopokova very pretty). His real motive was to avoid any confusion in the public mind of Petipa's ballet with the British pantomime. I think in matters like this de Valois would have conferred with Constant Lambert, and it's likely that Florimund/Beauty changes represent a joint effort after some discussion of the pros and cons. I have suggested in the discontinued thread that Desire would have sounded like Desiree in spoken interviews, and flattered public prejudice (rampant at the time) against "effeminate" male dancers.

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