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Subject: "Ballet audiences" Archived thread - Read only
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Conferences What's Happening Topic #96
Reading Topic #96
Gerald Dowler

30-06-99, 07:12 AM (GMT)
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"Ballet audiences"
   Well, well. The discussion about opera audiences certainly highlighted a number of the prejudices of the ballet crowd.
Let's face it, the majority of ballet audiences aren't interested in the ballet music. I think that ballet-goers are, for the most part, pretty ignorant about the music which seems a shame, given that the choreographer has always specifically chosen a piece to create to...
Most ballet-goers want an aural equivalent to a tutu; lovely, but ultimately a minor thought. This is a great pity and not because Stravinsky is 'great' and Minkus 'poor'. It is all to do with the magic of theatre, the suspension of disbelief and entering into the world of the ballet on stage.
Whether the interludes of 'La Bayadere' are good music or not is immaterial; it is part and parcel of the performance and therefore chatter is totally unacceptable. Unfortunately, the attitude that nothing is 'happening' until something happens on stage is prevalent and not only amongt the once a year Nutcracker audience. All too often regulars in the Upper Slips at the Garden, for instance, continue to opine and chatter after the music has started or during interludes - people in glass houses...
As for the opera/ballet debate, there are those of us who love both and in both art forms, the music NEVER stands alone - opera is supposed to be theatre, as is ballet (something both the canary-fanciers and the fouette-counters tend to forget) and the music be it Donizetti (who IS a good composer) or Wagner, Minkus or Stravinsky can only be deemed as successful if it works in context.
There is no absolute, no bench-mark, therefore and a lot of the discussion has been the airing of personal preference and no more. What is more important, I would submit, is the present day success rate of creating or re-creating works which succeed as theatre and within that discussion lies the question of a successful score.
Incidentally, as a previous posting pointed out, there are many fantastic scores composed specifically for ballet from Stravinsky to Ravel, Prokofiev to Bliss. Add to that the expert choices of extant scores by choreographers e.g. Ashton's choice of Franck's 'Symphonic Variations' and the roster of successful ballet scores is long indeed...

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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Ballet audiences Anneliese 30-06-99 1
     RE: Ballet audiences Eugene Merrett 30-06-99 2
         RE: Ballet audiences gerald dowler 01-07-99 3
             RE: Ballet audiences Jenny Delaney 01-07-99 4
                 RE: Ballet audiences Eugene Merrett 02-07-99 5
                     RE: Ballet audiences jonathan 02-07-99 6

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30-06-99, 09:53 AM (GMT)
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1. "RE: Ballet audiences"
In response to message #0
   You said a lot of true things there. I THINK that I said something similar to you about the whole needing to be treated in context (well, that's what I was getting at when I said that I didn't think much of Donizetti's Maria Stuarda - the frilly bits were at odds with the dramatic intensity of the plot).

And I didn't mean to imply that Minkus's music was rubbish! I just think that the score, the choreography and the plot of Bayadere add up to a pretty poor package - there is a lot of extraneous material which is musically and choreographically trite, IMHO. Don Quixote, OTHH, works well.

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Eugene Merrett

30-06-99, 10:35 AM (GMT)
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2. "RE: Ballet audiences"
In response to message #1
   I think music is very important in ballet especially plotless ballets. Imagine Symphonic Variations with Minkus music? It would take away alot of the impact. It is less important I think in highly melodramatic ballets like Bayadere - there is more to hold your interest and attention - although some of the music in Bayadere does test my tolerence considerably.

I do not agree with Gerald comments about opera. I love listening to opera on record without any need for visual effects, drama etc- infact in some areas it is better because one can here the greatest singers on record which one cannot always do in the theatre! I went to Birmingham to see Gotterdammerung in concert. I have seen it many times in the theatre but I actually liked it more in concert because the of superior accoustics of a purpose built concert hall against an orchestra pit. What I am saying is that opera can stand by the music and singing alone! Thats why opera records sell well. But I look forward to the advent of opera on DVD which will bring both visual and audio media (and subtitles!) into every opera goers home!

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gerald dowler

01-07-99, 10:07 AM (GMT)
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3. "RE: Ballet audiences"
In response to message #2
   I cannot agree on this one, Eugene. The whole point is that Symphonic Variations IS the music AND the dance combined. To state that it would not be the same with music from Bayadere is so obvious as not to need expression. But what I will argue is that the same view MUST be taken with, say, Bayadere. If you don't like the music, then that's your business, but it IS inseperable from the dance (think of the entrance of the Shades without the 'trite' musical repetition of the same phrase...Impossible.
As for opera, whether one prefers to eschew the visual and theatrical is a matter of personal taste, but the one, inescapable fact is that the works you so love to hear were created specifically for the stage and you may well be missing out on half the experience by not seeing a staging. There may well be radio operas (much in the vein of Thomas' 'Under Milk Wood'as a radio play) but the main repertoire is not. They ARE stage works and personal preference will never change that. Why not watch dance only on video, or indeed ballet without all that tiresome music....?

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Jenny Delaney

01-07-99, 01:23 PM (GMT)
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4. "RE: Ballet audiences"
In response to message #3
   I'm with Gerald on this one. I think the reason that a lot of people listen to ballet music is for the visual memories it conveys - I adore the music for the Kingdom of the Shades precisely because it evokes such wonderful images in my mind.

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Eugene Merrett

02-07-99, 11:03 AM (GMT)
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5. "RE: Ballet audiences"
In response to message #4
   I rather like the music to the Kingdom of the Shades as well - perhaps the best bit. I think I posted similar thoughts about this a year ago. But when one the shades starts dancing to a polka....ugh! Imagine La Bayadere if Tchiakovsky or Prokoviev wrote the music. It would be a lot better I think.

I never said that opera sans theatre was better then the actual thing. But opera in concert or on video or on record is better then no opera at all. Just like ballet videos is better then no ballet at all!!! Ideally I would like a private performance of my favorite opera/ballet with the option to encore my favorite bits! But as I cannot have this I am happy to compromise!

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02-07-99, 04:35 PM (GMT)
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6. "RE: Ballet audiences"
In response to message #5
>La Bayadere if Tchiakovsky or Prokoviev
>wrote the music. It would
>be a lot better I think.
It would be a different ballet, for a start. However, Tchaikovsky wrote some pretty dull stuff (the solos in the pas de trois of swan lake for example, and buckets of music that was used for Cranko's Onegin, saved only by orchestration and the ballet itself).

As a composer who was about as keen on ballet as you are on Minkus, and like you, preferred his music to have some bite, Tchaikovsky probably wouldn't have been able to sustain the simplicity of the Shades music, which is one of the things that makes it so visually stunning.

Prokofiev would certainly have ruined it - I think you'd have to look to Shostakovich for a composer who understood when music had to take the back seat with grace and charm.

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