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Paris Ballet Now

Guest Blogger: Janet Horvath, author of Playing Less Hurt. Below is an excerpt from her post at Interlude, detailing her experience at the Palais Garnier in Paris.

The atmosphere was electric! We were at Paris’s Palais Garnier to attend a ballet performance just five days before the one-hundredth anniversary of the riot surrounding the premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring in May of 1913. To top that off, we would be seeing another world-famous work of Stravinsky — The Firebird —music that I had played countless times but had never seen danced. The excitement was palpable. To be where the ghosts of performances and premieres past was quite a privilege.

The Palais, considered one of the most famous opera houses in the world, is breathtaking. It is one of the historic emblems of Paris. The architect, Charles Garnier, was chosen to design the astonishing opera house by Emperor Napoleon III in 1861. The interior of the hall is entirely gold and marble with deep burgundy seating. The balconies and pillars are exquisitely crafted and decorated with elaborate multicolored marble friezes, columns, and lavish statuary, some of which portray deities of Greek mythology, as well as gilded bronze busts of many of the great composers. The dome ceiling took my breath away— a huge colorful fresco painted in 1964 by Marc Chagall depicting scenes from the operas of 14 composers. A gold border and small lights outline the painting. From the center hangs an immense 7-ton bronze and crystal chandelier designed by Garnier. It was difficult to stop craning our necks to look at the ceiling. Just being in this historic theater was a feast for the senses and the performance had yet to begin!

The number of performances that take place in the Palais Garnier is astonishing. It is the home of the Opéra National de Paris, which performs no less than 16 operas a season, as well as the ballet, which this season presented 14 ballets. Other series include The L’Orchestre de L’Opéra National de Paris, recital and chamber music evenings, special events and “new productions.” One could go every night of the week if one could only get (and afford) tickets. (Most events are sold out months in advance!)

Keep reading at Interlude!

Playing Less Hurt

Making music at any level is a powerful gift. While musicians have endless resources for learning the basics of their instruments and the theory of music, few books have explored the other subtleties and complexities that musicians face in their quest to play with ease and skill. The demands of solitary practice, hectic rehearsal schedules, challenging repertoire, performance pressures, awkward postures, and other physical strains have left a trail of injured, hearing-impaired, and frustrated musicians who have had few resources to guide them.

Playing Less Hurt addresses this need with specific tools to avoid and alleviate injury. Impressively researched, the book is invaluable not only to musicians, but also to the coaches and medical professionals who work with them. Everyone from dentists to orthopedists, audiologists to neurologists, massage therapists and trainers will benefit from Janet Horvath’s coherent account of the physiology and psyche of a practicing musician. Writing with knowledge, sympathetic insight, humor, and aplomb, Horvath has created an essential resource for all musicians who want to play better and feel better.

 

Paris Ballet Then

Guest Blogger: Janet Horvath, author of Playing Less Hurt. Below is an excerpt from her blog, at Interlude.

Paris Ballet Then

What was the Paris Opéra Ballet like six decades ago? My Uncle Arnold was posted in France after the Second World War in 1946. A dedicated music aficionado, he could hardly wait for his furlough to attend the ballet. This is what he related about his experience:
(written in early 1946 by Arnold Rosenberg)

Although hunger is stalking the arts in Paris today, one cannot help feel the drive and persistence of Parisians to get back on their feet again. The French are remarkable despite war, enemy occupation, severe rationing and hunger, they take great pride in their outstanding cultural achievements. Call it escapism if you will, but to those who know the French people it seems rather indigenous courage and determination to preserve their culture and way of life, despite all handicaps.

Artistically, Paris is now as brilliant as ever. True, musical and artistic organizations have suffered somewhat in quality, but they still manage to turn out an almost perfect product even in 1946. Top-notch Jewish performers were ousted during the war from their posts with orchestras and ballets, and afterward, artists were forced to leave because of their collaboration during the occupation. Of those who remain, besides endeavoring to do first class artistic work, many are forced to seek other employment in order to maintain a living wage. Rehearsal hours are short and inadequate in number, but these dedicated artists take it in stride.

Despite everything, Paris can boast five first-rate symphony orchestras, two grand opera companies and one of the finest ballet companies in the world. Concert halls and opera houses are packed every night with enthusiastic audiences. Of course people are starved not only for bread but beauty.

Keep reading on Interlude!

Playing Less Hurt

Making music at any level is a powerful gift. While musicians have endless resources for learning the basics of their instruments and the theory of music, few books have explored the other subtleties and complexities that musicians face in their quest to play with ease and skill. The demands of solitary practice, hectic rehearsal schedules, challenging repertoire, performance pressures, awkward postures, and other physical strains have left a trail of injured, hearing-impaired, and frustrated musicians who have had few resources to guide them.

Playing Less Hurt addresses this need with specific tools to avoid and alleviate injury. Impressively researched, the book is invaluable not only to musicians, but also to the coaches and medical professionals who work with them. Everyone from dentists to orthopedists, audiologists to neurologists, massage therapists and trainers will benefit from Janet Horvath’s coherent account of the physiology and psyche of a practicing musician. Writing with knowledge, sympathetic insight, humor, and aplomb, Horvath has created an essential resource for all musicians who want to play better and feel better.

Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring

Guest Blogger: Rikky Rooksby is the author of numerous volumes on music and songwriting.  Enjoy his musings on The Rite of Spring, and visit his website for the full article.

A piece of music which is on my mind very much at present is Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps, or to give it its English title The Rite Of Spring. 2013 marks the centenary of its first performance on 29 May 1913 in Paris. This centenary is being celebrated all over the world, with live performances, books and CD releases. I’ve a small part in all this, as I’m teaching a course on the Rite for Oxford University Dept. of Continuing Education in the summer.

The first performance of the Rite is legendary because of the so-called ‘riot’ that broke out among the audience. A certain percentage of the audience reacted angrily to the Rite‘s flouting of their expectations of what ballet and music should be. The ballet was created by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes company, with choreography by Nijinsky and scenery by Nicholas Roerich. The dancers wore costumes, used postures and movements that were contrary to traditional ballet.

The ballet is set in an imaginary ancient Russia and centres on a ritual to bring the spring in which a girl is selected from the tribe and who dances herself to death. As such, it is a work which could be seen to synchronously anticipate the sacrifice of youth during the First World War.

Keep reading this post on Rikky Rooksby’s site!

Rikky Rooksby is a guitar teacher, songwriter/composer, and writer on popular music. Considered the premiere author of songwriting guides, Rooksby has also written numerous music history and guitar instruction books and has published over 200 interviews, reviews, articles, and transcriptions in music magazines. He has also transcribed and arranged more than 40 chord songbooks, including music by Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, The Beatles, and many other artists.

A member of the Guild of International Songwriters and Composers, Rooksby is also a sought-after teacher who leads courses on music at The Oxford Experience and other international continuing education summer schools.