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Winter 2019


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Arlene Croce has a long discussion on LIebeslieder Walzer in Sight Lines and Robert Garis has one in Following Balanchine. Garis thinks it was built around Violette Verdy who had been dramatically effective, particularly so, in Figure in the Carpet, choreographed just prior to Liebeslieder. He says that within the ballroom context couples are playing at being in love (which makes it sound a little like Cotillion, Balanchine's waltz ballet of 1933).

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The play-acting at love often generates the illusion that the couples are actually in love, which often happens in a ballroom... The deeper feelings and meanings arise naturally and easily out of, and in the end fall back into, the social behavior entertaining themselves and each other by flirting, joking, teasing, competing, becoming estranged, coming together again.

Of the part Macaulay discusses, Wohl schon bewandt war es vorehe, Garis says

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Magallanes disturbingly hid his eyes from Verdy with his white gloved hand – something seemed to have gone wrong, they appeared to be almost estranged, and the lack of explanation for these feelings deepened your uneasiness. Then followed a fast pas de trois in which she flirted joyously with both her lover and another man: had the trouble been resolved? or were the lovers merely obeying the social occasion? – by now you could not help asking such questions.

Anyway it's wonderful Liebeslieder is being done again. It would fall out of programming, seemingly to be lost, and then appear again. I saw it with Kyra Nichols, Miranda Weese, Jennifer Ringer and Wendy Whelan in it in 2004 and 2007 (one program consisted of Kammermusik No. 2, Liebeslieder Walzer, Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet). Sometimes I liked to watch it abstractly like a drawing, how it bisected, inscribed and reinscribed the surface of the stage, and how the men were drawing figures on the floor with the toes of their partners. 

PBS somewhere has a recording of the 2004 Balanchine Celebration cast, and Jilliana and Conrad Ludlow have Balanchine interviews on their experiences on Youtube. (Ludlow says his names for the partners were: the Young Couple (Jilliana and Ludlow), the Business couple (Hayden and Watts), the Aristocratic people (Adams and Carter) and the Cultured ones (Verdy and Magallanes.)

Ludlow:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AydZ7jDULik

Edited by Quiggin
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In the Nancy Goldner essay on Liebeslieder, she mentions basing her thoughts on the 1961 recording for Canadian television. Does anyone know where this might be available for viewing, and is it in the archive at the Library for Performing Arts? I've been meaning to visit that archive for years. Maybe now is the time. 

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1 hour ago, cobweb said:

In the Nancy Goldner essay on Liebeslieder, she mentions basing her thoughts on the 1961 recording for Canadian television. Does anyone know where this might be available for viewing, and is it in the archive at the Library for Performing Arts? I've been meaning to visit that archive for years. Maybe now is the time. 

When I was in NYC last for an impromptu day trip from visiting relatives in NJ, I tried to get access there, but they told me I had to request it in advance.  Here's the listing:

https://catalog.nypl.org/search~S99/?searchtype=X&searcharg=liebeslieder+walzer+cbc&searchscope=99&sortdropdown=-&SORT=DZ&extended=0&SUBMIT=Search&searchlimits=&searchorigarg=Xliebeslieder+walzer%26SORT%3DD

It's the original cast, except Patricia McBride dances instead of Melissa Hayden.  If this is the Business Couple, their penultimate pas in Part II to a slow section belies all sense that it's business that holds them together.

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On 3/2/2019 at 12:55 AM, Helene said:

When I was in NYC last for an impromptu day trip from visiting relatives in NJ, I tried to get access there, but they told me I had to request it in advance.  Here's the listing:

 

Thanks, Helene! I watched the snippet that is on youtube last night and intrigued to see the whole performance. The waltzing was so sharp and crisp, somehow different from the recent performances I've seen.

Another question re the Goldner essay. She mentions a photograph "above [her] desk," of Farrell and Lavery in Liebeslieder, "... at the concluding moment of her solo. Lavery clasps her wrists with a kiss, and Farrell's head turns sideways from him." Can anyone identify where this photo might be online? In general, I was searching for images of this ballet online and don't find a whole lot. Would love to also find that startling moment in the first section when (so it seems to me) the Verdy character suddenly and beautifully levitates. 

Edited by cobweb
Verdy, not Adams
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8 hours ago, Helene said:

It's the original cast, except Patricia McBride dances instead of Melissa Hayden.  If this is the Business Couple, their penultimate pas in Part II to a slow section belies all sense that it's business that holds them together.

The Business Couple?!? I had to wipe away more than few tears every time I saw Wendy Whelan and Nikolai Hübbe dance that pas! No couple has packed more yearning and tenderness into those oh-so-simple but oh-so-glorious moments when the man gently lowers his partner to the floor and then even more gently lifts her into an arabesque while she slowly sweeps her foot forward along the floor. 

Since it's beyond description (like the last few moments of the glorious Midsummer Divertissement pas) here's some footage with Lauren Lovette and Jared Angle. The moments I'm trying but failing to describe start at about 23 second mark:

This same couple also get a few iconic moments in the first half when they dance to "Am Donaustrande." To me it always looks like they're recalling a lovely spring day when he pushed her in a swing. 

 

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re: video recordings of LW, there's mention above of a 2004 PBS program with some footage of this ballet, can anyone give further details?

in the case of the CBC '61 recording, as mentioned here in the holdings of the JRDD for viewing on the premises, there seems to have been a time when the CBC released the film on DVD, a college library in NYC has a commercial copy but efforts to track down its current availability have come up empty. 

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2 hours ago, rg said:

re: video recordings of LW, there's mention above of a 2004 PBS program with some footage of this ballet, can anyone give further details?

It's a 15-20 minute segment from "Lincoln Center Celebrates Balanchine 100," hosted by Sarah Jessica Parker. The Liebeslieder cast is Kistler, Nichols, Ringer, Weese, Angle, Hubbe, Neal and Soto. Catalogue description of the NYPL holding:

https://catalog.nypl.org/search/?searchtype=X&searchscope=98&searcharg="lincoln center celebrates balanchine 100"

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So this afternoon's performance of Liebeslieder did not cast the same spell that Thursday and Friday night's performances did. But I'm hopeful that the fact that there is new casting means they might bring this back next year. (I can hope, anyway.) It's hard for me to really pinpoint why the different cast made for such a different performance. The partnering, while not showing glitches that I could see, was perhaps not as fully coordinated, timed on the music, or fleshed out as it should be; I noticed this particularly in the replacement of Joseph Gordon for the stalwart Tyler Angle. Those lifts where he swings the ballerina around from behind, with his outstretched arms held straight under her armpit (sorry for my lack of correct vocabulary here), did not have the amplitude that Tyler gave it. Abi Stafford, who I usually find delightful, looked stiff, heavy, and without a decent arabesque. Even Sara Mearns did not have her usual blaze. I thought the new pairing of Unity Phelan and Taylor Stanley fared best. All in all, I hope they bring it back and everyone gets more rehearsal time. I thought the music and the singers were beautiful, and I hope they bring them back too. In the first two performances, Maria Kowroski was the heart and soul of the piece, with emotional complexity and mystery, not to mention command of every nuance and movement. With her legs mostly hidden under the gown, it was startling and striking when suddenly the shape of her leg became visible through the silk, and then stretched, so it seemed, to the sky. 

Mr. Cobweb says that he could see Liebeslieder "a thousand times." On the other hand, he is not a fan of Prodigal Son. While much admiring the intense and musical performance of Daniel Ulbricht, he complains that the narrative distorts, if not perverts, the true meaning of the parable of the prodigal son, and instead positively wallows in the lurid. (Similar to Salome, the opera.) True, I think. But, taken on its own terms, so delicious to see!

Edited by cobweb
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10 minutes ago, cobweb said:

So this afternoon's performance of Liebeslieder did not cast the same spell that Thursday and Friday night's performances did. But I'm hopeful that the fact that there is new casting means they might bring this back next year. (I can hope, anyway.)

Sigh. Liebeslieder is like Halley's Ballet: it only comes around every seven seasons. This wouldn't be the first time that NYCB threw a bunch of new dancers at Liebeslieder for a single performance at the tail end of the season and then didn't bother to give them a chance to dance in it again until three years later (if then). The last time this happened I had the same happy thought you did, cobweb, but alas it wasn't to be.

I agree that today's performance was a uncharacteristically muted, which I chalked up to a mostly new cast. It looked as if they hadn't quite sorted out who they were, or at least, how to convey who they were. The vocal quartet and the two pianists were very, very good, however. 

 

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9 hours ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

here's some footage with Lauren Lovette and Jared Angle

Thank you for that footage, Kathleen!  I wonder why Lauren didn't dance this time. 

PS. I also have great difficulty describing the particular moments in this piece. 

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14 hours ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

Sigh. Liebeslieder is like Halley's Ballet: it only comes around every seven seasons. 

 

Yes.  Ditto with Robert Schumann's Davidbundertanze.  I guess audiences are more into electronica music (Times are Racing) and hiphop lyrics (Runaway) than "old fashioned" masterpieces.

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21 hours ago, Quiggin said:

It's a 15-20 minute segment from "Lincoln Center Celebrates Balanchine 100," hosted by Sarah Jessica Parker. The Liebeslieder cast is Kistler, Nichols, Ringer, Weese, Angle, Hubbe, Neal and Soto. Catalogue description of the NYPL holding:

https://catalog.nypl.org/search/?searchtype=X&searchscope=98&searcharg="lincoln center celebrates balanchine 100"

many thanks for this information; it's much appreciated.

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1 minute ago, cobweb said:

Can anyone clarify for me the roles in Liebeslieder Walzer, relative to the original cast? I got confused about which was which. In cast with Kowroski, Bouder, Hyltin, and Laracey, which was which? Thanks for any help!

Kowroski = Diana Adams role (later danced by Suzanne Farrell)

Hyltin = Melissa Hayden role (later associated with Patricia McBride)

Bouder = Violette Verdy role

Laracey = Jilana role

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On 3/2/2019 at 6:07 PM, cobweb said:

Abi Stafford, who I usually find delightful, looked stiff, heavy, and without a decent arabesque.

How has she looked the rest of the season? I haven't seen much of her this year and just assumed she was nursing a mild injury or having an 'off' day. It's a shame because I always find this couple the most ambiguous of the Liebeslieder couples.

I did love Daniel Applebaum as her partner in this. His innate elegance and splendid épaulement is always a highlight for me. He and Stanley were a joy to watch. 

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2 hours ago, Inge said:

How has she looked the rest of the season? I haven't seen much of her this year and just assumed she was nursing a mild injury or having an 'off' day. It's a shame because I always find this couple the most ambiguous of the Liebeslieder couples.

I did love Daniel Applebaum as her partner in this. His innate elegance and splendid épaulement is always a highlight for me. He and Stanley were a joy to watch. 

Stafford was an okayish Polyhymnia. But she barely dances. It's hard to stay in shape when you're barely onstage. She also has a young child at home and goes to law school. I think she's transitioning out of her ballet career slowly. 

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A great ballet does not depend on the effectiveness of its original or any single cast to produce an impact: it proves its worth on the stage continually. Neither on this run nor the previous one did the dancers of NYCB have the slightest difficulty in convincing that Liebeslieder Walzer is a great ballet. Grasping its manifold intricacies, however, requires numerous viewings. The paucity of its performances by the company is consequently annoying.

Several observations on what I saw—

For the second time in a year, Ashley Laracey’s impersonation of a woman from a bygone era—in this instance the nineteenth century—proved profoundly moving. Observing her (as closely as possible) throughout was sheer enchantment. In particular, Laracey’s masterly performance during the first pas de deux of her character with that of Justin Peck’s—complete with strikingly elegant placement and movement of arms, hands, and head—proffered a sublime distillation of what Liebeslieder Walzer and ballet in general are all about.

Casting a young soloist such as Unity Phelan in such a challenging role was a courageous yet praiseworthy decision. Her dramatic take on the character was keenly affecting, and contrasted markedly with the merrier interpretation of the same woman by the seasoned Sterling Hyltin.

Customary marvelous touches and brilliant dancing characterized Tiler Peck's portrayal of the role originated by Violette Verdy. No one in the current NYCB roster matches her capacity to consistently accent choreographic sequences so exquisitely.

During the first part of the ballet the dancing by Sara Mearns occasionally appeared somewhat overdone in an elegant 19th century drawing room setting. During her long sequence with the character depicted by Russell Janzen in part two, however, her ardent, supernal dancing—especially considering her incredible, extraordinarily busy week—was nothing short of phenomenal.

 

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