Revolutionary Soviet ballet premieres in the U.S.

[From People’s World]

OSTA MESA, Calif. – It took a full 82 years, but a revolutionary Soviet-era ballet that was purported to be Joseph Stalin’s favorite has finally come to American shores. The Flames of Paris (in Russian, Plamya Parizha), a classical ballet based on the French Revolution, premiered on November 7, 1932, at the Kirov Theatre in Leningrad, was restaged in July 1933 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, and arrived on tour to New York City in early November (playing at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, yes, that David Koch!), and to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, in Costa Mesa, Orange County, California, for three performances in late November.

Some history is in order. Musicologist and composer Boris Asafyev (1884-1949) based his score on songs of the French Revolution, “La Marseillaise” the most famous, and also “Ça ira” and “La Carmagnole.” Typical for large-scale spectacles, his music is bombastic boilerplate suited for ballet. He also adds other traditional or folk-like dances for the crowd scenes. A markedly conservative score, barely a note sounds as though it could have been written after the year 1900. It’s as though Stravinsky, not to mention Asafyev’s younger contemporary Dmitri Shostakovich, had never existed. Some tunes are lifted from the royal French court music of composers such as Jean-Baptiste Lully and André Grétry.

Original stage and costume design was by Vladimir Dmitriev, who also co-authored the libretto with Nicolai Volkov, based on the novel Les rouges du Midi by Félix Gras.

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