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Subject: "The Diaghilev Legacy, ROH 27/4/2000" Archived thread - Read only
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Conferences What's Happening Topic #675
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Ann Williams

29-04-00, 11:27 AM (GMT)
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"The Diaghilev Legacy, ROH 27/4/2000"

Thursday night's 'Diaghilev Legacy' insight evening at the ROH's Linbury Theatre was a real pleasure and I'm glad I plumped for that rather than the Schaufuss 'Elvis' opening at SW.

Monica Mason talked us through both 'Firebird' (Fokine) and 'Les Biches' (Nijinska) with the help of Mara Galazzi, who will be dancing in both ballets in the upcoming Diaghilev programme at Covent Garden.. Galazzi seems both technically assured and artistically mature, but with a pleasantly unassuming personality (how thin she is, though!).

Mason, however, was the real star. She had the enormous advantage of actually being coached through 'Biches' by Nijinska herself and - since she's a born communicator - managed to convey her memories of this with revealing clarity and wit. She began by explaining that Nijinska's ballet, like most of the Diaghilev repertoire, called for a more relaxed stance than we are familiar with today - arms held loosely and without tension, shoulders not pulled back, a more rounded and softer look than we see now. She outlined the dynamics of La Garconne's first solo in 'Biche' with careful precision, Galazzi making her entrance on stiff, stalking pointe wearing white gloves. (I can hardly wait to see the whole of this deliciously daffy ballet). Of 'Firebird' (which Galazzi is understudying) she was equally revealing; Fokine, it appears, lost sight of his ballet for some years and by time he saw it in Paris the costumes and scenery had been radicaslly changed - the girls were in tutus rather than harem pants and their hair had been cut into fashionable 20s bobs, making nonsense of the movements he had choreographed for sensuous running-of-hands-through-long-hair moments. Philip Gammon played sturdily throughout, apologising for his inability to sound like an 80-piece orchestra in 'Firebird'!

MM was a hard act to follow, but Ross Alley, a lecturer in opera and ballet at London University didn't disappoint with his brilliant discourse on Stravinski's 'Firebird' music. No music lecturer I have ever heard before has explained with such clarity and brevity the mathematics of music, and its emotional relevance to its subject. With the short time left, he drew our attention to the eroticism of Debussy's L'Apres Midi d'un Faune and went some way to explain the mechanics of how this was achieved. Remarkable.

Congratulations to all at the ROH involved in organising this very satisfying event. I hope there will be be many more like it.

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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  Green with envy Stephanie Wragg 29-04-00 1
     RE: Green with envy Ann Williams 30-04-00 2
         Memories Stephanie Wragg 01-05-00 3
             RE: Memories alison 02-05-00 4

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Stephanie Wragg

29-04-00, 08:22 PM (GMT)
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1. "Green with envy"
In response to message #0
   Ah, to live in London.....Sounds like a fantastic evening...

You mention the more relaxed stance of the Diaghilev dancers, was any effort made to keep this in the current productions or is that simply ignored for the current trend in hyper-virtuosity?

Any other insights about the Nijinska coaching back in the 60's or about Mason being coached by Fonteyn, herself coached by Karsavina for 'Firebird"?

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Ann Williams

30-04-00, 12:07 PM (GMT)
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2. "RE: Green with envy"
In response to message #1

Monica Mason was certainly teaching Mara Galazzi the 'tension-free' method when we saw the demonstration on Thursday. She was very precise about where and how the hands should be held and I'd be surprised if this didn't apply to the other dancers in the Diaghilev programme. However, I think it would be a mistake to expect to notice any appreciable difference - these adjustments in technique are subtle and probably only really noticeable to the dancers themsleves.

In speaking of her (and Georgina Parkinson's) coaching by Nijinska in 'Biches', all she said was that Nijinksa spoke only Russian and that Svetlana Beriosova had to interpret for them. However, I seem to remember about ten years ago when the RB were about to perform Nijinska's wonderful 'Les Noces' there was a study evening at which Mason also spoke and she said then that Nijinska was a tough taskmaster and rehearsed to cast to near-exhaustion before allowing them a break. Bear with me - can I go on? I've just remebered something wonderful about that event (I think it must have been the same event because we were certainly talking about 'Noces'). De Valois was present (well, she was only 91 at the time) and spoke vividly about her memories of the original London presentation of 'Noces' and how one critic had said of it 'If this is a Russian wedding, heaven spare us a Russian funeral!'. Alicia Markova was also present - a mere slip of a thing - and when she went twittering off point, Madam snapped at her 'Alice, that's not what we're here to talk about!'.

A treasured memory.

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Stephanie Wragg

01-05-00, 04:16 PM (GMT)
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3. "Memories"
In response to message #2
   What great anecdotes to read about!
Thanks for sharing those and please feel free to go on!!!

Regarding Firebird, you mention Galeazzi is the understudy...so who is the main dancer for this piece?

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02-05-00, 12:58 PM (GMT)
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4. "RE: Memories"
In response to message #3
   Mara's understudying Yoshida, who I hope will be sufficiently recovered to dance, although she didn't appear at the masterclass on Sunday.

Incidentally, the comments about this study evening and the masterclass made me realise what a gem Monica Mason is with all her information about ballets past. I really hope someone has had the sense to record it all in some format or another for posterity.

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