Tonight is opening night – Merde to all involved!
Meanwhile – Sir Anthony Dowell graciously agreed to allow photos of a rehearsal to be published on the blog!
At age seventeen, Felix Mendelssohn (1809-47) wrote to his sister Fanny that he was planning to “dream the Midsummer Night’s Dream!” His overture, first performed publicly in 1827 and described by Bernard Shaw as “fascinating, original, and perfectly new,” later became the basis for his 1843 incidental music to Shakespeare’s play. Mendelssohn completed the music with the help of royal funds from Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia, who also commissioned music to Antigone, Oedipus at Colonus, and Athalie in an effort to revive Greek tragedy.
The score is a wonderful example of program music, or music that is meant to evoke extra-musical images and ideas. You will hear recurring, evolving themes depicting the fairies, young lovers, and the donkey. The fairy motive, for example, is hard to miss—like the footwork, it is lively, fast, and staccato. The slow and sweeping lovers’ theme is an expansion of the fairy music. The four opening chords that introduce Oberon and Titania’s world reappear several times throughout the ballet.
Three pieces have become famous on their own: the Scherzo (a fast and rhythmic triple meter “jest”), the Nocturne (Oberon and Titania’s stunning pas de deux), and the famous Wedding March.
Thank you Jared!
A picture of Romi Beppu and Michael Bearden in the first dress rehearsal of Ben Stevenson’s THREE PRELUDES.
Look what we found today in Adam’s library!
Sir Anthony Dowell travelled from London to Salt Lake City just to share his knowledge with the Artists of Ballet West. The original Oberon in Sir Frederick Ashton’s THE DREAM will be spending time in the Ballet West studios until our opening performances. Thank you Adam Sklute for bringing Sir Anthony Dowell to Ballet West!
Sir Anthony James Dowell, CBE, was chosen by Sir Frederick Ashton to create the role of Oberon in The Dream. This was his time dancing with Dame Antoinette Sibley and their partnership is now legendary. In 1966 Dowell was promoted to the rank of principal dancer and created other roles in Ashton’s works including Beliaev in his A Month in the Country, Troyte in Enigma Variations, and Lo Straniero in Varii Capricci. For Sir Kenneth MacMillan, he created Des Grieux in Manon, Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet, Kchessinska’s partner in Anastasia, the Boy in Triad and Autumn in The Four Seasons. He also created the Boy with Matted Hair in Antony Tudor’s Shadowplay, Prospero in Nureyev’s The Tempest and the leading role in Hans van Manen’s Four Schumann Pieces, for which he was the inspiration.
In the late 1970s he danced with both The Royal Ballet in London and American Ballet Theatre in New York.
In September 1986 he was appointed Director of The Royal Ballet, a post he held until August 2001.
Deanne McEwan in the financial department has two sketches of costume renderings by David Walker on her desk to look at when she is not looking at numbers. I asked her if I could scan them to share with you. Thanks Deanne!
‘Songs of the Valley’ is returning to the stage after a long absence. Ballet Master Bruce Caldwell has mounted the entire ballet and Bruce Marks was with us last week to revise certain passages for the current dancers. Bruce Marks will be back to put the ballet on stage but in the mean time Bruce Caldwell has graciously agreed to tell us about ‘Songs of the Valley’.
Songs of the Valley – The Early Years
In 1976 the nation celebrated the Bicentennial of its’ founding. Utah had appointed a commission to oversee the statewide activities, and they had granted Ballet West the funds to create a ballet with our local heritage in mind.
Bruce Marks had recently become Artistic Director, and decided to choreograph a ballet that paid homage to the early settlers of the Salt Lake Valley, their sacrifice, hardships and determined energy. He chose the Old American Songs of Aaron Copland for the music and jumped into the task of choreography.
Even though the ballet does not tell a specific story, its use of gesture, posture, and exuberance make it evident that it is relating to those early days on the frontier.
By adding the use of church benches, that happen to have wheels, he was able to have a movable set, that can be either a church, a park, seats on a shady porch, or even a moving ship on the water.
It took the dancers some time to come to grips with the fact that they have to “drive” these benches to certain spots within the framework of the musical demands, and to stand and dance on top of them. That aspect has not changed in the current production.
I was the soloist in the original cast in The Golden Willow tree segment. It is about a young cabin boy who must sink an enemy ship by swimming under it and boring holes in its hull. Originally Bruce had incorporated a lot a back rolls to shoulder stands, as well as diving and rolling on the stage. I remember showing him the black and blue abrasions I had suffered in rehearsal the previous day, and he said “you’re covered with Bruise Marks” – one of the many puns he would always inject in his language.
In this ballet, once you are onstage, you never leave. This means that you can’t bend over and pant, or get a sip of water, or stretch out a tight muscle. I distinctly remember a few pesky rivulets of sweat that just dripped off my nose and onto the floor, creating an itch that I just couldn’t scratch.
I did enjoy dancing in it. It has a feeling of harmony of the ensemble and group, and a flow to it that is rewarding for all onstage. By the time you are flinging yourself about in Ching-Ring- Chaw, you are really starting to get that pioneer spirit.
In 1997, we were doing bus and truck tours to many small cities in the Western States. Songs of the Valley was always very popular. It was great that we could do it with live music, Piano and solo Baritone. It worked in any venue, small stages, gymnasiums, even outdoor makeshift stages. Of course it was usually the opener, and almost inevitably I would be doing two other ballets that night as well. But, I was young and loved to dance, and we have great memories of those times.
A couple of behind the scenes iPhone pix from the Tribune photo shoot.