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ALMA MATER


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the photo scanned here has been reproduced in more than one book, but i hadn't noticed until acquiring this print that "The Bride," Heide Vosseller, was wearing shorts and a turtle-neck sweater as her bridal get-up. "The Groom," also known in the ballet's credits as "The Hero," is Charles Laskey, who seems to have had a good career as a leading man in Balanchine's works during this era.

the writing on the back of the photo says: "Jan 35" and a credit sticker says:

BALLET PRODUCTIONS, Inc.

Producing Company of The School of American Ballet

637 Madison Avenue

New York, N.Y.

Plaza 3 - 9040

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there is no mention of Yale in the notes for Alma Mater in CHOREOGRAPHY BY BALANCHINE but one can assume the "Hero" is a Yalie.

a review excerpted in REPERTORY IN REVIEW confirms that the "handsome but dumb full-back here" is a member of Yale's football team.

the premiere was in Hartford CT's Avery Memorial Theater, so that's another CT connection.

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Looking at the bridal bouquet, the calla lillies seem to be in bloom again! Thank you, Miracle Gro! :)

Amy's question led me to Duberman's biography of Kirstein:

By late May, Balanchine also had started working on a new ballet, Alma Mater, based on a Yale-Harvard football game. Eddie Warburg had sugested the idea, and ended up being credited with the "scenario." His relative-by-marriage, Kay Swift, composed the music.

Warburg and Kirstein were Harvard men. I assume that the "handsome but dumb" Yalie is a reflection of inter-college rivalry. If the full-back had been sporting an "H" he would have been described, one supposes, as "handsome and smart."

According to Reynolds, Alma Mater was a "great success." Warburg himself was apparently the only person around who considered it to be a "serious satire." The heroine (presumably the bride to be) is described as "a flapper." And the villain wears a "coonskin coat." Sounds a bit like Train Bleu. Is there any evidence that it's been revived?

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in fact the Flapper was a separate character from the Bride, the attached scan shows our hero (Laskey) w/ his Flapper (Gisella Caciallanza) aka Sylvia Giselle.

i realized after my last post that while the Bride was in soft slippers, the Flapper wore pointe shoes.

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'happily' is likely a stretch but Balanchine was a most practical artist - i can still hear him on LET'S TAKE A TRIP when the host of the program and the boy and girl guest suggest something they'd like to see choreography-wise from GB, who says matter of factly: OK, we'll try something...

he seemed to like a challenge as much as to follow his own inclinations.

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This would have been his first venture into Americana, though, right? He clearly enjoyed the genre, even if this might have been a bit early after his arrival here.

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Somewhere out there there's a nice photo of Caccialanza and coonskin-coated partner (with porkpie hat) riding double on a bicycle which was used as a publicity still for "Alma Mater".

And come to think of it, Balanchine wasn't shy about trying all sorts of genres for his choreography. Think Barnum and Bailey, think elephants! Remember, he had spent part of his early career as a pianist, accompanying silent movies. He especially liked Max Linder films.

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