Evening of one-act ballets: Marguerite and Armand. In the Night. Symphony in C
Marguerite and Armand
Music by Franz Liszt (Piano Sonata in B Minor)
Orchestrated by Dudley Simpson
Choreography by Frederick Ashton
Production Coach at the Mariinsky Theatre:
Set Designs and Costumes: Cecil Beaton
Original Lighting Concept: John B. Read
World premiere: 12 March 1963, The Royal Ballet of Great Britain, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London
Premiere at the Mariinsky Theatre: 8 July 2014
Running time: 30 minutes
The ballet Marguerite and Armand was created at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in 1963. Eye-witnesses recollect that following the premiere there were twenty-one curtain calls.
Frederick Ashton staged the ballet for Margot Fonteyn. Rudolf Nureyev, who had recently arrived in London, was all but unknown to Ashton at the time, but the charismatic young dancer’s partnership with the forty-three-year-old grande dame of British ballet – the incomparable Margot Fonteyn – provided a suitable theme for the production in which the choreographer was afforded the opportunity once again to present his darling in all her glory.
Ashton and Fonteyn emerged as great artists together – she as a ballerina and he as a choreographer. He created ballets with her in mind and dedicated them to her. And if Ashton had not had such a responsive performer who so inspired him over the course of more than a quarter of a century with her ease, emotionality and perfectionism his achievements in British choreography may well have been rather different. In the early 1960s Margot Fonteyn was planning to retire from performing and Ashton’s vision of a stage version of the story told by Alexandre Dumas fils in La Dame aux camélias happened to find resonance with her stage career. In the ballet, the heroine appeared at the end of her life’s journey: dying from consumption, she recalled moments of her former life and her passionate love. It suited Fonteyn to remember the past days of former artistic triumphs. And for Ashton this production was a deeply personal dedication. At the time, in spring 1963, no-one could have imagined that the method chosen to depict the story in the ballet would foretell the scenario of the ballerina’s own subsequent stage life, where events would not be regarded in retrospective but would look into the future. Her greatest triumphs were yet to come and her partnership with Nureyev was to be not a matter of nostalgia but rather the beginning of a new stage life.
Other amazing coincidences are connected with this production: having heard Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B Minor on the radio, Frederick Ashton considered it to be a suitable musical basis for his future ballet based on the plot of La Dame aux camélias. And how surprised he was when he discovered that Franz Liszt and Marie Duplessis, the prototype of Marguerite Gautier, the female protagonist of Dumas fils’ novel and stage play, were linked by a romantic relationship at the end of her short life and that the sonata was composed several years after her death!
Ashton did not create the ballet taking into account the individual characters of the performers, and neither did he tell a story about his dancers; he created their story – it was in this ballet that the legendary duo was born. This was why the choreographer categorically forbade any other dancers to touch this incredibly providential masterpiece. If, at first, during rehearsals Fonteyn and Nureyev had understudies, over time Ashton came to consider that the ballet Marguerite and Armand was not a vehicle where the performers could be replaced. The only possible content of the ballet was the personalities of its protagonists and the magnetism of their relationship on the stage.
But one by one the creators of the ballet all died – first Ashton in 1988, then Margot Fonteyn in 1991 and, two years after that, Nureyev. And the idea arose of reviving this “lost” wonder.
The first dancer with whom the guardians of Ashton’s legacy entrusted Fonteyn’s role was Sylvie Guillem, a ballerina with unique physical abilities and, which is more important here, a rare charisma and incredibly powerful individuality. In 1984 the nineteen-year-old Sylvie had been named an Étoile of the Opéra de Paris by Rudolf Nureyev, while some years later he took her to London for a co-performance and personally introduced her to Margot Fonteyn. Soon she became the brightest star of British ballet, as Fonteyn herself had once been, the unchallenged darling of London audiences. It is quite possible that she, more than anyone else, saw the obvious pointlessness of following the path taken by her mentor Rudolf Nureyev and his eternally adored Margot Fonteyn. Probably that is why Sylvie Guillem turned down the role on two occasions. And when she accepted it in 2000 she looked for the key to the image not in Fonteyn’s Marguerite but in the literary source.
Thus began the new stage life of Marguerite and Armand. The “ghosts” and destinies of Fonteyn and Nureyev have faded into the background, and today’s performers of the ballet – of whom there have been a great many since 2000 – dance the story of Dumas’ characters.
In the Night
Music by Frédéric Chopin
Choreography by Jerome Robbins (1970)
Staged by Ben Huys
Costumes by Anthony Dowell
Lighting by Jennifer Tipton
Recreated by Nicole Pearce
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
Prior to the appearance of this ballet in the Mariinsky Theatre repertoire, Russian audiences knew Jerome Robbins only as a hypostasis – Robbins-the-choreographer-of-musicals, Robbins-the-Broadway-triumph. Not for his “live” productions, of course, but rather for his film version of Westside Story, which caused a veritable furore in the cinemas of the Soviet Union. In 1992, the Mariinsky Theatre brought another Robbins to the country – Robbins the lyricist and the intellectual, one of the two leading figures at New York City Ballet. The man who took Chopin’s nocturnes and in 1970 created In the Night – a short ballet for three couples. Initially they appear on stage in turn, while in the finale they all dance at the same time. Each of the couples offers their own version of the dialogue between man and woman – and, impeccably reproducing the choreographic scene, all the performers bring their own ideas of paired relationships to these dialogues. The good-natured coquetry and the claims of divine service, competing in the dazzle and the childlike thirst for trust – all different people, and so every time In the Night looks just that little bit different from the previous display.
World premiere: 29 January 1970, New York City Ballet, New York
Premiere at the Mariinsky Theatre: 18 March 1992
Premiere of the revival: 5 May 2009
Running time 25 minutes
Performed by permission of The Robbins Rights Trust
Symphony in C
Music by Georges Bizet (Symphony No. 1 in C)
Choreography by George Balanchine (1947)
Staging by Colleen Neary
Costume design by Irina Press
World premiere: 28 July 1947, Théâtre National de l'Opéra, Paris
Premiere at the Mariinsky Theatre: 9 February 1996
Running time: 40 minutes
The ballet of George Balanchine Symphony in C is presented by arrangement with The George Balanchine Trust and has been produced in accordance with the Balanchine Style® and Balanchine Technique® service standards established and provided by the Trust
The Mariinsky Theatre would like to express its gratitude to Mrs Bettina von Siemens for her support in bringing the “Ballets of George Balanchine” project to life
1 Theatre Square
Mariinsky-2 (New Theatre):
34 Dekabristov Street
Mariinsky Concert Hall:
20 Pisareva street