Invitation to the Dance
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Carl Maria yon Weber (1786 - 1826) Invitation to the Dance
Adolphe Adam (1803 - 1856)
Excerpts from Act I & Act II ofGiselle
Charles Gounod (1818 - 1893)
Ballet Music from Faust
Leo Delibes (1836 - 1891)
Ballet Music from Lakme
Amilcare Ponchielli (1834 - 1886)
Dance of the Hours from La gioconda
Carl Maria von Weber, a cousin ofMozart's wife Constanze, was to suffer a peripatetic childhood, as his father,a musician and actor, among other occupations, travelled or changed from oneinterest to another. He excelled as a pianist and was to win even more lastingreputation as the creator of the first Romantic German opera, DerFreischuetz.
Invitation to the Dance, a rondo, waswritten in 1819, originally for the piano. The work offers a simple programme.
The dancer first approaches his prospective partner and persuades her to dancewith him. They talk together, their conversation increasing in warmth, and thenthey dance, chatting as they do so. The dance ends; the man thanks the womanand she replies politely; they part and all is over.
Weber's programme for the piece is clearenough. Nevertheless it was intended not for the stage but rather for thesalon. It was the French composer Berlioz who orchestrated the work forperformance in Paris as an obligatory divertissement for thelast act of Weber's great German Romantic opera Der Freischuetz, forwhich he had already provided recitative, in place of the original dialogue.
French opera had traditionally included ballet, while spoken words were forbiddenon the stage of the Opera. It was to comply with this usage that Berlioz, usinghis own rather than Weber's orchestral forces, made the present orchestralversion to Invitation to the Dance.
Possibly the best known use of Weber'swork in ballet is in the Fokin version of the invitation to the Dance, underthe title le spectre de la rose, choreographed for the company of SergeyDyagilev in Paris in 1911, and danced by Karsavinaand Nijinsky. A young girlreturns from the ball, bringing with her a rose, and falling asleep, dreamsthat she is dancing with the rose. The spirit of the rose leaps through thewindow and she awakes.
Adolphe Adam, remembered today chiefly asthe composer of Giselle, rather than for any of his many operas or other works,was born in Paris in 1803, the son of a musician who forbade his offspring anyform of musical education and went on to extend this prohibition, having givenway on the first point, to the composition of any work for the stage. Adamacquired his knowledge of music through his own efforts and entered theConservatoire, where he studied the organ under Benoist but later deserted thisinstrument for the harmonium, on which he performed effectively in thefashionable salons of Paris.
As a composer Adam won popularity for aseries of works designed for the Opera-Comique and in 1847 opened his ownTheatre National with the notion of encouraging younger composers. The venturewas ill-timed and came to nothing the following years, when politicaldisturbances broke out in Paris. Adam spent much of the rest of his life payingoff the debts he had occurred in this enterprise.
Giselle, the seventh of Adam's ballets,was first staged at the Paris Opera in 1841 and is based on a story recountedby Heine. The country-girl Giselle falls in love with Count Albrecht, of whoseidentity and earlier betrothal to a noblewoman she is unaware. When she learnsthe truth she goes mad and dies In the second act Albrechtcomes to worship at the tomb of Giselle, in the forest, where, at midnight,Queen Myrtha and the Wills appear, ghosts of girls who loved dancing but diedbefore their wedding-day. Albrecht's companion, Hilarion, is driven to hisdeath, but the Count himself is saved by the ghost of Giselle, who dances withhim until dawn breaks, and the Wilis must return to their graves.
Goethe was preoccupied with the story ofFaust for the greater part of his life His poetic drama was to prove a seminalwork for the Romantic generation that followed, with the hero a personificationof the artist-hero, the individual rebel against convention and custom Based onearlier legend, derived, perhaps, from the life of Paracelsus or some otherlate medieval scientist, the story tells of how the old scholar Dr Faustussells his soul to the Devil in return for youth and power, both of which hemisuses. In Goethe's version he is finally saved from his bargain by theintervention of Margarete, the girl he has wronged.
Charles Gounod, a French composer whoenjoyed great popularity in the second half of the nineteenth century, created.
In his opera on the subject of Faust the most famous operatic version ofGoethe's work, however remote it may be from the original. The principal balletmusic in the opera occurs in the fifth act, in which Faust and the DevilMephistopheles visit the Brocken Mountain for the Witches Sabbath,Waipurgisnacht, at which the spirits of many famous women of the past appear Atthe end Faust sees Margarete (Marguerite) with a red mark round her neck, asign of her coming execution for the murder of her child, as Faust is later todiscover.
Leo Delibes inherited musical abilitythrough his mother, daughter of an opera singer, if not through his father, whoworked in the French postal service. He entered the Paris Conservatoire in1846, the year after his father's death, studying the organ there underBenoist, and composition under Adolphe Adam It was the latter, composer ofGiselie, who found him a position as accompanist at the Theatre-Lyrique, in1853, the duties of which he combined with those of organist at St. Pierre deChaillot. He was to serve as organist at Saint-Jean-Saint-Francois from1862 until 1871, although his chief association had long been with the theatreFor the Theatre-Lyrique he wrote comic operas, and for the Folies-Nouvelles andother companies operettas.
Appointment as accompanist at the Operain 1863 brought Delibes further opportunities, In 1866he was allowed to join Louis Minkus in the composition of the score for theballet La source, and his success in that task led to a commission for adivertissement, Le pas des fleurs, to be added to Adolphe Adam's Le corsaire.
With the ballet Coppelia, staged atthe Paris Opera in 1870, Delibes scored a considerable success, In 1871 Delibeswas able to relinquish his positions as accompanist and organist and to marry,settling down to life as a composer His comic opera Le roi l'a dit of1873 was followed three years later by another full-length ballet, Sylvia,or La nymphe de Diane.
The opera Lakme was staged at theOpera-Comique in 1883 with considerable success, to which its exotic settingand charming music contributed. The Beli Song remains a favourite withambitious coloratura sopranos. The story, based on Le mariage de Loti,by Gondinet, who had a share in the opera libretto, is set in British India,where the British officer Gerald falls in love with Lakme, daughter of aBrahmin priest Nilakantha, with predictably tragic consequences for her, As wasusual in French opera, there was a place for dance, and the present recordingsoffers the exotic ballet music from the work.
Amilcare Ponchielli, an Italian composerof some importance in the opera-house in his own time, is probably bestremembered for La Gioconda, with its libretto by Arrigo Boito, disguisedunder the anagram o