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Can anyone tell me if ESMERALDA is still danced in Russia? If so, is the choeropgraphy used by Vaganova and not by Petipa (as in an excerpt I saw a regional ballet company do)? Ever since I was a child and used to look at lithographs from the ballet ESMERALDA has had a strange fascination for me.

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I think that Esmeralda, as it was performed in the old Soviet Union was preserved because of the "Revolutionary" sentiments contained in Notre Dame de Paris. Every age which inherited that work seemed to work its own changes in it, and the reign of Napoleon III was no good for it at all! (Remember, he constructed the Champs Elysée to be so wide it couldn't be barricaded!) I'd say the chances of any original Perrot remaining in any surviving production is about like what remains of Dauberval in today's La Fille Mal Gardée.

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The Diana and Acteon pas de deux, which often pops up on galas and highlights programs, is credited to Vaganova.

There's an extended excerpt -- I'd always assumed it was by Petipa and not Perrot, but I don't know that :) -- danced by the Kirov. It's a pas de deux (with tambourine!) and a small corps. It was one of Asylmuratova's specialties and it is on video. I THINK it's on "The Kirov Ballet in London" but I wait to stand corrected -- this is from memory. There's also a performance by Komleva (not as wondrous, in my eyes) on another Kirov video, one of the many collections of excerpts from Kirov Ballets -- I'm sure someone reading this will remember which one.

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Thanks for the info! I'll impart a little of my own. I think that the excerpt you saw on the video is the same one that New Jersey ballet performs from time to time. In the program the choreography was credited to Vaganova after Petipa so I doubt that either Perrot or Petipa had much to do with it. I found the music and choreography, if not great, very pretty and it would be nice to see more.

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Thank you for that, John-Michael. I may be wrong, but I think Vaganova only did the Diana and Acteon, and that the ensemble -- pas de deux and a back up group :) -- is much older. The Diana and Acteon has a 20th century look about it, to me, while the pas de deux and ensemble look late 19th.

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John-Michael, I saw Asylmuratova dance Esmeralda (pas de six, I think it is?) twice. Alexandra does not exaggerate in calling it "wondrous". one of her very best parts, which is saying a lot. if you can find the video I believe you'd be stunned. she certainly does a lot for a tambourine....

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hadn't seen this before, so pardon the lateness. (probably jeannie hasn't seen it either, or she'd have added to the info. here.) when i was in st.petersburg in 1995 the maly theater ballet then renamed mussorgsky theater, was still doing an ESMERALDA (full-evening prod. in 2 acts), i think the staging's provenance came via tatiana vecheslova, once a famous esmeralda herself, who helped gusev stage this version; probably in '95 the prod. had been tinkered w/ by boyarchikov, the maly theater's ballet master. both the 'diana and acteon' and the famous 'pas de six,' w/ the tambourine, were there, tho' any number of details read about from the Perrot era were not. (that production led me to realize that music we'd associated w/ LA BAYADERE was in fact formerly from ESMERALDA - i refer here the music k.sergeyev's BAYADERE uses for the nikiya/slave duet in the rajah's palace and then used by makarova for the candle dance in her BAYADERE's last act. and to be sure now the kirov notes for the recent BAYADERE revival claim that this musical selection is indeed music from ESMERALDA and thus by pugni.)

jeannie once noted that the 'diana and acteon' number was one that had precedent in another petipa ballet. (was is ROI CANDAUL?) in any case the 'diana and acteon' we see nowadays, often given as a highlight on gala programs, is the work vaganova after godknowswho; the PAS DE SIX, for La Esmeralda, Gringoire, and a quartet of tambourine-tinkling women, is still credited nowadays as petipa's work, tho' likely reworked by any number of further hands. both these are variously recorded on videotape. alas there is no commercial recording of the maly theater's more nearly complete production.

there are btw at least 2 CD recordings of the score. one that i have is 'ESMERALDA, music from the ballet by Cesare Pugni in a 'jewels of russian ballet series' played by the odessa symphony orcherstra of opera and ballet. it's one disk. ADRO RECORDS, 1999 and does not include the music for 'diana and acteon' or for that matter the 'slave/nikiya' number, so perhaps this latter is pugni music originally meant for a diff. pugni ballet.

recently i learned there was yet another recording of this music, but also only in a 1-disk version and w/the same number of tracks, some 23 scenes all told.

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Do you know anywhere that I can get the ESMERALDA CD? I tried Amazon but received an e-mail after I placed my order saying that it was "unavailable." I haven't heard much Pugni but Pas de Quatre and the so-called Fascination pas de deux are quite lovely and leave me wanting to hear more.

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somewhere in my none-too-organized papers is a copy of info. about the other ESMERALDA CD. i didn't pay much attention once i realized it didn't have any additional tracks to those on my odessa disk.

i THINK the other was a slovak orchestra recording.

if i find the paper w/ the full credits i'll post it.

i bought my CD about a year or so ago. if i find an additional copies on my travels i'll post it here. i tend automatically to look in the adam, pugni, minkus, drigo bins of any CD selections i come across. often alas if there is a tab for any of these composers it's empty. but i keep looking.

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We received this kind note from Henry Danton today,



There seems to be a mystery, or at least a lack of information about the ballet Esmeralda as it was originally conceived. 

There is a wealth nowadays of recorded music of that ballet composed by Pugni.  It would seem that he stayed slavishly to the original work of Victor Hugo. There is an enormous amount of descriptive music and one must imagine that a production on that scale would be very very long.

Mona Inglesby's International Ballet had started on reviving this work, using Sergueeff 's notations, but he died very soon after starting, and it was abandoned. Inglesby was very careful about the fate of the notations, which reside now in Harvard Library. It is surprising that no one seems to have gone to them to revive the work

Talking to Kolpakova some years ago about Esmeralda, she remarked that it was a very beautiful and simple ballet, using lots of Ballonne, Ballotte and Jete. With the help of Osipenko I got a video of the erstwhile Maly's company production. And Kolpakova got me a recording of the music. No small feat at that time,  some 15 odd years ago.

I did reproduce the ballet for the Ballet Theatre of Scranton's company. In doing so I got to know the ballet very completely.

Recently I have obtained all the recordings of music which are presently available, and have been absolutely amazed how the Maly company 's production came out of the whole.  The choice, editing and compiling of the music which they use is an absolute masterpiece, and would appear to have been written expressly for their production.   And the music chosen is always exactly what was required for every particular situation.

Esmeralda preceded Giselle, and it is a much more elaborate representation of all the different aspects of human behavior.  Innocent love,  deception, betrayal, envy, hatred and  revenge are all there in the first act or Giselle, but in miniature. In Esmeralda they are all there separated, enlarged and enhanced so that the ballet becomes the essence of the characterisations of the original Victor Hugo work.

I went recently onto the Internet to see if I could get some information about who arranged the music and who did the choreography for this particular production.   The Maly Theatre Company has evolved to the Mussorgsky Ballet and is now the Mikhailovsky Ballet, and any production of Esmeralda which might have been on the Internet has been withdrawn for "infringement of copyright rights".

The version under discussion includes several inserts of works by Vaganova. It is my guess that this version was possibly reworked by Petipa and then reworked again by Vaganova, because,  besides the inserts,  much of the choreography bears the stamp of the Vagganova style. 

I am surprised that no major company has decided to reproduce this version, because it is a gem of real old ballet music and choreography, and is a much stronger vehicle than Giselle. 

The above represents my personal opinions and observations which are open to question and discussion. 

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It is so amazing to know that Mr. Danton, soon to turn 98, is still teaching and coaching and instilling his vast amounts of knowledge to anyone wishing to learn. He is truly a jewel in current ballet and it's history. His insight into La Esmeralda as well as many other classical ballets is truly astounding. I do hope those who intend to restage or revive the old Petipa ballets would seek him out. What an incredible resource he could be! 

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