Coppelia may be as ‘pretty as a picture’ but she has no soul, to live she will need to suck the life out of Franz. Swanilda is his true love, but her passion startles the young man who would prefer his ideal. Fortunately she is persistent.
It’s a dance off. Swanilda can out dance her peers and Franz is more talented than his, it’s a ‘match made in Heaven’ but fate has a turn. Before the two amazing movers are joined, (whichcould lead to a standing ovation) evil raises his ugly head in the guise of a mad magician.
It’s a three-part play, with a haunting centre. Some toys can be very intimidating, some boys can be very threatening and some girls can be very curious. It makes great drama, within a comic text. It was the ballet that saved itself.
‘ the plot reads like a modern horror movie, Saint-Leon’s production was a clever commentary on the dangers of infatuation. When the ballet finally opened in Paris in May 1870 it seemed. with its freshness and vitality, as if the art had been reborn in France.‘ JudithSteeh
It was the ballet revival that kept the flame alight in Europe, until the Ballet Russes set it ablaze. Essentially it was designed to excel the ballerina for the delight of its male patrons (like Degas) but was modernised by Ogilvie. The male parts that were performed by ballerinas, were handed over to men and choreographed into the leaps and athleticism, that it is today. It is beautiful ballet with amazing dancing.
‘We are delighted to bring back this production, which has long been considered a jewel of The Australian Ballet’s repertoire,’ David McAllister ,Artistic Director
The Palais adds ambience of this period piece, it was first performed on its stage in 1962. The charm of another era resonates through the Saturday matinée, the wood paneling, marble columns, leather seats and ‘cash only’ bars and kiosks. It’s beautiful to walk out its doors and believe the world has not changed on the St Kilda Esplanade.
The terrors of recent France and the Edgar Degas exhibition in Melbourne, may seem to have nothing in common, but look again.
“Have we loss the supremacy on the field of Fine Arts as we have lost it on the field of battle? Are our Artists like our Generals the victims of a treacherous illusion of seeing themselves invincible?” Ross King
This was the general critical response to the 1872 Exhibition held at the Salon; the heartbeat that informed the public of what was regarded as Art.The committee that held tight to conservative principles had got it wrong. The times were changing.
The French had loss a war to the Germans and the terms of defeat were so disagreeable to the French that there was Civil war on the streets. Scorched buildings, street executions and dead bodies scarred the city. The public no longer wanted Art or Artists that celebrated Napoleon Wars.
Manet the mentor of the Impressionist who had been made ridiculous by the Salon, it’s critics and the public, for most of his career, was suddenly the ‘toast of the town’. The Socialists were imprisoned and shot after the riots at Montmarte, however the tide had turned. People wanted artists that told their stories, not those of the Ruling Class and its Generals.
“Suddenly , as if in reaction against the grim drabness and horrors of the Siege and the Commune, the Impressionists burst forth into a new,passionate, glorious blaze of colour, redolent with the love of simple, ordinary existence.”Alistair Horne
The Salon was losing its hold and the cafes where rogue artists congregated were taking hold as the places which informed Artists.It is in this environment that Degas and the Impressionists went forth and re-created new ‘ways of seeing’.
“Drawing is not what one sees but what others are made to see”Degas
Manets tireless battle with the Art Establishment that would have worn down most; forged a path for Modern Art.
“Of Manet’s circle the closest to him in age, intellect and temperament was Edgar Degas,whom Manet first met in 1853, the year of his first rejection from the Salon.” Denis Thomas
Degas purchased a camera on a trip to America and it informed his work, he chose to paint unconventional angles. The Modern Era needed a new voice.
In 1917, Pablo Picasso left (war effected) Paris and moved to Italy to join Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes where he would become close friends with Igor Stravinsky, a brilliant composer. Choreographer George Balanchine joined the company and was also regarded as a leader of his craft. It was a unique collaboration of Masters, each eager to explore Modern motifs.
The Australian Ballet presented Symphony In Three Movements (1946) in 20:21, at The Art Centre Melbourne, recreating the collaboration between Stravinsky and Balanchine. It’s a ballet wedged between the classical and the contemporary. Eve Lawson has used cotton gloves to protect the integrity of the historic statement and gives the audience an opportunity to witness the Modern Wave in a digital world. Music Director and Chief Conductor Nicolette Fraillon recreates the rhythmic pulse.
Picasso entered Diaghilev’s Ballet a bohemian, a womaniser, and an abstract painter. He was regarded as a Master Artist due to his break-through work Les Demoiselles Davignon and enjoyed the patronage and support of Gertrude Stien.
He was admired by his avant-garde peers for leading the modern movement. Joining Diaghilev’s Ballet was an unexpected career move that alienated many of his contemporaries.
Diaghilev’s led the Ballet Russes with brutal force and Picasso’s powerful personality had to submit to the expectations placed on him. He would be seen in suits during this period.
By the time that Picasso had freed himself from Diaghilev’s tyranny he was married, gentrified, a classical figurative artist and his peers were Russian Royalty, that had escaped civil war.
Just as Diaghilev had altered Picasso (temporarily) into a more conservative aspect of himself, Picasso’s presence was also influencing Diaghilev. The Russian Ballet had been marooned in Italy, unable to return home as they were regarded as Imperials, by the communists. The Modern Art movement was sweeping Europe at the time and these new influences inspired Diaghilev to move away from the traditions of ballet. He was also pro-communist.
The employment of the new Modern Masters which included Picasso as set and costume designer, Stravinsky as the score and later Balanchine as Choreographer enabled Diaghilev to create a new vision. It was not an easy transition for him, although he made great strides forward, he was never be able to fully shake off his roots, just as Picasso could never abandon his Bohemian ways.
‘The fact that neither Spain or Russia had undergone a Renaissance made their mutual understanding all the more instinctive’ JR
Picasso and Stravinsky met and firmly bonded, it was a lifetime friendship. It is through this friendship that we learn more about the influences that drove the musical direction of Stravinsky. He created raw minimal pieces and reframed older compositions. Both of these artists drew from their environment in unexpected ways, Picasso could find character in a fork and Stravinsky found music in a scratching sound.
‘Stravinsky had at a stroke re-established himself as the most chic and brilliant modernist’ JR
Picasso left the ballet and embarked on his first marriage with one of the Russian dancers Olga Khokhlova. Stravinsky remained within the Diaghilev hub and teamed up with Balanchine. Stravinsky and Balanchine shared a vision that the music and the choreography should be equal parts that worked together.
Although Stravinsky had been able to work solidly through WW1, it was not a safe place for him in WW2 ,so he had to refugee to America. His new country afforded him employment, but not on his terms.
The Stravinsky that had fooled about with Picasso had grown reserved in America. In Italy, he had sourced from popular culture and allowed himself moments of wild abandonment with the cream of Modern Art .
‘Very drunk Stravinsky raided the rooms upstairs and tossed pillows, bolsters and mattresses onto the heads of the guests below.The ensuing pillow fight kept the party going until three in the morning’JR
Despite the numerous set backs and forced immigrations, Stravinsky stayed one step ahead of destruction. In 1946, he was commission by the Philharmonic Symphony Society of New York to compose Symphony in Three Movements. Balanchine created a ballet that would translate the music.
Balanchine’s Ballet is an eclectic blend of cultural references and popular trends. The 50’s were about to dawn and the Ballet showcases girls with long pony-tails in dancing gangs, exotic Asian influences, soldiers and clocks, all portrayed in leotards with no scene props. It is classically rich, within a sheer minimal exterior.
It is modern art, moving.
Scott and Bull photo by Justin Ridler
The Life of Picasso, The Triumpant Years 1917-1932,John Richardson 2010 Alfred a.Knopf