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Can-Can and Dances from the Opera


[1] Offenbach's light-hearted re-interpretation of theOrpheus legend caused some scandal at the first performance of his Orpheeaux Enfers at the Bouffe-Parisiens in 1858, when it seemed that he might bemocking the opera of Gluck on the same subject, The work was mounted with decorby Gustave Dore and expanded in 1874 with additional ballets, In Offenbach'sversion of the myth, with a libretto by Hector Cremieux and Jacques FrancoisHalevy, Orpheus is only too glad to be rid of his nagging Eurydice, who goesoff with Pluto, god of the Underworld, The intervention of Jupiter allows thatmaster of disguise to descend to the Underworld in the guise of a fly to seekout Eurydice, The famous can-can, the answer to Gluck's Dance of the BlessedSpirits, is performed by the infernal corps de ballet after Jupiter hasturned Eurydice into a Bacchante, a metamorphosis that leaves her happilyparted from her.



[2] - [5] The most famous of all operatic versions ofGoethe'sFaustis the opera by Charles Gounod, first staged at the ParisTheatre-Lyrique in 1859, The plot centres on the love of Faust and Marguerite(Gretchen) and the dances from the opera, a necessary contemporary element ofFrench opera, include, in addition to the kermesse of the second act, the wellknown fifth act Walpurgisnacht on the Brocken in the Hartz Mountains, where thedances include Les nubiennes, Cleopatra et la coupe d'or, Les troyennes andDanse de Phrynee, part of a revision of 1869 for the Grand Opera.


[6] - [7] Smetana was a leading figure in the creation ofCzech opera and his best known work in this form must be The Bartered Bride(Prodanci Nevesta), first staged at the Prague National Theatre in 1866, Thebride of the title,

Marenka, is to marry the son of Tobias Micha, apparentlythe simpleton Vasek, but eventually is able to marry the man she loves, Micha'slong lost son Jenik,

The Polka ends the first act, while the Furiant

is heard at the inn scene of the second.


[8] Offenbach's Les contes d'Hoffmann, firstperformed in 1881, the year after the composer's death, at the ParisOpera-Comique, is based on stories by E.T.A. Hoffmann, including the famousCoppelia tale of love for a puppet. The third act is set in Venice, where thelove of Nicklausse and the courtesan

Giulietta is celebrated in a Barcarole, thegondolier's song.


[9] As versatile as he was prolific, Camille Saint-Saensscored the most lasting operatic success with his biblical Samson et Dalila,a work that had its first performance in.1877 at the Hoftheater in Weimar. Theclimax of tile opera is the Bacchanale of the third act, where thePhilistines feast and rejoice, mocking the blinded hero, who is about to bringthe house down.


[10] Dance has an important and necessary part to play inRussian opera.

Mussorgsky's Sorochintsy Fair, based on Gogol andleft unfinished at his death in 1881, included the famous Gopak, intended forthe end of the first act, but transferred by Tcherepnin in his completedversion of the third, where the heroine Parassia recovers her spirits, as she thinksof her lover Gritzko.


[11] The Dance of the Hours has enjoyed anindependent orchestral existence, separated from its dramatic context inAmilcare Ponchielli's opera La Gioconda. The ballet, in four parts,Dawn, Day, Evening and Night, is given for the entertainment of the guests ofAlvise Badoero, head of the state inquisition, and precedes the dramatic arrestof La Cieca (The Blind Woman), mother of La Gioconda.


[12] - [13] Tchaikovsky based his opera Eugene Onegin

on the work of Pushkin.

It deals with the love of Tatiana and Onegin, with danceat its very heart. In the second act there is a dance at Madame Larina's and itis during the Waltz that Onegin antagonizes Lensky, whom he later killsin a duel, the cause of his own exile. Years later there is a grand ball at thearistocratic residence of Prince Gremin, epitomized in the Polonaise andit is here that Onegin meets Tatiana again, now the wife of Prince Gremin, andparts from her for ever.



[14] Mussorgsky's opera Khovantshchina has alibretto by Stasov, mentor of the five nationalist composers under theinfluence of Balakirev. The opera deals with the clash between the reformistsupporters of Peter the Great and the traditionalists, the Streltsy musketeersand Old Believers, with Prince Khovansky. The Dance of Persian Slaves

entertains the Prince in the fourth act.


[15] There is a very different kind of nationalism inManuel de Falla's opera La vida breve. The story of the opera is one oflove and betrayal, as the faithless

Paco deserts his gypsy mistress Salud.


[16] Borodin, like Mussorgsky, died before he had time tocomplete his principal opera, Prince Igor. There is a strong element ofexoticism, particularly in the famous Polovtsian Dances with which KhanKhonchak entertains his prisoners Prince Igor and the latter's son Vladimir.


Disc: 1
Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor
1 Can-Can (Peter's Friends)
2 Allegretto
3 Allegretto
4 Moderato con moto
5 Allegretto
6 Polka
7 Furiant
8 Barcarole from Tales of Hoffmann
9 Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah
10 Gopak from Fair at Sorochintsy
11 Dance of the Hours from La Gioconda
12 Polonaise
13 Waltz
14 Dance of the Persian Slaves from Khovanshchina
15 Interlude and Dance from La Vida Breve
16 Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor
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