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Sebastian

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Everything posted by Sebastian

  1. Westminster Reference Library, just off Leicester Square in London, has long been a happy secret for those interested in researching the performing arts. Their holdings, covering many aspects of performance including dance and ballet, are impressive, comprising a collection of some 15,000 books, a third of which are available to borrow if one joins the Library (which is free). The collection includes Anna Pavlova's personal library of books, which has recently been taken out of storage. Some are only available for consultation in the reference section; but many others were added to the Lending Library. More about the Library here: https://www.westminster.gov.uk/library-opening-hours-and-contact-details#westminster-reference-library https://trib.ent.sirsidynix.net.uk/client/en_GB/wcc/?rm=PERFORMING+ARTS0|||1|||0|||true&dt=list To search the catalogue online: https://trib.ent.sirsidynix.net.uk/client/en_GB/wcc/
  2. Cyril Beaumont, in his excellent and detailed book "The Ballet Called Giselle", has the history slightly differently. In chapter 2, footnote 1, he says the French text came first and was published in 1833. So to try and clear things up I have gone back to probably the most authoritative source, the academic edition of Heine's complete works (sixteen volumes, published between 1975 and 1997). In vol 9, published in 1987, there is a full and scholarly discussion of the somewhat confusing history of the various versions. Not only, as I suggested in my original post, are the sources somewhat incomplete and unclear, but (see page 533) Heine wrote first in German but published first in French, only later issuing a revised German version. So my original post was not complete although the dates seem to stand (it is not clear where Beaumont, writing somewhat earlier - 1944 - and without the benefit of the German scholarly apparatus, got his information, which seems not to be quite right). Hope this helps, if anyone is tracking down the history of the Wilis. Incidentally Beaumont has a most interesting alternative source for learning a little more about Wilis, Meyer's Konversations-Lexikon (first produced in 1839 and going through many editions until finally being subsumed in the massive German encyclopaeida Brockhaus in 1984). Unlike Heine's essay, this source stresses their vampiric nature which, Beaumont says, "is a far more logical explanation of the Wilis than that of Heine". The 1897 edition of Meyer is happily online, see the reference to Wilis here: http://www.retrobibliothek.de/retrobib/seite.html?id=116128 (one needs to spin down to the entry for " Vampir")
  3. An amusing aside: I have just been reading the article A CONTEXT FOR PETIPA by Roland John Wiley (in Dance Research, 2003) which begins:- For a person quite so celebrated, Marius Petipa remains something of a mystery. Most accounts of him suffer deficiencies of fact or context, and provide a salient detail or two amidst the broadest generalisations.
  4. Jane S, you are of course correct: I was condensing a friend's offhand comment about changes between 1946 and Sir Peter's version of 1968. Incidentally, following another RB production in 1973, 1977 saw Madam have another go, at what was called at the time a "back to the grassroots" production, which made Carabosse less of a witch (among other changes to 1946). This returns us to my original question about the "magical" (witch-like) disappearance of the spindle in or around 1963/4. Ongoing thanks to everyone: Douglas Allen, thank you in particular for some most interesting leads, which I will certainly follow up.
  5. Apologies: "thimble" should of course also be "spindle" (must have been autocomplete doing its best with my terrible typing!) Thank you for your most interesting suggestions. I am lucky to have access to a university library at the moment so obscurity / expense are not obstacles. I look forward to reading into why Petipa made the choreographic choices he did.
  6. Many years ago, when ROH Insight events were rather more in-depth than they are now, there was a wonderful talk by Giannandrea Poesio on the history of the Sleeping Beauty. He mentioned in passing that he hoped one day to do a book about that ballet. Much to my disappointment this book has yet to appear, so, while we wait, does anyone know of a detailed account of the history and symbolism of Sleeping Beauty (in English, as sadly I don't read Russian)? There are of course various short summaries all over the place but as we are about to start another ROH run I feel the need to read something more substantial. This forum is great for hints of the intricacies but the clues are widely dispersed across many posts (so far as I know there isn't a topic just on the history of this most interesting and complex of ballets). I would love to know more (the breadcrumbs, the in-jokes about people at court and so on) so any clues on where to start would be most welcome. Incidentally, clicking around looking for online research, I discovered a rather nice page about Tchaikovsky's work on the ballet (it looks like Wikipedia but isn't):- http://en.tchaikovsky-research.net/pages/The_Sleeping_Beauty Finally, a small question about ROH performance history which maybe someone on here knows the answer to. I saw a ROH production in the 1960s (not the classic one but the one which followed it and was then superseded by Peter Wright's 1968 production) and wonder about what I think I saw. After Aurora pricked her finger on the thimble, my memory is that they somehow engineered the spindle on to a trap door, so that at a suitable point, the trap descended and the spindle was made to vanish. Did I really see this or is it a false memory?
  7. Many thanks Quintus, both for finding the French text and for your translation. May I add something? It is generally assumed – and quoted all over the place – that Heine first mentioned the Wilis in the text you found. In fact Heine, although living in Paris at the time, published first in German, a year earlier, 1834, in an essay called ‘Elementargeister’ (the sources are not entirely clear but it seems he then produced the French translation himself, publishing that in 1835). There are differences (e.g. Willis are spelled with two Ls; there is no reference to Slavs, it is just a folk tale from a part of Austria, but presumably originating from the Slav region of the empire): some of the broader changes are, so the editors of Heine’s collected works say, because of the more stringent German censorship at the time. In the current ENB programme there is a short unsigned piece called ‘Skeaping returns to Adolphe Adam’s original score’ (if there is an attribution I missed it) which refers to ‘Heine’s poem’. There is no poem. Heine refers to the Wilis in an essay about all kinds of German spook. The key section is much as in Quintus’ translation, although Tanzlust is rather stronger than ‘love of dance’, and my loose rendering of the German as to what happens would be more along the lines of ‘they force young men to dance with them, in madness and fury until their partner is dead’. Heine then goes on to refer to Goethe's poem ‘The Bride of Corinth’ and seems to be hinting that the Wili dancing is (as so often) cryptosex. Incidentally my researches also turned up an amusing review of the original ballet (during which a lever mechanism helped Giselle to float, an innovation later dropped) by none other than jobbing critic Richard Wagner. Wagner writes that Adam's music sounds like, as with the dance of the Wilis, he had composed himself to death ("zur Tode komponiert" – the joke is better in German). The reference is ‘Pariser Bericht’, Richard Wagner, published 3 August 1841 in the Dresden ‘Abend Zeitung’ and Wagner, writing in German, spells Willis with two Ls as well. (If anyone would like the Heine in the original German, please PM me and I will send a scan of the relevant section).
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