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Bolshoi 2019/20 Season

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New productions include 3 one-act ballets and Ratmansky's reconstructed (presumably) "Giselle."  The company will tour Oman and Taiwan in addition to already announced DC and Chicago.

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re. Giselle by Ratmansky, the article states that this will be "a new choreographic edition." So it could be totally new or it could be "new-old," using the Stepanov Harvard notes.

Didn't Doug Fullington work with the Harvard notes on a partially-reconstructed version of Giselle for Pacific NW Ballet, a while ago?

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The scope for the PNB reconstruction went a lot farther than the Petipa choreography: Doug Fullington worked with musicologist Marian Smith to analyze mutiple sources, including the original score, which had notes about the mine/action, not just the music, librettist.sources and influence, historical and artistic context, descriptions of the original, a notebook found with stage direction and patterns -- if I remember correctly, this was from a revival not that far from the original production, but not the original production.

In addition, Boal made his editorial choices, like retaining the big sustained overhead lifts instead of the in motion lifts that match the original score and tempi*, explaining that the audience expected them, just like Ratmanski chose to include fish dives in his historical Sleeping Beauty.

*I am harping on this point, because I really like the original better, but understand that audiences feel cheated on this point.

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a notebook found with stage direction and patterns -- if I remember correctly, this was from a revival not that far from the original production, but not the original production.

This is Henri Justamant's notation of "Giselle". Marian Smith's belief that Justamant could have been supervising the last run of "Giselles" in Paris in 1868 is incorrect and that, thus, the manuscript, now at Köln, may be a witness to the final form "Giselle" took in the 19th Century in Paris. Justamant's "Giselle" is, incidentally, for a somewhat smaller ensemble than the original 1841 production at Académie Royale de Musique and, in 1863, the reprise of "Giselle" in Paris, for Marthe Mourawieff, saw the introduction of new dances and increasing the size of some ensembles.

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In addition, Boal made his editorial choices, like retaining the big sustained overhead lifts instead of the in motion lifts that match the original score and tempi*, explaining that the audience expected them, just like Ratmanski chose to include fish dives in his historical Sleeping Beauty.

Ratmansky was reproducing the "Sleeping Princess" of 1921, thus the fish dives were entirely appropriate, not the original "Sleeping Beauty".

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Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, Laurent said:

Ratmansky was reproducing the "Sleeping Princess" of 1921, thus the fish dives were entirely appropriate, not the original "Sleeping Beauty".

Is this correct? The set and costume designs of Ratmansky's production were based on the Bakst designs, but I understood his choreography to have been an attempt to reach back earlier, not to replicate what was danced in 1921. I believe he acknowledged that the fish dives were ahistorical. (And at least one cast performed it without them, as in the original.)

Edited by nanushka

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Posted (edited)

I have to say that I was also under the impression that Ratmansky's production of the Sleeping Beauty for ABT was an attempt to stage  the ballet using the earliest notated version of the choreographic text which dates from the early years of the twentieth century and that the fish dives in the third act pas de deux were a concession to audience expectations. If Ratmansky had been engaged in an attempt to stage the "Sleeping Princess" as seen in London in 1921 I should have expected at the very least to have seen not only Bakst inspired designs and the fish dives but  Nijinska's choreography used for Violente's variation in the Prologue and an attempt to stage a pas de trois in act 3 rather than the  Jewel Fairies. Nijinska's choreography for the fifth Fairy Variation would have been easy to reconstruct as de Valois included it in her 1977 production of The Sleeping Beauty which was filmed for television in1978. She was rather attached to that version of the variation as it was the one she herself had danced. There are several former members of the Royal Ballet Company still alive who danced it in that form who would be perfectly capable of providing any additional assistance that might be required in reconstructing it. As far as the choreography of the Ratmansky reconstruction is concerned, in performance, the decision about whether the fish dives were to be performed and the version of the prince's variation which was to be  danced  seemed to lie with the dancers themselves.

As far as Ratmansky's Giselle is concerned if it is an attempt to reconstruct the ballet based on the Harvard notations, it will be interesting to see whether or not he dares to abandon the high lifts in favour of the original ground skimming ones which Markova spoke about in a masterclass on British television the best part of forty years ago. The modern version is far more spectacular than the earlier version and from a purely practical perspective there is only so far a stager/ choreographer dare go in revising the text of a favourite ballet if it means denying the audience the sight of those sections of the text which they have come to love and to which they are most attached. The nature and extent of this problem was exemplified in the reaction to Vaziev's reconstruction of The Sleeping Beauty for the Mariinsky all those years ago.

Edited by Ashton Fan

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3 hours ago, Ashton Fan said:

As far as the choreography of the Ratmansky reconstruction is concerned, in performance, the decision about whether the fish dives were to be performed and the version of the prince's variation which was to be  danced  seemed to lie with the dancers themselves.

There were also two different versions of the Lilac Fairy's variation danced, as I recall.

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Posted (edited)

I actually really enjoy the current Giselle at Bolshoi. I hope Ratmansky doesn't change too much, I really can't stand his Sleeping Beauty at ABT. 

Edited by annaewgn

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20 hours ago, nanushka said:

Is this correct? The set and costume designs of Ratmansky's production were based on the Bakst designs, but I understood his choreography to have been an attempt to reach back earlier, not to replicate what was danced in 1921. I believe he acknowledged that the fish dives were a historical. (And at least one cast performed it without them, as in the original.)

It is very appealing to me! I thought the “Rose Adagio balancing” is kept by Ratmansky for audiences’ interests, though, not original. Is the fish diving also the same case. 😊

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21 hours ago, nanushka said:

Is this correct? The set and costume designs of Ratmansky's production were based on the Bakst designs, but I understood his choreography to have been an attempt to reach back earlier, not to replicate what was danced in 1921. 

This is correct.

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From The Guardian (Judith Mackrell)

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Ratmansky believes he’s got closer to aspects of the original 1890 choreography than any other contemporary production – reconstructing details and style which over the decades have been smoothed over, modernised, made more generically “ballet”.

He’s done so by using the notation with which Beauty was recorded in 1903 by the ballet master Nicholas Sergeyev. There are few choreographers alive who can even read this notation (which was developed by Vladimir Stepanov in the 1890s).

 

From Dance Tabs (Jann Parry)

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Ratmansky’s research into Petipa’s original intentions was not to the taste of audiences accustomed to Rudolf Nureyev’s grandiose production for the Paris Opera Ballet. Dance critics, however, revelled in the nuances of academic technique that Ratmansky and ABT have restored.

I was initially disconcerted by what seemed a compromise between an attempted reconstruction of an Imperial Russian ballet and an acknowledgement of contemporary expectations. So, no high extensions (except for arabesques penchées) but fish dives and balances that were later additions – and some interpolated choreography that looks very like Frederick Ashton’s for the Royal Ballet...

How different is ABT’s production from the Sleeping Beauties of the Royal Ballet and English National Ballet (both of which are similar)? Ratmansky decoded the Stepanov notation from the 1890s, now housed in a Harvard library, in order to retrieve Petipa’s choreography as nearly as possible. He and his wife also studied the early-Cecchetti style of dancing, before ballet technique became increasingly acrobatic. The result, carefully imparted to ABT’s dancers, looks Ashtonian in its speedy footwork, supple use of the torso and lavish épaulement. It’s quite close to how the Royal Ballet used to dance de Valois’s productions of The Sleeping Beauty, based on Nikolai Sergeyev’s notes and memory of the Imperial Ballet stagings he knew.

 

From The New Yorker (Joan Acocella):

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In the case of “The Sleeping Beauty,” there was plenty of archival material for him to stick his nose into, above all, two hundred and thirty pages of notation of the choreography, housed in the Harvard Theatre Collection. Executed in St. Petersburg and dated 1903 to 1905—that is, thirteen to fifteen years after the ballet’s première—the notations could be counted on to be fairly faithful to Petipa’s original choreography...

As he told me, however, accuracy was not his primary concern. What he wanted above all was just to look this famous old ballet in the face, insofar as he could. “I was interested to find out: What is Petipa? What is ‘Sleeping Beauty’?” So he and his wife, Tatiana Ratmansky—she is a former ballet dancer, trained in Kiev, and assists Ratmansky—taught themselves the notation system in question (Stepanov notation, a nineteenth-century form, now obsolete), and then spent a month studying the movement score, step by step.

 

From The New York Times (Marina Harss):

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Every aspect of this production looks to the ballet’s past. For the steps, Mr. Ratmansky has mined a collection of ballet notations recorded shortly after the 1890 premiere. But his sense of history is fluid; he also drew upon other, later productions.

Following this hybrid approach, he chose to model the décors on a famous 1921 staging by Serge Diaghilev for the Ballets Russes. The designs were by Léon Bakst, a Russian avant-gardist with art nouveau tendencies.

 

and Michael Cooper's article for The New York Times:

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If many of the steps hark back to the ballet’s earliest days, the production’s sets and costumes, by Richard Hudson, the Tony Award-winning designer, were inspired by another revered production: the financially ill-fated, but highly influential one that Léon Bakst created for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in London in 1921, which was retitled “The Sleeping Princess.”

Cooper also discusses the changes and choices Hudson made, with quotes.

To summarize, for the choreography, he (and his wife) started with the 1903 and 1905 notations as the basis of the production, and he made choices to include later choreography, including from The Sleeping Princess, and because of the research into Cecchetti style, the style resembled the early production in Great Britain.  For the costumes, Hudson used the Bakst for The Sleeping Princess as the basis. 

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Is this correct? The set and costume designs of Ratmansky's production were based on the Bakst designs, but I understood his choreography to have been an attempt to reach back earlier, not to replicate what was danced in 1921.

He couldn't "replicate" it, even if he wanted. But he retained its essential core, plus some inessentials, like the fish-dives.

What goes into a ballet production? The short answer is: libretto, music, scenery, costumes, choreography. The libretto was nothing but an adaptation of a classic French fairy tale, "La belle au bois dormant", that saw a number of stage adaptations before, including a wonderful ballet-féerie by Aumer and Hérold with Lise Noblet and Marie Taglioni. Leaving the libretto aside, we are left with the remaining four. Of those four, when we talk about the original "Sleeping Beauty" of 1890, the scenery and costumes were decidedly the winners, and the choreography came dead last.

The 1921 production had completely new scenery and costumes, N.K. Serguéev was involved in the production. For the production, he used the notations his team made some 13-15 years after the 1890 première. Exactly the same notations Ratmansky was using. André Levinson' testimony leaves absolutely no doubt about the fact that the "texte chorégraphique" of the 1921 production was based on those notations:

Pour le texte chorégraphique Diaghilev pouvait s’appuyer en toute confiance sur les notations et tracés conservés par le régisseur Serguéev et surtout sur les souvenirs des exécutants.

These words come from the best informed ballet critic who saw the Mariinsky production and the Alhambra production.

The greatest complaint both from the critics and from the balletomane public against the original choreography was that there was so little of it. The decision was made to augment the text by additional numbers. Nijinska was credited with it, but only to the trained eye of André Levinson we owe the information that, for example, the text she used for the variation of Fée de lilas was, in fact, Ivanov's, whose name did not appear on the affiche. The variation of Fée de lilas, presumably one from the notation, was still seen at Alhambra, it was assigned by Nijinska to the new fairy, the "Fairy of the Mountain Ash", that appeared just before Fée de lilas. There is little doubt the reason for this was that the original Fée de lilas variation was considered too insignificant. Nijinska's decision paid off. The Fée de lilas made the greatest impression on the critics of all the roles (!). She eclipsed even Aurore (!)

Nijinska also did some "restoration" work. She reinstated the Aurore "Néréide" variation that was excised before the 1890 première.

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I believe he acknowledged that the fish dives were a historical.

The fish-dives were very much "historical", they came from the expanding execution practice. Pierre Vladimiroff, the Prince in the 1921 production, wanted them. Such things should be considered in the same lighty as ornamental flourishes in the musical virtuoso practice, left, usually, to the artiste.

Ratmansky, for obvious reasons, decided not to use Ivanov's variation, the "Nutcracker" is too well known to today's public. He used what is reliably known to have been the basis for the 1921 production, the Serguéev notations. That they were used for the 1921 production is certain. What is not certain is how do they correspond to the original chorégraphic text of 1890. No production in those times was ever a "replica," not even a replica of oneself. The actual text could undergo changes from one night to another, some things added, some excised, some changed. This was happening even when the principals stayed the same. When the roles were being passed from one performer to the next one, the adjustments were even more likely. It was then part of the ballet master's responsibilities to make adjustments for a given artiste. Finally, one must weigh in the factor of generally felt dissatisfaction with the choreography of the 1890 production, expressed both by the critics and by the audience. A distinctly likely possibility is that Marius Petipa addressed those criticisms, and he could have been making various alterations, up until 1903, the time of his retirement and the time when the notators of Sleeping Beauty began their work.

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Basing a production on the same source material, even heavily so, is not that same as "reproducing the 'Sleeping Princess' of 1921."  Had he wanted to reproduce "The Sleeping Princess" of 1921, it would have been a lot less work.

 

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Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, Laurent said:

The 1921 production had completely new scenery and costumes, N.K. Serguéev was involved in the production. For the production, he used the notations his team made some 13-15 years after the 1890 première. Exactly the same notations Ratmansky was using...

...

[Ratmansky] used what is reliably known to have been the basis for the 1921 production, the Serguéev notations. That they were used for the 1921 production is certain. What is not certain is how do they correspond to the original chorégraphic text of 1890. ...

Right. So both the 1921 production and Ratmansky's production were based on an earlier source. I’m not aware of any published commentary  indicating that Ratmansky was aiming to reproduce the 1921 Sleeping Princess in terms of choreography. Rather, it’s my understanding that he was aiming for Petipa, via Sergeyev (the closest he could get).

Edited by nanushka

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Posted (edited)

The 1921 production and the Ratmansky's production were not based on an "earlier source". They were based on the same source. If a person who saw the original production of 1890, the reprise of 1914 and the production of 1921 was brought back to life and shown the Ratmansky's production, he would most definitely think that Ratmansky modelled his on the 1921 production. The difference is, if we are talking about the text, which is only a fraction of the grand ballet-féerie production, in 1921 Serguéev knew well what was in the notation, while Ratmansky and his collaborators were often only left to guessing and they were facing the serious problem of partly notated pas or not notated at all. Secondly, several of the people who knew the text by heart were involved in the 1921 production. André Levinson, who saw very recently "Sleeping Beauty" at Mariinsky, is a witness to the faithfulness of the 1921 production. I do not understand the meaning of the statement about "would have been a lot less work". My guess it would be more, or, rather, it would be an impossible task, besides being pointless. To make myself clear, my information is based on the direct knowledge of the material I am talking about, not on publicity statements or what media made out of it. Ratmansky took the visuals of the 1921 production, and in the case of the original Sleeping Beauty the visuals were the main factor contributing to its appeal and popularity, he took the core text, for obvious reasons, some of them explained above, he wasn't interested in Nijinska's additions, he even retained the execution tricks à la Pierre Vladimiroff from the 1921 production. All of this means he modelled his production on the 1921 production.

Edited by Laurent

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By "earlier source," I'm pretty certain @nanushka meant an earlier source than the 1921 production.

Ratmansky started from scratch: he went back to the original sources after teaching himself how to read the notation and he did a lot more research in addition: he did not simply interview everyone who had seen the 1921 production or had been coached by people who had been in it nor did he rely solely upon research on the 1921 production in order to replicate it, which would have been a lot less work.  The journalists linked above who reported on the production include Ratmansky's biographer, and when she writes that he started with the notations and added material from later production(s), I believe her and her source.

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9 hours ago, Helene said:

The journalists linked above who reported on the production include Ratmansky's biographer, and when she writes that he started with the notations and added material from later production(s), I believe her and her source.

Better yet, we have Ratmansky’s own words (emphases added):

Quote

I had other sources to look at: pre-war Ballet Russe films from Australia, old Royal Ballet films and Russian productions of different times. Also many details came from the original reviews, drawings, evidence, pictures and so on. So much is written about Sleeping Beauty, you know. But the primary source was, of course, the notations.

The names that are mentioned in the notes take your breath away: Kshessinska, Gerdt, Marie Petipa, Pavlova, Karsavina, Trefilova, Egorova, Vaganova, Legat. All of them prepared their parts with Petipa, so it is safe to say it is the closest we can get to the ‘authentic’ text.

Shouldn’t we dig in and reveal the real Petipa to see, to learn, to compare? I have no doubt it’s a must.

Q: You’ve chosen to diverge from the original production in some aspects—why?

Well, we’re not using the original designs. We don’t have the original number of people. We have fewer. That is our reality. It gave us the right, so to speak, to accommodate some later additions to the text, the historically important ones, like the balances in the Rose Adagio, with the two arms up en couronne (they weren’t done that way until Margot Fonteyn). It’s one of the most well-known moments in Sleeping Beauty. Also the fish dives in the third act pas de deux. 

Diaghilev and his 1921 team, which consisted of Bakst, Sergeev, Nijinska and Stravinsky, adored Petipa’s original and knew it very well. But Diaghilev wouldn’t be Diaghilev if he didn’t change things. So the result was a considerable departure from the original. Our biggest challenge was to balance the notated steps and Petipa’s choreographic intentions (which was a priority) and the Bakst designs.

It is clear from these comments that, while the Bakst designs were the basis for Ratmansky's physical production, he viewed Petipa (via Sergeyev), not the 1921 production, as his choreographic urtext. He clearly viewed any departures from the original Petipa choreography and style (to the extent that he was able to discern Petipa's intentions) — including those that brought him in line with certain elements of the dancing in the 1921 production, such as the fish dives — as just that: departureschangesaccommodations (he uses all three of those terms). That would not be the case if, indeed, it were true that, in terms of choreography...

On 5/11/2019 at 11:00 AM, Laurent said:

Ratmansky was reproducing the "Sleeping Princess" of 1921...

As has been pointed out, a ballet production has multiple distinct (though certainly interconnected) elements:

23 hours ago, Laurent said:

What goes into a ballet production? The short answer is: libretto, music, scenery, costumes, choreography.

It is clear from Ratmansky's comments that he had different intentions when it came to those different elements — and particularly when it came to the last (choreography) in comparison with the preceding two (scenery, costumes).

Edited by nanushka

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Suppose somebody indeed wanted to 'replicate' the 1921 production (on the side: I don't think it is useful to apply the verb 'replicate' to ballet productions in view of what I wrote earlier). The issue of the text immediately arises and I don't see how this issue can be solved on the basis of 'interviewing everyone who had seen the 1921 production' and similar activities. Those folks, if we could find any, would be over 100 years old. How many would be able to describe in detail the steps. In any case, there wouldn't be any need for this, since there are very detailed descriptions and sketches, documenting what was happening on the stage at Alhambra, all of this was done over a number of representations, the notes and sketches are stored at Blythe House where the Victoria and Albert archives are located. These materials must be studied and, no doubt, they were diligently studied also by Ratmansky. Yet, these are no more than secondary sources for the purpose of establishing the text. As secondary witnesses they are invaluable, none of this, however, would solve the question of establishing the actual text.

There is only one primary source today, let's give it its proper name, not some legendary "original" source but the unit MS Thr 245 (204) of the Harvard Collection, one of the 94 units that contain materials in Stepanov notation. So, whatever the "intentions", whatever the publicity statements, if the production was meant to count as a reconstruction, it had to be based on it. In view of its imperfections, omissions, lacunae, in view of our incomplete mastery of the Stepanov system itself, as it was used in the notations of the Harvard Collection, every other piece of evidence also had to be, of course, collected and evaluated.

The end result is the production that reuses the scenery, reuses the costumes, reuses the core text of the 1921 production. It even reuses the execution flourishes of Pierre Vladimiroff from the 1921 production. If I understand, you are saying "None of this was intended. It just happened". Let it be. My interests and expertise are in the area of ballet archeology, not psychology.

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Ratmansky's production also uses the core text on which the 1921 production was based.

I'm hardly saying that anything "just happened."  That he came to some of the same conclusions hardly means that his intention going in was to start with them and tinker, aside from input he had into Hudson's explicit decision to use the 1921 designs as his starting point.

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Posted (edited)
37 minutes ago, Helene said:

Ratmansky's production also uses the core text on which the 1921 production was based.

Yes, if production A is based on a core text and later production B is based on that same core text, it does not follow that production B is "reproducing" production A.

These two statements...

12 hours ago, Laurent said:

They were based on the same source.

and

On 5/11/2019 at 11:00 AM, Laurent said:

Ratmansky was reproducing the "Sleeping Princess" of 1921...

...are not synonymous.

Edited by nanushka

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Posted (edited)

Just an aside to remark that Hudson’s designs are listed as “inspired by” Bakst. I don’t think they claim to be and I don’t think they are reconstructions or literal reproductions of Bakst’s designs. I understand that would be more or less impossible anyway, but I think Hudson didn’t even really try to be more than  “inspired by”....and certainly I have doubts the overall Bakst stage picture would have looked like what we saw at ABT. Perhaps Ratmansky’s mix of (impossible to fully achieve) purism regarding some things and outright eclecticism regarding others inevitably is going to produce a lot of debate. 

(In the theater I found the production enjoyable, and Ratmansky always gets wonderful responses from ABT’s dancers. I don’t think it is a production that would make sense at the Bolshoi. And I would be a little surprised if Ratmansky tried for a “purist” reconstruction of Giselle there—whatever that even would mean to him. But surely his production will be strongly impacted by his historical research as well as his theatrical/choreographic powers. Of course, I could be wrong; we will find out soon enough.)

Edited by Drew

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Stumbled upon this while looking for more info on the live screening today (May 19.) Thought I would share it here since the article above made no mention of the cinema relays. I've transcribed the dates below:

May 19 2019 - Carmen Suite / Petrushka
Oct 27 2019 - Raymonda
Nov 17 2019 - Le Corsaire * Previously Recorded
Dec 15 2019 - The Nutcracker * Previously Recorded
Jan 26 2020 - Giselle (Ratmansky Production)
Feb 23 2020 - Swan Lake
Mar 29 2020 - Romeo and Juliet *Previously Recorded
April 19 2020 - Jewels

I'm delighted that we'll be getting a cinema broadcast of the new Giselle, and I'm curious to see who is ultimately cast in what is being advertised on the website as a "new cast" for Swan Lake. (No Zakharova?)

I was hoping we'd get the new Klug (his upcoming adaptation of The Master & Margarita) but that premiere is set for May 21 2020—perhaps technically, then, there's still hope we might get it in the 20/21 cinema season.

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Will there also be a new cast of Carmen/ Perushka? Or will they just replay the one from this year as they did with this year's Sleeping Beauty? I would kill for such a high quality video of a couple Bolshoi Carmens...

 

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2 hours ago, ellecatalano said:

Will there also be a new cast of Carmen/ Perushka? Or will they just replay the one from this year as they did with this year's Sleeping Beauty? I would kill for such a high quality video of a couple Bolshoi Carmens...

 

I don't think they are repeating the Carmen/Petrushka program for next year's broadcasts--the May 2019 broadcast performance was included in the list above of 2019/2020 showings given above, but (as far as I understand) there is no broadcast of that program (repeat or otherwise) planned for the 2019-2020 season.

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