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Swan Lake 02/20


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6 hours ago, ivanov said:

Don't we want them to come back?

If they do return after SL they'll be astonished at the rest of the repertory. It's like setting up low expectations, production-wise. Martins chose great music to choreograph, even if many of us don't like the results.

@canbelto I'd love to see Harlequinade more often!

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9 hours ago, BalanchineFan said:

I beg to differ. Midsummer is perfection, even if the dramatic action ends before intermission.

It may be. (I personally disagree; I think it has perfect parts but is not a perfect whole.) But even a single perfect ballet does not equal an inherited broad artistic vision for how full-lengths can fit into the broader repertoire of this particular company, with its distinctive strengths and features. That's what I was talking about.

9 hours ago, canbelto said:

Coppelia, Harlequinade and Nutcracker are all extremely lavish, warm, family friendly full lengths.

Have they been followed up, post-Balanchine, with full-length ballets that really fit that model and are (artistically and commercially) successful? I guess Martins' Sleeping Beauty comes closest, but I personally think it's flawed enough that it doesn't really work.

Edited by nanushka
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I think from reading through the recent comments what I’m hearing is that Balanchine’s full lengths (Nut, Coppelia, Midsummer) are wonderful and can fit within the rep. I 100% agree.  I personally have always enjoyed Coppelia even though it doesn’t come around very often. 

There is contention instead amongst the Martins full lengths - the story ballets Balanchine didn’t really touch (aside from the one act SL).  I think it is a good strategy to have these full lengths in the rep as it DOES sell tickets.  However, for the people who only go once or twice a year, after seeing a production like this SL or R+J, it will probably just push that group over to ABT the next time they want to see a ballet.

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11 hours ago, canbelto said:

Coppelia, Harlequinade and Nutcracker are all extremely lavish, warm, family friendly full lengths.

I agree. I came for the last run of Coppelias and enjoyed them tremendously. It is a traditional, charming production. And Nutcracker is sumptuous. I always have the feeling that Balanchine, given that he got to see and dance the lavish Imperial productions,  wouldn't present anything lower than such standards, and the perfect case scenario is his Nutcracker with the tree issue. Until he was sure he was going to have that tree the way he wanted it in the new State theater, he didn't settle for less at City Center.

There's the idea floating about his apparent rejection/unlikeness of the full length ballets, but I believe it was more of a profound respect he had for the high technical and production standards they ought to require.

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I totally agree with cubanmiamiboy. Lack of production values, the panorama in particular, is why Balanchine never did a Sleeping Beauty - which he apparently wanted very much to do. 

I don't agree with nanushka about Midsummers. It's a beautiful, evocative production, the story is amusingly, very clearly, and succinctly presented - and then in the time honored fashion the 2nd Act is given over to dancing. And that on a sublime level.

 

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13 hours ago, nanushka said:

NYCB could really stand to get some sort of broad artistic vision for full-lengths, because as brilliant as Balanchine was they did not inherit one from him.

Well, they did get Jewels ... and I'm only half-joking. Balanchine's inheritance includes models for full-evening works, which aren't the same as full-length, three-act story ballets along the lines of Sleeping Beauty or Swan Lake. (I'll get to Coppélia in a minute.) There's Jewels, for example, or Entente Cordiale, a failed 1979 attempt to combine Union Jack, Stars and Stripes, and Tricolore into an evening-long tryptic celebrating Britain, the U.S.A., and France. (The only thing that survives of Tricolore is Ballade.*) Balanchine certainly provided models for the kind of sheer spectacle classic story ballets are expected to provide—Vienna Waltzes and Firebird, for example. And finally, Balanchine did plenty of story—Prodigal Son and La Sonnambula come immediately to mind, if the story inherent in Serenade (Death and Transfiguration) or Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 (The Queen Take Possession of Her Realm) isn't enough for you. 

So, Balanchine provided models for full-evening ballets, for theatrical spectacle, and for storytelling. But I agree with nanushka that he didn't really leave behind a robust body of multi-act, dramatic story ballets combining all three that could serve as the foundation for a continuing company tradition. I don't think that's a bad thing: Balanchine's whole project was more or less to dismantle the three-act story ballet model and he did it with genius. The ballets he knew from Imperial Russia were touchstones not templates. Yes, A Midsummer Night’s Dream tells a story, but it's done so differently from the way that Swan Lake tells one that it seems like there's hardly a throughline from the one to the other. (The fact that the pas de deux celebrating eternal love isn't given to Oberon and Titania is a big tell.) Ditto Nutcracker. (The number of people who would wish away the first act party scene is another tell. No one would wish away Sleeping Beauty's Prologue.) The dramatic arcs in both are tightly compressed into one act. Traditional two-act story ballets like Giselle and La Sylphide need both acts to tell their stories. And although they are rich in dramatic gesture and stage business, neither Nutcracker nor Midsummer use much in the way of traditional mime. (The Nutcracker Prince's recounting of the battle with the Mouse King being the charming exception.) Harlequinade barely works as a story ballet, and IMHO, would be a much better ballet pared back to one 60-minute act. Doesn't "Just dance" say it all?

Coppélia is the exception that proves the rule, but it was a joint effort with Alexandra Danilova, and only Act III is all  Balanchine. [From the NYCB repertory notes on Coppélia: "In 1974, when Balanchine decided to add Coppélia to NYCB’s repertory, he took the opportunity to gently update the ballet, adding some male solos, more pas de deux, and a new third act. He enlisted Danilova to restage the dances she knew so well for the first two acts, and to coach the principal roles, originally performed by Patricia McBride (Swanilda), Helgi Tomasson (Frantz), and Shaun O’Brien (Doctor Coppélius.)."] It's a delight, but one ballet does not an inheritance make.

I'm all for NYCB scrapping Martins' R+J and Swan Lake, and replacing them with new productions, but I can't quite see who will choreograph them: there aren't many natural storytellers out there. Perhaps Ratmansky could be persuaded to do a new Romeo and Juliet for them. I don't know if his reconstructed Swan Lake could really be grafted on to NYCB's root stock, though.

*ETA - if I recall correctly, Ballade was supposed to be part of Tricolore, but Balanchine was ill and Martins, Robbins, and Bonnefous had to step in to do the choreography. Ballade premiered a year later in 1980. I have to do some research to refresh my memory: I missed Tricolore, but I did see Ballade when it was new.

Edited by Kathleen O'Connell
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40 minutes ago, Rock said:

I don't agree with nanushka about Midsummers. It's a beautiful, evocative production, the story is amusingly, very clearly, and succinctly presented - and then in the time honored fashion the 2nd Act is given over to dancing. And that on a sublime level.

Those three things may be true (though personally I don't find his storytelling to be the strongest — Ashton, I think, did it much better), but I don't think that's all that's needed to make a ballet a perfect whole.

31 minutes ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

So, Balanchine provided models for full-evening ballets, for theatrical spectacle, and for storytelling. But I agree with nanushka that he didn't really leave behind a robust body of multi-act, dramatic story ballets combining all three that could serve as the foundation for a continuing company tradition.

Yes, this is what I was trying to express — not a criticism of any particular work(s).

Or even if he did leave behind such a body of work, that tradition hasn't really been inherited by those who've created works for the company post-Balanchine.

Edited by nanushka
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39 minutes ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

*ETA - if I recall correctly, Ballade was supposed to be part of Tricolore, but Balanchine was ill and Martins, Robbins, and Bonnefous had to step in to do the choreography. Ballade premiered a year later in 1980. I have to do some research to refresh my memory: I missed Tricolore, but I did see Ballade when it was new.

Update on Ballade: Balanchine choreographed it after Tricolore premiered (in 1978, not 1979 as I incorrectly stated above), so while he may have envisioned including something like it in Entente Cordiale before illness forced him to hand the project off to Martins and Robbins, it was never part of that work. In addition, Tricolore was set to a commissioned score by French composer Georges Auric, but Balanchine didn't use Auric's score for Ballade, he used music by Fauré instead. He did use one of Tricolore's sets for Ballade, however. Per Anna Kisselgoff's 1980 review of Ballade, it was "reportedly the first of three sections of a total revision of "Tricolore" the company's not-so-successful salute to France in 1978." That total revision never happened, of course, but we still have Ballade, though the company doesn't show it to us very often. 

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45 minutes ago, Leah said:

Ratmansky just did Romeo and Juliet for the Bolshoi, I doubt he wants to do it again for NYCB. As he already has his hands full doing full lengths for ABT I would imagine that he probably views NYCB as a venue for his more modern, experimental stuff (as we saw in Voices this season). Didn't Justin Peck do a full length a few seasons back? I gather it got negative reviews, but it seems like he does have some interest in the area and as the Artistic Advisor to NYCB he would probably be the one tapped to make any new productions. And maybe doing Carousel and West Side Story have since helped him in the storytelling department.

I personally have no wish to see NYCB as a home of nineteenth-century ballets or full length ballets — and would probably prefer they commissioned new work if they want to add a full-length work to their rep for box-office. I realize that it is a riskier proposition...(Ratmansky’s R&J was choreographed for the National Ballet of Canada, though it was recently staged by the Bolshoi.)

Edited to add: I would love to see more revivals of rarely done Balanchine like Ballade or this season’s Haieff Divertimento. 

Edited by Drew
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36 minutes ago, Drew said:

I personally have no wish to see NYCB as a home of nineteenth-century ballets or full length ballets — and would probably prefer they commissioned new work if they want to add a full-length work to their rep for box-office.

Ideally, I'd prefer this course as well, but ballets like Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and Romeo and Juliet do get droves of people into the theater; newly-commissioned story ballets mostly don't. It's a version of the battle that opera companies and symphony orchestras have been fighting for decades, if not an actual century in the case of opera. (Go to the Metropolitan Opera Archives and click on "Repertory Report" in the left-hand sidebar. It's a list of operas in the Met's repertory sorted by total number of performances given. You have to scroll way down that list to get to an opera composed after the 1920's.)

I don't think NYCB will likely become a home of 19th century or full-length ballets—it's just not in the company's DNA—so I'm not going to begrudge them doing one a season to put butts in seats if it means 1) filling the coffers and 2) expanding their audience. But yeah, I'd like to see them chart a different course if they could.

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Whelan danced Ballade a long time ago w. Robert Tewsley.  I hope Whelan revives Ballade.  I also hope they get Tzigane - which I've only seen in excerpt on video.

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3 hours ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

I don't know if his reconstructed Swan Lake could really be grafted on to NYCB's root stock, though.

I say it would be a perfect addition. Swan Lake has become a lethargic, unmovable K. Sergueev realm, and sometimes even unrecognizable, ending wise. Act II is usually an endless slow showing of the Adagio, to the point that the music gets lost in translation. If there's something Ratmansky is instilling in his reconstructions is a quicker, brighter, petite allegro baseline, and I'm more than convinced that no one better than NYCB to honor this quicker tempi. It is also a "new old" entity, so much of the mime, steps and general portraying is quite new. Which better company than NYCB to have a "non traditional" approach to our current Soviet swan inheritance...?

They should grab it before someone else's does.

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14 minutes ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

I say it would be a perfect addition. Swan Lake has become a lethargic, unmovable K. Sergueev realm, and sometimes even unrecognizable, ending wise. Act II is usually an endless slow showing of the Adagio, to the point that the music gets lost in translation. If there's something Ratmansky is instilling in his reconstructions is a quicker, brighter, petite allegro baseline, and I'm more than convinced that no one better than NYCB to honor this quicker tempi. It is also a "new old" entity, so much of the mime, steps and general portraying is quite new. Which better company than NYCB to have a "non traditional" approach to our current Soviet swan inheritance...?

They should grab it before someone else's does.

I second the motion.

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16 hours ago, BalanchineFan said:

 

And Cuban Miami Boy is right. No one does clean single fouettés anymore, even though they go with the music.

I think Veronika Part at ABT did clean single fouettes every time I got to see her. My favorite Odette/Odile. 

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1 hour ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

I say it would be a perfect addition. Swan Lake has become a lethargic, unmovable K. Sergueev realm, and sometimes even unrecognizable, ending wise. Act II is usually an endless slow showing of the Adagio, to the point that the music gets lost in translation. If there's something Ratmansky is instilling in his reconstructions is a quicker, brighter, petite allegro baseline, and I'm more than convinced that no one better than NYCB to honor this quicker tempi. It is also a "new old" entity, so much of the mime, steps and general portraying is quite new. Which better company than NYCB to have a "non traditional" approach to our current Soviet swan inheritance...?

They should grab it before someone else's does.

Given your knowledge of both Swan Lake and NYCB's dancers, I'm going to trust you on this! Presumably the company has enough of a connection to Ratmansky to give replacing Martins' version with his legitimacy.

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10 minutes ago, Kathleen O'Connell said:

Given your knowledge of both Swan Lake and NYCB's dancers, I'm going to trust you on this! Presumably the company has enough of a connection to Ratmansky to give replacing Martins' version with his legitimacy.

That if Lourdes Lopez doesn't move first in Miami! 🙏

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After much of my harsh criticism of the production, let me be truthful and add the other side of the equation. In all fairness, I truly loved the lakeside acts, particularly the intricate crisscrossing of the maidens and patterns formations. It comes very alive and looks magnificent from upstairs. And because the lakeside acts don't really require too much of scenery-(in most of the productions it is just as what we saw...a mere backdrop)- the acts really gain lots of weight with the strong choreo for the corps and the beautiful white costumes. There's a moment at the end of act IV where a row of black swans crisscross a row of white ones at full speed to form a cross and it looks amazing.

The transition from the drawing room to the lakeside is quite successful too with the moving scenery. Sometimes this compression of four acts into two and two can be problematic during such transitions. One I really felt didn't work was in Ratmansky's Bayadere in Berlin, for instance. 

The false finale made me cringe.

 

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Cubanmiamiboy, I too enjoy the lakeside scene the best.  Is it any surprise that Martins said it is based on Balanchine's 1951 one-act Swan Lake?  If you ever get a chance to see that, I would highly recommend it.  I lucked out in my subscription series, as I have tomorrow's night's Peck/Gordon Swan and am very much looking forward to it.

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14 hours ago, canbelto said:

Well one thing about the Martins' Swan Lake I like is the fourth act. I find the ending with Odette retreating back into her flock of Swans very powerful.

Agreed. It's almost a sadder ending, both characters having to live with Siegfried's mistake.

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