Note to all - this week on my daily podcast, I am featuring "Operation Opera", a series of five musical shares dedicated to opera, opera music and a few complete operas. This post discusses the first of these five shares. More on our Short Stories thread.

Today's playlist explores ballet in the context of opera. Opera, as I’ve discussed in past musings, has to be viewed as the culmination of music, song and stage, so it should come as no surprise that dance episodes and numbers intended for a corps de ballet have a place in grand opera.

Of particular note, the Paris Opera Ballet had its origins in the earlier dance institutions, traditions and practices of the court of Louis XIV. Of particular importance were the series of comédies-ballets created by Molière with, among others, the choreographers and composers Pierre Beauchamps and Jean-Baptiste Lully. The 18th century saw the creation of an associated school, now referred to as the Paris Opera Ballet School (École de Danse de l’Opéra de Paris), which opened in 1713. The operas of Rameau, and later Gluck, raised standards for the dancers. Jean-Georges Noverre was a particularly influential ballet master from 1776 to 1781. He created the ballet Les petits riens in 1778 on Mozart's music.

Two selections, from Massenet and Gounod, are elaborate ballet sequences inserted within the opera, specifically intended for the Paris Opera ballet. Selections from operas by Smetana, and Berlioz I consider more as dance episodes or dance interludes often heard in concert as stand alone “bonbons”.

Sometimes, ballet companies commission choreographies against opera music. For example, in the 1970’s, les Grands Ballets Canadiens toured internationally with their own vision of The Who’s rock opera Tommy. I think it’s in that context that we need to consider Les Patineurs (The Skaters) a ballet choreographed by Frederick Ashton to music composed by Giacomo Meyerbeer and arranged by Constant Lambert. It was first presented by the Vic-Wells Ballet at the Sadler's Wells Theatre, London, on 16 February 1937.

The inspiration for the work came from Constant Lambert, who was music director of the Vic-Wells Ballet during the 1930s and who exercised a major influence on the artistic as well as musical direction of the company. To create the score he chose vocal and dance numbers from two Meyerbeer operas, Le prophète and L'Étoile du Nord, and linked them into an irresistibly cheerful score.

I think you will love this music too.

Bedrich SMETANA (1824-1884)
Prodaná nevesta (The Bartered Bride), JB 1:100 – Dance Selecions / numéros de danse
Act 1, No. 12. Durch die Reihen hinzufliegen (Polka) / Act 2, No. 2. Furiant/ Act 3, No. 4. Ballet of the Comedians (Skocná)
Berliner Philharmoniker
Herbert von Karajan, conducting


Constant LAMBERT (1905-1951)
Les Patineurs (After G. Mayerbeer, 1937)
Radio-Philharmonie Hanover des NDR
Michail Jurowski, conducting


Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)
La Damnation de Faust, Op.24 [H. 111] – Dance Selecions
Acte 1, No. 7cBallet des Sylphes / Ace 1, No. 12 Menuet des Follets
Berliner Philharmoniker
Herbert von Karajan, conducting


Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Le Cid (1895)
Ballet from Act 2
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Louis Frémaux, conducting

Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Faust (1859)
La nuit de Walpurgis, Ballet from Act 5
Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal
Charles Dutoit, conducting

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Archive Page - https://archive.org/details/pcast328