Jump to content
This Site Uses Cookies. If You Want to Disable Cookies, Please See Your Browser Documentation. ×

MCB Program I


Recommended Posts

I just came from one of the most watery ballet nights I remember in all of my balletomanne years. The Program opened with Balanchine's Swan Lake, and I'm sorry to report that such concept, which might worked in 1951 when New Yorkers weren't familiar with the four act warhorse, doesn't work now. This staging is nothing about a "distillation" or a "conceptual analysis", or a "philosophical rumination" -(I'm using terms I've read about B's production)- of the whole thing. Balanchine simply staged act II and added the finale. Period. The program stated that he "stripped the mime to show the inner feeling...blah,blah,blah.." No. The mime IS there. The hunters are there. Sigfried mimed to them..Sigfried and Odette mimed to each other. Von Rothbart is there in full exposure of feathers. The lake, the trees, and even the mechanical swans...all talk about a full rendition of Act II of Swan Lake. "Raymonda Variations", "Pas de dix" and "Cortege Hongrois" ARE distillations. Balanchine's Act II of Swan Lake is just that...Act II of Swan Lake, plus the grand finale. And then..for a neophyte, there's NOTHING in the program notes that explains where does the whole thing comes from. There's no reference to the entire work. I mean...I knew...my mother knew, but...should we assume that EVERYONE knows that there's more to it..? I still think there should had been a couple of notes explaining what happens before and after the white acts. There was none. At the end...we don't know if Balanchine didn't stage the whole thing out of financial issues, which could had been the case. It could be me, I know...being used to endless renditions of the full work, some more successful that others. But this concept, as I said before, wouldn't work in NYC now, I'm totally sure. Simone Messmer was Odette. She didn't impress me at all, but then...she just danced the encounter, the adagio and her variation. I'm sure she could delivers an Odette/Odile, would she be given the opportunity, but...the thing was just too short. She was in, and she was out. End of the story.

The third piece was "Fancy Free". It looked outdated and cliché. The sailors got some gigglings from the audience, but not too much else. My mother said it reminded her of the musical films of her childhood-(she's 70 and was more exposed to the whole Americana thing back in the 50's). It really didn't touched me for sure.

In the middle of the two there was some bore called "Viscera". I don't remember it, but my mother does. Apparently we saw it together before, but I have no recollections whatsoever from it. All those endless lifts are very boring to me. Choreographer was Liam Scarlett.

I'm definitely looking to NYC's Mariinsky's Raymonda.

Link to comment

The big mime, almost as central as the Mother's Mime in "Giselle," is when Odette explains to Siegfried how her mother was captured and how the lake is made from her tears. In its place, Balanchine did the same pseudo-pas de deux that we see everywhere: she runs away and flaps her wings, he captures her and spins her, she runs away again and hides under her wings, etc.

The Balanchine Catalogue notes:

Note: Balanchine's version of Swan Lake was based on Act II of the original four-act production, reproducing Ivanov's WHITE SWAN ADAGIO (the pas de deux), the Swan Queen's solo and coda entrance, and the DANCE OF THE FOUR CYGNETS (the pas de quatre); the entrance of the Swans derives from traditional versions. However, Balanchine removed all mime, greatly enlarged the role of the corps de ballet, and choreographed a new finale to music from Act IV. He subsequently made many more changes.
Revisions: New York City Ballet, changes from first years in repertory: 1956, traditional ending of pas de deux replaced by coda for corps de ballet (to Tchaikovsky's original score rather than the traditional Drigo interpolation); 1959, PAS DE TROIS omitted and new Prince's solo added to that music (Grand Waltz from Act II), replacing original Prince's solo to fourth variation of pas de six (Act III), traditional entrance of Swan Queen in coda rechoreographed; 1964, traditional Swan Queen solo replaced by new choreography (to Un Poco di Chopin, Op. 72, no. 15, 1893, orchestrated by Drigo) and subsequently changed several times, Prince's solo rechoreographed (to music from Act I pas de trois) and subsequently changed several times and often omitted, pas de quatre (DANCE OF THE FOUR CYGNETS) replaced by WALTZ BLUETTE for 12 Swans (to orchestrated version of Valse Bagatelle, Op. 72, no. 11 in E-flat), role of Benno omitted; 1980, traditional Swan Queen solo and entrance in coda restored.

Also, Balanchine's "Swan Lake" had been a regular part of the repertoire until Peter Martins decided that NYCB should follow the trend and could sell more tickets to his full-lengths, as most companies have been trending. It wasn't based on the artistic merits of Balanchine's one-act, which flew very well in NYC until then. In fact, it was considered a positive that instead of sitting through a different choreographer's seeming endless Act III dances and an almost always truncated and incoherent Act III, there was the best and most iconic of Ivanov, and then "Agon," or "Dances at a Gathering," "Vienna Waltzes."

Link to comment

My heartfelt feeling about Simone Messmer is that she's A Genius of Artistic Invention and Beauty in the same manner as Veronika Part. I hope that she shines at Miami City Ballet and I look forward to seeing her perform as soon as possible. Congratulations to her for being opening night's White Swan.

This lead photo brings this home for me.

http://www.miamiherald.com/entertainment/ent-columns-blogs/jordan-levin/article41326071.html

Link to comment

While I was not pleased with the programing, I went with my eyes wide open for what I was going to see. I did not expect the Petipa/Ivanov Swan Lake, nor was I looking to compare the two. Is the Balanchine a definitive version? No. I cannot fault the dancers for dancing what they were given to dance. Unfortunately,the corps was ragged, the Little Swans, admirable, Siegfried beautiful to watch run and mime but his jump was small and he is not a turner, Ms. Messmer on the other hand was beautiful technically and artistically. I was in the 3rd balcony and she read to the balconies for sure. In Broward and West Palm, I will sit closer. I thought she was absolutely lovely. ABT and SFB have lost a treasure. I look forward to watching her develop further as an artist.

Link to comment

It's all good and all, but I insist there should be a little of explaining as to what is going on onstage and why is that we are not seeing, for instance, Odile. I have a friend, a former ballerina of CNB, and last night she texted me saying that she was going to the matinee today, and that she hoped "for a decent O/O" (quoting her). I wasn't about to explain her all the Balanchine story (to which we don't know too much for real), so I simply texted her back.."It is just Act II AND finale". AND...there is more Ivanov feeling here than original Balanchine choreo (I's Love duet/pas de quatre/Odette variation vs. B's Pas de Neuf/Valse Bluette). If anything, there is the curiosity of B's insertion of the '77 coda for the Love Duet, which I don't think was a good idea, given that it breaks the atmospheric slow tempo of the whole pas, (oh, and it also erases Odette's iconic batteries on coup de pied).

Link to comment

Having seen this version before, many times on NYCB, my expectations were not as yours. I hope as patrons we can differentiate between dancers doing a wonderful job in the roles they are given and a choreographic expectation not attained. For Swan Lake 2nd Act, a corps de ballet who dances together is paramount. Although I have not seen NYCB do the ballet in years, I would say that while Balanchine was alive, as a child, I never saw the Corps of NYCB together. It simply was not a focus. Neither right nor wrong, just not what I like. I still appreciated the ballets of Balanchine. This is not Petipa. If one must, categorize it as something else done to the same music. It is however the Balanchine version of Act II Swan Lake. As a ballet teacher perhaps I am forgiving as I do recognize one does what one must at a particular time. I am sure this choreography did help to develop his Company and dancers.

That said, Miami City Ballet is looking better than ever. The house was full, happy and excited. Filled with young people. What a change from 20 years ago! Bravo Miami City Ballet for bring ballet excitement back to Miami. It has been missing for too long!

Link to comment

When I saw NYCB do "Act II, Swan Lake," it was advertised that way. Calling it "Swan Lake" would be confusing to people who don't know ballet and wouldn't know that it is a full-length ballet. To those who do know, "Swan Lake" plus other ballets would be a very, very long evening, and I would be curious if I had never heard of the Balanchine version.

I found something else interesting in the Balanchine catalog, entry 75, from the 1920's:

Note: At some time in the mid-1920s (1927?), Balanchine made minor alterations in Diaghilev's one-act Swan Lake (Tchaikovsky, choreographed by Ivanov and Petipa), deleting part of the Swan Queen's mime and rearranging ensemble movements for a decreased corps de ballet. Olga Spessivtseva was probably the first ballerina to dance the Swan Queen in this revised version


I remember noticing this, even though I perused my (hard) copy of "Choreography by Balanchine" many, many times. I didn't realize that Diaghilev presented "Swan Lake" this way and that this is where Balanchine would have seen it performed in a single act.

Link to comment

When I saw NYCB do "Act II, Swan Lake," it was advertised that way. Calling it "Swan Lake" would be confusing to people who don't know ballet and wouldn't know that it is a full-length ballet. To those who do know, "Swan Lake" plus other ballets would be a very, very long evening, and I would be curious if I had never heard of the Balanchine version.

I found something else interesting in the Balanchine catalog, entry 75, from the 1920's:

I remember noticing this, even though I perused my (hard) copy of "Choreography by Balanchine" many, many times. I didn't realize that Diaghilev presented "Swan Lake" this way and that this is where Balanchine would have seen it performed in a single act.

It would had been definitely a better idea to advertise it like Helene states above.."Swan Lake Act II", although the story line here goes a little beyond, as we see the encounter of Act II plus a tragic finale from Act IV-(Odette parts away with Siegfried and back to her swan form). So there's definitely much more than Act II as Balanchine uses music from Act IV-(No. 25 Entr'acte: Moderato in the '77 original score and Valse Bluette from the '95 arrangement), so technically this is Act II and Act IV. I still think it is ok to present it as "Balanchine's Swan Lake". At the end, and as Helene notes, this is what he worked with when making his mark in Diaghilev version. A couple of notes in the programme explaining that his vision is a condensation of a bigger former product would had been the right thing to do.

As per Viscera and Fancy Free, I don't think they were happy inclusions in this program. If anything, they should had reverse the order and leave Swan Lake for the end. Finishing with Fancy Free was a downer.

Link to comment

In just about every "Swan Lake" I've ever seen, the Valse Bluette is used in Act II, often for the big swans, and Act II ends with Odile turning back into a swan and von Rothbart blocks Odette from following her.

I've never seen the Valse Bluette in Act II, but certainly in Act IV-(or Act III in the Russian productions). I'm not a fan of it...it doesn't really look coherent with the rest of the music, so I much prefer the shorter version of the original 77 score. Yes...the end of Balanchine's SL is pretty much how Act II ends...with Odette's transformed back into a swan, but with the Act IV apotheosis music.

Link to comment

As per Viscera and Fancy Free, I don't think they were happy inclusions in this program. If anything, they should had reverse the order and leave Swan Lake for the end. Finishing with Fancy Free was a downer.

Can you expand on this (Fancy Free as a downer)? I don't know Viscera, but I'm having a hard time imagining a program where closing with the Robbins would be a bad idea.

Link to comment

Can you expand on this (Fancy Free as a downer)? I don't know Viscera, but I'm having a hard time imagining a program where closing with the Robbins would be a bad idea.

Well...Swan Lake was the only "real" ballet of the night. That Viscera thing was a (pointe) mess of boring music and endless gymnastics, contortions and lifts, and Fancy Free...well, an Americana cutesy that looks much minor (on my eyes) than B's staging. So I think they should had done Viscera first to get over with the contortionists of the world...then Fancy Free to get some amusing spirit in the house and finally Swan Lake to really finish the whole thing with a genuine BALLET feeling.

Link to comment

The standard structure for the Ballet Russe companies, as they toured relentlessly from the 30s to the 60s, was to open with something like Les Sylphides, (something that most everyone in the audience would recognize as ballet), followed by the most problematic work of the evening (this is the slot that most of the big Massine works held), and then close with something bright and lively, usually narrative or at least character-based. Gaite was a closer for ages -- it sent the audience out with the sense that, even if they hadn't understood everything on the program, there was something for them in ballet. This three-part structure is still alive in programming around the world.

Robert Gottlieb did the programming for NYCB for several years, but he hasn't really spoken or written about the experience (except about the difficulties of balancing multi-year programs relating to subscribers) I keep hoping that someone will interview him about this process while he's still around to discuss it.

Link to comment

Back when they were doing primarily Balanchine and Robbins and only Balanchine full-lengths (relatively sporadically), the closer tended to be a big ballet with a rousing finale, like "Union Jack," "Vienna Waltzes," "Stars and Stripes," "Who Cares?," "Western Symphony," "Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3" (with "Theme and Variations") or "Symphony in C." Where there might be only one intermission or one very long ballet, "Liebeslieder Walzer," "Davidsbundlertanze," "Dances at a Gathering," or "Goldberg Variations," or when Martins' ballets joined the rep, "A Schubertiade." on the somber side. (I can't remember how "Harlequinade" was programmed, or if it was done with intermission.)

Hard-sell ballets were often in the middle, like "Kammermusik" and "Ives Songs." Also two short ballets were usually programmed in the middle.

I think the tendency now might be to start a program to get people's post-dinner juices up. "Viscera" would fit the bill there.

Link to comment

I'm fairly certain the last time I saw Balanchine's Swan Lake, by which point New York City Ballet had also been dancing the Martins production for some time, it was the first piece on the program. Lourdes Lopez would have been following standard New York City Ballet--and Ballet Russe--practice in how the program was ordered, since Lowell Liebermann's music might qualify Viscera as a tough sell. However, on the Royal Ballet's current mixed bill, Viscera goes first.

Link to comment

That's right -- it's a bit of a mystery in my part of the country. It says it's showing on Thanksgiving Day in Seattle, at the MYO theater downtown. I don't think there is such a theater, or at least not a public one -- the ROH website doesn't give the specific street address for the venue, but the little arrow on Google maps is pointing to a condo building. The program is showing in a suburban theater at the beginning of January, which is further away, but a better date, and a place I know actually exists...

Link to comment

Viscera was a total mess, not worth the time and money spent nor the dancers ample energy to make this seem like a piece of art. It was dark, dingy, boring and everything else that cubanmiamiboy has stated. I too question how Fancy Free could have been so horribly received but it was not well danced energywise and definitely looked dated. I am in agreement as well with cubanmiamiboy that the programing was backwards. Swan Lake Act II should have ended the program. I too remember NYCB always opening with Swan Lake, so perhaps like Serenade, it is contractually an opener. At a time when Balanchine was alive doing the programing or in conference with the few directors of companies he allowed to do his ballets (for free), this may have worked. It did not work for Program I of MCB at the Arsht Center. It will be interesting to see how the audiences in The Broward Center and the Kravits Center respond.

Link to comment

Thanks for your review...do you have the patience for a minor tangent?

so perhaps like Serenade, it is contractually an opener

Do you mean "contractually an opener" literally? I ask because required program order positions are a new concept to me (and Carla Korbes' farewell performance ended with Serenade).

Link to comment

The first time I was scheduled to see "Serenade" at NYCB it was the closer. I had already made plans to meet someone that day and left at intermission. I only remember because it seemed like I'd never see it, always having had a conflict, and had it been the opener or middle piece, I wouldn't have missed it. But from later experience, that was unusual placement.

Link to comment
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...