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Listening to excerpts from Verdi's Vespri Siciliani last night on Classic FM, brought back vivid memories of MacMillan's The Four Seasons.  This ballet had some wonderful inventive choreography - most notable perhaps the Spring section - I can still see Lesley Collier being partnered by Eagling, Ashmole and Hosking - simply ravishing.  The original sets and costumes were rather "chocolate box", but when designs were revised by Deborah MacMillan using bare stage and leotards, the ballet really did not work.  With so many ballets being revised this year in honour and memory of the great Sir Kenneth, what a shame this choreographic jewel was missed out. I am sure it would work beautifully if costumed well.  May be I should put together some designs - would love to!!!!  

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Wasn't Images of Love what they did some years ago, with, I think, Rojo, Putrov and Watson, or am I confusing it with something else?

 

I agree about The Four Seasons: I liked what I saw of it very much when it was revived for an RBS matinee a few years back.

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Bearing in mind that the section of the Four Seasons which was shown at the RBS main stage matinee in 2011 was a section for the corps that seemed like padding in the context of the entire ballet it says a great deal for the quality of the ballet as a whole that the choreography for the corps was found at all interesting..

 

The original designs by Peter Rice were far too literal. They looked as if they had not simply been inspired by prints of Italian peasants from the 1840's but as if they had been copied from them. There was a redesign by Barry Kay that was used for the POB 1978 staging which reportedly caused all sorts of outrage in Paris and then there were the generic ballet designs by a certain Deborah Williams which were used for the RB's second production in 1980. The problem with Lady M's designs is that they could have been used in almost any non narrative ballet of the period they were so deliberately non specific.They looked to me like a cheap washed out version of the designs for Dances at a Gathering. I have always thought that the reason the ballet slipped from the repertory was that it demanded too many technically accomplished dancers with real stage presence than the company could supply in the 1980's . Finding twelve dancers with technique and personality became an increasing problem as the eighties progressed.

 

I think that the designs remain a problem. I don't think that designs which suggest nothing about time and place are the solution as the ballet is so obviously set to nineteenth century Italian ballet music.  Lady M who provided the designs for the 1980 revival would probably expect to provide the designs again.Perhaps designs based on the sort of thing that you see in the Dane's traditional productions of Napoli are what is needed but somehow I don't see Lady M offering anything that specific or colourful. I would love to see Seasons revived as the company could currently provide two if not three casts. I wonder whether the problem is that Kevin will never have seen the ballet and the limited performance history does suggest that it has weaknesses or whether it is that he would far rather stage new works. Personally i should be far happier about the MacMillanfest if there was greater emphasis on MacMillan as classical choreographer who was as demanding in his own way as Ashton was. A few more less regularly performed pieces would have been nice. I recognise that it is important that people outside the South East should have a chance to see MacMillan's major works.but it would be great if the RB could be a bit more adventurous about the "heritage works" it chooses to revive. Showing a wider range of the works of both MacMillan and Ashton would benefit all of us.

 

I am not entirely convinced that Images of Love would work in revival but that does not mean that we should not have the opportunity to assess the work for ourselves. Images received its premiere on a mixed bill which saw the first performance of The Dream and a revival of Helpmann's Hamlet. I always have the feeling that MacMillan had expected his work to have staying power and that Lady M has never come to terms with the fact that Ashton's ballet which he saw as an occasional piece has stayed the course while her late husband's work has not. The performance database suggests that the entire ballet was not revived after 1965.  I don't know if that is correct. A section of it was revived in 2003 with Coyle and Seymour both involved in the staging. I think that there must have been an earlier revival or perhaps a partial revival of it as I am sure that I have seen a section of the ballet on the Internet with Seymour and Eagling among the cast. That clip suggested that the choreography was rather awkward but perhaps the dancers did not have enough time to rehearse or perhaps the cameras were too close and simply emphasized the joins.

Edited by FLOSS
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I saw this The Four Seasons when it was revived in the early 80s and very much enjoyed it.  I would love to see either Royal Ballet do it and am not that fussy about which designs are used.  Incidentally David Bintley created a ballet to the same music in the early part of this century which I would also like to see again.  I am not saying it is necessarily as good as the Macmillan version but it was a piece of well crafted classical ballet and the simple designs were lovely.

 

more of both please!

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2 hours ago, Lizbie1 said:

Those interested in lesser-performed MacMillan might find this post of interest: http://www.balletcoforum.com/topic/16323-viviana-durante-macmillan/

 

yes I think it was mentioned in The Times today which is carrying a lengthy article about MacMillan. I saw House of Birds several times and enjoyed it so a visit to the Barbican will probably be in order!

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3 hours ago, FLOSS said:

Bearing in mind that the section of the Four Seasons which was shown at the RBS main stage matinee in 2011 was a section for the corps that seemed like padding in the context of the entire ballet it says a great deal for the quality of the ballet as a whole that the choreography for the corps was found at all interesting..

 

The original designs by Peter Rice were far too literal. They looked as if they had not simply been inspired by prints of Italian peasants from the 1840's but as if they had been copied from them. There was a redesign by Barry Kay that was used for the POB 1978 staging which reportedly caused all sorts of outrage in Paris and then there were the generic ballet designs by a certain Deborah Williams which were used for the RB's second production in 1980. The problem with Lady M's designs is that they could have been used in almost any non narrative ballet of the period they were so deliberately non specific.They looked to me like a cheap washed out version of the designs for Dances at a Gathering. I have always thought that the reason the ballet slipped from the repertory was that it demanded too many technically accomplished dancers with real stage presence than the company could supply in the 1980's . Finding twelve dancers with technique and personality became an increasing problem as the eighties progressed.

 

I think that the designs remain a problem. I don't think that designs which suggest nothing about time and place are the solution as the ballet is so obviously set to nineteenth century Italian ballet music.  Lady M who provided the designs for the 1980 revival would probably expect to provide the designs again.Perhaps designs based on the sort of thing that you see in the Dane's traditional productions of Napoli are what is needed but somehow I don't see Lady M offering anything that specific or colourful. I would love to see Seasons revived as the company could currently provide two if not three casts. I wonder whether the problem is that Kevin will never have seen the ballet and the limited performance history does suggest that it has weaknesses or whether it is that he would far rather stage new works. Personally i should be far happier about the MacMillanfest if there was greater emphasis on MacMillan as classical choreographer who was as demanding in his own way as Ashton was. A few more less regularly performed pieces would have been nice. I recognise that it is important that people outside the South East should have a chance to see MacMillan's major works.but it would be great if the RB could be a bit more adventurous about the "heritage works" it chooses to revive. Showing a wider range of the works of both MacMillan and Ashton would benefit all of us.

 

I am not entirely convinced that Images of Love would work in revival but that does not mean that we should not have the opportunity to assess the work for ourselves. Images received its premiere on a mixed bill which saw the first performance of The Dream and a revival of Helpmann's Hamlet. I always have the feeling that MacMillan had expected his work to have staying power and that Lady M has never come to terms with the fact that Ashton's ballet which he saw as an occasional piece has stayed the course while her late husband's work has not. The performance database suggests that the entire ballet was not revived after 1965.  I don't know if that is correct. A section of it was revived in 2003 with Coyle and Seymour both involved in the staging. I think that there must have been an earlier revival or perhaps a partial revival of it as I am sure that I have seen a section of the ballet on the Internet with Seymour and Eagling among the cast. That clip suggested that the choreography was rather awkward but perhaps the dancers did not have enough time to rehearse or perhaps the cameras were too close and simply emphasized the joins.

Thanks FLOSS for such an interesting and detailed response.  I totally agree that the level of choreography requires the highest standard of dancing - the original cast was stellar, including Collier, Ashmole, Eagling, Hosking (Spring); Seymour, Wall (Summer); Penney, Dowell, Sleep (Autumn); Parkinson, Derman, MacLeary (Winter).  Yes, indeed, one does think of "Napoli" style designs and costumes for a revival and definitely not the washed out leotards and non-scenery style of Lady M!!!!  The fact that I remember the casting and probably only saw the ballet 3 or 4 times, shows what a "whow" impact it had on me!!!!  I know that the current MacMillan revivals demonstrate what an emotive choreographer MacMillan was, but I also feel that his brilliance as a choreographer of pure classical style needs to be shown as well.  We can but hope .......................

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55 minutes ago, Jane S said:

I think Monica Mason was actually the first cast of Summer - I remember it particularly as it was a rather different role from the ones she was usually associated with.

 

She was indeed.  Here is the cast list from the premiere:

 

Prologue   Ria Peri
Prologue   Jacqui Tallis
Prologue   Wendy Ellis
Prologue   Sally Inkin
Prologue   Rosemary Taylor
Prologue   Anita Young
Prologue   Susan Lockwood
Prologue   Jennifer Jackson
Prologue   Artists of The Royal Ballet
Winter   Vergie Derman
Winter   Marguerite Porter
Winter   Donald MacLeary
Spring   Lesley Collier
Spring   Michael Coleman
Spring   David Ashmole
Spring   Wayne Eagling
Summer   Monica Mason
Summer   David Wall
Autumn   Anthony Dowell
Autumn   Jennifer Penney
Autumn   Wayne Sleep
Finale   The Entire Cast
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16 hours ago, bangorballetboy said:

 

She was indeed.  Here is the cast list from the premiere:

 

Prologue   Ria Peri
Prologue   Jacqui Tallis
Prologue   Wendy Ellis
Prologue   Sally Inkin
Prologue   Rosemary Taylor
Prologue   Anita Young
Prologue   Susan Lockwood
Prologue   Jennifer Jackson
Prologue   Artists of The Royal Ballet
Winter   Vergie Derman
Winter   Marguerite Porter
Winter   Donald MacLeary
Spring   Lesley Collier
Spring   Michael Coleman
Spring   David Ashmole
Spring   Wayne Eagling
Summer   Monica Mason
Summer   David Wall
Autumn   Anthony Dowell
Autumn   Jennifer Penney
Autumn   Wayne Sleep
Finale   The Entire Cast

I know, amazing cast, and indeed it was Monica in Summer - Seymour danced at later casts.  

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What a reflection of a golden era in British ballet.  Such a pity I wasn't living here yet..... :( although I did see many of these dancers towards the end of their careers after I moved to London in 1977.  

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