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Revenge [1951, Chicago, University of Chicago, Mandel Hall]

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Film Identifier: F.2011-05-0170
Run Time
0h 43m 50s
Date Produced
"Revenge" is a ballet in four scenes, choreographed by Ruth Page and based on Giuseppe Verdi's 1853 opera Il Trovatore, itself based on Antonio Garcia Gutierrez's 1836 play El Trovador.  Page's first version was premiered on January 27, 1951 at Mandel Hall of the University of Chicago.  The ballet was then slightly revised and premiered in Paris at the Théâtre de l'Empire on October 17, 1951 by the Ballets des Champs-Élysées.  Music was arranged by Isaac Van Grove; costumes and scenery were designed by Catalan painter Antoni Clavé.  Revenge then returned to Chicago on November 26, 1955, as performed by the Ruth Page Ballets; its first New York performance was at the Broadway Theatre, December 20, 1955, also by the Ruth Page Ballets.

This film represents a rehearsal of the ballet, using practice clothes and without sets, in preparation for the January 1951 performance at Mandel Hall, University of Chicago.
The film begins with a shot of a stage, on which three couples (entertainers) stand frozen side by side, with a fourth couple standing slightly in the background (the Count di Luna and his son?, played by a woman) and a woman holding their baby further back.  Then, a man with a bugle enters and seems to trumpet an announcement.  Soon after, the three central couples begin dancing, with occasional group dances by each gender, and a few solos, interspersed with couple-dances.  Those not dancing pay their respects to the Count and/or the baby.  The Count's son joins the entertainers for a dance with his sword, and then all onstage join together for an ensemble dance.

Interrupting this group dance, two women (Azucena and her mother, gypsies) rush onstage.  Azucena distracts both the count and the other entertainers with a mesmerizing dance; her mother dances with her at first and then makes her way to the Count's son, on whom she begins to cast a spell.  Eventually, the two are caught in their scheme; the Count has the old woman removed and throws Azucema to the ground.  She rises again and dances a dramatic solo while the others look offstage.  When most everyone has left, she steals something from the Count's son, throwing him to the ground in the process, and then steals the baby as well.  The others run after her as she escapes.

The film then cuts to the next scene, now set in the future, again introduced by the bugler.  Then, the lovely Leonora enters and begins to dance a solo.  Soon, Manrico (the Count's stolen baby, who has grown up as Azucena's son) enters and expresses his love for Leonora; the two dance a pas de deux.  Soon, another woman enters (perhaps her mother?) and breaks the two apart, sending Manrico away and beginning a dance with Leonora.  As Leonora completes the dance in a prayer-like kneeling position, another man (presumably Manrico's older brother, the new Count di Luna),  enters stage.  He also expresses his admiration for Leonora, who, at first tearful about Manrico's having been ripped away, cautiously peeks at the solo di Luna begins to dance for her.  She remains shy and avoids dancing with the Count, but Manrico soon enters, angry, and begins a fight with the Count over Leonora (unaware, of course, that they are brothers).  Manrico triumphs and carries Leonora offstage with him.

The film then cuts to the next scene, whch begins with Manrico and Leonora embracing.  He proposes to bring her back to the gypsy camp with him, but her mother arrives and convinces him to leave Leonora with her instead.  The film cuts again to the bugler, announcing the next scene.  Manrico and his camp of gypsies assemble onstage and while he stands at center, the rest begin an 'exotic' dance around him.  He collapses, distraught, but the group continues dancing.  He rises and occasionally joins them but remains moody.  Eventually a female gypsy (perhaps a now-aged Azucena?) dances a solo which seems to incit the others--this then becomes a pas de deux with Manrico.

Just as they complete their pas de deux, the young Count and several friends descend onto the gypsy camp and initiate violence.  In the fray, Manrico nearly kills the Count but some divine force seems to intervene, as does Azucena.  But then the tides change, and the Count's men manage to take both Manrico and Azucena prisoner.  All but the Count then clear the stage, and he eventually exits also.

To indicate another new scene, the bugler returns and kneels long enough for the flag hanging from his horn to be legible: "The Witch Burning."  Following this, a slow procession of men crosses the stage, after which a distraught Leonora performs a solo with a shawl.  Then the Count enters and she begs him to release Manrico.  He agrees on the condition that she marry him, so in a reluctant pas de deux, she agrees and he carries her offstage.  Afterwards, a sort of three-woman processional slowly guides Manrico and Azucena onstage.  She is weak, leaning upon him for support, and dances a heavy pas de deux with him.  They eventually exit, still escorted by the three women behind them.

The bugler enters a final time, announcing the final scene.  Two acrobatic male dancers then enter, tumbling and flipping around each other.  They are soon joined by a third man, who does a great deal of turning.  When they complete their mini-show, four couples enter stage and begin a celebratory dance not unlike that from the opening of the ballet, while the young Count and Leonora, his new bride, stand in the back.  Eventually they come forward, are presented with their rings, and lead the other couples in a wedding pas de deux.  But when the Count isn't looking, she swallows poison as an escape from her circumstances.  She drops to the ground for a moment, then rises and dances the final bit of her pas de deux with the Count before her ultimate collapse.  Manrico enters just in time to witness this and, overcome, sweeps up her failing body and himself collapses over her, only to be carried off by the Count's men once again.  Azucena remains, revealing Manrico's true identity and thereby exacting her final revenge.

The film then cuts to a few seconds of the dancers standing around on stage and chatting after rehearsal, ending soon after.
Additional Credits
Page, Ruth (is choreographer)
Actors, Performers and Participants
Steele, Barbara (is performer)
Reilly, Billy (is performer)
Stone, Bentley (is performer)
Buro, Etta (is performer)
Related Place
Chicago (production location of)