Emerging Pictures Blog
The 1936 film Camille is one of the most romantic movies ever made. Based on Alexander Dumas’ 1852 novel La Dame aux Camélias, the film’s star Greta Garbo exudes an incomparable elegance in the title role of the glamorous, tragically fated French courtesan.
The story is not just a film or a play, it is an institution: one that has been reenacted, recreated, and mimicked in countless forms. The story has been transformed into ballets, stage productions, and at least a dozen film adaptations. Dumas’s book was the inspiration for Verdi’s opera “La Traviata” which, in turn, served as the basis for the movie Camille. (Traviata is being broadcast LIVE from La Scala tomorrow, Dec 7!)
Directed by George Cukor, Garbo’s portrayal of Marguerite Gautier is considered by many critics to be her finest role. In the 1937 New York Times review of the film, Frank Nugent described Garbo’s interpretation of the role as having “…the sublety that has earned for her the title, first lady of the screen.”
In the story, she is born into a lower-class family but in time lives life as one of the most glamorous courtesans in Paris, mistress of the wealthy and powerful Baron de Varville (played by Henry Daniell). After years of earning a good living from her looks, her heart is stolen by Armand Duval (Robert Taylor), a handsome but naive young man who knows little of her life with the Baron. She is more than willing to give that life up in order to live with her lover Armand. Armand’s father (Lionel Barrymore), however, begs her to leave his son so that her scandalous past will not ruin his son’s future. Relenting in the face of the painful wisdom of his pleading, she deserts Armand and returns to the Baron. Ultimately, she are Armand are reconciled, but it is too late. Having long suffered from tuberculosis, she dies in his arms as he prepares to take her away to their country retreat.
According to the Times review, it was Garbo’s death scene—”so simply, delicately, and movingly played”—which confirmed her as a convincing actress of great range.
U.S. audiences will have the opportunity to see Diana Damrau in that same role in the La Scala opening night performance of Verdi’s “La Traviata,” broadcast LIVE from Milan on December 7, with captured live encores on subsequent days.
Check www.operaincinema.com to find a theatre near you!
The Body Count: Stabbing – 4. Consumption – 2. Drowning, fire, entombment, madness – 1 each.
Some of the world’s best-loved operas are treasured for their breathtaking scores and the voices that sing them. However, it’s not just the music that captivates us. We’re also moved to tears by the heroine’s tragic end.
With “La Traviata” opening the La Scala season on Saturday, December 7, and broadcast via Opera in Cinema to theatres across the country on that and subsequent days, we thought it would be interesting to see who YOU think is the most tragic of the great operatic tragediennes.
Cast your vote!
We’ll reveal the results after Diana Damrau’s starring performance in “La Traviata“ on Opening Night at Teatro alla Scala.
1. Violetta Valéry in “La Traviata”: Famed Parisian courtesan Violetta Valéry falls in love with the noble Alfredo Germont, but breaks her own heart by agreeing to give him up to save his family’s honor. When he learns of her sacrifice, he returns to her….but, alas, too late. She dies in his arms of consumption (romantic euphemism for tuberculosis).
2. Mimi in “La Bohème”: In Paris’s Latin Quarter, the penniless seamstress Mimi (also suffering from consumption!) moves in with her lover the poverty-stricken playwright Rodolfo. When he leaves to seek warmer lodgings for them, Mimi moves on to live with a wealthy Viscount. On a return visit to see her friends in the old garret, she collapses and dies in Rodolfo’s arms.
3. Norma in “Norma”: The Druid priestess Norma falls in love with the occupying Roman proconsul Pollione. In a fit of jealousy, she informs the Druids that Pollione has fallen in love with another Druid, bringing upon him a sentence of death. As his lover, Norma proclaims herself equally guilty. She mounts the executioner’s pyre with him and dies in flames.
4. Floria Tosca in “Tosca”: The famed Roman actress Floria Tosca is insanely jealous of her lover, the artist Mario Cavaradossi. Her jealousy enables Scarpia, the malevolent chief of police, to arrest Mario for harboring a fugitive criminal. Thinking she has tricked Scarpia into a deal in which his men will fake shooting Mario, Tosca stands by as the firing squad executes him. Realizing Mario is in fact dead, and that she has been deceived, she leaps from a parapet into the Tiber River far below.
5. Cio-Cio San in “Madame Butterfly”: In 1904 Nagasaki, the young maidenly geisha Cio-Cio San (aka: Butterfly) is duped into thinking she has wed Pinkerton, a handsome US Naval Officer, before he returns to sea. While he is away, Butterfly gives birth to their son and waits for him to come back. When Pinkerton returns three years later it is with his legal American wife. On realizing her naivete and the deception, Butterfly stabs herself.
6. Carmen in “Carmen”: Carmen, a temptress cigarette girl of Seville, seduces the soldier Don Jose into loving her. When she leaves him for the glamorous toreador Escamillo, Don José stabs her to death.
7. Donna Leonora in “La Forza del Destino”: In Seville, Donna Leonora, daughter of a South American marquis, is in love with the nobleman Don Alvaro. After the pair kill her father accidentally, her brother Don Carlo seeks revenge in a duel. Having been bested by Don Alvaro, Don Carlo lies on the ground with Leonora bending over his body. But, he is not dead…yet. He stabs her in the heart before he expires.
8. Aida in “Aida”: Aida, an Ethiopian princess enslaved by the Egyptians, is in love with the Egyptian military commander Radamès, who struggles between his love for Aida and his loyalty to the Pharaoh, whose own daughter Amneris is in love with Radamès. Amneris reveals the illegal Radames-Aida love affair. The couple die together entombed in a vault.
9. Nedda in “Pagliacci”: The village girl Nedda is engaged to Canio, who plays the part of a clown in a travelling troupe of actors. On learning that Nedda is having an affair with Silvio, Canio loses control during a performance and in a jealous rage stabs both Nedda and Silvio.
10. Lucia Ashton in “Lucia di Lammermoor”: In 17th century Scotland, Lucia is forced by her father to marry Lord Arturo, despite her being in love with Edgardo. On her wedding night, Lucia goes completely mad, murders Arturo, collapses and dies.
Born in 1971 in Gunzbürg, Bavaria, the star of La Scala’s upcoming opening night broadcast of “La Traviata” is Diana Damrau, one of today’s most famous sopranos. Acclaimed as the “leading coloratura soprano in the world” (New York Sun), Diana’s career gained momentum with her much-praised early appearances in multiple roles in Mozart’s “Die Zauberflöte“ (The Magic Flute) in Munich, Berlin and Vienna: Queen of the Night, Zerbinetta and Adele. These successes led to invitations to perform on some of the world’s most prestigious stages: Covent Garden, the Salzburg Festival, Vienna State Opera, Opera Frankfurt, Bavarian State Opera and scores of others. Her Queen of the Night performances proved to be sensations, and her most frequently performed role.
Diana, whose voice has graced the Metropolitan Opera stage every year since 2005, continues to amaze audiences with her plush, vibrant voice and arresting stage presence. A champion of 20th-century and contemporary music, in addition to the traditional operatic canon the soprano has performed works by such modern composers as Poulenc, Lorin Maazel, André Previn, Iain Bell and Matthias Pintscher.
The starring role of Violetta in Verdi’s “La Traviata” is a touchstone for any soprano. According to New York Times chief music critic Anthony Tommasini:
”Ms. Damrau settled in, and her voice both broadened and focused, encompassing both filaments of sound and full-voiced cries in a haunting ‘Addio del passato.’ By her final outpouring, ‘Gran Dio, morir sì giovine,’ she was in a furious groove… Her ethereal, wounded ‘Dite alla giovane’ took on a fresh poignancy: the first real defeat of a young woman used to winning. For Ms. Damrau, Violetta was a daring victory.”
On December 7th, Diana Damrau will star on opening night as Violetta Valery in “La Traviata” broadcast LIVE to theatres all over the U.S. direct from Milan’s Teatro alla Scala. (Because of time zone differences, some theatres will capture the performance live and either play it later that day or on Sunday. Many venues will also have midweek encores.)
Don’t miss this opportunity to see and hear one of this generation’s most beautiful voices. Click HERE for the closest theatre to you, and to purchase advance tickets.
Hailing from Castiglioni dei Pepoli near Bologna, Leo Nucci is often referred to as the “greatest Verdi baritone of this era” and “a guardian of the true Verdi baritone’s deep tradition.”
Following his numerous performances this year to celebrate Giuseppe Verdi’s centenary, critics have described the 71-year-old Italian baritone’s voice as “peerless” in its tremendous shape and coloring.
Nucci’s deep connection to Verdi largely stems from his decision to join the Teatro alla Scala chorus in the 1970s, where, for five years, he relearned the fundamentals of singing technique, He gained the attention of the operatic world with his 1978 debut at the Royal Opera House. Following on the heels of his success at Covent Garden he was invited to perform in Un Ballo in Maschera at the Metropolitan Opera, Paris Opera, and Salzberg Festival. With his sonorous voice and dramatic abilities, he is uniquely suited for the Verdi repertoire. According to his website, he is, in fact, the only baritone in history to perform the title role in Rigoletto more than 400 times — and on all the world’s most prestigious operatic stages.
According to Nicola Luisotti, conductor of this La Scala production of Nabucco, “Leo Nucci is legendary in the opera world because his humanity is on the same level as his artistry. When these two important aspects come together, the level of artistry grows immensely.” She adds that in the role of tyrannical Babylonian emperor, “Nucci doesn’t just sing Nabucco – he is Nabucco. From the beginning of the opera until the end, the audience believes in him because he has the ability and the talent to transport everyone to another time, another world.”
Nabucco is a must-see this weekend! Find a theatre by clicking HERE and typing in your zip code. Opens this Sunday, November 3!
On Sunday October 20, balletomanes at 936 cinemas in 44 countries all over the world thrilled to the live broadcast of Spartacus direct from the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. In addition to the U.S. Emerging Pictures network of theatres, venues on other continents and in different hemispheres — from Australia to South Africa, Brazil to Slovenia and Costa Rica to Morocco — simulcast the Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema season-opener to great success.
In New York, our season started off with an explosion of enthusiasm. The BIG Cinemas Manhattan Theatre was packed with an audience eager to see Mikhail Lobukhin in the starring role, accompanied by co-stars Svetlana Zakharova, Vladislav Lantratov and Anna Nikulina. We knew the audience was enthralled when we heard the gasps that accompanied Lobukhin’s grand jetés across the stage. Lantratov as Crassus was the perfect imperious Roman leader, and Zakharova’s sinuous, sensual solo variations — with her steps advancing fluidly from one movement to the “next — elicited an excited spontaneous applause.
After the broadcast, we asked viewers to share their reactions. Below is what they had to say.
For our part, we want to say thank you to everyone who took the time to share their thoughts. Follow us at Bolshoi Ballet in the US!
Toni Vargas: The whole thing was spectacular!! The lifts were amazing!
Derek Saunders: What a privilege to see a live performance by the Bolshoi Ballet of Spartacus at a local cinema. Quite exceptional in all respects and it is wonderful that such works of art can be enjoyed by people all over the world who would never get to see them live in the theatre. The dancing, drama, and music (for English fans reminiscent of ’The Onedin Line’!) were breath-taking and in some respects we felt more privileged than the [Moscow] audience as we had close-up views of the dancers, not just the stage as a whole. My wife and I can’t wait for the next one in the series. I’m so glad that this filming of performances brings ballet to the ’masses’ and shows them what a strong arts medium it is, physically, emotionally, dramatically, musically, visually and sheer entertainment value. Congratulations to all the dancers but particularly the leads.
Norma Estis: Breathtaking!! The dancers seemed superhuman!
Elizabeth Dalton: Just watched Spartacus at our local cinema. It was a stunning performance live from Moscow. One of the best ballet productions I have ever seen.
Vera Lvoff: One of best performances I have ever seen- Bravo Bolshoi !
Raymond Firer: I’d only seen this ballet on an old VHS tape also by the Bolshoi. Yesterday’s performance was superb! Powerful dancing!
Angela Harvey: The most powerful of ballets.
Deedeebeebee: Such a passionate exciting ballet, full of drama and emotion. Principal dancers absolutely fabulous and the whole cast was great.
Irena Maria: Vladislav Lantratov looked every inch the Roman – at moments resembling the statue David and at other times striking the pose of a beautiful male Roman sculpture. His profile with its aquiline nose reminded me of something I’d once seen on an old Roman coin. Brilliant dancing aside, the makeup artistry alone had me believing that Vladislav Lantratov was the embodiment of the brutal Crassus.
There are few ballets in the repertoire of the classical dance world that are as laden with history as “Spartacus” is for Bolshoi Theatre. If any single ballet represents the pure stylistic blood of the Bolshoi, it is the way the company dances this gargantuan work. In “Spartacus” everything is bolshoi (in Russian the word “bolshoi” means “big”) — from the mass of dancers on stage and the movement to the acting and the jumps. All combined, the elements represent the signature style Yuri Grigorovich devised for Bolshoi when he created the ballet in 1968.
Grigorovich left one of the most important imprints on Bolshoi Theatre. The success of his ballets (“Nutcracker,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Giselle,” “Legend of Love”) is seen in the style of movement he instilled in the dancers under his direction. His influence during his 30-year reign as artistic director is still strongly intact and the preservation of his repertoire remains a focal point in the achievements of the Bolshoi and its history.
I witness this history daily in Moscow. From the Grigorovich ballets that I dance (“Swan Lake” last month, “Giselle” this month) to the works that have yet to enter my personal repertoire but that I witness from the audience, there is always an element of history occurring on the stage.
“Spartacus” is one of the works I have yet to tackle. Here in Moscow I will not have gained the full Bolshoi experience until I am able to participate in the power and spectacle that “Spartacus” embodies.
Although I will not dance this ballet in the near future, I will see a first-rate ensemble in the October 20th live broadcast. All the characters are individual, singular and of importance. Everyone is cast brilliantly: Lobukhin in the title role, Lantratov as Crassus, Zakharova as Aegina, Nikulina as Phrygia. This performance of “Spartacus” will show the world how this beautifully preserved historic ballet combines with the expression and dancing of today’s dancers to produce a work of great effectiveness, relevance and physical prowess: an amalgam of the Bolshoi Theatre of history and the Bolshoi Theatre of our time.
In 1964, Yuri Grigorovich was brought to the Bolshoi Ballet as chief choreographer. Born into the Soviet system, he understood that the Bolshoi was the beautiful face of the country and, moreover, the USSR’s great instrument of cultural propaganda. He was aware of what was expected of him in his newly appointed role: create productions that expressed the grand themes and ideals of the Communist party. For Grigorovich, making artistic decisions and pleasing the censors was a constant tightrope walk. Though the subjects of his many epic ballets nodded to Soviet ideology, their subtexts transcended — and often subverted — literal interpretation.
When it premiered in Leonid Brezhnev’s Moscow of 1968, Grigorovich’s Spartacus was a groundbreaking sensation, an instant jewel in the crown of the Bolshoi repertoire. At that time, the Bolshoi dancers collectively embodied a powerful and irrepressible force, one led by one of the best dancers in Bolshoi history, Grigorovich’s muse: Vladimir Vasiliev.
As in many Soviet-era ballets, Spartacus prominently featured a theme of sacrifice in the face of power. In this instance, a more powerful, dominant and dynamic male character seems unimaginable. With herculean leaps, near impossible lifts and the final crucifixion scene, the Bolshoi stage had never seen such raw energy, passion, darkness, and fatalism — all hallmark qualities for which Grigorovich was known, even in his early days as a budding choreographer. The boastful bravura, virtuosity and sheer number of male corps dancers on stage could only have been marshaled by the Bolshoi. And Vasiliev definitively owned the title role.
The well known story’s allegorical potential stunned audiences and censors in the prospect. All wondered: Did the freedom-thirsty, rebellious Thracian represent a veiled call to supplant Communist ideology? Was the harsh Roman army emblematic of the entire Soviet system?
Before the Moscow premiere, anticipation was electric. Grigorovich teetered on the dangerous edge of a political razor, with the reaction of the censors impossible to predict. The fears proved unfounded: Spartacus appealed to everyone. The ballet solidified Grigorovich’s position at the Bolshoi, making his name synonymous with the Golden Age of Russian ballet.
This ballet is NOT TO BE MISSED!
As many of you have already discovered, the story of Spartacus is one that has inspired millions of people throughout the world with its central theme of a man’s brave and fearless struggle for freedom. Today we want to focus on the lavishly produced Starz television network “Spartacus” series. Very interesting parallels between the ballet and television versions of the story can be found.
In 2010, Starz premiered the show based on the historical figure of Spartacus. The series, which ended earlier this year, focused on his obscure early life, of which very little is known, and led to the period for which there is historical documentation. The characters were often found in the gladiatorial ring, sparring and brutally murdering each other. These highly dramatic and gory bloodbaths alternated with emotional and sensual scenes of love-making with their wives, mistresses and boyfriends.
In Russian, the word “Bolshoi” means “big” and in the case of Spartacus (both the television series and the ballet), there isn’t a better word to describe the man, the movements, the fights, the jumps, and the stunts. In a behind-the-scenes look at the gladiator-cum-boot-camp training sessions, the actors endured a rigorous 4-hours-a-day, 5-days-a-week training regimen, one that, according to the Starz “Spartacus” website, “pushes them further than they could ever go. ” The series’ producers continued to find ways to make the on-screen fights and stunts “bigger, bigger, and bigger” for each episode.
Similarly, in the Bolshoi Ballet production, the male slave dancers along with Spartacus put themselves through the same punishing blood, sweat and tears physical demands, pushing themselves on stage to their physical limit. Even more than the on-screen “Spartacus” actors, the ballet dancers train as much as 10 hours a day while in the rehearsal period.
Mikhail Lobukhin, the star of the upcoming Bolshoi “Spartacus” production says, “Physically, the demands of this ballet are extremely difficult. You experience a complete transformation. You can’t help but expose all your inner emotions in this ballet and you cannot hide anything.”
Who wins the “biggest” title? Go see Spartacus LIVE in theaters and you decide!
Ancient sources attribute Thrace (the modern-day Balkan region) as the birthplace of Spartacus, believed to be a Roman soldier sold into slavery and trained as a gladiator at the gladiatorial school in Capua, north of Naples. Read More…
The Bolshoi’s grandiose epic Spartacus has been considered one of the greatest ballets in the Bolshoi repertoire since the 1960s. Yuri Grigorovich’s choreography, depicting the story of a Roman slave’s fight for freedom, fills the Bolshoi stage with dynamic scenes of tension and conflict, and gives full expression to the virility and strength for which Russia’s male dancers are renowned.
The heroic role of Spartacus will be danced by Principal Soloist Mikhail Lobukhin. In 2010, when he was invited from St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre to join the Bolshoi, one of Lobukhin’s earliest roles was that of Spartacus.
Backstage after his performance of Spartacus in 2011, he says, “People asked me why are you going to the Bolshoi? I believe that tonight’s performance gave me the answer to that question. Spartacus is a treasure of the Bolshoi. It is a true ‘male’ ballet and there is no other that is similar. Yuri Grigorovich’s ballets are all completely unique. Tonight’s three hours of dancing were spent living a completely different life, one that is not mine but rather the life of a true hero – Spartacus.”
Aegina, the ballet’s famous temptress, will be danced by prima ballerina Svetlana Zakharova. She claims, “The more you work on this ballet the more you understand the genius of Grigorovich. One doesn’t have to put into words what the ballet means. You just have to see it once to understand why people love it so much and why it is still performed to this day.”
That is reason enough to us!
Spartacus: Mikhail Lobukhin Phrygia: Anna Nikulina Aegina: Svetlana Zakharova Crassus: Vladislav Lantratov