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ABT's "Raymonda" . Questions.


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What's with the fate of ABT's Raymonda...? Is it too risky to revive the tale of the winning situation between a Christian Hungarian princess and her crusader fiancée against the Muslim bad guy...?

Is this ballet defunct for good from the company due to lack of political correctness..?

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What's with the fate of ABT's Raymonda...? Is it too risky to revive the tale of the winning situation between a Christian Hungarian princess and her crusader fiancée against the Muslim bad guy...?

Is this ballet defunct for good from the company due to lack of political correctness..?

Critics had some other objections to the production. I dug up a couple of old reviews--the second is mostly positive, the first a little less so, but even the positive review has reservations about the production that have nothing to do with 'political correctness.' For myself, I saw it once the season it premiered and mostly remember enjoying all the dancing.

http://danceviewtimes.com/dvny/reviews/2004/spring/abt12.htm

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/24/arts/ballet-theater-review-when-raymonda-makes-up-her-mind-seducer-loses-nice-guy.html

I tumbled over other disappointed reviews which suggested excerpts might be better (which ABT tried recently), though I can't say I would agree with that.

Interested to know what others thought of the production.

Edited by Drew
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Those reviews sound really bad! However, I am surprised the first review makes it sound like the story is incredibly confusing. If anything, I think the plot is actually very simple, and the second review seems to say that too (that it has a thin storyline), so I find it interesting two different reviews seem to take opposite opinions about the storyline.

The first review says ABT's Raymonda is a "festival of kitsch" and I can imagine that. I think some of ABT's productions look like Disney Ballet.

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I remember a review that lambasted the production as "Barbie's Dream" or "My Little Pony" version of "Raymonda" - kind of like "Barbie's Swan Lake". I remember lots of pink and blue in the designs. The costumes were very pretty. I also remember that Jean de Brienne entered in the first scene and took his leave of Raymonda to join the crusades. In the original scenario by Lidia Pashkova, Raymonda is shown a full-length portrait of Jean de Brienne in Act I and dreams of him in the Dream Vision grand pas. He only appears in the flesh when he saves her from Abderakhman in Act II like he "stepped out of a dream".

It was my first "Raymonda" that wasn't on video (and the Bolshoi video I had seen with the divine Semenyaka was dark and grainy except for her and Gediminas Taranda). I had no other references as to productions and thought it was a very workable production that didn't show much invention but the dancing was good. Nina Ananiashvili and Paloma Herrera were very fine Raymondas. I saw the opening night Raymonda, Irina Dvorovenko who should have been perfect and was coached by Kolpakova. Unfortunately, I found Dvorovenko very "steppy" and disjointed in her phrasing. She broke the choreography up into little discrete units and didn't phrase through the music - no idea why that happened. Veronika Part had lovely moments and some uneasy ones - she was still struggling in the company and not dancing many leading roles and wasn't in tip top shape. What she did well was gorgeous and dream-like.

I remember going to the stage door to meet Diana Vishneva and I asked her why she never danced Raymonda with ABT as it was the only major classic ballet I hadn't seen her in. She mentioned that she danced the ballet with the Mariinsky but that the ABT production was "not very good". Vishneva only danced one performance of the McKenzie/Kirkland/Chernov "Sleeping Beauty" and then fell ill. She never went near it again until the Ratmansky production last year.

I think that Kevin having Irina Kolpakova stage the Act III variations as a stand-alone piece suggests that he has no plans to revive the full ballet. In 2004 this was less than three years after 9/11 and the political implications were even fresher and more raw for New Yorkers. I think the deliberately fairy tale children's picture book approach was designed to suppress such resonances and render the piece anodyne.

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It makes me sad to think that ABT won't ever stage this again. Can't they just take out the religious aspect of it? Girl engaged to "good guy" but good guy off at war. Girl dreams of "bad guy", bad guy tries to abduct her, good guy kills bad guy. Girl and good guy live happily ever after. How is that all that different from other story ballets like La Bayadere and Swan Lake (except it's "bad girl" and her father)

Others might disagree, but I think they should let Ratmansky restage it (if he wanted to do it), he would take the Disney aspect out of it and do it justice. But until then, I guess I'll be happy with seeing it performed by the Mariinsky in DC in February.

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Can't they just take out the religious aspect of it? Girl engaged to "good guy" but good guy off at war. Girl dreams of "bad guy", bad guy tries to abduct her, good guy kills bad guy. Girl and good guy live happily ever after. How is that all that different from other story ballets like La Bayadere and Swan Lake (except it's "bad girl" and her father) Others might disagree, but I think they should let Ratmansky restage it (if he wanted to do it), he would take the Disney aspect out of it and do it justice.

The religious aspect was already gone from the Holmes/McKenzie staging - Abderakhman was just costumed as an Arab "exotic" but not really developed dramatically. The Bolshoi staging by Grigorovich gives him more choreography - at ABT he mostly partnered. (Was that staging co-owned by Boston Ballet? Where did it go after ABT dropped it?) There were comments in 2004 that mime was cut and the character dancing minimized. There was an excess of prettiness and very little dramatic tension and development (a problem that has its foundation with the original libretto). The characters are basically pasteboard figures with no depth - the dancing has to fill them out. Lots of sparkle on the scenery and costumes which looked more nineteenth century than medieval (that probably was the case in the original production in 1898).

This was the thread in 2004 about the staging: http://balletalert.invisionzone.com/index.php?/topic/16875-raymondathe-met-2004/

Here are contemporary videos introducing the ballet: http://www.abt.org/performances/abtstudios.asp

Edited by FauxPas
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Seeing the recon at La Scala, it's easy to see why it is almost impossible to take the religious aspect off the ballet. The whole thing has a heavy emphasis on the crusades, with De Brienne kneeling before Raymonda, the spear and everything. Oh, and those big crosses on the knights. I think the Holmes production looked a bit silly after trying to convert the libretto into a quest for love between two knights. I don't think it worked.

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To me, the ABT RAYMONDA was a "RAYMONDA LITE" compared to the Kirov-Mariinsky/K.Sergeev and the POB/Nureyev, which was somewhat based on the Kirov's, with more dancing for Anderakhman, then a whole new ending with a major adagio for the leading couple (as if they have not danced enough already!). The La Scala version by Vikharev, based on the Harvard Notes/Petipa/N Sergeyev was at least as long as POB's and the most languidly paced, including every note of Glazunov, in the intended order.

ABT's was, as I recall, a 2-act distillation, including a lot of the Kirov/K Sergeyev, whose choreography Ms Holmes lovingly champions. Considering that her stagings of other Kirov/K Sergeyev works are more complete, I suspect that ABT put pressure on her to cut & slice, to keep it within "union time."

Related to this...I'm wondering if the Mariinsky will be presenting the full RAYMONDA at the KC next month? When the Natl Ballet of Japan brought Asami Maki's RAYMONDA (almost an exact copy of the Mariinsky's) to the KC 6 or 7 years ago, they cut the entire A2 Pas de Six, at the request of the KC, to avoid union overtime. (The DVD of the Japanese version includes that delectable Pas de Six and all else.) We'd better get the whole Mariinsky RAYMONDA in DC next month. Some of us know every note and step of this ballet!!!!! :). Also...will anything be cut from Ratmansky's SB next week or will DC see every bit of what Met audiences saw? I sure hope so.

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Judging by the timings listed on the Kennedy Center website we should see the entire Mariinsky Raymonda. It is a tiny bit over 2 hours (if you do not count intermissions). With intermissions close to 3 hours.

The only thing I have noticed is during late summer when Vaganova students are not available the 4 boys are omitted ( who come out before the Queen and Raymonda right before her entrance and who also escort Raymonda off stage when she is tired after the first scene). But the only choreography that is sometimes omitted is in Act 2 when 8 boys dance the dance with the things on their knees and hands that clack (make noise). That was omitted from the summer Raymonda I saw. So those are the changes we might see since they usually don't bring any students with them. Maybe they can borrow some from the Kirov Academy in DC????

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The DVD of RAYMONDA with Kolpakova clocks in at 131 minutes (including pauses for applause), so maybe what you describe with the sticks and clacking - Entree des Jongleurs - and/or the following Saracens Dance that will be cut. Just don't mess with my beloved classical pieces, including the Grand Pas de Six of A2...as the Japanese did...but they kept the clackers and the Saracens!!!!

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Part & Annanishvilli both danced it in NY. I think I also remember Murphy in it. Even though it was definitely Raymonda Lite and the program notes did their best to downplay the cultural/religious aspect of the story (the insipid "its about a girl who has to choose between 2 suitors" - like any production anywhere ever showed Raymonda considering running off with the Saracen) it had all of the set pieces and I really enjoyed it. I doubt that we'll ever see it again - its too politically incorrect for today's NY.

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Part & Annanishvilli both danced it in NY. I think I also remember Murphy in it. Even though it was definitely Raymonda Lite and the program notes did their best to downplay the cultural/religious aspect of the story (the insipid "its about a girl who has to choose between 2 suitors" - like any production anywhere ever showed Raymonda considering running off with the Saracen) it had all of the set pieces and I really enjoyed it. I doubt that we'll ever see it again - its too politically incorrect for today's NY.

It is too bad, IMO, that politics has played into the arts yet again! :(

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Clarification: The Holmes/McKenzie production still had Abderakhman as a Saracen - this wasn't "Good Christian Knight vs. Bad Christian Knight". Lots of the character dances were cut in Act II (politically incorrect stuff there) and a great deal of mime. As to political correctness - as I said, only three or four years after 9/11 this was a very fresh wound in America and New York especially. So if it wasn't too politically incorrect then to do the full version, then it isn't now.

I saw Dvorovenko, Part, Herrera and Ananiashvili. Veronika Part danced the role of Raymonda's friend (Henriette? Clemence? my memory isn't that good) at the premiere season. Michele Wiles danced the other friend and nearly stole the show. The other Raymondas in that first season were Michele Wiles (from this site's reviews Wiles was not so hot the first year she danced it and much improved in 2005) and Xiomara Reyes (probably technically good but too small scale physically and in type). Murphy I think would have gone in the second year but I can't remember exactly. Julie Kent never danced it sadly and even in 2005 she may have been past her best in it technically. There are stylistic and choreographic similarities to Aurora in the first two acts of "Raymonda". Julie Kent had been a nearly ideal Aurora in the old MacMillan "Sleeping Beauty" circa 1997.

Part graduated to the title role of Raymonda in the second year of the production's run in 2005 - a Wednesday matinee and I took off of work to see it. Marcelo Gomes was her Jean de Brienne. There was a problem with a lift in the "Dream Vision Grand Pas" in Act I that was not Marcelo's fault - Veronika couldn't get into position. She was ravishing elsewhere and her musicality, phrasing and port de bras gave a lot of pleasure. She said it was her favorite role but never danced it again - even when Kolpakova staged the "Raymonda" suite at City Center the ballerinas were Herrera, Murphy and first cast Hee Seo. ABT had an older "Raymonda" Act III distillation that I saw in the early nineties - Susan Jaffe and Cynthia Gregory (her last season before she retired) danced it. I think I saw it with Jaffe and Julio Bocca - there were no Hungarian costumes with the hussar jackets and fur trimmed hats.

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It is too bad, IMO, that politics has played into the arts yet again! :(

I would have liked to see this production revived more often, but I'm not sure I think it is politics that has been a deciding factor. I suspect that a raved about production that had been received as a big artistic success and/or audience hit probably would have been revived more.

In the meanwhile, if they get a still stronger production of Raymonda--so much the better. (I have no problem with program notes discussing the assumptions/history/politics that informed Petipa's creation.)

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