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Carmina Burana (Hollywood East) [1978]

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Film Identifier: F.2011-05-0159
Run Time
0h 50m 0s
Date Produced
June 25 1978
Ruth Page choreographed two versions of Carmina Burana, both set to Carl Orff's original music. The first version was premiered in Chicago, at the Civic Opera House, on November 12, 1965. The performance was a joint endeavor between Page's Chicago Opera Ballet and the Lyric Opera of Chicago, including a children's chorus. It featured scenery by the House of Sormani, Milan and costumes by Casa D'Arte Cerrstelli from Florence (after the designs of Emmanuel Luzzati). The second version, with designs by André Delfau, was first performed in Kalamazoo, Michigan on January 9, 1967 by Ruth Page's International Ballet.

This 1978 film of a dress rehearsal in Chicago, produced by Hollywood East and filmed by Richard J. Carter for WTTW-TV/Chicago, appears to depict the later version, danced by the Chicago Ballet.
The film opens with a close up of Death, performed by a dancer in a cloak, facing away from the camera. As the camera zooms out, the titles "Chicago Ballet in RUTH PAGE'S CARMINA BURANA" flash on the screen. A number of additional figures enter the stage and circle the cloaked figure until he eventually shows his face (a skeleton mask). He engages with two of the figures (apparently a king and a prostitute), eventually forcing both dead to the ground.

The camera then cuts to Act I of the ballet: Spring/Primavera. Four young women in highly modern blue and yellow costumes, with elaborate headgear, enter stage and begin an ensemble dance. They are soon joined by four young men with flowers who initiate pas de deux. As they exit, a single couple enters and takes center stage, performing a brief but lively pas de deux of their own. Next, five more couples enter and join them for one more pas de deux performed by all. As they complete it, a trickster figure (perhaps Death in disguise?) enters from the back and causes a commotion. All take turns timidly approaching him and then scurrying off again, but they soon gain confidence in their numbers and surround him, eventually forcing him offstage. The six couples then return to their positions and perform another merry pas de deux. This is followed by a flirtation sequence in which the men leave the women, saddened, who then eagerly anticipate the men's return; they gallop in as if on horseback only to leave again and tease the women. After they return again and all leave together, two young girls enter stage with what appears to be a peddler. After he treats them to a bird and a shawl, Cupid pops out of his sack and accidentally makes the girls fall in love with the peddler. Realizing his mistake, he beckons a slightly older young woman and shoots her with his arrow. As he and the young girls exit, the peddler and the young woman begin a series of slow, intense, and playful pas de deux. For the act's finale, the six other couples return to stage, joined by Cupid and one of the young girls at center, and perform one last pas de deux before all men but Cupid exit and he shoots the whole row of women with an (invisible) arrow.

The screen goes black and Act II: The Tavern begins with a many carrying a barstool onstage in the midst of a small solo. He is soon joined by other men, who carry on a table and additional stools, each doing unique choreography until all collapse in unison. At this moment, a woman enters and dances a provocative, dramatic pas de deux with the initial man. As they run offstage, the other men wake up and another woman (a swan?) enters. All have their eye on her, slowly closing in and pawing her body as she is trapped among them. Overwhelming her, several carry her offstage just as two more women enter. The six men, now dancing as if very inebriated, are enticed by these last two women into a clumsy ensemble dance, which then splits into two ravenous groups before reuniting in a single cluster of ecstasy atop the bar table.

The screen goes dark to signal the end of Act II and the beginning of Act III: The Court of Love. It begins with a female sprite (Amour) dancing a light solo. As she completes it and kneels to the ground, a regally costumed woman enters and begins her own solo; Amour watches, and then presents herself to the woman. She whispers briefly in the woman's ear, and scurries offstage, returning momentarily with a similarly dressed man for her. The two then begin an elegant pas de deux. Upon their exit, four more men and then four more women arrive onstage and dance simultaneously in two separate gender groups. Then, as they intersperse a colorful lead couple arrives at center stage and leads them in a pas de deux. Once they all exit, the initial regal couple returns for a more classical, adagio pas de deux. Afterwards, the camera zooms out to an overhead shot of the other couples returning one at a time, with each dancer carrying a mobile-like branch. Once all reach a standing pose, Cupid and Amour enter and (re-)present the primary couple for a final time. Then all begin circling off stage. Amour, who is last, seems magnetically pulled back on stage as a transition into the finale; Death appears and continues to draw her toward him. She soon runs off stage and the couples from The Court slowly reenter, circling around Death in single file. Next, the primary couple reenters, drawn forth but separated by Death, and apparently begging the others for help as they continue to circle stoically. Finally coming together in front of Death, the couple embrace as they collapse to the ground. The film ends there.
Main Credit
Hollywood East (is production company)
Carter, Richard J. (is filmmaker)
Additional Credit
Orff, Carl (is composer)
Page, Ruth (is choreographer)
Actors, Performers and Participants
Roses, Cynthia Ann (is performer)
Hough, David (is performer)
Begley, Gregory (is performer)
Davis, Suzanne (is performer)
Vostrikov, Gennadi (is performer)
Andrus, Lisa (is performer)
Sutton, Jim (is performer)
Kelly, Brian (is performer)
Leterrier, Mireille (is performer)
O'Leary, Susan (is performer)
Onizuka, Nancy (is performer)
Dickinson, Richard (is performer)
James, Gerald (is performer)
Zeydel, Diana (is performer)
Related Place
Chicago (production location of)