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Royal Ballet 2018-19 season

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Alongside the cinema broadcasts, for those of us who live elsewhere!

Those of us who watch with popcorn get Mayerling, Bayadere, Don Q, a mixed bill with Wheeldon's Within the Golden Hour, Pite's Flight Patterns, and a new Cherkaoui), R&J, and, of course, the eternal Nutcracker.

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Posted (edited)

And ... for those in the land of Trump - a live appearance by the RB (with a McGregor World Premiere) in LA!!! (oh, and for those a tad further out - Japan).  

Edited by meunier fan

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18 minutes ago, meunier fan said:

And ... for those in the land of Trump - a live appearance by the RB (with a McGregor World Premiere) in LA!!! (oh, and for those a tad further out - Japan).  

“For those in the land of Trump”? Would that be “from those in the land of Brexit”? Or maybe we could spare each other this sort of comment.

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I don't mind a little larking around, considering how dire some things have been lately.  And if anyone has any clue about what else might be on the LA program, I'd love to hear about it!

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Posted (edited)
35 minutes ago, Drew said:

“For those in the land of Trump”? Would that be “from those in the land of Brexit”? Or maybe we could spare each other this sort of comment.

 

It was, I promise, all in jest ... and I'm happy (and proud) to come from the Land of Brexit .... even if I didn't vote for it (i.e., I did vote ... but ticked 'to stay).  

Edited by meunier fan

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4 minutes ago, meunier fan said:

 

It was, I promise, all in jest.  Happy - indeed proud - to be from 'the land of Brexit - even if I didn't vote for it.  (And, yes, we do have to laugh at ourselves or we wouldn't survive I think.)  

I didn’t doubt you were in jest...though the first post didn’t sound like you were laughing at yourself. I confess I am in no mood for jokes on certain subjects. My loss perhaps.

I love reading your posts —among my very favorite to read—and am intrigued by plans for a visit by the Royal to LA, and indeed, as described in the link, for a genuine collaboration with LA.

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The Royal Ballet totally ignored Petipa this year, they have also failed to acknowledge the eightieth anniversary of Nureyev's birth which coincides with the  twenty fifth anniversary of his death.  Now, astonishingly, it appears they have chosen not to celebrate the centenary of Margot Fonteyn's birth.  There is nothing whatsoever in the press release about her with Firebird being the only ballet she was associated with being performed.  I find that shameful.

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6 minutes ago, Mashinka said:

The Royal Ballet totally ignored Petipa this year, they have also failed to acknowledge the eightieth anniversary of Nureyev's birth which coincides with the  twenty fifth anniversary of his death.  Now, astonishingly, it appears they have chosen not to celebrate the centenary of Margot Fonteyn's birth.  There is nothing whatsoever in the press release about her with Firebird being the only ballet she was associated with being performed.  I find that shameful.

Aren't Nureyev and Fonteyn associated wth the premiere of MacMillan's R&J (and in a somewhat controversial way, as I understand).

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4 hours ago, meunier fan said:

And ... for those in the land of Trump - a live appearance by the RB (with a McGregor World Premiere) in LA!!!

:offtopic: Perhaps it's worth remembering that in California 61.7% of participating voters supported Trump's main opponent, and in Los Angeles County his vote tally was 22.4%.

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1 hour ago, California said:

Aren't Nureyev and Fonteyn associated wth the premiere of MacMillan's R&J (and in a somewhat controversial way, as I understand).

They danced the first performance and for many people their interpretation of the roles surpassed anything that followed, but the ballet was created for Seymour and Christopher Gable.  Apparently Sol Hurok insisted F&N should dance the premiere.  I think to make a tie in with Fonteyn's birth would, as you say, be controversial.

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5 hours ago, meunier fan said:

And ... for those in the land of Trump - a live appearance by the RB (with a McGregor World Premiere) in LA!!! (oh, and for those a tad further out - Japan).  

Los Angeles has a really odd relationship to ballet - a not particularly good one. I suppose Hollywood is largely to blame for that. Many people have dreamed of creating a world-class ballet company in LA, and those plans never pan out. Now Benjamin Millepied is trying a somewhat different tack...

But the population of that metropolis is so huge that there will always be some audience for ballet.

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Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, Mashinka said:

They danced the first performance and for many people their interpretation of the roles surpassed anything that followed, but the ballet was created for Seymour and Christopher Gable.  Apparently Sol Hurok insisted F&N should dance the premiere.  I think to make a tie in with Fonteyn's birth would, as you say, be controversial.

According to Julie Kavanagh in her biography on Nureyev it was chief executive David Webster who insisted F&N dace the first-night at the Royal Opera House. Seymour and Gable danced the second night. Sol Hurok was the one who insisted F&N dance the New York premiere because he believed international success depended on them. In both instances Ashton backed the decision even though he had the power as artistic director to challenge them. So it was a double loss for the MacMillan/Seymour/Gable team who worked together to make it. 

MacMillan was pissed off because he wanted something new, more gritty and real. F&N were too old-fashioned for what he envisioned the characters to be with Lynn and Christopher.  Worse of all it was Seymour and Gable who had to teach Margot and Rudolf the choreography because apparently MacMillan was too bitter and disheartened to do anything. And they were the ones who had to watch Margot and Rudolf make the changes that clashed with the original vision. Kavanagh also points out that a year later MacMillian left the Royal ballet for the directorship in Berlin, taking Seymour with him. Later that same year Gable gave up ballet to become an actor. 

As for what ballet they would perform to tie in with Margot's birth wasn't Aurora considered her most iconic role?   

Edited by NAOTMAA

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First of all I consider Diane Solway's biography to be the definitive account of Nureyev's career and she very clearly lays the blame at Hurok's door.  So too does Norman Lebrecht in his weighty tome, Covent Garden: The Untold Story.  On page 262 he also blames Hurok, giving a little more detail, but of course the then management Ashton/Webster, approved the cast change but interestingly Lebrecht notes that they didn't give the board any reason for the cast change.

One thousand people according to Solway, slept out in an effort to get first night tickets.  On that occasion I didn't join them, in fact I didn't see them in the ballet until the following year, 1966.  By that time the Fonteyn/Nureyev performance had been filmed for posterity, the Seymour/Gable interpretation never was. 

 

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Related questions, just out of curiosity:

Is there a reason why Ashton’s Cinderella has not been performed for so long? 

Does anyone recall the last season when it was performed by the RB? (Perhaps ABT has performed it more recently?!)

Has the Ashton Cinderella ever been programmed in the cinemas offerings?

Lastly - Is the 1969 telecast starring Sibley and Dowell (so wonderful!) the latest Ashton Cinderella to have made it to commercial DVD? I recall a BBC telecast around 2002/03, starring Cojocaru and Kobborg, which doesn’t seem to have made it onto commercial DVD. Grrr.

I just realized that I’ve truly missed this gorgeous ballet.

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48 minutes ago, CharlieH said:

Related questions, just out of curiosity:

Is there a reason why Ashton’s Cinderella has not been performed for so long? 

Does anyone recall the last season when it was performed by the RB? (Perhaps ABT has performed it more recently?!)

Has the Ashton Cinderella ever been programmed in the cinemas offerings?

Lastly - Is the 1969 telecast starring Sibley and Dowell (so wonderful!) the latest Ashton Cinderella to have made it to commercial DVD? I recall a BBC telecast around 2002/03, starring Cojocaru and Kobborg, which doesn’t seem to have made it onto commercial DVD. Grrr.

I just realized that I’ve truly missed this gorgeous ballet.

Boston Ballet will perform the Ashton Cinderella next year, May 10-June 8, 2019.

https://www.bostonballet.org/Home/Tickets-Performances/Performances/Cinderella.aspx

This company is nice to out-of-towners by including two programs on the same weekends. Cinderella will be shown with 3 pieces by Yakobson and the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 May 16-June 9, 2019.

https://www.bostonballet.org/Home/Tickets-Performances/Performances/Rhapsody.aspx

I'm waiting to see what ABT does at the Met next spring, but it might be worth a train ride up to Boston to see these.

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Posted (edited)

@California

Thanks for the tip-off. I may indeed be hopping on Amtrak for this! Still...

Why is this ballet seemingly being nixed by Ashton’s own company? Why no recent DVDs or cinemacasts?

I’m a big fan of all the portions that feature the 12 “Stars Corps” ladies and the four season fairies (and their cavaliers); they’re in every act, in fascinating movements and patterns. To me, they comprise one of Ashton’s finest tributes to Petipa.

Edited by CharlieH

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16 hours ago, CharlieH said:

 

I’m a big fan of all the portions that feature the 12 “Stars Corps” ladies and the four season fairies (and their cavaliers); they’re in every act, in fascinating movements and patterns. To me, they comprise one of Ashton’s finest tributes to Petipa.

I agree and what is especially extraordinary to me in the sequence of variations for the seasons is how the more clear the relation to Petipa, the more distinctively Ashtonesque the choreography looks at the same time. It’s an evocation of Petipa and it’s the creation of a twentieth-century classicism.

Why the Royal Ballet doesn’t schedule more Ashton has long been a puzzle to me, but I have given up on solving it. I think of Ashton as a definitive figure—such as Balanchine. Helene has written elsewhere to the effect that Ashton (and Tudor) works don’t hold up as well as Balanchine to less than ideal performances, and I do suspect that may be part of the problem. But how and why it should have become a problem for the Royal Ballet.....? Presumably Macmillan’s ballets play a role here too—and their great popularity. (By all accounts, though, today’s Royal has some fine Ashton dancers. I would like to see for myself, as I've not been able to see the Royal dance much--barely any--Ashton in recent years. Fortunately I've been able to see some at ABT.)

Regarding Cinderella I have read many complaints about the choreography/gags for the stepsisters not being effective since the departure of the original cast, going on too long etc. When I finally saw the ballet, I was baffled that this had been given as a reason not to revive such a wonderful work.

And what great, varied weekend programing in Boston!

Edited by Drew
mis-spelled word/missing punctuation

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Thanks, @Drew My initial surprise was expressed due to Cinderella not being on the ROH schedule. From what I’ve been able to quickly research, the ballet was last presented at the ROH around 2011. From a purely marketing point of view, the title Cinderella means more to the general public than Fille Mal Gardee, Sylvia or Ondine. Cinderella’s omission can only be explained, IMO, by either:

a) a rights problem, such as the Ashton Foundation’s designated stager (Ms. Ellis?) not allowing its presentation, for whatever reason;

b) problematic designs - ROH holding out until new designs can be prepared (the last set of designs were roundly criticized, eg, heavyish solo-fairy dresses, orange sky, etc.);

c) lack of adequate leading cast (?)...likely not, with brilliant potential new leads, such as Francesca Hayward.

Maybe Ashton’s Cinderella will return to the ROH schedule - and a long-awaited live cinemascast - for the 2019/2020 season?

Edited by CharlieH

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The problem may well be the latest designs that were generally disliked, but casting may also be a problem as with each revival the portrayal of the ugly sisters has become more vulgar and inappropriate, possibly because the English pantomime tradition is dying.  The final pas de deux is ravishingly beautiful and I've never understood why it has never been given as a stand alone gala item.

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Have there been any reasons or theories about why Ashton left out the stepmother character?  I think the omission weakens the plot.

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British theatrical tradition explains some elements of Ashton's Cinderella but it is far from providing a complete account of its contents. When the  monarchy was restored the London theatres were reopened but strict limits were placed on what theatres were permitted to perform. The non patent houses were permitted to perform entertainments which included singing,dancing and spectacular stage effects. elements which all found their way into what became the British pantomime tradition. It was these elements which avoided the effects of theatre licensing legislation which originally permitted only the two patent houses to perform spoken drama and came to dominate the theatrical form which is, or was pantomime. It has to be understood that pantomime also became a staple of the patent houses repertory because they were exceptionally good box office. While it was the Harlequinade which originally dominated the hybrid theatrical form. Gradually fairy tale characters began to appear in the fore piece which preceded the Harlequinade. The fore piece gradually came to dominate the entertainment and stories like those of Aladdin and Cinderella came to  be staple pantomime fare. I think that Aladdin made his first appearance in the late eighteenth century while Cinderella was an early nineteenth century arrival. Rossini's opera La Cenerentola was a staple of the opera repertory at the time that Cinderella was becoming an established theme for pantomime. At least one character from the opera ,Dandini, found his way into the pantomime version of Cinderella. The opera and the pantomime both portray the household in which Cinderella lives as consisting of her father and her two step sisters.

I think that for most of the audience  who saw Ashton's Cinderella in 1948 and have seen it subsequently the absence of the stepmother requires no explanation whereas her presence would. I assume that it never occurred to Ashton that he should include the stepmother. As far as the Step Sisters are concerned I am not convinced that the British pantomime tradition explains why they are played as travesty roles or that the decline of the pantomime tradition explains why they have been played so coarsely since the turn of the century. There is, after all, a long theatrical tradition in both opera and ballet of older female characters and witches being played by men which has nothing to do with British pantomime. The operas of both Monteverdi and Cavalli have any number of old nurses played by men while in ballet Madge in La Sylphide and Carabosse in Sleeping Beauty are the most obvious examples of character roles originally performed by men. As to whether Ashton, who seems to have been a great ballet traditionalist, chose to follow the ballet tradition by creating the sisters as travesty roles, whether he was following British pantomime tradition  or whether his choice was forced on him by circumstances is a question which will probably never be answered satisfactorily. All I can say is that they have not always been played by men. In the late 1950's there were a couple of seasons when they were played by women. I have heard it suggested that Ashton originally intended to cast women as the Step Sisters but injury prevented him putting this plan into action. I have heard it said that it was lack of time that forced him into creating the roles for himself and Helpmann because he felt that he could rely on their joint ability to ad lib to provide the details which there had not been time to create in the rehearsal studio. As to why he continued to use men to play the Step Sisters long after it was necessary I suspect that his love of performing in front of an audience is the most likely explanation.

I would suggest that the coarse performances of the Step Sisters and the reduction of the Jester from a character who comments on the action to a mere step machine  and a close relative of the Soviet Jester is in large part attributable to inept casting decisions; the beliefs and understanding of the roles of those involved in coaching them and the decision to accept designs which fail to provide any visual clue as to the  contrasting characters of the two Step Sisters and make it almost impossible for the audience to see the Jester's face and his expression. Finally there is the lack of dancers in the company who are willing or able to perform demi-character roles to the required standard. 

As far as recordings are concerned the 1968 recording is the only one of a stage performance of Ashton's Cinderella to be made available for the public to purchase, first as a video and later as a DVD. While it is still available in the US it is no longer available on a zone  2 DVD which means that it is unavailable in Europe. The recording from the 1950's with Fonteyn, Somes and Alexander Grant in the cast and some very interesting dancers performing the season fairies was specially butchered for television by Ashton himself and is worth acquiring. The ballet was recorded again in 1979 with a cast led by Collier and Dowell with Monica Mason as Fairy Godmother and Wayne Sleep as the Jester but while it was televised it was never issued on either video tape or DVD.

I will simply say that I would be much happier with a DVD of a performance recorded during Ashton's lifetime than one recorded more recently. In the recordings made during Ashton's lifetime  you see a company which dances Ashton's choreography idiomatically and with great musicality. If the 1979 performance  were ever to appear on DVD I should not hesitate to buy it but as  far as the Cojocaru, Kobborg recording made during the 2003-2004  season is concerned it has never been put on sale, and perhaps with good reason, as it was not exactly the Royal Ballet's finest hour. The new sets and costumes, which I assume Wendy Ellis approved as she is the ballet's current owner, establish entirely the wrong mood for the work. They suggest that the audience is about to see  a provincial pantomime rather than a ballet which is the fruit of Ashton's private lessons with Petipa and a tribute to that tradition. As to what was wrong with the performances seen on the 2003-04 revival I will simply say that those responsible for staging the ballet managed to secure the coarsest imaginable performances from Sleep and Dowell as the Step Sisters who completely unbalanced the work and that Martin's  performance of the Jester was not much better.

Edited by Ashton Fan

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You ask "why the Royal Ballet does not schedule more Ashton each season" ? I  am not sure that there is a single definitive answer to that question. I think that the Royal Ballet's attitude to its Ashton repertory is one of great ambivalence to the choreographer and his works. It is almost as if those closely connected with running the company resent that it is still associated with its Ashton "heritage works" rather than with its MacMillan repertory which strangely never seems to have the word "heritage" attached to it. In  many ways its attitude to the Ashton repertory does not seem that different from the way the Royal Danish Ballet seems to feel about its Bournonville repertory. Both companies seem to wish that they were renowned for repertory other than the works with which most foreign dance enthusiasts associate them.

I  sometimes think that the Ashton repertory is fated to go the same way that the Bournonville repertory did during the first half of the twentieth century and that it will end up being represented by a handful of ballets, which will not be representative of the range of Ashton's output nor of the choreographic quality his work but will simply be those few works which are known to attract current audiences and known to be financially viable. In other words just as the Bournonville with whom we are familiar is largely the product of repertory decisions made during Harald Lander;s directorship future generations' understanding and knowledge of the Ashton repertory will be determined largely by the taste and repertory preferences of Kevin O'Hare and his successors as Artistic Directors of the company. If that is the case then Marguerite and Armand is destined for a lengthy, money-spinning afterlife while a major work like Daphnis and Chloe is destined to disappear through neglect because it is expensive to stage.

 

 

Edited by Ashton Fan

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On 8/11/2018 at 9:59 AM, Ashton Fan said:

I think that for most of the audience  who saw Ashton's Cinderella in 1948 and have seen it subsequently the absence of the stepmother requires no explanation whereas her presence would.

Ashton Fan, thank you for the very complete answer to my question.   🇬🇧

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Posted (edited)
On 8/7/2018 at 10:28 AM, CharlieH said:

 

c) lack of adequate leading cast (?)...likely not, with brilliant potential new leads, such as Francesca Hayward.

Maybe Ashton’s Cinderella will return to the ROH schedule - and a long-awaited live cinemascast - for the 2019/2020 season?

The RB has no lack of adequate cast at all Charlie H. Brilliant new leads would be Principal dancers Yasmine Naghdi and Akane Takada, who are both highly technical classical dancers, besides Francesca Hayward.

I'd love to see Cinderella return onto the Covent Garden stage, including a worldwide cinema broadcast, for 2019/2020

Edited by Katia Kapustin
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