Music As Lincoln Logs

Calvin Wilson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reviews a ballet for us. Well, it’s not so much a review as an interview with the artistic director of the St. Louis Ballet, a gentleman named Gen Horiuchi. As will be made plain shortly, my issues are less with Mr. Wilson than Mr. Horiuchi. Because, well…

A timeless fairy tale comes to life

I bet it does! Ballet! Right? Right!

Along with Cinderella and Snow White, the Sleeping Beauty is among the most popular females in fairy tales

Any stats to back that up? Some kind of Disney-aged princess poll? No? Just sayin’.

Not to be confused with the Beauty who became involved with the Beast

Good lord. I was totally confused before you clarified that for me.

(and who is high on the list of storybook favorites), the character whose slumber can only be ended by a prince's kiss has enchanted countless children.

Yes, we all know that.

So it's not surprising that the Sleeping Beauty would inspire a ballet by composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky,

“Would have inspired”? Just sayin’, again.

who may be best known among the younger set for "The Nutcracker."

Pander pander pander.

But really, that’s all fine. I was just having my fun. Here’s the problem:

In a recent interview, Gen Horiuchi, artistic director of St. Louis Ballet, talked about "The Sleeping Beauty," his approach to it and the appeal of its Tchaikovsky score.

Q: Why did you decide on "The Sleeping Beauty" as the latest presentation in your company's Master Works series?

A: Because of the music.

You decided to perform…a ballet…because of…the music? Seriously?

We'd done "The Nutcracker" and "Swan Lake," both with music by Tchaikovsky, and I've always loved his music for "The Sleeping Beauty." The rhythm of Tchaikovsky's music is very easy to count,

Uh, it’s a ballet. Hopefully that’s the case…

and the melody fits well with dance movement. At the end of a rehearsal, you're humming the melody over and over. And that's what's so special about Tchaikovsky.

Yes. Special. Most ballet composers utterly fail to write memorable melodies.

But worse still, and the real point of my little rant:

Q: Would you say that "The Sleeping Beauty" is one of the more challenging ballets?

A: Definitely. I was just at the Edison Theatre this morning, and we're absolutely using that theater to the max. "The Sleeping Beauty" is almost three hours long (if performed in its entirety), and nobody sits for three hours in the theater anymore. So it's always a challenge for me to cut unnecessary segments of the music, and speed up the music, and speed up the transitions from one scene to the next. But that's also the fun part.

No no no no no no no. To paraphrase:

“I really like Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony, but it’s just so gosh darn long! So I omitted the development and most of the recapitulation. Also the second movement; so unnecessary. And the finale? Forget it. Totally gone. I can just change the music any way I want! Wheee!”

Let's take the Mona Lisa, cut it into thirds, and paste the first and last thirds together! Totally the same work of art!


Sator Arepo said...

Wow. I knew I was having crazy formatting issues, but I didn't expect it to turn out like *that*.

Empiricus said...

...to the rescue, hopefully!

Gustav said...

That man should lose his job immediately! What a fucking disgrace! Fuck you Gen Horiuchi, you obviously hate music (or don't understand it).

If people can't sit through 3 hours, and you see that as a problem, how about commission a new ballet that's only 90 minutes long instead of butchering longer ballets. Just thinking outside of the box, fucktard.

Empiricus said...

Yeah! Exactly what Gustav said.

To be fair, though, cutting and pasting has been a common practice ever since the advent of toothpaste.

Gustav said...

How theraputic it is to swear off some complete stranger! HA!

Yes, cutting and pasting in operas and ballets is indeed a common practice, but this person seems to relish in the idea of cutting the "unnecessary" parts. Ugh. Where did this contempt for music from? I suppose we should just do the greatest hits version of the ballets.

I can just imagine this practice in some other art: "No, no, that Kandinsky is much too large for the room, let's just use the upper right hand corner. And really, that red is just too bright, can we tone it down?"

Anonymous said...

"nobody sits for three hours in the theater anymore"

That must be why those Lord of the Rings films bombed at the box office.

Sator Arepo said...


Well played, sir. People are totally down with sitting for three hours if they damn well feel like it, intermission be damned and all.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, Mr. Horiuchi has even found it necessary to cut "unnecessary" music and dance from his Nutcracker. The production has been totally gutted, and not just the "children's" version which costs the same to attend as the "full" show. Gone completely is the whole Mother Ginger/Pollichinelles (one of the most upbeat divertissements in the score) from both full and short. Dew Drop and the Waltz of the Flowers has been removed from the children's version to join the Snow corps as only in the full length productions. Don't know about you, but watching the Snow Pas and Sugar Plum Pas is not nearly so entertaining as watching some of the corp pieces, and the kids sure do like them more. Additionally, even when the Prince and Clara arrive in the Land of Sweets, the Nutcracker Prince's telling the story of how he fought the mouse king, etc and rescued Clara has been deleted. It's a crime!! My family will no longer buy tickets to see such a travesty.