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Bakst Designs for The Sleeping Princess, 1921

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Thankyou for these! They look so beautiful. (But where does the Harlequin fit in?)

I didn't know there was Bakst online, so I just had a look and found quite a few miscellaneous Bakst designs (including some SB ones) here. The scenery ones especially are STUNNING. It's a pity that a lot of the costumes are for ballets that aren't performed any more.

I know that the 1921 production bankrupted Diaghilev but do you think there is room for the Bakst SB designs today? I'm sure the fabrics could be cheated slightly (Messell used pipecleaners, sellotape and sackcloth after all), and everything that I've seen is wonderful, especially the 'Fairy Carnation' (?) and the Bluebird. Though having looked at the extreme opulence of, well, everything Bakst, it may all look a bit OTT nowadays.

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Bakst's Harlequin, Columbine, Pierrot, and Pierrette arrive in the last act (or scene, according to Beaumont) of THE SLEEPING PRINCESS. Beaumont's account notes that their dancing occurs at the head of the set of divertissements, coming before the White Cat and Puss in Boots. As a quartet, the commedia foursome suggests that these "unfamiliar" characters danced to the music intended for the fairies of jewels and precious metals.

I suppose this has been spelled out in one place or another. I'm only going by Beaumont. Perhaps Buckle and others have noted the particulars involved in this number in other books, which I haven't re-checked.

In the case of musical interpolations, Beaumont names these specifically, such as the Danse Arabe and the Danse Chinoise from Nutcracker, so the fact that he doesn't note any non-Sleeping-Beauty music leads the reader to understand the Harlequin, etc. number was danced to a some of the music Tchaikovsky wrote for the suite of dances honoring Aurora's wedding.

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In the Act III Polonaise, there is a period of music in which a whole lot of characters from the "Cabinet des Fées", some with dances later on (Red Riding Hood, etc.), and some not. I've seen the Three Bears in this melange, I've seen what looked like Snow White and Seven Dwarfs, once I swear I even saw Fred Flintstone! Anyway, they cross the stage doing ballonnés from up right to down left and spread around the stage. Then the cats come on, with the White cat on a big cushion borne by attendants and Puss-in-Boots flourishing his hat before all. Then come the Bluebird and Princess Florine, and so on and so forth.

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It was my understanding that not all of the orchestra parts made it out of Russia, so Stravinsky and a couple of other musicians had to beef up those orchestrations using the piano repetiteur. They also had to allow for the size of the orchestra pit, which didn't allow as many players as had been in the original orchestra. Stravinsky's arrangement of the "Bluebird pas de deux" was recorded some years ago. I don't know whether it's still available.

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There is a recording of Stravinsky's Bluebird on Naxos Music Library by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Neeme Jarvi. It's coupled either with Stravinsky's Baiser de la Fee or miscellaneous 'Russian Dances' including excerpts from Prokofiev's The Stone Flower and Glazunov's Raymonda. I discovered the Stravinsky Bluebird a few months ago, it's rather fun!

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I just recently picked up the above mentioned Baiser de la Fee CD which I found by chance in a second hand shop. (What a gorgeous score that is--I never realized it was a direct hommage to Tchaikovsky, working with many of his themes--I'm a bit surprised it's not performed more often, from the music alone). ANyway the booklet lays some light on this:

"Stravinsky's orchestration of the 'Bluebird' Pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty was a straightforward arrangement commisioned for the American Ballet Theatre company in 1942, when the demands of war service had much reduced its regular orchestra for touring. Diaghilev had included this Pas de deux to Marisu Petipa's choreography at Paris in 1909, when it was danced by Tamara Karsavina and Vaclav Nijinsky. As with the two other dances Stravinsky orchestrated for the full ballet production in 1921, he again had to work from a piano score.

'I had to invent what I could not recall of Tchaikovsky's own instrumental choices,' he noted, and pointedout that the one entirely novel and non-Tchaikovskyan feature of the instrumentation is a prominent piano part which he wrote 'to help conceal the small number of string'. These he reccommended should not be less than five violins, four violas, three cellos and two basses."

(from Noel Goodwin's CD notes)

I wish we knew for sure what these different two numbers orchestrated for the Diaghilev were exactly... (And could hear them). Stravinsky's orchestrations for Blue Bird aren't too different but are charming. It raises a question I often have while watching Sleeping Beauty on DVD and then forget--in nearly every stage production I've seen the glissandos (I think that's the term) i the Adagio of the Desire/Aurora Grand pas de deux are played on a piano, but in all my CD recordings they're harp...

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