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Thread for all the mixed-company MacMillan celebrations at the Royal Opera House this autumn. It kicks off tonight with Birmingham Royal Ballet in Concerto, Scottish Ballet in Le Baiser de la fée (or The Fairy's Kiss, if you prefer) and a mixed-company performance of Elite Syncopations, if I'm not mistaken. And to start us off, here's a link back to David's notes on Le Baiser de la fée
PRESS RELEASE 6 October 2017 A MACMILLAN CLASSIC RETURNS AND A ROYAL OPERA HOUSE PREMIERE FOR SCOTTISH BALLET THIS AUTUMN Kenneth MacMillan’s original choreography of The Fairy’s Kiss (Le Baiser de la Fée) was brought back to life on Friday 6 October in a stunning new production by Scottish Ballet at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow. Scottish-born MacMillan created the work in 1960 for The Royal Ballet, and this revival marks the 25th anniversary of his death and its first presentation since 1986. The work will be performed as part of the MacMillan Festival at the Royal Opera House in October – a celebration of this iconic 20th century British choreographer. Several Scottish Ballet dancers will also perform alongside artists from Britain’s other ballet companies in MacMillan’s Elite Syncopations. This will be the first time the company performs at the prestigious London venue. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ice Maiden, MacMillan’s The Fairy’s Kiss stays true to the original tale’s dark edge and in the words of Clive Barnes ‘not only appears as a telling homage to the 19th-century Russian ballets that inspired it, but also as a work full of noble, singing poetry.’ Scottish Ballet’s new production features sets and costumes designed by Gary Harris, who worked closely with MacMillan. The choreographic score has been tirelessly re-constructed by professional Benesh notator Diana Curry over a three month period from fragmented records including piano reductions, rehearsal notes, and poor quality video recordings. The Fairy’s Kiss will be performed alongside Christopher Hampson’s The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du Printemps). Previously performed by the company at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2013, The Rite of Spring is a brutal and physical response to the raw energy of the Stravinsky score. The Fairy’s Kiss and The Rite of Spring will tour to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Inverness this October/November 2017. The Fairy’s Kiss will be performed at The Royal Opera House, London in October 2017. For more details - https://www.scottishballet.co.uk/event/autumn-2017 Scottish Ballet CEO/Artistic Director Christopher Hampson: ‘It is thrilling for Scotland’s national dance company to revive Le Baiser de la Fée, an early work showing the prodigious talents to come from one our most cherished choreographers. Reviving this formative work will allow generations to come to better understand Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s journey from a nurtured, young choreographer to becoming the 20th Century’s most iconic storyteller through dance.’ ADDITIONAL INFORMATION The recreation of The Fairy’s Kiss is generously supported by The Linbury Trust Media partner: WHEN AND WHERE Scottish Ballet performs The Fairy’s Kiss (Le Baiser de la Fée) by Kenneth MacMillan and The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du Printemps) by Christopher Hampson, at: Theatre Royal, Glasgow Friday 6 & Saturday 7 October 2017 Friday 6 October – 7.30pm Saturday 7 October – 2.30pm & 7.30pm Pre-show and Post-show Talks: Stravinsky Pre-show Talk (Free but ticketed): Friday 6 October - 6.30pm Stravinsky Post-show Talk (Free): Friday 6 October - 9.30pm Festival Theatre, Edinburgh Wednesday 11 – Friday 13 October 2017 Wednesday 11, Thursday 12 & Friday 13 October 2017 - 7.30pm His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen Tuesday 24 & Wednesday 25 October 2017 Tuesday 24 & Wednesday 25 October – 7.30pm Pre-show and Post-show Talks: Stravinsky Pre-show Talk (Free but ticketed): Tuesday 24 October – 6.30pm Stravinsky Post-show Talk (Free): Tuesday 24 October - 9.30pm Eden Court, Inverness Friday 3 & Saturday 4 November 2017 Friday 3 & Saturday 4 November – 7.30pm Pre-show Talks: Stravinsky Pre-show Talk (Free but ticketed): Friday 3 November – 6.30pm Scottish Ballet performs The Fairy’s Kiss (Le Baiser de la Fée) by Kenneth MacMillan, at: Royal Opera House, London Wednesday 18 & Thursday 19 October 2017 Kenneth MacMillan: a National Celebration Performances of The Fairy’s Kiss (Le Baiser de la Fée) by Scottish Ballet, Concerto by Birmingham Royal Ballet) and Elite Syncopations (featuring dancers from The Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Northern Ballet and Scottish Ballet) www.scottishballet.co.uk ABOUT THE ARTISTS Kenneth MacMillan Biography Kenneth MacMillan (1929–92) was one of the leading choreographers of his generation. He was born in Dunfermline and discovered ballet while evacuated in Retford in Nottinghamshire during World War II. Aged 15, he forged a letter from his father to Ninette de Valois requesting an audition to Sadler’s Wells School (now The Royal Ballet School). He joined, on a full scholarship, and later entered the Royal Ballet Company. He was Director of the Royal Ballet from 1970–77 and was Principal Choreographer 1977–92. His ballets are distinguished by their penetrating psychological insight and expressive use of classical language. These qualities are demonstrated in his works Romeo & Juliet, Gloria, Manon, Mayerling and Requiem. He created his first major work, Danses concertantes, in 1955 and went on to become one of the world’s leading choreographers. He was the Director of Deutsche Oper Ballet Berlin (1966–9) and Associate Director of American Ballet Theatre (1984–90). He continued to create masterpieces throughout his life, including The Prince of the Pagodas (1989) and his last work The Judas Tree in 1992. He died backstage at the Royal Opera House during a revival of Mayerling. Gary Harris Biography Gary was born in London, and trained at the Arts Educational and the Royal Ballet Schools. He joined the London Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet) in 1978 and was one of the company’s leading soloists until he left in 1985 to pursue a career as a freelance dancer, performing in West End shows, including On Your Toes, La Cage aux Folles and Phantom of the Opera. He has worked the world over as a dancer, teacher, repetiteur and designer. In 1991 he joined the Royal Ballet, London, as notator and repetiteur, working with choreographers such as William Forsythe and Kenneth MacMillan and re-staging the works of Fredrick Ashton. He assisted Kenneth MacMillan in the first staging Manon for the Paris Opera Ballet in 1990, and restaged Song of the Earth for the same company in 1996. He was Associate Artistic Director of the Hong Kong Ballet and choreographed a cast of 1,200 performers for the handover of Macau back to China in 1999. Gary was Artistic Director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet from September 2001 – December 2010. For the RNZB, he restaged Swan Lake, Paquita, Coppelia and Giselle. The company premiered his production of The Nutcracker in 2005 and Don Quixote in 2008. Notable design commissions include The Sleeping Beauty and Raymonda for the National Ballet of China, Christopher Hampson’s Double Concerto for English National Ballet and Saltarello, Esquisses and The Sleeping Beauty for the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Since returning from New Zealand, Gary has continued re-staging the works of Kenneth MacMillan and in 2013, designed Christopher Hampson’s Hansel & Gretel for Scottish Ballet. Christopher Hampson Biography Christopher Hampson joined Scottish Ballet as Artistic Director in August 2012 and was appointed Artistic Director / Chief Executive of Scottish Ballet in June 2015. Christopher trained at the Royal Ballet Schools. His choreographic work began there and continued at English National Ballet (ENB), where he danced until 1999 and for whom he subsequently created numerous award-winning works, including Double Concerto, Perpetuum Mobile, Country Garden, Concerto Grosso and The Nutcracker. Christopher’s Romeo and Juliet, created for the Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB), was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award (Best New Production 2005) and his production of Giselle for the National Theatre in Prague has been performed every year since its premiere in 2004. Christopher created Sinfonietta Giocosa for the Atlanta Ballet (USA) in 2006 and after a New York tour it received its UK premiere with ENB in 2007. He created Cinderella for RNZB in 2007, which was subsequently hailed as Best New Production by the New Zealand Herald and televised by TVNZ in 2009. His work has toured Australia, China, the USA and throughout Europe. Other commissions include, Dear Norman (Royal Ballet, 2009); Sextet (Ballet Black/ROH2, 2010); Silhouette (RNZB, 2010), Rite of Spring (Atlanta Ballet, 2011), and Storyville (Ballet Black/ROH2, 2012). Christopher is co-founder of the International Ballet Masterclasses in Prague and has been a guest teacher for English National Ballet, Royal Swedish Ballet, Royal New Zealand Ballet, Hong Kong Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures and the Genée International Ballet Competition. Christopher’s work now forms part of the Solo Seal Award for the Royal Academy of Dance. Registered in Scotland No:SC065497; VAT Registration No:261 5097 64; Registered Charity No: SC008037; Registered Office: Tramway, 25 Albert Drive, Glasgow G41 2PE
I am surprised that Scottish Ballet’s revival of MacMillan’s “Le Baiser de la fée”, based on Han Christian Andersen’s 1861 fairy tale - “The Ice Maiden”, has not raised more excitement amongst Forum members and, since it’s a quiet time I’m being cheeky and uploading some extracts from my own notes, gleaned from many sources in an attempt to whip up interest! It was in April 1960 that Kenneth MacMillan made his first attempt, choreographing his own version for The Royal Ballet with Svetlana Beriosova as the Fairy, Donald MacLeary as the young man and his own Muse, Lynn Seymour as the bride. “He made melting, skimming steps that showed off her fluid movements and luscious feet … she was adorably soft and spontaneous … Beriosova was a grandly fluent fairy”. By then he was the eighth choreographer to tackle the Hans Andersen story! Both Frederick Ashton and George Balanchine had warned him of the difficulties, arising chiefly from the lack of obvious relationships between Stravinsky’s score and Andersen’s narrative. This was Kenneth MacMillan’s third Stravinsky ballet, the previous two being Danses Concertantes (1955) and Agon (1959). He had no time for Stravinsky’s identification of the Fairy with Tchaikovsky’s Muse, or indeed for fairies of any kind: “I’m sick to death of fairy tales” he told The Times in December 1960. But like Ashton he was drawn to the music. For Ashton the instant of the kiss is the climactic ecstatic moment in the young man’s life. But MacMillan had a darker story to tell. “His instinct was for the bride betrayed. His narrative was one of good and evil - of the abandoned bride (“She is the one who is lost”) and a young man in the grip of everlasting darkness.” Most critics at the time reviewed MacMillan’s 1960 version favourably, singling out Lynn Seymour and for special mention: Richard Buckle: a “tremendous success - MacMillan, with his ear to the ground, has perfectly translated into movement the filigree of shimmering insect splendour which is a feature of this score”. Of Lynn Seymour as the Bride, he wrote that she “skims and flits like a happy gnat through her lovely allegretto variation: she has the priceless gift of lending to art an air of spontaneity, and without question makes a triumph of her first created role. Of Svetlana Beriosova as the Fairy. “Her swooping boreal gestures and Alpine style point the difference between god and human”. Alexander Bland (The Observer) wrote: “It is not until the pas de deux that interest quickens, the high point of the evening being soon reached in the fiancée’s solo, a delicious drifting rubato affair, which Lynn Seymour will make into a winner, when she has grown into it”. And so on ….. But despite the positive reviews the ballet did not survive. The reasons were partly that the musical demands of Stravinsky’s score were impractical for a touring company but primarily because of Kenneth Rowell’s set designs. In place of the traditional images of fairyland Macmillan had his designer, Kenneth Rowell, fashion a threatening landscape in dark colours, “an abstract world of rock, gorges, caverns and ominous icebergs” … described by Clement Crisp as “arguably the most beautiful and poetic designs seen at Covent Garden since the war.” These were so complex that, at a time when the Company could call on sixty other works in the repertory, there were only six other ballets with which Le Baiser de la fée could, for technical reasons, be programmed. Of those six some were not compatible on the same programme. MacMillan’s Le Baiser de la fée proved a nightmare to schedule. At a disastrous performance at the Edinburgh Festival the following August the scenery collapsed nearly braining one of the dancers. The ballet was mothballed after only 33 performances. However Le Baiser de la fée continued to fascinate MacMillan and 25yrs later in 1986 he revisited his 1960 original work making changes for a new generation of dancers: Fiona Chadwick, Sandra Conley and Jonathan Cope. He kept most of the choreography he had made for Seymour, but changed the Fairy’s role considerably, “making a new intricate solo for Chadwick, showing off her sense of anger and wilfulness”. It is this production that Scottish Ballet are reviving. In his earlier production, MacMillan’s preoccupation had been with the betrayed Bride, the figure in the ballet truly left alone after the fairy entices her husband away. But in the revised 1986 version, his focus was on the Fairy’s pursuit of the entranced young man, thereby returning to Stravinsky’s original intention: the work as an allegory for the artist’s dilemma, that ordinary happiness must be sacrificed to the muse. “It was the music that naturally attracted me”, he told Clive Barnes, “certainly not the story. I realise that the story is not altogether convincing. But I also found the theme, or, if you like, allegory, extraordinarily interesting.” Barnes commented: “MacMillan cuts to its heart - the artist in society, the man marked out from his fellows, unable to join in their life and dedicated to suffering”. To Mary Clarke of The Guardian who had seen the original ballet in 1960 it seemed that MacMillan had “retained much of what was written for Lynn Seymour – those swirling, circular lifts, those limpid descents when the foot melts into the ground above a bent knee, the sorrow of her exit after desertion. And how marvellous to see MacMillan writing again in a purely classical style.” John Percival of The Times also noted the close resemblances to the 1960 version. “I cannot understand why the earlier version was unsuccessful … it was blessed with superb performances and one of the most beautiful decors ever created for the Royal Ballet, a set of marvellous abstract landscapes by Kenneth Rowell.” Kenneth Rowell’s designs had been destroyed and were replaced with designs by Martin Sutherland but they did not find favour with the critics. In The Observer Jann Parry dismissed the set as unimaginative: “He succeeds in evoking neither the Fairy’s ‘Land beyond Time and Place’, nor the village from which she claims her initially reluctant hostage.” Though seen as Kenneth MacMillan ‘at his most exquisitely classical’, his 1986 production like its predecessor failed to hit a popular chord and once again it shortly disappeared from the repertoire. MacMillan’s original 1960 production was clearly too much, both orchestrally and with its intricate designs, for the Royal Ballet at the time but would probably have fitted well into the Company today in its present home. One would have expected the Royal Ballet to be the Company to revive it now, particularly since they still have several of the 1986 cast including Jonathan Cope among their ranks. However twice bitten, thrice shy and it is Scottish Ballet that have picked up this daunting challenge. They have enlisted the Benesh Notator Diana Curry who worked with MacMillan in the 1980s: “Although the technique was quite new in the 1960s Sir Kenneth always worked with a choreologist and much of Le Baiser de la fée had been recorded. However there was a significant lacuna and that was the solo where the bridegroom, danced by Donald MacLeary in 1960 and Jonathan Cope in 1986, goes looking for his bride and finds himself waylaid by the fairy. Fortunately that scene had been recorded on film which Ms Curry has analysed and notated”. The tricky problem of the design has been entrusted to Gary Harris, I understand at the personal wish of Lady MacMillan. Gary has an hugely impressive CV. “He has worked the world over as a dancer, teacher, repetiteur and designer … in 1991 he joined the Royal Ballet as notator and repetiteur, working with choreographers such as William Forsythe and Kenneth MacMillan and re-staging the works of Fredrick Ashton … He was Associate Artistic Director of the Hong Kong Ballet and then of the Royal New Zealand Ballet until December 2010 … Since returning from New Zealand, he has continued re-staging the works of Kenneth MacMillan and in 2013, designed Christopher Hampson’s Hansel & Gretel for Scottish Ballet.” One has to applaud Scottish Ballet. I have hopes that their revival may prove to be a significant event. Presumably, that is why someone (hopefully the BBC?) has undertaken to film it! Meanwhile I would welcome comments from the more knowledgeable members of the Forum, some of whom I’m sure will have seen one or both of the original productions.