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MacMillan's 'Valses Nobles et Sentimentales', 1966


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I first came here a few weeks back asking about Balanchine's use of both 'Valses Nobles et Sentimentales' and 'La Valse' for his own 'La Valse,' but I was already very familiar with the Ashton version from the filmed version on Evening at RB. Now just read in Wikipedia that MacMillan did 'Valses Nobles..' in 1966, they say 'masterpiece' at Wikipedia with the rest, but I'm interested in hearing about this from people who actually know for sure. Is this still performed? Is it on VHS or DVD? I doubt that it was ever combined with the 1958 Ashton, but this was still interesting to find out, and I wonder if others have used these two Ravel works. I do wish I could go to Washington to see RB soon, but not possible this time. And what's it like? (if that makes any sense to ask). Thanks.

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VN&S was part of the first programme MacMillan put on in Berlin when he became Director at the Deutsche Oper in 1966. I don't think it's ever been seen in the UK, and I don't know how long it lasted in the Berlin repertoire - Thorpe's book may tell you. I don't have a copy of that, but I checked in the dance magazines of the time: Alexander Bland in the Dancing Times described it as 'wistful, fluent, but distinctly old-fashioned'; Horst Koegler, in Dance & Dancers, was more enthusiastic but was very put out by the changes MacMillan made to the order of Ravel's music, with the second waltz being played before the first, and the first repeated at the end of the ballet. He described the choreography as 'all melting lyricism an endless stream of beautifully controlled, very soft-flowing, emotionally very subdued and one-keyed movements... a connoisseur's piece'.

(MacMillan, incidentally, would know the music well as he danced often in Ashton's ballet to same piece.)

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Jane--thanks so much. It sounds as though it's become very obscure, while the Ashton has continued on.

(MacMillan, incidentally, would know the music well as he danced often in Ashton's ballet to same piece.)

Actually, what interested me in particular is that it's not the same piece Ashton used, and that's what our original discussion was about with the Balanchine I saw Farrell dance in 1986. Balanchine's 'La Valse' uses both: first 'Valses Nobles et Sentimentales' and then the separate whole piece 'La Valse' itself. Ashton uses only 'La Valse.' So apparently MacMillan used only 'Valses Nobles..' if he called the ballet that, and he reversed some of the order. And while we now see from what you said that MacMillan did indeed reverse some of the order of the 'Valses Nobles,' it still hadn't seemed likely to me that Balanchine would have. Now it still seems unlikely, but at least possible that Balanchine did too. I still need to pursue that, in that case, to be 100% accurate. ('La Valse' itself would literally have to be cut up if it weren't left intact, because it has contrasting sections, but is not a suite of pieces, but rather an uninterrupted single piece. Ashton's piece does leave 'La Valse', the composition, all in place.)

Thanks for the very useful information, and I'll get back to this once I get a chance to get to Lincoln Center Library and find some further facts. There's surely text somewhere about Balanchine's version, which somehow I hadn't searched out in the library ways yet.

Now that you mention that MacMillan danced often in it, it makes me wonder if he was one of the 3 front men in the film on 'Evening at the Royal Ballet.' The colours are a little distorted, with all the men's hair looking somewhat red, unless that had been intentional (never heard of uniformly dyed hair, but it may have happened.) Their faces are a little hard to make out, but there is one you can pick out throughout the ballet--the one who partners the girl in orange, but I don't if that's MacMillan, or if either of the others is.

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Actually, what interested me in particular is that it's not the same piece Ashton used, and that's what our original discussion was about with the Balanchine I saw Farrell dance in 1986. Balanchine's 'La Valse' uses both: first 'Valses Nobles et Sentimentales' and then the separate whole piece 'La Valse' itself. Ashton uses only 'La Valse.'

But Ashton ALSO made a 'Valses Nobles...' ballet, quite separate from his La Valse, back in 1947, for the Salder's Wells Theatre Ballet - that is the one MacMillan danced in! (He was actually in the first performance.)

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But Ashton ALSO made a 'Valses Nobles...' ballet, quite separate from his La Valse, back in 1947, for the Salder's Wells Theatre Ballet - that is the one MacMillan danced in! (He was actually in the first performance.)

Jane--This is so fascinating. Is the Ashton 'Valses Nobles' ever done, or has his 'La Valse' become the piece to last? Ah well, I know I'd love them all, even the distorted MacMillan one. Now I am going back to see if there is a book on Ashton that I can look at too while I'm up there.

I just looked and indeed there is David Vaughan's book, but that they will just haul in for me, and I can read the whole book. I imagine I can find out about much of all of this in there. Can't wait! I think this book will be wonderful.

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