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Orpheus [1962, Chicago, Civic Opera House]

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Film Identifier: F.2011-05-0107
Run Time
0h 28m 30s
Date Produced
"Orpheus" is a ballet in three acts choreographed by Ruth Page for the opera Orfeo ed Euridice by Christoph Willibald von Gluck, based on the Greek myth about Orpheus and his wife Eurydice.  It appears to have premiered on November 24, 1962 with the Lyric Opera at the Chicago Civic Opera House.  The cast of the premiere included Gabriel Bacquier as Orpheus, Rita Streich as Amore/Love, and Lisa Della Casa as Eurydice.  Maria Tallchief, who danced Eurydice in George Balanchine's 1948 version of the Orpheus ballet, was among the additional soloists.

This film represents several segments of rehearsal for the ballet in 1962, apparently including at least one portion not used in the final version (according to the film's canister notes)--this unused sequence appears to be the solo at the beginning of the film, rehearsed by Patricia Klekovic.
The film opens with a shot of a stage, empty of sets, with a female dancer rehearsing a solo in practice clothes and flat shoes.  As the camera follows her, other dancers are seen to be sitting in wait offstage.  The film then cuts to a segment in which seven men perform a slow ensemble dance, continuously shifting their formation.  To finish, they all pose, most kneeling, in a cluster on stage left.  

The film then cuts to another segment, which is cloudy, before cutting again to another group rehearsal, this time with long garlands (?) on the ground.  Four groups of two women soon pick up these garlands, while a final two meet at center to mourn--this appears to be a funeral dance.  The garland carriers slowly move to the back and lay down the garlands while the center two rise and walk in mournful circles.  

Next, the film cuts to a group of men, with seven writhin on the ground and one dancing frenetically in front of them.  While danced by all men, it looks not unlike a dance of furies.  The ground-dwellers begin to rise and join the soloist in this crazed dance; it seems to descend into chaos, after which four of the men thrust the soloist above their heads and back down again numerous times.  He eventually comes to lead the whole group in an ensemble dance, which continues for some time.  

Then, the film cuts to a rehearsal of eight women posed together, slowly moving through a shifting port de bras sequence.  This may be a representation of the Elysian Fields.  It soon cuts forward somewhat, to a scene where these eight women are seated, with a group of men standing behind them and a female soloist dancing before them at center.  The formations change behind her as she continues; when she exits, all break character.

Next, the film cuts to a rehearsal of a (grand?) pas de deux; this time, the woman is en pointe.  The majority of the pas de deux seems to be an adagio, and several sequences are repeated.  Solo segments by both partners are also included.

The film then cuts to a rehearsal of a pas de deux by two sets of couples simultanously; soon afterwards it cuts forward to six (or perhaps eight?) sets of couples dancing together.  All eventually reach a final pose.

Afterwards, the film cuts to another pas de deux rehearsal (with a different couple than the prior segment); this woman is in flat shoes.  The camera shakes quite a bit during this portion.  The dance is speedier than the last, perhaps a petite allegro, with a more allegro solo by the male partner in the middle of it.

Finally, the film cuts back to the female soloist from the beginning, once again dancing in flat shoes.  The film ends while she is still dancing.
Additional Credit
Page, Ruth (is choreographer)
von Gluck, Christoph Willibald (is composer)
Actors, Performers and Participants
Klekovic, Patricia (is performer)
Johnson, Kenneth (is performer)
Kayan, Orrin (is performer)
Everett, Ellen (is performer)
Related Place
Chicago (production location of)