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La Bayadère Berliner Staatsballett.

Ratmanksy - amazing production!

Seminova as Nikiya, Virelles as Solor, Correa as Gamzatti. I love the way Ratmansky does Grand Ballet Kitsch with total seriousness and commitment. It was on the one hand watching the 19th. Century come alive, but with Bakst’s spirit hovering throughout, and a witty, knowing but academically informed 21st century approach. His use of mime is perfect - no other does it as well. It was truly a language in itself. The dancing first rate throughout (....although first night wobbles visible amongst the Shades, when they were on solid ground not the slope), Polina and Yolanda totally nailed it. Alejandro’s solo a little underpowered, but still a great performance. Loved the sets - the Himalayas in the background, great palace destruction, and fabulous costumes. Riotous applause! 

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The Golden (? Bronze) Idol is  a Soviet era addition, and definitely not by Petipa. Talking of additions, that dreadful jester in Swan lake is the work of Alexander Gorsky who interpolated it into a revival of the ballet in the early 1900s.

 

On the subject of the Berlin production of La Bayadere, is this billed as a reconstruction  or simply "after" Petipa. I note that the German text says "nach Petipa" which leads me to believe that the latter is the case.

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The Staatsballet website in its English version describes the production as a "reconstruction" and says it is based on "Petipa notation" which I take to mean the Sergeyev material  now housed at Harvard. I trust this helps. I look forward to reading reviews from those who were there at the first night. From what little I know of the ballet's history it was given a radical overhaul some time in the 1930's, a revision of the text in which Chabukiani played a major role, so it will be interesting to learn how much of what we take to be Solor's choreography  owes its existence to the revision. If the choreography is presented in its original form there will, of course, be no c. 1940 Soviet style Golden Idol and some of the material we are used to seeing in the second scene of the first act of Markarova's staging will now appear later in the ballet. I have read that Ratmansky is slightly less puritanical in his approach to the stylistic approach to the original choreography. It will be interesting to see if this is true and whether he has made any concessions to the modern ballet goers expectation that the male dancer should take a more active part in the ballet than may have been the case at the time the ballet was notated. Of course Ratmansky's directorial choices will depend on just how fully notated the ballet is and the constraints inherent in devising a text that will run for just under three hours with,  I believe, only one interval. How refreshing to discover there are still ballet company's which do not have to accommodate the demands of the caterers working in the theatre in which they perform.

Edited by FLOSS
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Now in massive queue so time to type. FLOSS, what you wrote explained a lot. The running time was 2h50m with one interval after the death of Nikiya. The first two acts (one scene Act 1, three scenes Act 2) were very much mime lead. Gamzatti didn’t dance as such till Act 4.  Only solo dancing was Nikiya and a bit for Solor. Dancing galore from villains, temple maidens, thugees, soldiers, and character dancers of such imagination and splendour that it was a Bakst illustration come to life. One group of soldiers (?) had a lead couple (m/f) who did the most amazing dance which was part cakewalk, part Cossack, part swish, swirl and swoosh - I had never experienced anytime like it. Brought the house down! Someone please help me with this one! Act three shades I think followed regular pattern. Solor’s solo seemed muted. Was showiness deliberately downplayed? Act four - very full-on dance. Gamzatti in tutu not hareem pants. Hope this helps!

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Very interesting, Vanartus! I am quite excited for it since I heard/read it was a reconstruction a few weeks ago. Will have to wait until the second Christmas day though, have only tickets for this performance! On the homepage it says it is appropriate for children at the age of 6, hope this is true since it is my christmas present for my niece, haha.

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I think we have to understand that Petipa's career as choreographer at the Mariinsky falls into several distinct phases. First working as a sort of choreographer's mate to Perrot assisting him in staging and reviving works first staged in Paris and London all of which had far more mime and acting in them than we are generally used to seeing today. Marion Smith who wrote "Ballet and Opera in the Age of Giselle describes the structure of a Romantic ballet as very like that of an opera of the period and says that the proportion of mime to dance in the original Giselle is about 40% mime  to 60% dance. This assessment is not mere guesswork on her part as it is supported by the structure of a ballet like Buornonville's Folk Tale which does not seem to have been subject to too much revision and by the discovery in Frankfurt of a notebook which once belonged to Henri Justament. its significance is that Justament was the last man to stage a revival of Giselle at the Paris Opera during the nineteenth century. The revival was staged, I think,in 1868 . The notebook contained the full dialogue for all the named characters in Giselle but its true value only became obvious when it was discovered that what Justament had written down fitted the music of the violin reduction  of the score which was used when Giselle was first stage in St.Petersburg. The point about all this is that it makes it clear that what audiences expected to see when they went to the ballet was almost as much acting as dancing. It is not unreasonable to suppose that this was the sort of structural template which Petipa used when he began creating his own ballets or that he continued in that vein from La Fille du Pharon , his first choreographic success until 1890 when he found himself showcasing dancers whose main claim to fame was their formidable technical virtuosity and prowess.

 

The ballets from this intermediate period are as much concerned with drama as they are with technical display as Petipa was still working in a choreographic style much closer to the French than we tend to be aware of today because the ballets from this period with which we are familiar have been revised and spiced up innumerable times to suit whatever were the current tastes in ballet . The current view of what the Petipa ballet of the late nineteenth century should look  like in performance are the product of watching innumerable versions and improved, more audience friendly revised stagings of these works  and the effect of the artistic tastes, or lack thereof, of individual dancers as to speed, dynamics, elaboration and the desire to display their "improved technique". I have read somewhere a comment made  by Ekaterina Vazem, the first Nikiya, in which she says words to the effect  that Perrot was a storyteller who was prepared to create choreography which was directed at being dramatically effective rather than  displaying the ballerina. I can't help thinking that Petipa almost certainly followed a similar style at least initially. I know that  his diary should not be taken at face value but in it Petipa laments the fact that he felt that he had betrayed the purity of the French school by incorporating so much of the Italian school in his choreography. This comment was clearly directed at the works he created for the Italian stars during the 1890's. This reinforces the idea that until they arrived and he began to create his Tchaikovsky ballets he was working in a vein not that far removed from Perrot's.

 

However even in these Tchaikovsky ballets the display was not as obvious and pronounced as it is in performance practice today. There are fashions in ballet and taste and the  average ballet goer today seems far more interested in circus than the sort of nuance in performance which was admired in St Petersburg at the time the ballets were made. The description of the Black Swan pas de deux as a "pas de action" makes considerably more sense in Ratmansky's reconstruction of Swan Lake than it does most modern stagings where it often seems to be treated more as an opportunity for competitive gala style dancing than story telling.  Remember Legnani whose technical tricks were fully on display in Swan Lake thanked Petipa for making her an artist. Perhaps a useful exercise as far as this lack of obvious display in what we have come to expect to see performed as knock 'em dead display pieces might be to take a section of choreography by Ashton in which the dancer is expected to disguise its technical challenges and perform it as if it were normal and natural movement. Then imagine what the choreography might look like if during the thirty years after it ceases to be subject to copyright it is consistently performed in a style which emphasises its difficulties and any aspect of it that can be reduced to circus style display. Finally imagine how we would react if after all that time we were exposed for the first time to seeing it performed with its original musicality and dynamics. it would probably look extremely odd to us. 

 

I have not seen this reconstruction and am not going to do so until next year so I can only speak about the impression which  Ratmansky's reconstructions of Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty have had on me. I have been convinced by them  because they have been performed at a speed which I recognise from my early experience of ballet going . When performed at the right speed in a period appropriate way they seem very stylish, light  and beautiful. They suddenly  make Petipa's musicality plain and obvious to all  who care to see and that is most rewarding. To me it is a vast improvement on performances where the music sounds like a dirge because a dancer wishes  to squeeze in an extra turn while another wishes to stick her foot in her ear.  Danilova said that during the twentieth century ballet in Russia and in the West had taken different paths. She thought that in Russia ballet had become little more than a "display of dance". I would add that because of the awe in which we tend to hold the Russians because of their ability to consistently produce exceptional dancers many have been persuaded to accept their "display of dance" aesthetic and have sought to emulate it in their own performance of Petipa's ballets. As  Ratmansky said his object in reconstructing these works is to get closer to what Petipa's ballets may have looked like in performance. By definition that is going to be disconcerting because it removes familiar text and characters and challenges so much of what we think we know about nineteenth century ballets  and their performance, but then that is the point of the exercise.

 

As far as the costumes are concerned you need to remember that Ratmansky has asked his designer to create an impression of what the original designs were like. The expectation at the time when La Bayadere was first staged was that ballerinas wore ballerina appropriate costume which were not affected by the idea that setting a ballet in ancient Egypt or somewhere in central India ought to result in their costumes reflecting the time or place in which the action was set. No leading ballerina would have expected to be required to lower herself by wearing costumes similar to those worm by specialist character dancers .To require that of the ballerinas would have been seen as the gravest insult They would all have been mortally offended if it had been suggested that their costumes should do more than subtly allude to when and where a ballet was set. The inappropriateness of ballerina's costumes exercised Fokine a great deal. You really should read his manifesto it will give you an insight into what was deemed appropriate in ballet design at the time that these ballets were created. We have to remember that as ballet goers we still live in a world in which Fokine's views on ballet aesthetics continue to have considerable influence on what we see or expect to see on stage in many twentieth century ballets. in  !877 harem pants would have seemed perfectly indecent and I doubt that they would have been deemed respectable enough for the Imperial stage even at the point at which the ballet was notated which assume was soon after Petipa was forced to retire. I think that harem pants probably entered the world of ballet design with the Ballet Russes and Scheherazade which is another piece of Russian orientalism. Interestingly it seems to owe a debt to Le Corsaire in places.

Edited by FLOSS
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5 hours ago, Angela said:

This is a little TV report with some pictures from the premiere - I don't think it will work outside Germany, but try:

https://www.rbb-online.de/rbbkultur/dasmagazin/archiv/20181103_1830/la-bayadere-staatsoper-berlin-premiere.html

 

It does work!  Thanks, Angela.  Bit of a shame (from our point of view) that the German dubbing blocks out the English being spoken as much as it does, though.

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Thanks for the video link Angela - the production looks gorgeous

 

Im sorely tempted to splash out on a Berlin trip. Does anyone know what the view is like from an aisle seat in the central block of 1 or 2 Rang?

Edited by Coated
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Actually the absence of the Golden Idol dance in this version and the reason etc   ( though I do love it as a set piece) explains quite a bit 

As seeing the RB's version on Monday I did feel this Dance was a bit sort of isolated from everything else and wondered whether it was the opposite of what has been described in above posts ......that previously in some original/ original the Idol had had a greater role or function in the story etc that had now been lost!!! But obviously not

In some ways I am still glad it was added though as its a nice number and gives a male dancer something to get to grips with!!

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32 minutes ago, LinMM said:

In some ways I am still glad it was added though as its a nice number and gives a male dancer something to get to grips with!!

 

Definitely!I t is a great opportunity for a dancer to shine (literally) because it is a really fantastic solo and I always love watching it so I am curious how much I will miss it when I will see La Bayadere in Berlin. Though maybe the dancers in Berlin aren´t too sad about it, I often hear dancers complain that they need almost the same time to get rid of the makeup as the time to learn the role😉.

 

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8 hours ago, Esmeralda said:

 

Definitely!I t is a great opportunity for a dancer to shine (literally) because it is a really fantastic solo and I always love watching it so I am curious how much I will miss it when I will see La Bayadere in Berlin. Though maybe the dancers in Berlin aren´t too sad about it, I often hear dancers complain that they need almost the same time to get rid of the makeup as the time to learn the role😉.

 

He does get carried across the stage after the elephant in Berlin in Act two!

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Quote

its significance is that Justament was the last man to stage a revival of Giselle at the Paris Opera during the nineteenth century. The revival was staged, I think,in 1868

 

This is not correct, FLOSS. Justament's only work for the Opera was his very successful ballet within Gounod's Faust. Justament's notation of Giselle is believed to come from the late 1850's. Giselle was for the last time performed in before Justament' (very short) tenure began.

 

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This reinforces the idea that until they arrived and he began to create his Tchaikovsky ballets he was working in a vein not that far removed from Perrot's.

 

This needs a correction too. Between Perrot and Petipa, there was an important period when Saint-Léon was in charge in Saint-Petersburg, and one must remember that he was a master choreographer. Petipa's shift away from a ballet-pantomime towards a dance-feerie and grand-ballet happened very much under the influence of the leading Italian choreographers who dominated Milan and Paris throughout the 1880-ies. It was them who created the familiar framework of a ballet with a ballerina-etoile showing off in dramatically meaningless displays of difficult tours de force. If Petipa wanted or, perhaps, if he had to, imitate the style of those new ballets (under the pressure of the public opinion, for example; one must remember that well to do Petersburg public was regularly visiting Paris and would expect to see in Petersburg what was considered fashionable in Paris), then he needed capable performers. It was exactly then that he was charged with a mission to hire some of those famous Italian virtuoso ballerinas. His mission was not entirely successful, none of the star ballerinas of the Opera was persuaded to switch Paris for Petersburg, but the etoiles of the Eden Theatre, like Cornalba and Zucchi, both went to Petersburg and this was the beginning of the period of "Italian domination" of the Imperial ballet troupe in Petersburg.

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  • alison changed the title to Ratmansky's La Bayadère reconstruction, Berlin State Ballet

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