SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE: BALLET AND FILM
By John Mueller
1980, Revised and updated August 2009
Léonide Massine's ballet Symphonie Fantastique was first performed in London on July 24, 1936 by the de Basil Ballet Russe. Massine and Tamara Toumanova performed the lead roles, and the decor was by Christian Bérard.
Massine was a very popular choreographer in the 1930s and this eventful and highly theatrical ballet was even more successful with audiences than usual. The ballet was also well received by the critics. Those, like Ernest Newman, who were favorably impressed by Massine's use in his ballets of established symphonic music continued to be impressed. And those who disapproved of such use in Massine's earlier symphonic ballets (Tchaikovsky's Fifth in Presages and Brahms' Fourth in Choreartium, both in 1933) generally accepted Symphonie Fantastique because the action was based on the scenario published with the music by the composer, Hector Berlioz.
The production, changed somewhat, received its North American premiere in New York on October 29, 1936.
Massine left the de Basil Ballet Russe in 1938 to found the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo with Serge Denham and Rene Blum. Symphonie Fantastique, however, remained in the de Basil repertory and continued to be performed (though not always very well) for several years.
In 1948 Massine was invited to Copenhagen to mount some of his ballets for the Royal Danish Ballet. Although the company was yet to be "discovered" by the ballet world outside Denmark, it was in remarkably fine performing shape under the direction of Harold Lander. In its ranks were many dancers who were soon to become well known internationally--Erik Bruhn, Henning Kronstam, Toni Pihl (later Lander), Niels Bjørn Larsen, Kirsten Ralov, Inge Sand, Frank Schaufuss, and Mona Vangsaae, to name a few. As was only fully appreciated later, the company had preserved not only works of the great nineteen-century choreographer, August Bournonville, but also a mime tradition, and Larsen, who performed the lead role in Symphonie Fantastique, was to become one of its most important exemplars in future years.
With the assistance of his wife, Tatiana Orlova, Massine mounted two ballets on the company for the season: Beau Danube (in which he danced the role of the Hussar himself for the first Danish performances) and a version of Symphonie Fantastique. The latter ballet, receiving its premiere on April 1, 1948, was entitled Episode af en Kunstners Liv (An Episode in the Life of an Artist) after Berlioz' subtitle for the music, and used new sets and costumes designed by Pierre Roy. An exuberant review of an early performance by Henry Helissen is reprinted below.
Massine always insisted that he was doing a new version of the ballet in 1948, not a revival. He made this clear to the Danish dancers when he mounted the work and also in letters to me shortly before his death.
Changes in the ballet can be assessed by looking at Massine's films of the original version of the ballet which were taken in 1936 and 1937 and are now owned by the Dance Division of the New York Public Library. These older films are of very poor quality: they are often over- or under-exposed, portions of the ballet are missing, few of the dancers are performing full-out, stage hands wander through at several points, Massine is clearly directing the other dancers even as he performs his own role, and so forth. But enough is there to make pertinent comparisons.
The comparison suggests that, in its basic approach and sensibilities, the Danish version of Symphonie Fantastique is identical to the original version. The progress of the ballet's scenario, the layout of the action, and, above all, the way Massine uses the music--the dramas and passions and effects he hears and is inspired by--these are all essentially unaltered.
The greatest difference between the two versions is also the least important, and the most peculiar: almost everything is reversed. That is, actions that progressed from left to right in 1936 progressed from right to left in 1948; entrances and exits that happen on stage right in the earlier version occur on stage left in the later. (The proposition that one film or the other is reversed in the projector is easily disposed of: not only are there set designs and stage photographs to compare, but direction can easily be determined in ballets like this by looking at pirouettes and other turns--a ballet in which virtually everyone turns to the left has, as far as I know, yet to be choreographed.)
Massine's reason for making this substantial, yet trivial, change is not clear. The ownership of the choreography for the ballet had been a matter of litigation between de Basil and himself in 1938 (Massine had lost), and it is possible he wanted to be able to claim, with logic more precise than meaningful, that virtually every step in the later version was different. It may also be that the change was a matter of self-discipline: by putting himself through the mental gymnastics required to reverse the entire ballet he would force himself to re-think the choreography.
Beyond this, the differences between the two versions are mostly matters of individual effects rather than of fundamental concepts. The largest number of changes occurs in the last movement--the movement that garnered criticism from otherwise friendly critics in 1936, particularly from Newman and Arnold Haskell.
Often the changes seem to be for the better. Images which seem unusually vivid and utterly essential in the 1948 version were sometimes represented by less memorable constructions in the original. Among these are the grouping that ends the first scene and the grotesque one that ends the work, the way the musician runs up over the massed bodies of his tormenters for his execution and the sudden, brief appearance of the beloved when her theme is played in the fourth scene, and some of the movement counterpoint in parts of the third scene. One specific comparison may illustrate. In the middle of the last scene it is necessary to bring the corpse of the musician from the wings to stage center. In 1936 this was accomplished by a rather obvious bit of stage business: monks pass across the stage while the dancer playing the musician crept out to center stage behind the cover of their robes. In 1948 the musician's body is borne to center stage in full view on the backs of some grotesquely crawling creatures.
A summary of many of the specific differences between the 1936 and the 1948 versions of the ballet is included in a later section in these notes. It will make more coherent reading, of course, after a viewing of the DVD, rather than before.
In 1936 Massine began making silent, black and white, 16mm films of his ballets in order to record the choreography for his own study and to aid him in revivals. When we met in 1977, he told me he had had this idea for years, and had recommended it earlier to Serge Diaghilev. In all, Massine was to film more than 50 of his ballets. Typically, the camera was simply pointed at the stage, keeping it fully in view at all times. Because the stages he used were often not very wide (compared to those at Lincoln Center, for example) and because the choice of camera lens was usually made by a professional, many of the films show a fair amount of detail as well as the overall effect of the ballet.
The film of the Danish version of Symphonie Fantastique is typical of the best of these films. The recording was done a few days before the premiere at a "special rehearsal." The dancers were instructed to perform the ballet once through, dancing full out. They perform in practice dress to show the choreography the more clearly and Massine made sure they were dressed rather simply and uniformly so that the stage retains a reasonably uncluttered look. As the central figure, Niels Bjørn Larsen is dressed somewhat differently--in loose pants rather than tights--so he is readily distinguishable from the others. Choreographically-relevant props and costume effects (musical instruments, vessels, capes, whips, grotesque headgear) are also usually included. The dancers were performing to a piano version of the score, played for them by Elof Nielsen.
The ballet was filmed by a professional photography firm in Copenhagen using two cameras set side by side. As one camera began to run out of film, the second took over and the first was re-loaded. The developed films from the two cameras were then spliced together at the appropriate points and a complete film of the ballet was thus created. Something apparently went wrong with one of the cameras during a portion of the first scene and Massine, after seeing the complete film, had this portion re-photographed some time later.
The production of the synchronized sound film
Planning for the film synchronization project began in 1977 when I wrote to Mr. Massine to see if he might be interested in adding sound under his direction to some of his films and then making the resulting sound films available. He liked the idea and we met for half a day on August 28 under the auspices of Dr. Mary Otis Clark at the Valley View Lodge in Rossmoor, California, to discuss the project and to look at some of his films, including an excellent 1961 British television production of his beautiful work, Laudes Evangelii--he was very moved to see it again. He became very enthusiastic about the project even as the gracious, gentlemanly, erect, fully alert octogenarian voiced his dismay at his peers in the lodge who seemed to be preoccupied by bingo and bridge even as he was reading about counterpoint and planning a new ballet using Danish folk music based on Hans Christian Andersen's The Red Shoes. At the end of our lengthy discussions about the project and about his films and where the originals were located, we were sipping some Grand Marnier. Raising his glass, Mr. Massine noted, “This is an original, not a print.”
Funding for the project was finally received from the National Endowment for the Humanities in late 1978. With Mr. Massine's sudden death on March 15, 1979 the project, with the permission of NEH, was restructured to use dancers on the films as choreographic advisers.
Three stages were involved in producing the final film: processing the original film materials, synchronizing the piano sound, and final editing.
1. The initial problem in processing the film materials was to determine at what speed they were originally shot. The best guess of most film experts consulted was that the film was shot at what used to be known as "silent speed": 16 frames per second. The problem is that the dance movement looks believable both at 16 fps and at today's "silent speed"--18 fps. With the invaluable advice of Stanley Williams of the School of American Ballet (who dances an important role on the film), it was determined that the faster speed was the correct one. The rule seems to be: project the film at 18 fps; if the action looks believable it was shot at 18 fps; if the action looks Chaplinesque, it was shot at 16 fps. In some cases hearing the music with the film may help--the ear may be a better guide than the eye in jogging some dancers' memories. On the other hand, consulting recordings to gauge musical speed is likely to be of little help--available recordings of the Berlioz symphony, for example, spend anywhere from four minutes (Ozawa) to six minutes (Boulez) on the fourth movement; Massine's is 4 minutes, 20 seconds.
Since "sound speed" for films is 24 fps, the film had to be printed to conform to this specification. This is done by making a new negative, printing the film so that every third frame is duplicated. Under the direction of Norm Whitlen of Cinoptical in New York, the film also underwent liquid gate printing to sharpen the image and to remove some scratches and other defects. In addition the final frames of three of the movements were "frozen" since the cameraman apparently shut his machine down when the dance movement stopped but before the music had fully faded out. Finally, some optical corrections were made partially to compensate in two places where the camera had been accidentally tilted off center. Miscellaneous film defects and glitches were removed or improved by film editor Michael Houghton.
2. The synchronization of piano sound to the processed film took place between February 15 and 21, 1980. I had been warned by Ray Wright of the Eastman School of Music, who had worked on recording music tracks for Hollywood films, that about an hour of effort would be required for each minute of finished synchronized sound. The prediction proved to be accurate. The piano used was a reconstructed Steinway in the apartment of Michael Philip Davis in Manhattan.
The recording procedure, an ingenious adaption by Neelon Crawford of technology of the time, is described in technical detail in a later section in these notes. In outline, the procedure involves the simultaneous use of film and video equipment. The film was transferred to videotape along with appropriate electronic synchronization signals and with time code superimposed on the picture. The video version was played back (repeatedly) over monitors during the recording sessions. Each sound take (there were 152, ranging in length from several minutes to a few seconds) was recorded simultaneously on audio tape and, together with the picture, on videotape. The videotape sound recording was used to check for quality of synchronization and the high quality audio tape recording was used on the final sound film.
In charge of synchronization was Niels Bjørn Larsen who dances the lead role on the film. In 1980, he was still a principal dancer with the company, had been its director and ballet master, and had had years of experience reviving ballets and maintaining repertory. Assisting him were Christopher McCormack, an advanced conducting student at the Eastman School of Music, and myself. All three of us had studied the film quite extensively before the recording sessions were held.
Larsen was able to bring with him from Denmark a copy of the piano score Elof Nielsen was using when the film was made in 1948. Included on this score were numerous markings indicating entrances, exits, and other choreographic events. These markings were extremely useful as benchmarks in the synchronization sessions.
For the recording Larsen would conduct the pianist while watching the playback on a TV monitor (the pianist also had a monitor). For each sound take, Melinda Gros would take notes about musical and synchronization quality and about any technical problems. These notes would be used later to select and to join together the accepted takes.
The process was one of trial and error, and the fit between music and dance gradually got closer and closer. Sometimes it was difficult even to get broad synchronization at first, but most of the time this was fairly easy. Most difficult was getting tighter synchronization, a process that was as intense as it was rewarding. Massine's musicality and his sense of musical logic and drama is often quite exacting and direct; the difference between being almost right and being right is considerable.
Massine very frequently has different dancers relating to different lines in the musical texture at the same time, and sometimes the key element in the synchronization was to discover which dancer or dancers to follow. As it happens, not all dancers (not even all Danish ones) are equally musical. In one case we were following a dancer who had a very obvious musical cue, but when we did so we always came out wrong during the next portion of the work. Then Larsen remembered that that particular dancer had been separated from the company later for being unmusical. When we shifted our attention to other dancers, everything came out well. That dancer is a bit out of sync on this film, but we feel certain he was out of sync in 1948 as well.
Being loyal to Massine's intent does not mean simply getting precise note-for-step synchronization. Like a conductor, Massine has a distinct interpretation of the Berlioz music. One interpreter may stress the lyric quality of a given musical passage, while another may find a strident, driving quality in the same passage. It was our task--this was something I was particularly interested in--to see the music the way Massine saw it, to see the same dramas, the same tensions, the same melancholies, the same grotesqueries, the same rhapsodies, the same raptures and passions. The clues we needed were on the silent film, and we tried to include them in the musical interpretation.
The piano transcription of the music is by Franz Liszt, and it is astonishingly successful at capturing much of the force and flavor of Berlioz' colorful and luminous score. It also happens to be fiendishly difficult to play. Incidentally, it is based on an early version of the Berlioz work--Berlioz later made some minor changes adding and subtracting some measures here and there, an obscure fact that could have led us bewildering astray had we not had the Danish marked score and McCormack's thorough knowledge of the music in its various versions.
William Hicks' task as pianist was to perform this difficult work, hour after hour, in precise synchronization with the idiosyncracies of the old film while still maintaining a standard of musical sensitivity and spontaneity. To make things even more interesting, there are a number of miscellaneous defects in the film--places where a few frames are missing because the camera inexplicably stuttered or because the rolls of film were spliced together with insufficient care. Since we were 32 years too late to do anything about this, the music sometimes had to be shaped or hurried in these places--though we did feel a certain loyalty to Berlioz as well as to Massine, and sometimes preferred to let synchronization fall a bit off center for a second or two rather than bend the music too far out of shape to compensate for film defects.
In two places McCormack added a third hand to the piano rendition and in spots the Liszt transcription was simplified somewhat to guarantee pianistic accuracy at the momentary expense of virtuosic texture.
When the sound synchronization was substantially completed, Tatiana Orlova Massine came by to check our work. She made a couple of suggestions and gave her enthusiastic approval.
3. There remained then the task of editing the sound takes and doing a sound mix where a couple of lingering minor infelicities of synchronization were corrected or improved. Titles were shot and cut in, and final lab processing was done to balance exposure and contrast differences within the film.
Distribution of the film
Once completed, the synchronized film was put into distribution on 16mm film by my Dance Film Archive, then at the University of Rochester. The film received a showing at Lincoln Center in 1980, and Jack Anderson's New York Times review is reprinted below. Somewhat later, Symphonie Fantastique was joined in the Dance Film Archive catalog by similar films of Massine's Seventh Symphony and St. Francis for which Frederic Franklin provided the synchronization expertise.
In the 1990s, Massine's son, Lorca, mounted a version of Symphonie Fantastique for the Paris Opera Ballet, and he appears to have relied on the film in the process. Perhaps advisedly, he decided to drop the grasshopper and the porcupine from the third scene, and their musical cues accordingly go unrecognized by action on the stage. The production used a reconstruction of the original 1936 decor by Christian Bérard. It was televised in 1997.
Over the course of the years, 16mm film became obsolete as a method of film distribution as VHS videotape took over. Given the relatively poor quality of the videotape picture, and given the necessity to show the entire stage at all times on a film of rather primitive nature, transfer to videotape never seemed to be a satisfactory idea.
With its high-quality picture, DVD, by contrast, seems now to have become the ideal medium of distribution. In 2007, the original film materials, now nearly 30 years old, were dug out of storage, and the film and magnetic sound track were transferred to digital form by the extraordinarily helpful and enthusiastic Pat Matthews at Grace & Wild hdStudios in Farmington Hills, Michigan.
DVD editing and authoring was accomplished by Shawn Hove, a faculty member of the Dance Department at Ohio State University. In an earlier DVD featuring Victor Jessen's film of Massine's Gaîté Parisienne (also distributed by VAI), we found it helpful to add descriptive and explanatory supertitles that the viewer could turn on or off at will. We have done that as well in the Symphonie Fantastique DVD--the feature can be accessed using the "subtitle" button on the DVD remote. We have also supplied the viewer with two perspectives on the picture: a full stage view and one closer up with some panning and zooming. This feature can be accessed using the "angle" button on the DVD remote; this may be the first time the feature has actually been used on a commercially-available DVD.
In the 1930s and early 1940s Léonide Massine was probably the most famous choreographer in the world. His symphonic ballets, in particular, inspired admiration, adulation, bewilderment, and, often, controversy and outrage. None of these famous ballets is in current repertory--and it may well be that contemporary dancers are incapable of performing them well anyway. It is the purpose of this project to present samples of these ballets to contemporary audiences and to teachers and students of dance history.
Since the films are in black and white, use a fixed camera position, show the dancers performing in practice dress, and use piano transcriptions of the score, it is doubtless more accurate to say they furnish viable representations of Massine's choreography than to say they are finished presentations of the ballets as complete theatrical entities. But, I hope, enough is there to allow contemporary audiences to evaluate the ballets, to see their point and purpose, and to assess for themselves the controversies the works often inspired.
The experience of synchronizing sound suggests another observation. Massine's choreography lays quite directly and visibly on the music. Because of this close relationship, any of his works that have been adequately filmed--not only the three we have issued on film--can be revived by a reconstructer with a grasp of the style and a good musical sense.
Beaumont, Cyril W. Complete Book of Ballets (Garden City: Garden City Publishing Co., 1938), pp. 754-57. Description and evaluation of the ballet; finds it "most important of all Massine's choreographic symphonies;" especially impressed by third movement, least by fifth.
Chujoy, Anatole, The Symphonic Ballet (New York: Kamin, 1937). Favorable commentary on the symphonic ballet, finds the Berlioz ballet "Massine's most complex work and the clearest indication of his choreographic genius."
Coton, A. V. A Prejudice for Ballet (London: Methuen & Co., 1938). A strong support for Massine's earlier symphonic ballets, but disappointed in the Berlioz ballet, except for the fifth movement. Includes extended description and analysis of the ballet.
Hall, Furnau. "Symphonic Ballet: A Reply," Dancing Times, August 1937, pp. 554-56. A defense of the symphonic ballet in response to Monahan.
Haskell, Arnold L. "Massine and Berlioz," Dancing Times, September 1936, pp. 581-2, and October 1936, pp. 10-11. Commentary on the ballet; highly favorable, except for the fifth movement.
Kragh-Jacobsen, Svend. Den Kongelige Danske Ballet (Copenhagen, 1952). Includes discussion of the Danish version of the ballet.
Lawrence, Robert. The Victor Book of Ballets and Ballet Music (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1950), pp. 461-68. Description and commentary on the ballet, with some musical analysis; sees it as "one of the great modern ballets."
Lawson, Joan. "Symphonie Fantastique," Dancing Times, June 1957, p. 399. Review of a Paris revival.
Massine, Leonide, My Life in Ballet (New York: St. Martin's, 1968). Discusses the ballet on pp. 201-204; no mention of the Danish version.
Monahan, James. "Symphonic Ballet: A Summing Up," Dancing Times, July 1937, pp. 414-16. An attack on Massine's symphonic ballets.
Newman, Ernest. Symphonies and Ballets (New York: Hurok Attractions, 1938). Reprints of articles from the London Sunday Times by Massine's most influential supporter. His highly favorable review of the Berlioz ballet (with misgivings about the fifth movement) is reprinted from the August 2, 1936 issue.
Robert, Grace. The Borzoi Book of Ballets (New York: Knopf, 1952), pp. 324-28. Description and commentary, mostly favorable, on the ballet.
Ballet Russes (DVD) (San Francisco: Zeitgeist Films, 2006).
Clark, Mary Otis. The Massine Magical Mystique: Informal Memoirs With Photographs--Leonide Massine, The Prodigal's Return to San Francisco in 1977 (1980).
Dowler, Gerald. "Léonide Massine R.I.P?" Dancing Times, October 2006, pp. 23-25. See also the letter in response by Janet Light in Dancing Times, December 2006, p. 8.
Garcia-Marquez, Vicente. Massine: A Biography (New York: Knopf, 1995).
Norton, Leslie. Léonide Massine and the 20th Century Ballet (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2004).
Walker, Katharine Sorley. De Basil's Ballets Russes (London: Hutchinson, 1982).
REVIEW OF THE 1948 OPENING IN COPENHAGEN BY HENRY HELISSEN
From DanceView: a quarterly review of dance, Winter 2000
Material in brackets is by Alexandra Tamalonis, editor of DanceView
A Glimpse of Massine
A Danish review from 1948: the design, music, drama, audience reaction,
historical and political background of Massine's Symphonie Fantastique.
Editor's note: I discovered this review while researching a biography of the Danish dancer and balletmaster, Henning Kronstam, and found it so unusual that I decided to print it. It's not only one of the most exciting reviews of a Massine work that I've read--Helissen's writing has such a pulse and is so vivid, that he makes you think you saw the performance too--but the brief mentions of early performances of dancers known to American audiences, such as Erik Bruhn, Stanley Williams and Fredbjørn Bjørnson in addition to Kronstam, are interesting. This review is quite different from anything we would read today. I was told that Helissen was not primarily a dance critic, nor even a writer about the arts, but a political writer. His knowledge of art and history is testament to the broad awareness of cultural and artistic matters once expected of the now-scorned "elites." Helissen writes about design as though it is an integral part of the performance, not merely decoration, and he obviously sees the action through the music, not as choreography--both indications that the Bournonville aesthetic was still very much alive in 1948, nearly 70 years after that choreographer's death. Many thanks to Bjarne Hecht, a dancer with the Royal Danish Ballet from 1975 to 1986 and now an actor living in New York City, for his translation.]
Episode from the Life of an Artist Surprised and Impressed the Audience at The Royal Theatre
By Henry Helissen
April 4, 1948
A show of force from the ballet company -
Leonide Massine unfolded his fantasy with creative visions to the ecstatic music of Hector Berlioz
Last night in The Royal Theatre the audience was overjoyed at the opening night of Episode from the Life of an Artist with choreography by Leonide Massine to Hector Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique. The ballet used more space [than we are accustomed to] and the very good male dancers of the company looked reshaped and different from the form they have had before. Let us try to keep the impressions in the order they come:
The curtain rises during the first notes of the Largo. We are with the young composer in his attic apartment in Paris. Through the open door to the balcony you can see Notre Dame over the rooftops covered in smoke during the nightfall. The atelier is huge as the K.B. Hall [sports arena] ... well, that is necessary to make room for the many dancers. Niels Bjørn Larsen is the composer. He hasn't made himself up as Berlioz with a red wig; rather, he looks like the young Franz Liszt. He is dreaming under the influence of opium and the stage is filled with fantastic visions: Little by little women are pouring in with sunflowers and red bows on their light blue leotards--rarely have the Danish Ballet had to be as well shaped as in Episode--men in gray leotards with bouquets of violets and berets in purple corduroy, young girls in romantic white dresses and among them a single one in vieux-rose, very chic. Then on the balcony we see the dream of the loved one, Mona Vangsaa, Massine's favorite ballerina [and Peter Schaufuss's mother]; the passions, boys in sinful red and hair aflame surround her. The orchestra changes the tempo to Allegro agitato e appossionato assai. Violins and flutes are crying the love theme, the beautiful melody, which Berlioz composed for the adored Estelle Duboeuf when he was barely 15 years old. Mrs. Vangsaa is dressed in innocent white, but her scarf made of tulle has the colors of the passions. Niels Bjørn Larsen fumbles around, while the dancers keep making new effective groupings and then again disperse. There's a strong sense of dark forces here. Strong green spotlight on Niels Bjørn only the mask like faces of the dreams are lit ... the picture drowns in darkness.
A dancing hall in the Paris of Alfred de Musset: red curtains, ice sculptures and champagne bottles in the light from the gas lit chandeliers.
Through the drapes in the ceiling a naked arm is pointing a bow ... is it Cupid or is it fate ready to strike? Young people are dancing the waltz. The ladies are coiffed as Miss Hanne Patges was when she married Johan Ludvig Heiberg and was painted by Monies [Johanna Heiberg was the pre-eminent 19th century actress of the Royal Theatre, later its Chief]. First cavalier is Henning Kronstam. Oh my God, you can't help saying, still completely in the illusion from Peter Grimes where he plays the abused son of the fisherman, what will happen to the kid here? [This is the first notice of Kronstam as a dancer; he was 14. The reference is to the part that first brought him to the attention of the Danish public, the mime role of John in Britten's opera, Peter Grimes.] But Henning Kronstam seems to have fun among the grown ups. He is still a baby. The composer turns up at the ball in tailcoat and believes to see his beloved among the dancing. Poor Niels Bjørn doesn't have a second where he is not in ecstasy. He manages the job in style. As we know all too well, the distance between acting big and being laughable is very short. Niels Bjørn is good enough to stay within the limits. We don't smile a single time.
Adagio. We are out in nature. The decoration of Christian Berard back in the London version depicted the Roman Campagne with broken aqueducts from the imperial time. Pierre Roy (who was sitting in orchestra third row next to the most beautiful lady of Copenhagen) has chosen to point a Sicilian landscape: broken columns from the ruins of a temple are shining as amber in the green landscape. Fallen column heads are half buried. White summer clouds are sailing in the blue. The country-like feeling is heard through a duet between oboe and English horn. And in these surroundings Leonide Massine has composed a very beautiful theme: The young shepherd's awakening sensuality. There are many wonderful supporting characters: A swallow (Tove Gabrielsen), resting on a broken midcolumn, a firefly (Inge Sand), who doesn't tire of flying around among the humans. A porcupine (Anker Ørskov) almost seemed like a real zoological being; in any case the audience is startled when he jumps on stage. But Erik Bruhn as the young shepherd still steals the picture from all. This is pay back time for the mishap the other night as the Hussar in Danube. For here all he has to do is be what he is: A beautiful boy! In his little shepherd dress he is almost as naked as Massine was in Passion of Joseph. Young women in classic dress with musical instruments take graceful positions. The shepherd doesn't notice them: He is one with nature. A grasshopper (Erik Sjøgren) jumps and the shepherd wants to capture it. But from the back row one of the women--Kirsten Ralov carrying a bouquet of anemones, an armful of beauty--gets in the way. Suddenly he sees her and in his heart a new feeling is awakened: Love. The dancing between these two perfectly shaped human beings is the impression of the evening that lasts the longest. The audience is touched.
Fourth scene. The march to the gallows is accompanied by a stomping, hollow rhythm in Allegretto non troppo. The music is a Funeral March without pain. Here is everything that should be there, quiet drums and sorrowful horns. All of this is probably from one of Hector Berlioz' memories of the July revolution (which happened the same year as Symphonie Fantastique was composed), riot of the common people, hate, fear of death. In his nightmare the composer has convinced himself that he has murdered the beloved and in a big and cold gothic hall he is whipped with bloody whips by executioners dressed in top hat and tail, who remind you of Daumier. Threatening judges in golden red and ermine file by, the people, upper class men with bellies, their brave wives with crinolines, are transformed into furies, and when, in his opium high, the composer believes to meet his beloved, she too is not what she seems. She is the epitome of the revolution and the white romantic dress is hanging torn about her body. The hair is fire. The executioners and the hairy prison guard, Stanley Williams, lift the composer up into an invisible noose, he is hanging, lit by a spotlight, nauseatingly high up, and so the vision ends.
The last scene: The Sabbath of the Witches, the Larghetto in the big symphony. Under the pole light of the new moon we see huge monoliths: is it Stonehenge, the offering place of the Druids in England, that the evil rulers of the night have chosen as their meeting place? In any case the setting makes you think of the enormous stones at Stonehenge and similar temples in Bretagne. Witches and ogres, trolls and devils arrive and throw themselves into an orgy of wild rhythms and earsplitting sounds. There are fantastic beings with horse craniums and a skeleton with feminine hip movements, the caricature of a balletomane (very amusingly performed, unfortunately not credited). There are shadows without faces, emptiness where mouth and nose should be. Black hands, which are reaching for something but are not attached to a body. And in the middle of this Walpurgis Night (apparently inspired by Goethe's Faust) in wanders a procession of monks. But the peaceful men have a devil in them, at least in their clothing: Demons are hidden in the folds of their dress. Bats are crawling along the ground carrying the composer: For a moment everybody is crawling like rats and mice along the footlights. The apotheosis is a sarcophagus created by the bodies of the monks on which the composer is laid out as dead.
Episode from the Life of an Artist surprised and impressed The Royal Theatre's audience. Nothing like this had been seen before. Leonide Massine unfolded his fantasy with creative visions, and showed his phenomenal ability to create groupings and to vary them. He showed us feeling in the picturesque scene between the shepherd and the young woman. For the corps, Episode was a show of force. You had to ask yourself: How do these people have time to change costume? Not to talk about catching their breath between the dances.
The evening ended with Beau Danube with the cast from opening night, which means with Leonide Massine as the Hussar in silver gray. Only Svend Erik Jensen had given over his part as Gigerl'n to the young Fredbjørn Bjørnsson who just the other night had a big success in this part. A nice friendly gesture from Svend Erik Jensen, for he has already won so many glories, and Fredbjørn Bjørnsson loves his Gigerl'n. Happiness from life emanates from him, he can't keep from jumping high, it is wonderful to be alive! [Note: at that time in Denmark, solodancers "owned" their roles and could choose to "give over" a part to a young dancer, or not.]
After Beau Danube Leonide Massine was celebrated by the audience and the company who presented him with two truckloads of bay leaves [sarcastic! - probably one or two big wreaths made of bay leaves, in Denmark the biggest show of honor] carried by Harald Lander and Jan Holme. Oy, these wreaths! How empty of poetry and of no use. Imagine having (as Massine) to carry them home to one's cook (Stew)!
The night passed with a ballet party. The young dancers who weren't used on stage had big red carnations in the silk linings of their jackets. Valborg Borchsenius [Hans Beck's partner, and the primary custodian of the Bournonville repertory of her time] aired lngenio et Arti.
[Editor's note: Episode in the Life of an Artist received only a few performances in Copenhagen. The following season, Harald Lander had the sets painted over and repainted as backdrop for his staging, with Borchsenius, of Salut to Bournonville, a collection of divertissements that saved several small dances from extinction. It was seen by some as a signal that Lander had no intention of continuing to bring in outside influences to revive the repertory and Lander's action is now thought to be one of the early causes of the coup that ultimately ousted him two years later, now known as the Lander Scandal. Beau Danube remained in the repertory for years.]
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REVIEW OF THE FILM BY JACK ANDERSON IN 1980
New York Times, December 21, 1980
DANCE VIEW; MASSINE'S 'SYMPHONIC BALLETS'
By Jack Anderson
Earlier this season, an important ballet film received its first public showing at the Lincoln Center Library and Museum of the Performing Arts. Most of the camera work was mediocre and at times it was even hard to tell one dancer from another.
Nevertheless, it was an important occasion, for this was a film of "Symphonie Fantastique," one of the so-called "symphonic ballets" that the late Leonide Massine choreographed in the 1930's. Massine, at that time, was perhaps the most influential figure in all ballet and his symphonic ballets--massive symbolical interpretations of great symphonies--were adored by some balletgoers and derided by others.
Created in 1936 for Col. Wassily de Basil's Ballets Russes, "Symphonie Fantastique," to the Berlioz composition of the same name, was particularly successful. Massine's partisans praised it to the skies. And even the conservative music critics who attacked Massine for daring to choreograph ballets to Brahms and Tchaikovsky symphonies were mollified to find that his ballet to Berlioz followed the program that Berlioz himself appended to the score.
Like the symphony, the ballet depicts the opium visions of a lovesick young Musician who dreams that he is pursuing an elusive Beloved. After beholding her at a ball and in an idyllic country setting, he imagines that he has killed her and that he is being led to the stake. Then she returns transformed into a witch and presides over an infernal revel.
Massine, who was intensely interested in the problems of preserving choreography, filmed stagings of his ballets from the 1930's onward. All these films are silent and the dancers in them wear practice dress, although at least part of the set is up. Unfortunately, the camera work is primitive. Yet Massine never expected that the films would be shown in theaters. Rather, he used them as memory aids when he rehearsed his ballets and irreverent dancers nicknamed them "Massine's Looney Tunes." They are not all that different from home movies.
Nevertheless, something of the flavor of Massine's choreography does come through on them. Therefore, they attracted the attention of John Mueller, the director of the University of Rochester's Dance Film Archive. Several years ago, he suggested to Massine that soundtracks be added to the films of ballets no longer in the current repertory and that the films should then be made available to the public. Massine enthusiastically agreed, for he realized that in this way new generations of dancegoers could become acquainted with his works. After Massine's death last year, Mr. Mueller found other advisers to assist him, including Massine's widow, Tatiana Orlova Massine.
Now Mr. Mueller and Neelon Crawford have produced this sound film version of "Symphonie Fantastique." Because Massine's film was obviously shot at a rehearsal, Mr. Mueller and Mr. Crawford thought that orchestral accompaniment would be inappropriate. Therefore they utilized Liszt's piano transaction of the symphony, a ferociously difficult adaptation that William Hicks sails through confidently on the soundtrack.
A 1936 film exists of the de Basil company in "Symphonie Fantastique." Yet,
historically important though it might be, Mr. Mueller rejected it. Instead,
he added the soundtrack to a film of a 1948 revisal by the Royal Danish Ballet
because, although Danish camera work is faulty, the de Basil film is even worse.
When he staged his ballet in Denmark, Massine made some choreographic revisions
and Mr. Mueller lists them in a set of notes that he has written about the
* * *
The oddest change involves the entrances. Entrances that occurred on the right in the 1936 de Basil film are on the left in the 1948 Danish film. Similarly, entrances from the left in 1936 are on the right in 1948. Comparisons of the sets in the two films with photographs of the sets as they appeared on stage make it clear that one of the films was not somehow reversed in the process of being developed. Yet just why Massine changed these entrances is not known. However, he and Col. de Basil constantly feuded over choreographic rights to ballets and, by changing entrances, Massine possibly felt that he had created a new piece of choreography to which the colonel had no claim. Nevertheless, careful study of the de Basil and the Danish films have convinced Mr. Mueller that the two productions of "Symphonie Fantastique" are similar in their basic choreographic structure.
The Danish film certainly provides one with an idea of what the symphonic ballet must have been like as a form. Niels Bjorn Larsen portrays the Musician, the role originally danced by Massine himself. Mr. Larsen, assisted by Christopher McCormack and Mr. Mueller, also supervised the synchronization of soundtrack with visual image. Mona Vangsaa is the Beloved, a part created for Tamara Toumanova, and secondary soloists and members of the ensemble include Kirsten Ralov, Inge Sand, Toni Lander, Erik Bruhn, Stanley Williams, Fredbjorn Bjornson, Henning Kronstam and Frank Schaufuss. Despite that cast, the film is not primarily valuable as a record of dancing, since its flawed camera work prevents it from revealing nuances of interpretation. Instead, it documents an approach to choreography. In "Symphonie Fantastique" Massine emphasizes unusual patterns, formations and movements for large masses of people. Similar concerns, of course, are evident in many abstractions by George Balanchine. But whereas Mr. Balanchine's neo-classical choreography is almost crystalline, Massine's rhapsodic choreography favors restless, constantly shifting patterns and sweeping, even rolling and churning, group movement. This is flamboyant neo-Romantic choreography fully attuned to the musical Romanticism of Berlioz.
There are many memorable images. Hallucinatory figures crowd upon the Musician after he takes the opium. Waltzers swirl through a ballroom. Believing that he has been condemned to death, the Musician runs desperately up the massed bodies of his accusers. Monks sway like tolling bells as the score quotes the Dies Iræ. Groupings form and dissolve and one grouping is often pitted contrapuntally against a grouping in some other part of the stage. And, throughout the ballet, the apparition of the Beloved suddenly appears, lingers for a moment and then slips maddeningly away.
Yet all is not hubbub, for Massine's use of stillness is as effective as his use of movement. This is particularly true in the scene in the countryside, where the Musician, posed in reverie, provides a brooding contrast to the happy shepherds about him.
The shudders and raptures of "Symphonie Fantastique" may not be in choreographic fashion today, yet they are remarkable in their own right and the film at least hints why they stirred an earlier generation of balletgoers so mightily. A copy of the film has been given to the New York Public Library Dance Collection at Lincoln Center and other copies will be made available for purchase and rental from the Dance Film Archive of the University of Rochester.
"Symphonie Fantastique" does not mark the end of Mr. Mueller's concern with Massine. Aided by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and with Frederic Franklin, who danced many roles for Massine, serving as consultant, Mr. Mueller plans to add soundtracks to the rehearsal films of other Massine ballets. Works under consideration include "St. Francis," which was pronounced a masterpiece by critics in the 30's; "Seventh Symphony" and "Rouge et Noir," symphonic ballets to Beethoven and Shostakovich, respectively; and "Bacchanale," Massine's once scandalous collaboration with Salvador Dali. Since none of these ballets is performed anywhere today, the films may help summon up the ghosts of a long vanished but still fascinating era of dance history.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE VERSIONS OF THE BALLET
Scene 1. There seem to be rather few important differences in this scene. The opening, in particular, is nearly identical. In the 1936 and 1937 versions there seem to be more lifts of the beloved by groups of men and more groupings in general. Also the beloved enters from the wings (rather than from a window as in the 1948 version) and she apparently does not take part in the final grouping (which is probably supposed to suggest the musician's "religious consolation" mentioned in Berlioz' program notes). In addition this final grouping is structured somewhat differently.
In the 1930s, Massine differentiated among the four groups, labeling them, in order, as Gaiety, Melancholy, Reverie, and Passion. These groupings are still evident in the 1948 version: Gaiety by a quartet of three women and one man that enters immediately after the prologue; Melancholy by a pair of men; Reverie by seven women led by Kirsten Elsass (who has a rather independent role in the scene, comforting and guiding the musician); and Passion by six men who enter with the beloved. The 1948 program, however, combines the first three groups together and calls them, simply, "Dreams".
Scene 2. The Danes apparently had a larger number of capable male dancers than Massine sometimes had at his disposal in the 1930s and he takes advantage of this in this scene by using more couples. The earlier version included a brief episode in which the musician is alone on stage with the beloved as he follows her off into the wings; in 1948 there are other dancers on stage at this point. In the beloved's final appearance in the 1930s she was lifted above the other dancers as they cluster; in 1948 the group divides and she is discovered in the divide. The swirling finale is similar in all versions, except that the overhead lift of one woman is new to the 1948 version.
Scene 3. There are a number of changes in detail, but none in basic approach. In 1948 the entrance of the musician occurs during the shepherd dialogue; in 1936 it occurred at the end of this dialogue which meant that it was rather oddly juxtaposed with the animal jumps. The party (called a "Picnic" in the 1930s) originally consisted of women and children. In 1948 it becomes a somewhat more idyllic group of young women alone. The duets and trios of these women were partly rendered as solos in the 1930s. The only animal in the versions of the 1930s was a deer (danced by Alexis Koslov) who frolicked about and played with the children. In 1948 this role was largely changed to that of a bird, danced by a woman--Tove Gabrielsen. She is on stage at the very beginning of the scene. At times she, and even more so the dragonfly who enters later and is luminously danced by Inge Sand, almost seem to be presiding over the action. The more frolicsome aspects of the deer role were partly given to other animals: a porcupine (hulepindsvinet) who jumps out from behind the ruined pillar, danced by Anker Ørskov; and a grasshopper who appears somewhat later, danced by Erik Sjøgren.
In 1936 the beloved appeared suspended over the action on a wire during the storm scene. Massine soon changed this, having her pass through the action on the ground, and the later approach was retained in 1948. The older shepherd (played by Marc Platoff) was a somewhat larger role in the 1930s--he had a later and more marked final exit. The duet for the young shepherd and the young woman (George Zoritch and Nina Verchinina in the 1930s), the use of the three men to represent the storms, the general counterpoint of events on the stage, and the poignant ending for the musician are all virtually unchanged.
Scene 4. The chief changes occur at the end of the scene. In the 1930s the musician was raised waist-high above the agitated crowd for his execution and then the corpse was lowered to the floor in the center of two diagonals formed by the other characters. The idea of having the musician run frantically up over the massed bodies of his tormentors was new in 1948, and Niels Bjørn Larsen reports that Massine was very excited by this invention. Also new is the idea of having the beloved appear suddenly when her theme is voiced just before the execution. She apparently did not appear at all in the scene in the original version of the ballet.
Scene 5. The corpse of the musician is on stage at the beginning of the scene in 1948, serving as the focus of the opening action; this was not the case in the 1930s so the ghostly revels did not then have this specific referent at the start.
The monk figures are developed somewhat more consistently in 1948 as entities tormented by devils and bats. The monks entered from the wings in 1936--first one, then the other--and their tormentors entered from the opposite side; in 1948 they enter from a downstage corner, together with their tormentors. The monks' bell-tolling during the Dies Iræ was done facing downstage in the 1930s, not upstage (rather more mysterious) as in 1948. In the 1930s the monks were huddled center stage while the beginning of the fugue took place around them; they are offstage at this point in 1948. After the fugue in 1936 the monks suddenly appeared, posed in pairs in each of the corners of the stage while the satanic revels continued in the center; in 1948 this music was used for a progression across the stage for the monks as their tormentors flail around them.
The entrance of the musician's corpse mid-way through the scene was accomplished in 1936 by having him sneak in behind the robes of the monks as they passed across the stage; in 1948 the corpse is borne in, a bit later in the music, in full view on the backs of the crawling creatures. The tumultuous ending of the ballet is basically unchanged as far as the effects are concerned, although the exact timing of these effects and some of the steps are altered. The final grouping in 1936 was less complex and involved fewer lifts than in 1948 and the beloved apparently was on the floor center stage in 1936, rather than being raised to hover over the musician's corpse as in 1948. Throughout the movement there are a number of changes in entrances and exits.
MASSINE'S PROGRAM NOTES FOR THE BALLET
For all versions of the ballet Massine reprinted in the program Berlioz' published notes on the music:
A young musician of unhealthily sensitive nature and endowed with vivid imagination has poisoned himself with opium in a paroxysm of lovesick despair. The narcotic dose he had taken was too weak to cause death, but-it has thrown him into a long sleep accompanied by the most extraordinary visions. In this condition his sensations, his feelings and memories find utterance in his sick brain in the form of musical imagery. Even the beloved one takes the form of melody in his mind, like a fixed idea, which is ever returning, and which he hears everywhere.
lst Movement--Visions and Passions. At first he thinks of the uneasy and nervous condition of his mind, of somber longings, of depressions and joyous elation without any recognizable cause, which he experienced before the beloved one appeared to him. Then he remembers the ardent love with which she suddenly inspired him; he thinks of his almost insane anxiety of mind, of his raging jealousy, of his reawakening love, of his religious consolation.
2nd Movement--A Ball. In a ballroom, amidst the confusion of a brilliant festival, he finds the loved one again.
3rd Movement--In the Country. It is a summer evening. He is in the country musing when he hears two shepherd lads who play the ranz des vaches (the tune used by the Swiss to call their flocks together) in alternation. This shepherd duet, the locality, the soft whisperings of the trees stirred by the zephyr wind, some prospects of hope recently made known to him, all these sensations unite to impart a long unknown repose to his heart, and to lend a smiling color to his imagination. And then she appears once more. His heart stops beating, painful forebodings fill his soul. 'Should she prove false to him?' One of the shepherds resumes the melody, but the other answers him no more...sunset...distant rolling of thunder...loneliness...silence.
4th Movement--The Procession to the Stake. He dreams that he has murdered his beloved, that he has been condemned to death and is being led to the stake. A march that is alternately somber and wild, brilliant and solemn, accompanies the procession.... The tumultuous outbursts are followed without modulation by measured steps. At last the fixed idea returns, for a moment a last thought of love is revived--which is cut short by the death blow.
5th Movement--The Witches' Sabbath. He dreams that he is present at the witches' dance, surrounded by horrible spirits, amidst sorcerers and monsters in many fearful forms, who have come to assist at his funeral. Strange sounds, groans, shrill laughter, distant yells, which other cries seem to answer. The beloved melody is heard again, but it has its noble and shy character no longer; it has become a vulgar, trivial and grotesque kind of dance. She it is who comes to attend the witches' meeting. Friendly howls and shouts greet her arrival.... She joins the infernal orgy...bells toll for the dead...a burlesque parody of the Dies iræ...the witches' round dance...the dance and the Dies iræ are heard at the same time.
TECHNICAL NOTES ON THE 1980 SYNCHRONIZATION PROCESS
Although the final product was to be a sound film, the synchronization process was centered around video playback in part to avoid having to use a noisy 16mm projector in the recording sessions, thus making it possible to hold them in a quiet apartment rather than in a recording studio.
The film, step-printed to 24 frames per second, was first transferred to 3/4" videotape on a film chain. At the same time a 60 Hz AC sync signal--the same signal that drove the motor on the film chain projector--was recorded on the sound track of the videotape and a SMPTE time code was imprinted on the top part of the video picture above the action of the ballet. This digital code, assigning a unique number to every frame of the video picture, was the reference source in the recording sessions, making it possible to identify quite precisely those portions of a take which were in and out of sync and to identify starting points, points at which there were extraneous noises, trouble spots, etc. (The sound portion of the SMPTE code was recorded on the tape's second sound track as an added reference, but it never became necessary to use this.)
A 3/4" videotape recorder was used for playback and a 1/2" open reel video recorder (Sony 3650) was set up in line for recording. For each sound take, the 3/4" recorder would play its picture onto the monitors used by the people doing the synchronization and this picture, together with the piano sound created, would be recorded on the 1/2" recorder. At the same time the 60 Hz sync signal from the sound track of the 3/4" recorder would be fed into a Nagra sound recorder which would also be recording (at 15 inches per second) the piano sound. Thus the sync signal being recorded by the Nagra was the same one which had driven the motor on the projector on the film chain, and this allowed solid sync throughout the system from film to video to film.
A complete record of every sound take (picture plus sound) was retained on 1/2" videotape and these tapes could be reviewed at any time to see how successful the synchronization process was. The 3/4" tape would be rewound for each re-take.
A sound identification slate and a beep tone would be laid down at the beginning of each sound take simultaneously on the 1/2" tape and on the Nagra.
The recording sessions were concluded when it was determined that every part of the ballet had been successfully synchronized on at least one sound take. To minimize editing problems, longer takes were, of course, preferred to shorter ones. In this case, 19 of the 152 sound takes contained material that was used on the finished 50-minute sound film.
The Nagra recording of each of these 19 sound takes was then transferred to 16mm full-coat magnetic film. Working in tandem with the 1/2" video copy of these takes, each strip of magnetic film was synchronized with the work print of the film in a film editing room.
To do this it was necessary, first, to find a precise frame on the videotape where there was a sharp sound cue in coordination with a sharp visual cue--sometimes one could use a place in the ballet where there was a distinct, music-related gesture in the ballet, at other times the slating beep tone (or, more exactly, the "edge" of the tone) was used in coordination with the picture that happened to be under it. This procedure was facilitated by the fact that it is possible on 1/2" open reel video recorders to "rock" the tape on the recorder, frame by frame, getting, as in film, a sound growl for each frame as the tape is moved across the sound head. Then the same picture frame on the film and the same sound frame on the full-coat were found and matched up. It is possible to do this video-film matching to the exact frame.
The procedure, then, involves going from film to video and then back to film. All that is required after that is to edit and mix the film sound track in the usual way.
Dance Film Archive presents
An Episode in the Life of an Artist
A ballet by Léonide Massine
Music and scenario by Hector Berlioz
Piano transcription by Franz Liszt
In 1948 Léonide Massine mounted for the Royal Danish Ballet a version of his famous 1936 ballet, Symphonie Fantastique.
A work film, shot without sound and showing the dancers in practice dress, was made at that time.
This DVD presents this work film with the music synchronized. Although the relation of music to dance is likely to be very close to Massine's intentions, it should not be taken to be definitive.
Music synchronized by Niels Bjørn Larsen
Assisted by John Mueller and Christopher McCormack
Consultant: Tatiana Orlova Massine
Pianist: William Hicks
A young musician, despondent in love, tries to commit suicide by taking opium. The dose is too weak to cause death, but it puts him into a delirium of dreams and visions. In the midst of this he imagines he sees his beloved, dancing to a yearning melody.
The Musician Niels Bjørn Larsen
The Beloved Mona Vangsaae
Dreams Kirsten Ralov
Kirsten Elsass with
Passions Verner Andersen
Scene 2 A ball
In a ballroom, amid the confusion of a brilliant festival, his beloved appears to him.
The Musician Niels Bjørn Larsen
The Beloved Mona Vangsaae
Ole Palle Hansen
Scene 3 In the country
He seeks refuge in a pastoral setting. Shepherds play their flutes and he sees a group of young women on an idyllic outing. A storm arises and dies away in the midst of which his beloved appears to him briefly. A young shepherd and one of the women dance a tender duet.
At the end, to the distant rolling of thunder, the musician is left in lonely solitude.
The Musician Niels Bjørn Larsen
The Beloved Mona Vangsaae
Pas de deux Kirsten Ralov, Erik Bruhn
Old shepherd Verner Andersen
Young shepherd Erik Bruhn
Bird Tove Gabrielsen
Porcupine Anker Ørskov
Dragonfly Inge Sand
Grasshopper Erik Sjøgren
Young women Aase Bonde
Clouds Fredbjørn Bjørnson
Scene 4 March to the scaffold
He dreams he has murdered his beloved and is being led to his judgement and execution.
The Musician Niels Bjørn Larsen
The Beloved Mona Vangsaae
The jailer Stanley Williams
Executioners Ole Palle Hansen
Prosecutors Verner Andersen
The People Aage Eibye
Scene 5 The witches' Sabbath
He dreams he is surrounded by sorcerers and monsters who have come to attend his funeral. His beloved, dancing to a grotesque distortion of her melody, leads the infernal revels.
The Musician Niels Bjørn Larsen
The Beloved Mona Vangsaae
Monsters (in order of appearance)
Shadows Lise Henriksen
Bats Elin Bauer
Troll women Grethe Hornung
Witches Kirsten Elsass
Monks Ole Palle Hansen
Devils Verner Andersen
Dedicated to the memory of Léonide Massine, 1896-1979
And to the memory of Niels Bjørn Larsen, 1913-2003
Ole Palle Hansen
Niels Bjørn Larsen
Synchronized film produced by John Mueller and Neelon Crawford
Original film material made available by The Dance Collection, New York Public Library
Sound Neelon Crawford
Video recordist Louis Jaffe
Production coordinator Melinda Gros
Film editor Michael Houghton
Original film titles Skip Battaglia
Sound synchronization, editing, and release of the film funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities
DVD editing and authoring Shawn Hove
DVD producer John Mueller
Special thanks on film synchronization to
Michael Philip Davis
Mary Ann deVlieg
Special thanks on DVD production to
Grace & Wild hdStudios
Ohio State University's Department of Dance
Choreography copyright ©1980 by Léonide Massine estate
Film and DVD produced by Dance Film Archive, Ohio State University
Copyright © 1980 by Dance Collection, The New York Public Library
Packaging & Design © 2009 Video Artists International, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.