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ABT 2019 Sleeping Beauty


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2 hours ago, fondoffouettes said:

My main criticisms of the reconstruction are more about the physical production itself. While I like the overall aesthetic of the production, there are some costumes I'm not so fond of (while not offensive, I find Aurora's Act I costume to be a bit of a letdown). Also, I think it's a real missed opportunity that the panorama was not reconstructed. I'm sure it came down to $$$, and perhaps moving backdrops wouldn't be exciting to modern-day audiences, but I think it could have been so magical. Perhaps it would have been an opportunity to use a modern-day technology -- projections -- to recreate 19th-century stagecraft.

I haven't seen Ratmansky's reconstruction yet, and so will not speak to that, but I did want to raise my hand for your suggestion about using modern-day stage technology to create a similar effect.  The panorama music is so lovely that I would hate to lose it, but most productions I've seen have a real "twiddling our thumbs" sense to the stage action during that scene.

And I will say that there's still an audience for the old-school effects.  Pacific Northwest Ballet's old Nutcracker (choreography by Kent Stowell and designs by Maurice Sendak) had a panorama and a wave effect in a toy theater frame during the "traveling to the Land of the Sweets," and it got big applause every time I saw it.

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6 hours ago, sandik said:

And I will say that there's still an audience for the old-school effects.  Pacific Northwest Ballet's old Nutcracker (choreography by Kent Stowell and designs by Maurice Sendak) had a panorama and a wave effect in a toy theater frame during the "traveling to the Land of the Sweets," and it got big applause every time I saw it.

OT, but there's currently an exhibition at New York's Morgan Library of Sendak's stage designs. Zachary Woolfe has a write-up in the Times.

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I think that the design is dreary and the costumes are bulky and awkward.  Better than the "Barbie Sleeping Beauty by Mattel" look of the Kirkland production (remember that Aurora was the daughter of the Burger King?, the daisies on the suspenders the boys wore in the Garland Dance and the Scottish Prince in purple tartan with maribou accents? - he was FABULOUS!!!)  However, not all ballerinas looked comfortable or happy with the demi-pointe especially for chainés, the low arabesques and extensions.  Gillian Murphy looked cramped like she was dancing with sandbags tied around her legs and it put a cloud over her performance.  Her body didn't want to do the steps that way.  Paloma Herrera, who was a very good Aurora back in the day in earlier ABT productions, was assigned the Ratmansky Beauty for her farewell and refused to dance it in New York - she chose to leave ABT in a Wednesday matinee Giselle with Bolle.  Actually, the smaller scale 19th century technique helped Hee Seo who is pretty limited and low impact technically.  Though Hee couldn't do the Rose Adagio balances usually - once she fell backward and had to be caught by the foreign prince.  Boylston and Lane have adjusted to it well and so did late career Vishneva.  Also the variation for Prince Desiré with all those Bournonville-type leg batterie looks good on short compact dancers like Cornejo and Gorak but was awkward for tall guys with longer legs like Marcelo Gomes.  In Petipa's day they were unabashed about substituting choreography to suit the dancer.  If the ballerina could do a certain step a certain way, I am sure Petipa would have accommodated the prima most of the time and adjusted his choreography.

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I saw three performances the year of the premiere (including Vishneva-Gomes) and have never returned. I agree with FauxPas' assessment. The dancers seemed so uncomfortable with all that demi-pointe and the heavy knee-length skirts. I missed the higher extensions that we are used to.

(Balanchine and Robbins were known to alter choreography to show off a dancer's strengths, and I didn't know Petipa did  the same thing. E.g., in Robbins' Four Seasons, he did two entirely different male variations for Martins and Baryshnikov in the premiere season.)

For the sake of dance history, it was interesting to see, but it isn't something I yearn to see again as a balletomane.

I've been trying to figure out why I liked Ratmansky's reconstruction of Swan Lake for Zurich and La Scala and am eager to see it again. Importantly for me, the original had much more complex and interesting ensemble work in Acts I and II that has disappeared in contemporary versions, perhaps to cut the length. The white swan PdD is transformed into a pas de trois with help on the partnering from Benno, which was really interesting. The virtuoso fouettes were there, along with most of the virtuoso moves we expect in the ballroom scene. The knee-length skirts did not seem so heavy and cumbersome as they do in Sleeping Beauty.

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1 hour ago, FauxPas said:

Also the variation for Prince Desiré with all those Bournonville-type leg batterie looks good on short compact dancers like Cornejo and Gorak but was awkward for tall guys with longer legs like Marcelo Gomes.

I remember always being dissatisfied with the male variation in the Kirkland production because there was so much "standing around" in the preparations for steps (turns, jumps, etc.); it always seemed like the clearest example for me of a common weakness in a certain style of classical male variation, which seems more like sequences of steps rather than actual dancing. I really appreciate the musicality and kineticism of the reconstructed variation.

ETA:  I'll be very curious to see how Bell does with it, as it's true that it's tended to best suit mostly the shorter dancers. Of course, every variation in every production (at least those in which substantial changes aren't made from dancer to dancer) suits some who are cast better than others.

30 minutes ago, California said:

The dancers seemed so uncomfortable with all that demi-pointe and the heavy knee-length skirts.

I think the dancers (from corps up through principals) have really grown into the style since the first year, and I've heard some of them comment in various contexts on the benefits for their dancing generally of the necessary learning they had to do. I think it's a type of rigor that has been good for this company especially — all studying a common style and striving to recreate it.

For me, as others have noted, the physical production is the least likable thing about the overall production. Too many of the costumes feel too heavy. I get that this is attributable to the lavishness of both the Bakst designs and Florestan's court, but it's not to my personal taste as a dressing for dance.

Edited by nanushka
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@California Ratmansky has altered and revised this "Beauty" every season it has been revived.  The first year Part as the Lilac Fairy did a solo variation in the prologue that the Harvard collection Sergeyeff notations said was performed by Marie Petipa II from the 1890 premiere - it was mainly posing and minimal pointe work.  (the beauteous Marie Petipa II was mainly a character dancer who according to Ekaterina Vazem had not gone through the full training program at the Imperial Ballet School.)  Other ballerinas did a Lilac variation from the Sergeyeff notes credited to Lyubov Egorova that was more demanding.  Part did a different variation the next year when she returned as Lilac.  Also the revival season had new character dances in the Act III Wedding Scene that Bronislava Nijinska had devised for the Diaghilev production in London - one was a Russian Dance for the Five Ivans that used music from "The Nutcracker".   Also, some of the low arabesques and demi-pointe had been toned down.  The difficult solo male variation for Prince Desiré in Act III was the one performed by Nicholas Legat when he danced it in a revival at the Maryinsky.  Gerdt probably did something simpler.  Frankly, I had wildly conflicting feelings about it in its first season (less when I saw it with Gomes/Vishneva) but liked it better in the revival seasons.  Ratmansky's modifications and the dancers' increasing comfort with the alien style made it cohere better.  I think Ratmansky might have relented a bit about the low legs and demi-pointe too.

I actually think that the NYCB has a prettier production with better design.  Don't like the speeded up tempos and rushed dancing there though.

Edited by FauxPas
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Thanks, @FauxPas This is sounding like a work in progress, continually.

Ratmansky just posted another new thing on his public Facebook just now (not clear if ABT is already doing this):

SLEEPING BEAUTY: another important Petipa moment which is usually omitted that we were able to bring back - is when Aurora balances in attitude in the shell, like Venus of Botticelli, during pas d'action of the Vision scene. the whole auditorium freezes and my heart beats faster. it's pure magic (when done well)

No photo description available.
 
 
 
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3 minutes ago, California said:

Thanks, @FauxPas This is sounding like a work in progress, continually.

Ratmansky just posted another new thing on his public Facebook just now (not clear if ABT is already doing this):

SLEEPING BEAUTY: another important Petipa moment which is usually omitted that we were able to bring back - is when Aurora balances in attitude in the shell, like Venus of Botticelli, during pas d'action of the Vision scene. the whole auditorium freezes and my heart beats faster. it's pure magic (when done well)

Yes, ABT has always done that part in the reconstruction. It's interesting that Ratmansky acknowledges "when done well," since ballerinas seemed to have about a 50% success rate with the balancing device. But yes, when done well, it appears as if she's balancing for a preternaturally long time. Interestingly, I seem to recall that Seo, who can struggle with balances, did very well in the balancing device. 

Edited by fondoffouettes
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That toe pedestal effect in the Vision Scene was always in the production.  I also saw the same effect in the new/old Vikharev reconstruction with the Mariinsky when it toured to New York.  In the standard Kirov Konstantin Sergeyev and other later British and Soviet productions the effect was done without the toe hold platform by having Aurora go up on pointe in arabesque and pose and the Lilac Fairy  would support her by rotating her with her lilac walking stick. 

Edited by FauxPas
Mistakes
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14 minutes ago, FauxPas said:

@California Ratmansky has altered and revised this "Beauty" every season it has been revived. ...

Also the revival season had new character dances in the Act III Wedding Scene that Bronislava Nijinska had devised for the Diaghilev production in London - one was a Russian Dance for the Five Ivans that used music from "The Nutcracker". 

I could be wrong but I believe the more substantial wedding scene changes were not done when the full ballet was revived but rather when Act III was done as Aurora’s Wedding as part of the Tchaikovsky program in 2017. My guess is they will not be included as part of the full ballet.

Edited by nanushka
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20 minutes ago, California said:

Thanks, @FauxPas This is sounding like a work in progress, continually.

True. After all, no reconstruction of history is definitive. I like that Ratmansky has remained engaged in it — and that continual engagement surely pays off in the quality of the performances in successive years, unlike with productions where the original creator takes a back seat in revivals.

Thanks for the FB posts btw. I’m not on there anymore so would miss these. 

Edited by nanushka
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1 hour ago, nanushka said:

I could be wrong but I believe the more substantial wedding scene changes were not done when the full ballet was revived but rather when Act III was done as Aurora’s Wedding as part of the Tchaikovsky program in 2017. My guess is they will not be included as part of the full ballet.

That was the intention. In the end, the only Nijinska-1921  bit revived by Ratmansky was the Chinese pas de trois (Porcelain Princesses and man). We also had the Three Ivans by Ninette de Valois but that was already widely known from Royal Ballet versions. I remember having been disappointed that Ratmansky had gone the easy route for the Three Ivans.

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5 hours ago, nanushka said:

OT, but there's currently an exhibition at New York's Morgan Library of Sendak's stage designs. Zachary Woolfe has a write-up in the Times.

Oh thank you!  I would have missed this.

The grinning Nutcracker image is from the curtain -- at the very end of the ballet (when Clara wakes up in her bed in a "stage within a stage" setup) the "mouth" snaps shut -- it was very effective.

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1 hour ago, nanushka said:

True. After all, no reconstruction of history is definitive. I like that Ratmansky has remained engaged in it — and that continual engagement surely pays off in the quality of the performances in successive years, unlike with productions where the original creator takes a back seat in revivals.

Thanks for the FB posts btw. I’m not on there anymore so would miss these. 

For the most part, I'm happy to live where I do and see what I see, but I really envy those of you who have had the chance to watch this project unfold -- whether something is to your personal taste or not, we learn so much by watching this research.  Many thanks to all who see and report.

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4 hours ago, FauxPas said:

I....the Kirkland production (remember that Aurora was the daughter of the Burger King?, the daisies on the suspenders the boys wore in the Garland Dance and the Scottish Prince in purple tartan with maribou accents? - he was FABULOUS!!!)  ...

Oh, I had nearly forgotten Burger King with his "Whopper" of a golden-paper crown! ROTFL! I also remember the big silver-eagle bed that very quickly traversed the forest, as Aurora slept on it.

 

My problem with the current ABT SB designs is that they are so cheap-looking and blah when compared to the substantial magnificence of the 1890 "originals" in the Mariinsky-Vikharev recon. For 2015 ABT-Ratmansky version we were promised, "after Bakst 1921." They did not come close; just a little taste of 1921, whereas the Mariinsky gave us "the full Monty" of 1890.  If one announces the designs of a great production from the past, one delivers. Go great or Go Home! 

Notice the colours of these Bakst drawings, taken from the 1921 Folio of his designs. I've seen one of these folios at the U.S. Library of Congress. These costumes were intended to be vivid and substantial in fabric:

https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=A2KLfScCTBpdx3cAERRXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTByMjB0aG5zBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzYw--?p=book+folio+Bakst+designgs+for+The+Sleeping+Princess+1921&fr=yfp-t

Remember when the Royal failed in its first attempt (ca 2005) to revive the great 1946 Oliver Messel production? We got the grand old sets with watered-down costumes. This was corrected a few years later with the true 1946 costumes. What a difference. Go Great or Go Home!

 

Edited by Roberta
added link to Bakst designs (1921 folio)
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Just noticed that Whiteside has been replaced by Bell tonight.  So tonight is his debut, and he has a total of three SB performances.  I hope Whiteside is okay.  He's still listed for his other SB.

Edited by NinaFan
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@Roberta I agree - there is nothing basically wrong with the design of the sets, it is the execution.  The colors look dead and somehow it has no grandeur or flair.  

I actually am not a big fan of the new/old 1890 "Sleeping Beauty" design.  If I remember there were three set designers or something and the costume designer was working independently.  None of the scenery for each act had the same style as the previous.  The colors were a riot of discordant hues and there was no color coordination between the costumes and sets.  A friend of mine said it looked like an old British panto (Sleeping Beauty is a big popular British panto classic and it was called "Sleeping Princess" for the 1921 production so no one would confuse it with the panto).  Also all the costumes for the corps and soloists were not uniform but everyone had a different skirt length and different heavy appliqué accents on the skirts and bodices.  So the corps didn't look like a uniform unit but a motley crew of various people dancing together.

 Didn't the Royal Ballet use a lot of the original Bakst backdrops in the 1946 Messel production?  Or am I wrong?  I think Diaghilev went bankrupt and the 1921 sets were kept in storage by the creditors or sold to a scenic rental studio. 

Also, discussing recreations of the 1946 Royal Ballet "Sleeping Beauty", I believe that ABT's first full "Sleeping Beauty" production was one by Mary Skeaping which attempted to recreate the 1946 Royal Ballet production but came out as a pale carbon copy done on the cheap.  The costumes looked flimsy and synthetic I somehow remember.  It was shown on television c. 1976-77 with Cynthia Gregory, Fernando Bujones and Jolanda Menendez.  Fuzzy deteriorating Betamax copies of that telecast are seen in Youtube clips.

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@FauxPas Indeed I remember the first ABT version's telecast with Gregory as Aurora. The designs were an attempt to recreate the 1946 Messel originals, which had been discarded by the Royal Ballet in the late 1960s. Alas, they could best be described as "A Hint of Messel." For example, I remember Aurora's Act I tutu being described by a great critic (Walter Terry?) as "Pepto Bismol Pink."

It's not enough to give "A Hint of Bakst" or "A Hint of Messel" or whatever.

As for the 1890 Imperial costumes reproduced perfectly (warts and all) for the 1999 Vikharev recon - yes, there were loud clashing colours BUT they were authentic after-Vsevolodsky et al. I still get shivers down my spine thinking about that Apotheosis with the multiple backdrops, ending with the tableau of Good vs Evil and the floral swags lowering from the ceiling. Exquisite.

Edited by Roberta
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3 hours ago, FauxPas said:

@California Ratmansky has altered and revised this "Beauty" every season it has been revived.  The first year Part as the Lilac Fairy did a solo variation in the prologue that the Harvard collection Sergeyeff notations said was performed by Marie Petipa II from the 1890 premiere - it was mainly posing and minimal pointe work.  (the beauteous Marie Petipa II was mainly a character dancer who according to Ekaterina Vazem had not gone through the full training program at the Imperial Ballet School.)  Other ballerinas did a Lilac variation from the Sergeyeff notes credited to Lyubov Egorova that was more demanding.  Part did a different variation the next year when she returned as Lilac.  Also the revival season had new character dances in the Act III Wedding Scene that Bronislava Nijinska had devised for the Diaghilev production in London - one was a Russian Dance for the Five Ivans that used music from "The Nutcracker”

Yes, Ratmansky has made adjustments every time SB was presented but just to clarify - Part did the same Marie Petipa variation every time she performed. There have only been two versions of the Lilac Fairy variation in this production and Part was the only one who performed the Marie Petipa one. 

Three Ivans and Mandarin / Porcelain Princesses Dance was included ONLY for ABT’s presentation of “Aurora’s Wedding” in 2017 in place of Cinderella and Hop O’ My Thumb. These numbers were not performed as part of the full SB. 

Edited by BLalo
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1 minute ago, BLalo said:

Yes, Ratmansky has made adjustments every time SB was presented but just to clarify - Part did the same Marie Petipa variation every time she performed. There have only been two versions of the Lilac Fairy variation in this production and Part was the only one who performed the Marie Petipa one. 

THREE Ivans and Mandarin / Porcelain Princesses Dance was included ONLY for ABT’s presentation of “Aurora’s Wedding” in 2017 in place of Cinderella and Hop O’ My Thumb. These numbers were not performed as part of the full SB. 

Sorry, but I distinctly remember Veronika Part doing a different variation the second time I saw her the Ratmansky production - but it was a later year.  It had unsupported pirouettes which the Marie Petipa II variation did not have.

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29 minutes ago, FauxPas said:

Sorry, but I distinctly remember Veronika Part doing a different variation the second time I saw her the Ratmansky production - but it was a later year.  It had unsupported pirouettes which the Marie Petipa II variation did not have.

I suppose you can ask Mr Ratmansky yourself on his FB page (he seems very open to answering questions) but only two notated versions of the Lilac Fairy Variation exist. 

I believe Part initially performed the variation currently performed by all other Lilac Fairies and at some point switched to the Marie Petipa variation. 

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If I remember correctly, Part was coming off of a back injury the first year of the Ratmansky "Beauty" and did the simpler "Marie Petipa II" variation that first year.  The second year she was recovered and did a variation similar to what the other Lilacs were dancing.

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