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Spring 2015: The Sleeping Beauty


Helene

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. A drawing of the procession of the Fairy Tales, probably copied from the libretto, is accompanied by the following captions on pages 146-147. 1. Bluebeard and his wife. 2. Puss-in-Boots. 3. Marquis de Carabas (misspelled as Caraboss). 4. Fair Goldilocks and Prince Avenant. 5. Donkeyskin and Prince Charmant. 6. Beauty and the Beast. 7. Cinderella and Prince Fortuné. 8. Blue Bird and Princess Florine. 9. White Cat who is being carried on a pillow. 10. Little Red Riding Hood and Wolf. 11. Prince Riquet à la Houppe and Princess Aimée. 12. Tom Thumb and his brothers. 13. Ogre and Ogress. 14. Fairy Carabosse in a chariot driven by rats. 15. Candide Fairy and her genii. 16. Violante Fairy and her genii. 17. The chariot of Fairy of Canaries and her retinue. 18. Lilac Fairy, carried by four big genii.

The national gallery of Australia had an exhibition on the SP designs and costumes. Its website hast this list of characteres from the 1921 version.

Princess Aurora, Prince Florimund, the Lilac Fairy, the Enchanted Princess, Carabosse, the Wicked Fairy, King Florestan XXIV, Queen, Catalabutte, the Fairy of the Pine Woods, Sister Anne, the Cherry Blossom Fairy, Red Riding Hood, the Fairy of the Humming Birds, Pierrette, the Fairy of the Song Birds, the Carnation Fairy, Columbine, the Fairy of the Mountain Ash, Ariana, the Spanish Prince, Harlequin, the Indian Prince, the Italian Prince, the English Prince, Puss in Boots, Pierrot, the White Cat, the Bluebird, Shéhérazade, the Shah, the Shah’s Brother, the Porcelain Princesses, the Mandarin, Innocent Ivan and his brothers

http://nga.gov.au/Exhibition/balletsrusses/Default.cfm?MnuID=3&GalID=23

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Frankly, I'm all in favor of ABT's having an important work in its rep that isn't particularly amenable to an international airlift of guest stars.

Me too!!!! This production belongs to ABT (and La Scala, haha) and its artists!
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I too have mixed feelings about the Ratmansky production but please, please let's not anyone ever get nostalgic about the Kirkland production. It was the worst. The very worst. They kept cutting it after it premiered to take out the nonsense, so by the time it was retired it was basically reduced to nothing -- just a lot of glittery tutus and the very bare bones of SB choreography. It had no vision, no taste, it didn't tell the story. It was awful.

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I think it is interesting that ABT currently holds versions of the classics that follows the original scheme vs. Russia. ABT has the double suicide ending of Swan Lake vs. Russian "Odette-becomes-human". ABT has Bayadere's temple destruction and final apotheosis vs. Russian ommited final act. Now ABT has Carabosse re instituted in the celebration-(only company now in the world to have done so...?). Those are some good news I think. How about putting a more sympathetic Bathilde back in the final scene of Giselle and adding some now lost depth into her character...? Now, THAT would be major! flowers.gif

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what were the white Mazurka costumes supposed to be? Looked like a bunch of nursing school graduates! What's with the hats especially?

Seattle-dancer,

This is likely more than you want to know but here goes:

Bakst's design for the mazurka is a hybrid of 18 century crinoline and Polish national costume of the 18 century, which consisted, for men, of high boots,albeit not laced, pants under a joupan - a long cassock , which became shorter and following Western fashion, flared at the waist in the 18th century. Braiding detail is typical. An overcoat contrasting in color, with long sleeves cut open, is worn over it - this has a Turkish origin - a result of several centuries of fighting invasion of the Ottoman Empire at the eastern frontiers. Of course the long mustache. The cask with plume and the lampart skin is part of militaria and is worn with armour, so Bakst's is a free adaptation. The military theme continues in the metal armour scales of the Mazurka ladies costume, the cape, cape braiding and hat relate to Poland.

Mazurka as a ballroom dance was spread thru Europe by officers of the Polish Legions in the Napoleonic Army,(Poles hoped Napoleon will end the occupation of Poland by its neighbors). Thus it was danced in military uniformsand became a synonym for polish identity and fight for freedom.

The military casks and silver/metallic colors remain in the current production and dont make much sense. I dont remember what the men's uniforms were like.

You can see some elements that influenced Bakst in the youtube link below. The open sleeves of the overcoat are here pinned behind for dancing (they were thrown back for sword fights) and will look strange. This is a mazurka interlude from the opera Halka by S. Moniuszko. You will recognize the mazurka as that of Delibes Coppelia, however Moniuszko premiered Halka in 1848 when Delibes was 12 years old. I often wonder if at some point credit was given to Moniuszko, at most I have seen Delibes was "influenced" by Moniuszko but the music is quoted verbatim. The original character of the dance is maintained - it is a dance danced whilst running, fit only for the very young. The figures and configurations are called our - like a square dance. My mother still knew how to dance this , it is very difficult.

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What genius!

Mazurka starts at 30 seconds

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I can't wait to see SLEEPING BEAUTY. The discussion is very interesting, but I do not hear much raving about the dancing itself. More about the sets, costumes and textual comparisons. I saw BEAUTY a couple of years ago with Part and Gomes and was wiped out by the dancing. I still think of Part's performance and how she captured so well, not a 'playing at' being a 'little girl', but a 16 year old in the first full flush of sexuality and womanhood. I don't hear those kind of observations in the above discussions. I have to say, I am not so excited about the bent knees and demi pointe. You know, in 1841, Gilbert Dupre was the first tenor to sing a full throated high C "from the chest". Before that, men sang everything above anovel the chest in a cultivated falsetto. Dupres changed all that (Rossini said it sounded like a chicken being strangled"). Would we really like to mount a production that adhered to the way it was actually sung then? As a special event, maybe. But as a repertoire constant? Wouldn't it give way in the next seasons to doing it as singers actually perform today? That is what I am wondering about this production. I want to see these great dancers do their very best, to demonstrate their amazing technical and acting abilities. Not to fulfill some sort of academic rendering.

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I just have to add this one point. THE BED! Oi! It looks like the prop department went out to a Sleepys and ordered the "biggest 'perfect sleeper' you got"! Totally unadorned, except for that rather large bird hanging above it. Is this supposed to represent our own worst nightmare? Can't the set dressers at least put a few frills around it? Poor Aurora looks like she just stopped in at her local mattress store to test one out! I'm just sayin'

The bed and bedroom should be uncluttered so there's no distraction from the all-important kiss.

The large bird is a menacing eagle. I believe it represents the French Imperial Eagle (Aigle de drapeau), it's in the first French Empire (Napoleon Bonaparte as the first emperor) coat of arms: EyO7Ls.png

I think the production design team tried to draw a parallel between the restoration of King Louis XVIII aka le Désiré following Hundred Days of Napoleon and the restoration of King Florestan XXIV following hundred years of comatose state. The eagle's retreat signifies the restoration of the kingdom.

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I think the production design team tried to draw a parallel between the restoration of King Louis XVIII aka le Désiré following Hundred Days of Napoleon and the restoration of King Florestan XXIV following hundred years of comatose state. The eagle's retreat signifies the restoration of the kingdom.

Thanks for this, mussel: I had been wondering if the production touched on any of the ballet's political commentary!

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I want to see these great dancers do their very best, to demonstrate their amazing technical and acting abilities. Not to fulfill some sort of academic rendering.

I don't understand how striving for stylistic fidelity and technical accuracy, whatever the style or technique may be, could ever be deemed as doing less than the very best.

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Are the stylistic changes something we can live with for a long time? Can the dancers sustain it? How will it affect their training for other works? Will we ultimately miss the more refined (if that is the right term) versions of the grand pas, for instance, or can we fully accept the bent knee arabesques and the demi pointe chainees. Remember this will be with us a very long time.

Also, and this is my other reason for opening this discussion. Who exactly is this production meant for in the current company, at least? Kent, Herrera, Reyes all gone, although I think Xiomara would have done really well with this Aurora. Part, who is a superlative Aurora, is not really right for this style, is she?

[Apologies, I'm fighting a cold and can do nothing constructive for work presently, so I drone on a bit here.]

I'm a bit less worried about how suitable the repertory is to the dancers: dancers rise to the occasion in amazing ways when they're plunged into new styles and training. And sometimes artistic staff introduce those changes precisely so that their dancers CAN grow in a new way.

Seven years ago, the Pacific Northwest Ballet on the whole seemed hard, leggy, athletic...and rather inarticulate: engineered for abstract contemporary repertory. When I returned to see them for several different productions this spring, I was surprised to see the effects of a few years of dancing those Fullington reconstructions, performing more full-lengths, and having a ballet master of the Stanley Williams, Danish-inflected school. I'd bank that the company now has the most fluid, articulate arms in the US (something I never would have imagined saying about a Balanchine company) and has developed an unexpected sense of theater. On the other hand, they've also become less viscerally muscular in the sweaty contemporary pieces.

So, do we think ABT's dancers need more of the lightness and articulacy that tends to arise from dancing in older ballet styles? Or more of the energy and reach of recent ballet styles?

I vote for articulacy.

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The PDF of the souvenir program from the 1921 production, with the full cast list, is available online form the Library of Congress: http://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200181868/

Thank you, Ilya. Fascinating and proof that, as pretty as this ABT production may be, it pales to what London saw in 1921.

I happen to own a couple of Randolf-Schwabe's hand-colored drawings of that fabled 1921 Bakst-designed production at the Alhambra Theatre. One of my drawings depicts the Prologue set (fairies' procession). What I immediately noticed when the curtain rose was how sparsely furnished and bare-bones looking is the set at ABT. Most noticeably were the two gold thrones, in 1921 far richer looking and placed on a dais vs ABT's two big chairs plopped on the floor...reminding me of my grandparents' tan leather LAZY BOY CHAIRS. The only thing missing is the stick at the side of each chair, so that the King & Queen can elevate their legs and watch TV cozily!!!

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Thank you, Ilya. Fascinating and proof that, as pretty as this ABT production may be, it pales to what London saw in 1921.

My post wasn't meant to convey anything of the sort. Based on the information in the souvenir program and other sources, as well as what I saw at the Met, I cannot conclude that the current production "pales" in comparison to anything, including the Diagilev 1921 production.

The new ABT production is certainly by far the finest version of "Sleeping Beauty" I have ever seen, both in terms of the choreography and the physical production. This includes both Mariinsky productions (Sergeyev and Vikharev), the Royal Ballet, the previous ABT production, and the NYCB---all seen live, as well as countless other versions preserved on video, e.g., Bolshoi, Nureyev's productions for the National Ballet of Canada and the Paris Opera, old Royal Ballet videos, etc.

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I too have mixed feelings about the Ratmansky production but please, please let's not anyone ever get nostalgic about the Kirkland production. It was the worst. The very worst. They kept cutting it after it premiered to take out the nonsense, so by the time it was retired it was basically reduced to nothing -- just a lot of glittery tutus and the very bare bones of SB choreography. It had no vision, no taste, it didn't tell the story. It was awful.

I so totally agree!! It was a disaster, an embarrassment.. Now, at least we have a fully rendered production, that may not please some but at the very least it is all of a piece. It is so beautiful to look at. (mostly. I'd still vote to re-imagine those "jingle bell" costumes and those for the "Garland Waltz"). And I'm loving all the comments from those who have such historical knowledge about the scenery, costumes, images, etc. Maybe in the future ABT could include some of this historical content in the program. I think the patrons would welcome it. As for the dancing, it will take a bit of getting used to, but in the end I have to say that most of the company looks fine dancing it. With the right casting, this is a ballet to sink one's teeth into. And I agree that it is a production for ABT. Not something that we have to have imported stars in order to see the work revealed. That alone is a great reason for having this around for a long time. To let our dancers revel in it's intricacies and discoveries. Plus it allows for many dancers to step up and actually dance! Yeah!

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Thank you, Ilya. Fascinating and proof that, as pretty as this ABT production may be, it pales to what London saw in 1921.

I happen to own a couple of Randolf-Schwabe's hand-colored drawings of that fabled 1921 Bakst-designed production at the Alhambra Theatre. One of my drawings depicts the Prologue set (fairies' procession). What I immediately noticed when the curtain rose was how sparsely furnished and bare-bones looking is the set at ABT. Most noticeably were the two gold thrones, in 1921 far richer looking and placed on a dais vs ABT's two big chairs plopped on the floor...reminding me of my grandparents' tan leather LAZY BOY CHAIRS. The only thing missing is the stick at the side of each chair, so that the King & Queen can elevate their legs and watch TV cozily!!!

Why are you so obsessed with exact recreations of productions? Even if they re-created the Bakst costumes to the exact detail is that desirable? Even in the Mariinsky's 1890 production they recreated the 1890 costumes to pretty close detail but they shortened the tutus of the women so they were not knee-length. And many successful Sleeping Beauty productions (ex: the Messel production for the Royal Ballet) were not recreations of anything but managed to create its own aesthetic.

Anyway recreation of sets and the most lavish sets doesn't say anything about choreography. it seems as if Ratmansky's production has gone a long way in recreating authentic choreography. It's not perfect and I didn't love it all but it's certainly more choreographically correct than past ABT productions ...

I guess I'm naive in going to ballet to see actual choreography and not the sets and costumes.

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I was seated in the balcony, and the gold ornamentations shown hanging at the top of the above photo are not visible from the balcony level.

I could see them from the orchestra, but they didn't look gold/glittery as in the maquette above. They sort of had the same brown ink drawing look as the rest of the scenery. I was disappointed that they didn't really add to the brilliance of the scene.

The scenic design reminded me of the Nutcracker production in that visual richness was achieved more through the costumes than through the scenery.

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I was seated in the balcony, and the gold ornamentations shown hanging at the top of the above photo are not visible from the balcony level.

I couldn't see them from the side of the dress circle either.

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The scenic design reminded me of the Nutcracker production in that visual richness was achieved more through the costumes than through the scenery.

To the extent that the set relies heavily on painted panels rather than three-dimensional sets, I think you're right. But I do think there's a degree of visual richness in those images that's simply absent in the Nutcracker production.

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