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New Ashton DVD

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Posted (edited)

Amazon UK has announced that a new all Ashton DVD is to be issued in July and is available for pre-order now. The ballets on the disc are Symphonic Variations, The  Dream and Yanowsky's farewell performance as a company member in Marguerite and Armand dancing opposite Bolle, the programme which was streamed to cinemas at the end of last season.

As far as the performances are concerned the cast for Symphonic is good and that for The Dream looked better in the cinema than it did in the theatre. In the theatre the performance of The Dream did not carry into the auditorium as well as it should, but then, Takada was a late substitute as Titania. The last ballet is a record of the final performance of one of the most intelligent and witty dancers the company has had in ages. Now while I might wish that the company would issue a DVD of The Dream using the live recording of the ballet with Park and Dowell in the leads and both the live performance of Symphonic Variations recorded at the opera house with Park and Wall in the leads and the recording made of the same ballet with a cast which included Sibley, Dowell, Penney and Coleman, I am pleased that the company is giving us a few crumbs.

Edited by Ashton Fan

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On ‎6‎/‎28‎/‎2018 at 10:14 AM, Ashton Fan said:

I might wish that the company would issue a DVD of The Dream using the live recording of the ballet with Park and Dowell in the leads and both the live performance of Symphonic Variations recorded at the opera house with Park and Wall in the leads and the recording made of the same ballet with a cast which included Sibley, Dowell, Penney and Coleman, I am pleased that the company is giving us a few crumbs.

Am I right in thinking that Fonteyn's farewell performance was recorded in full?  That included Symphonic Variations and I think the cast was Sibley/Dowell/Penney/Coleman/Porter/Eagling.  Is that what you're alluding to?  I remember thinking they did her proud that night.

As the RB have no plans to celebrate Fonteyn's centenary next year, perhaps issuing that final performance on DVD would go some way to show she isn't entirely forgotten.

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Posted (edited)

I wondered about that myself. I will simply say that it is unclear to me whether any film of the performances of Symphonic or Façade which were danced at Fonteyn's farewell performance exist.  I find it difficult to believe that the BBC sent a camera crew to Covent Garden  and it only filmed Salut d' Amour. The performances of Symphonic I mentioned in my earlier post are ones which I know were filmed and broadcast on British television. One was filmed for Granada Television's arts programme Parade in 1973. The cast for Symphonic on that occasion was led by Sibley and Dowell with Jenner, Sherwood, Penney  and Coleman as the side couples I think that Façade was also filmed with a cast led by Alexander Grant as the "Dago", The second performance of Symphonic that I was referring to was performed as part of the Queen's Silver Jubilee Gala, The cast for the 1977 performance was, I believe, led by Park and Wall with Jenner, Eagling, Penney and Coleman as the side couples. I believe that the BFI has a recording from 1962 in which the cast for Symphonic is led by Page and  MacLeary. with Parkinson, Usher, Sibley and Shaw as the side couples, at least a list of films of Ashton's ballets held at NYPL suggests this is the case.

A DVD including any or all of these recordings would be more than acceptable to me.They were all filmed during Ashton's lifetime when Somes was involved in coaching the Ashton repertory and Ashton was actively involved in making those miniscule corrections of angles and height which transformed performances of his ballets from very good to incomparable. Here I have in mind films of Ashton coaching members of the National Ballet of Canadian in The Two Pigeons where his coaching interventions had a transformative effect on the dancers' performances and the better known film of Ashton coaching  Sibley and Dowell in the reconciliation pas de deux from The Dream. The latter film seems to have upset some who saw it on the web as it generated comments which suggested that some viewers interpreted Ashton's coaching corrections as picking on Sibley as he gave so few corrections to Dowell and the corrections he gave Sibley seem so minor . It is only when you see the finished result that you see how essential his corrections were.

Edited by Ashton Fan

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Very glad to hear that they're issuing a DVD of that broadcast -- I agree it would be lovely to have multiple casts of those works to compare/contrast, but honestly, as someone who had trouble just seeing a complete performance of Symphonic with any cast, I'm thrilled to be getting this.

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This thread brings up a question for me -- just as the Robbins collection at NYPL holds multiple recordings of works that aren't available to the general public, but are there for scholars and researchers to use with permission, is there a similar archive in the UK?  From what I can glean, there are collections at the BBC and at the BFI, and I would imagine that the companies and choreographers have archives as well, but is there some kind of central place?

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Posted (edited)

sandik,

I sympathise with the view that any recording of a major work by company whose dancers know how it goes is better than no recording at all, or one by a company who cannot dance it idiomatically. I feel like that about Bussell's farewell performance not because of Bussell herself but because of two of the ballets programmed that evening and the casts appearing in them. The programme began with Checkmate with a cast led by Yanowsky as the Black Queen, followed by Symphonic Variations with a pretty good cast which included Belinda Hatley who also retired that evening, ending with The Song of the Earth which Bussell had chosen for her final performance with the company. The entire programme was televised by the BBC. Why the company did not issue a DVD of the entire programme is beyond me because Bussell's name alone would have ensured that it sold like hotcakes. While the cast of The Song of the Earth, Bussell, Acosta and Avis was not ideal, it is, as far as I am aware,  the only recording which has ever been made of the entire work. As it seems unlikely that it will be recorded again any time soon, let alone with an ideal cast, I would have settled quite happily for a DVD with masterpiece by MacMillan and Ashton on it. 

Edited by Ashton Fan

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The BBC is sitting on a goldmine of ballet performances, the usual excuse for not releasing this material is the cost of royalties and copyright.  On the other hand ROH is releasing DVD's left, right and centre, with three Giselles and two Swan lakes within less than ten years.

I have a feeling Checkmate was recorded earlier with either Monica Mason or Maina Gielgud, either preferable to Yanovsky.  The BBC produces wonderful box sets of past drama productions but nothing I  know of featuring ballet or opera.  Could the musicians union be the cause of the problem?

 

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Posted (edited)

There must be a way of squaring the Musicians Union because they have not prevented the Beeb issuing rafts of major recordings of classical music not all of which were more than fifty years old. Somehow it would seem that all the standard objections about copyright, performers rights and  being unable to find things fade away when the marketing department realizes  that there is money to be made from the  tapes. I think that the problem with ballet recordings is that ballet is perceived to be an incredibly elitist art form and such a small market that it is not worth the effort of issuing them for sale in their current state, let alone the cost of cleaning them. I suppose that it is possible that the RB might not be that enthusiastic about the project as it would not show a  company continuously progressing and improving over the years.

I suspect that it is a question of financial return. ICA finally got their hands on the BBC recordings of gems like the Markova. Elvin, Beriosova Les Sylphides and the original  cast of Fille, with its pathetic union placating designs which seemed to have been essential to television recordings at the time. I wonder how much it cost ICA to clean the films and how much of a return they have made on their investment as so many people seem to have " discovered" the recordings  and posted them on the internet ?

 

By the way it was not the recording of Checkmate that interested me. It was the prospect of a recording of Symphonic Variations and Song of the Earth even with that cast.

Edited by Ashton Fan

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1 hour ago, Ashton Fan said:

Somehow it would seem that all the standard objections about copyright, performers rights and  being unable to find things fade away when the marketing department realizes  that there is money to be made from the  tapes. I think that the problem with ballet recordings is that ballet is perceived to be an incredibly elitist art form and such a small market that it is not worth the effort of issuing them for sale in their current state, let alone the cost of cleaning them. I suppose that it is possible that the RB might not be that enthusiastic about the project as it would not show a  company continuously progressing and improving over the years.

I suspect that it is a question of financial return. ICA finally got their hands on the BBC recordings of gems like the Markova. Elvin, Beriosova Les Sylphides and the original  cast of Fille, with its pathetic union placating designs which seemed to have been essential to television recordings at the time. I wonder how much it cost ICA to clean the films and how much of a return they have made on their investment as so many people seem to have " discovered" the recordings  and posted them on the internet ?

The understanding of rights at the time of the performance has complicated the release of several gems. The 1977 Live from Lincoln Center of Giselle with Makarova and Baryshnikov was eventually released on VHS, but it took years to go back and get permissions from all the relevant parties. In 1977 (almost) nobody had anticipated the market for these things so it wasn't provided for initially. The 1976 PBS televised performance of Baryshnikov at Wolf Trap was delayed even longer because Kirkland would not give permission; they finally resolved that with the statement included from her at the end. But notice that the opening movement of Push Comes to Shove didn't make it onto the VHS/DVD release, reportedly because Tharp was planning to release the entire ballet on VHS/DVD "Baryshnikov by Tharp." Alas, the Wolf Trap performance included the premiere cast of Tcherkassky and van Hamel, which has never been released commercially.  Now, of course, people know the potential of release on DVD, so they can include that in their initial contract negotiations. 

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