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Subject: "Excelsior in Turin" Archived thread - Read only
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Conferences What's Happening Topic #1184
Reading Topic #1184

02-01-01, 08:11 AM (GMT)
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"Excelsior in Turin"
   While most of the theatres chose to stage "Nutcracker" during the Christmas season, the Teatro Regio in Turin invited La Scala Ballet for ten performances of "Excelsior". This ballet, created in 1881 by Manzotti with music composed by Marenco, cannot be compared with the great classics of the same period as "Bayadère" or "Sleeping beauty". There are no princes or princesses or love stories and it tells the glory of the great scientific discoveries like the steam-engine, the telegraph, the Suez channel, the Cenisio tunnel. Such a subject reminds me of the Soviet works, from "The red poppy" to "Leningrad symphony", but of course Marenco's music, with its mazurkas and galops, isn't heroic at all!
"Excelsior" was one of the greatest triumphs of the Italian ballet, rich of pomp, colours and dances. With the first World War it disappeared from the scenes and until 1967 only the version for puppets remained alive. Luckily in June of that year a revisited "Excelsior" was presented in Florence, with choreography by Dell'Ara, scenes and costumes by Coltellacci and a new character: the Slave. Since then "Excelsior" has been often staged in Italy and I saw it for the first time in 1978 at La Scala for the bicentenary season. Then one year ago a pas de trois has been added in the second act and this new version is the one I saw on the 30th of December in Turin. This matinée was a real event: Carla Fracci, who's now 64, was going to dance with La Scala Ballet for the last time.
On stage there was a real crowd: 20 characters, each requiring a soloist, 16 children from the Ballet School and 23 additional dancers joining the corps the ballet for the different pieces of the show. Everyone was perfectly displaying the particular style required by the choreography, especially in the use of arms and hands. One could imagine to be taken to a music hall, with the boys lining up in the background and displaying their muscular bodies and the girls marching with hats, flags and fancy tutus (some of them representing abat-jours!) like majorettes supporting the winner: the Civilization. This role was danced by Anita Magyari, as since last year Carla Fracci abandoned it, preferring that of the Light, less demanding from the technical point of view. The two male leading roles, the Obscurantism and the Slave, were danced by Massimo Murru and Roberto Bolle. A the end of each scene the audience was cheering and clapping hands. The best moments were in the second act. Magyari flirted with the right amount of irony with her four cavaliers, the Chinese (Vittorio D'Amato), the Turkish (Francisco Sedeno), the Spainsh (Michele Villanova) and the English (Ales-sandro Grillo) in a parody of the Rose Adagio from "Sleeping beauty". Fracci won not only every battle with the Obscurantism but also with age, using all of her body, from pointe shoes to arms, like a real queen of the stage. Murru was at his best in a choreography where the academic style is missing and the brisk movements remind the contemporary dance. Bolle was a Slave who, after only a couple of seconds spent leaning on the ground, gained his freedom: using arms and hands as they were wings and feathers, he soared effortlessly, multiplying the technical difficulties. At the end his tours à la seconde seemed to go on forever, while around him the corps de ballet whirled in a sweeping galop.
The audience started showering the dancers and the conductor, David Coleman, with flowers and I lost track of the courtain calls as the fingers of my hands weren't enough to help me count them.

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