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ABT 2016 The Golden Cockerel (Coq d'Or)


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If you look at the whole of Fokine's repertory, the absolute dance projects like Chopiniana and Dying Swan are, if not in the minority, then even with the more elaborate, multi-media works like Cockerel.

Yes! I think Ratmansky's Cockerel is true to the Fokine/Diaghilev/Goncharova effort and I find it quite marvelous that he has brought it alive.

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I just got back from The Golden Cockerel and I have to say never again. For me there was way too much theater and way too little ballet. Or maybe too much theater is not what I really mean. If theater is defined as spectacle with fabulous sets, costumes, front and back drops -- there was too much, when accompanied by such little dancing. If theater is defined as the expression of drama, and deep human emotion there was none. In other words, if it was supposed to be a theatrical experience, it failed to touch or move me. As far as dance goes, there wasn't much.

I would have enjoyed a revival of The Bright Stream much more. If we want to go back to a Ballet Russes kind of spectacle, Petrushka would be a better choice IMO. I won't be going to the ABT Sleeping Beauty this year. It's usually one of my favorite story ballets but I can't sit though the Ratmansky version again. I'll wait for NYCB to do theirs next spring.

Totally agree, Vipa. Far too much spectacle and repetitive dancing by the corps (I guess to give them something to do) and really not much in the way of any development of choreography for either the Queen of Shemakan or even the Cockeral. Way too much mime that unless one came early and read the synopsis, it would be a huge question as to what was going on. I could see the money that was spent on the gorgeous costumes and back drops, but there was little of substance on the stage. I wish the money had been spent to advertise and push "La Fille Mal Gardee" a much superior ballet, IMO. (and that was a more family oriented ballet than "Cockeral"). This was just another example of "no there there". Empty calories. And I too will be staying away from "Sleeping Beauty". Looking forward to NYCB and their version. Yeah!

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And I too will be staying away from "Sleeping Beauty". Looking forward to NYCB and their version. Yeah!

I understand your point of view, though I don't know that I would share it, but just on its own, I found this statement extraordinary -- if you'd said something like this about Sleeping Beauty 20 years ago, or possibly even 10 years ago, most people in the ballet community would be mystified. Just a marker of how things and opinions have changed.

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Looking through the press about this work, I loved the photo at the top of Robert Gottlieb's review in the Observer -- that image of Gary Chryst as King Dodon reminded me of his work as the Chinese conjuror in Massine's Parade, back when Joffrey managed to revive it. If nothing else, this production of Cockrel gives us a view of that fabulously chaotic Ballet Russe style that swept everyone else up at the beginning of the last century.

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Let me jump into this topic. I saw the Thursday night "Golden Cockerel" last week with the opening night cast: Part, Chryst, Brandt (fabulous) and Stearns. Reading the program notes in the ABT program, I learned there were TWO Fokine-Ballets Russes "Le Coq D'Or" ballets. The first 1914 version with Karsavina was an opera-ballet - they performed the two-act opera with the singers on the side and dancers performing the protagonists onstage. The shorter ballet version came much later after Diaghilev: In 1937 Fokine revised the piece as a pure dance ballet:

http://www.russianballethistory.com/ballethistories.htm

"In 1937, Fokine revised the work for the Ballets Russes company of Colonel W de Basil, creating a single-act ballet in three scenes which premiered at Covent Garden on September 23, 1937. For this straight-dance version, the Rimsky-Korsakov score was adapted and arranged by Nicolas Tcherepnin, and Fokine condensed the original opera libretto, which Vladimir Bielsky had adapted from a Pushkin poem. Artist Natalia Gontcharova based her neo-primitive set and costume designs on those she had made for the 1914 version, recreating the original curtain and modifying other elements to produce a brilliantly colourful tableau. Her costume for the Cockerel, using real gold thread, was introduced in the 1937 production, the 1914 version having used a prop to represent this character."

IMHO: I agree totally with those who felt there was a sensational one-act ballet buried in this overstuffed bore. The first act really could only be 15 or at the most 20 minutes of exposition. There is both too little plot and too much plot in the first act since very little that is central to the main story occurs yet it is complex and not easily related in mime. The real story begins when Tsar Dodon meets the Queen of Shemakha. I think that the choice of making Tsar Dodon purely a character mime role also limited the dance opportunities. Imagine if it was given to a demi-caractère male dancer - a character dancer who could actually execute classical choreography and really dance with the Queen rather than just clumsily partner her and mime. Imagine Herman Cornejo or Daniil Simkin as King Dodon or maybe even Marcelo Gomes after his sensational Widow Simone turn.

If it is going to be a two act full-evening work then the opera-ballet version is preferable - maybe in collaboration with the Metropolitan Opera or a special festival presentation under the auspices of the Lincoln Center Festival. Mark Morris has done a lot of these dance opera hybrids and oddball or oratorio type operas benefit from that kind of treatment/presentation.

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FauxPas, I appreciate your analysis, especially your suggestion about the Tsar Dodon role. The clumsy partnering got incredibly tedious! A collaboration with the Met Opera for a restaging of the Ballets Russes version is a fascinating and wonderful idea for the Lincoln Center festival. I wonder how those familiar with opera found the fully orchestrated version of the score? I also agree with your comments on the nature of the first act, although there were some moments that really stuck with me, in particular the side by side pas de deux with two brothers (played by Gorak and Crio in both casts I saw) and their ladies.

That being said, I had a lot of fun watching this ballet. I have been a fan of Goncharova's designs since I discovered her work while cataloging some designs of saints she did for a ballet that never came to be ("La Liturgie") when I worked at the Performing Arts Library. I even have a tiny print of the banquet scrim you see at the beginning of Golden Cockerel framed in my apartment! I never expected to see it onstage, and it was quite a delight to see both the costumes and the scenery recreated. (In some cases the reproductions looked exact--much more faithful copies than "inspired by" implies.)

I saw two performances, Thursday evening and Saturday matinee. I must comment on the wonderful interpretation of the role by Veronika Part. Her queen carried the tone of the ballet (satirical and absurd), and you knew what her character was about from the minute she stepped on stage. In contrast, although I sat closer on Saturday, I felt as though Misty Copeland wasn't acting at all until the part where she starts fake crying in the second act. She was just an almost expressionless cool queen up to that point, conveying no sense of cunning or power. So when she started with the manipulative crying, it just seemed weird and incongruous. I'm not a Misty hater by any means. I really enjoyed her Coppelia. But I was very disappointed after seeing Part’s interpretation. It’s as though she forgot to act--so strange. Nonetheless, Copeland received significantly greater applause (the house looked fully sold), and there was standing ovation in the orchestra on Saturday afternoon. So it goes.

Both “cockerals” I saw, Brandt and Kotchetkova, had their moments. I haven’t been sold on Kotchetkova in the past, but she nailed the mechanicalness of the sorcerer’s creation perfectly. (I think it may be because her dancing is a little mechanical to begin with!) And she’s so feather light, and soundless on her pointes. Brandt has more power to her jump, however.

All in all, I’m happy I saw it twice, as I guess it will not return to the Met stage. I didn’t find the corps work repetitive or boring at all. The Persian maidens were a highlight for me. And Ratmansky’s choreography for the character dances of the corps women in the first act is anything but cliche. I wish I had a recording or the ability to describe the steps better; nonetheless, I found his “character dance” choreography incredibly interesting and refreshing, particularly so many years of (enjoying) the very similar mazurka-type peasant dances in Coppelia, Swan Lake, Giselle etc.

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Apparently no one else attended the Saturday evening performance of the Golden Cockerel except for me, but these days I won’t pass up such a rare opportunity to see Sarah Lane in a leading role. The drawback was having to sit through yet another colorless performance by Hee Seo. But it was worth it to see Lane dancing the kind of choreography she’s rarely permitted any longer. Speedy, precise, she was like a blur of gold flying across the stage. There was also a hint of creepy danger in her performance, especially in her interplay with the astrologer (a hammy Whiteside). And it was doubly rewarding to hear Lane receive far more applause than Hee Seo, at the evening’s end, especially since she overshadowed the principal’s performance in every way.

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So sorry to read all of the mostly-negative reviews of COQ D'OR. When I saw the Copenhagen version, the thought of "not enough dancing" didn't occur to me, perhaps because miming and story-telling are like a second skin to the Danes. It was, to me, a perfect ballet with perfect designs, music, movement, and performers, such as Thomas Lund's Dodon and Gudrun Bojesen's Queen.

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Apparently no one else attended the Saturday evening performance of the Golden Cockerel except for me, but these days I won’t pass up such a rare opportunity to see Sarah Lane in a leading role. The drawback was having to sit through yet another colorless performance by Hee Seo. But it was worth it to see Lane dancing the kind of choreography she’s rarely permitted any longer. Speedy, precise, she was like a blur of gold flying across the stage. There was also a hint of creepy danger in her performance, especially in her interplay with the astrologer (a hammy Whiteside). And it was doubly rewarding to hear Lane receive far more applause than Hee Seo, at the evening’s end, especially since she overshadowed the principal’s performance in every way.

Laurel I was at that performance for the same reason. I wanted to see a new production and Lane in a lead role was the deciding factor on which performance I went to. I thought she was quite fine but I really disliked the ballet for reasons stated in my review. I too wish Lane had more opportunities but I am going to skip her Sleeping Beauty this year. I don't think I can sit through that production again.

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I too wish Lane had more opportunities but I am going to skip her Sleeping Beauty this year. I don't think I can sit through that production again.

I, too, would skip the Ratmansky SB this year, but for the fact that Stella Abrera is dancing Aurora on June 30th with Marcelo Gomes, and I promised myself that if Stella was promoted to principal dancer I would see every ballet in which she dances the leading role. I believe that's also her 20th anniversary with ABT celebration and I want to applaud until my hands hurt and scream bravas until my throat is sore.

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So sorry to read all of the mostly-negative reviews of COQ D'OR. When I saw the Copenhagen version, the thought of "not enough dancing" didn't occur to me, perhaps because miming and story-telling are like a second skin to the Danes. It was, to me, a perfect ballet with perfect designs, music, movement, and performers, such as Thomas Lund's Dodon and Gudrun Bojesen's Queen.

Link to post

So sorry to read all of the mostly-negative reviews of COQ D'OR. When I saw the Copenhagen version, the thought of "not enough dancing" didn't occur to me, perhaps because miming and story-telling are like a second skin to the Danes. It was, to me, a perfect ballet with perfect designs, music, movement, and performers, such as Thomas Lund's Dodon and Gudrun Bojesen's Queen.

Link to post

So sorry to read all of the mostly-negative reviews of COQ D'OR. When I saw the Copenhagen version, the thought of "not enough dancing" didn't occur to me, perhaps because miming and story-telling are like a second skin to the Danes. It was, to me, a perfect ballet with perfect designs, music, movement, and performers, such as Thomas Lund's Dodon and Gudrun Bojesen's Queen.

Extremely interesting. I hadn't though of it that way.

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