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The following program was produced for national educational radio under a grant from the National Home Library Foundation by W. B U R Boston. Boston University radio presents Hall of song the story of the Metropolitan Opera from 1893 to 1966. Her woo woo. Woo. You're. Good. Miles Kasten Deek critic of The New York World. And across.
Time for the Metropolitan to open its 1963 season. Everyone in New York was well aware of the fact that the days of the old opera house of Broadway and 31st were numbered after years of proposals and counterproposals plans and the plans. It was at last a certainty that the Metropolitan would soon be moving into new quarters. There were probably very few people who could possibly have remembered that when God became the Metropolitan's impresario Khan who was then chairman of the board had promised that a new opera house was going to be built very soon. That was in 1978. Since then and it been no less than six occasions on which it appeared that the opera company might relocate. Finally on May 9th 1963 the first gooders were laid at Lincoln Center the new opera house was underway at last one of the principal arguments often whenever the need of a new house was discussed was the Metropolitan's acute lack of adequate rehearsal space. This
difficulty applied not only to the singers orchestra and chorus but to the large ballet as well. In an effort to constantly improve the standards of all aspects of the operas produced at the Metropolitan Rudolph beings attention was eventually drawn to the ballet. A frequent object of criticism by the press and public alike in 1963 they militia mark over was brought to Broadway in thirty ninth Street to direct the Metropolitan car to ballet when they mark over spoke with the producer of the series Richard Calhoun. She revealed that her first introduction to the old opera house and actually come in 1934 as a result she already had a reasonably good idea of some of the difficulties she would be facing in her new job. Oh I came here prima ballerina. I used to want to come and stay here. Brought me here here with the company I was leading the company at that time and
I believe my very first performance I had in the Met I'd done she sell the opening night of the season so this was not within my company. No that's correct it was in the house but not with the what we call today the Metropolitan Opera Association. Well how many years was it until you came to the Metropolitan as a member of the opera and of things. Oh I think I first danced with the Metropolitan Opera. I came in Mr. being asked me to come in to dance and played a mass and there was 953. I think that was my first association with the opera. KROFT But shall we call it that. And then again Mr. being invited me to come back and dance in the look of Fayose there. That was 1955 season
I think and then I returned again. Peo in 1957 58. At that time I was still dancing and dancing in operatic ballet and it different from what you were accustomed to before. Oh no in those particular protests I found it absolutely fulfilling and rewarding because I think they both were were very bad electic in their different ways up drawer Betamax We had wonderful Strauss WALLACE And of course with the bloke. To me I think that's almost my favorite of her because I think this was look's whole idea of having the marriage of I mean sound and movement. To me it's always been a thrilling experience being in the book of prayer.
Point did you become director of the Metropolitan ballet company that came about three years ago. I certainly I announced my retirement from dancing and decided to come to New York for the occasion immense occasion and I've been here about two weeks I think. And seeing friends at shows and everything going on here and Mr. Bing again and Mr. Gutman invited me to ask me if I'd like to come along and see a performance of the Opera which I've always enjoyed very much. So I accepted and then I think a few days later I had a phone call from Mr. Big and to know if I could come and perhaps stage. A small version of still feat for the dances for the educational and school performances. So I was on my way down to
Florida for cation but they persuaded me well a couple of weeks work and I could continue down that as I had already retired. Time really wasn't pressing so I accepted to do that and they started working with the dances. Somehow I don't know. Will you be very happy in things went very well. I think a couple of weeks later suddenly I found myself the director of the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. Mr being asked me if I would take over and that's the story must have been something of a challenge since the ballet notoriously. You know I want to say Poor exactly but it's been the butt of a lot of criticism through the years and I know that you have done an awful lot with it since you have taken over and I think it has developed quite a bit beyond what it had been before that you found you had a lot of work to do in reforming
and molding ballet wing. Well shall we say as you've already said that the Met ballet here has I would say had its ups and downs because during the what 80 years history of the matter they've had some very great people in the family here at different times and somehow I don't know they did marvelous work at the time but did it never seem to sit to stay I suppose. And so that's where I thought well I don't know why I should perhaps be able to succeed where other people hadn't before but I don't well I'll try to see. So I think it naturally needed a certain amount of. Perhaps not reorganization but
organization of starting to set it up and then of course I think people aren't always aware outside the midst of being has to deal with many unions in many aspects is and of course in respect to the belly Also we come in contact and of course ballet has its own union and all of those things I think you know it's not only just the artistic part of having a studio and doing steps at the bar and everything all of that naturally is going to but there is the other part of it and perhaps whether having had companies of my own before my career without being officially director ever artistic director because when I was performing I only ever wanted to be listed as a prima ballerina of the company. Even when it was my own company
perhaps subconsciously I had a certain amount of preparation has to deal with these things. And so I think it was a matter of trying to get the two things organized together. One of the valets that you are ballet portions of an opera that you were involved with was just this past season with the opening night of Faust and this aroused an awful lot of controversy in the press and in the audience at the opening night too I think it's one of the few times I've heard anything orchestra singers or ballet that actually cough or hisses from the audience. What was your feeling with that. I mean personally it wasn't my idea. Well they brought the bally him in fast. Could be but this is now a coming to what we've been talking about the collaboration now on the new productions
and the ballet and naturally in the collaboration I would say well I'm the director of the opera comes first his conception and the maestro. They to me are the two most important people in our. So it had to be their conception came first and this was the conception version Ribeiro and then of course the designer then runs with them and then runs. That was conceived then I brought in and of course when I see the conception this is mine it has yes. Decide who then will be the best choreographer. With us yes. Clint took over but but still you see after all and are right one
still has to work with the director. At least I know I feel that. And then the choreographer works under your direction. Yes if I'm not going to graphing myself then naturally I will be along with the choreographer who comes in because then I have to more or less as we say keep the coordinated between the director and the designer them at the maestro and the choreographer to see that we don't get off on Tim with a maestro aura that the choreographer doesn't design something in choreography that that can't be done in the costume that the designer has designed and this since I've come in I think now this is what I try to to take care of because before I think often they would have for costumes design and the choreography would be done by somebody in another studio or outside and then just brought it in and then you did
discover that they are the dancers would get on stage. They couldn't work in the costumes or they had rakes that they couldn't be lifted in or they'd lose them the hats were too large. And then it meant to they have to either be scrapped and a new set of costumes which was extra expense. So all of those things I feel that anything can be eliminated if there is an artistic collaboration. When the whole production is being conceived Chris was. It was not part of the organic call of the opera that it was rather a radical departure in terms of cost cutting and everything else from the rest of the ballet which had been done. I think most of the painting is quite bizarre we would agree with or not but there again that was there.
You see this was the way he wanted it and the way he explained it that is that he wanted something to be such a contrast to bring the character and dramatic contrast from Marguerite breaking in on this to get his effect for the following scene. And I must say he did. First he said I think you're going to hate me because I have to use the ballet to get the dramatic contrast. I tend to agree with that. Frankly I tend to agree with him. The conception certainly I mean. Shall we say didn't show the ballet in a poetic beautiful light. But there again all right I was able to show them in their plight in the queen of spades when it when I had the little bastard out
to cut myself. Yes yes that is that I can see. Yes in the same thing we were with our mad and angry back and the costumes are rubbish. I call him Bob. You know now that we've worked together. You know you think about it from the beginning we chose the callus we chose the materials you know sort of the whole conception right we were trying to work to create the ballet really can perform a function in the world purely poetic as you mention from the Queen of Spades and I think also Well a closing of the current repertoire which was a few years ago and then something like the fellows writing noticed a similarity to the Macbeth one with the witches. Oh yes they often will which also arouse somewhat the same criticism at the time as I first came out of 50 or
60. Well actually this is something I think people perhaps realize that the ballet in our brains have to be very versatile. This is something you see that because in the different operas the different types of opera draw different music though at least I feel for a different a different interpretation. And then again today I think you come to the point that not only are the operas different but then you have got to try and bring perhaps a fresh approach to some of these are because as you know if you just went on doing you know Edo what had been done for a hundred years or something. I mean you know people would know before they came in the theater. What rot. We're going to
see and I think like everything this is the whole point artistically of trying to keep within a tradition and still keep something fresh. I think this is the challenge where recruits dancers Oh there that I have auditions actually tomorrow I'll be having auditions or they would have open auditions tomorrow morning and I already have the. Union auditions must be six weeks eight weeks ago and then tomorrow afternoon will have the final auditions because again this is where the union enters the picture. We have to wait to a certain date. The contracts are offered to the company and to the dancers and then they
have until a certain date to let let us know whether they intend returning the following season. If they don't then on that date I know then I have so many vacancies in the company. And then of course I hold the final audition and so tomorrow will be the final audition for next season. I know that I have to perhaps replace too. Of the woman dances for the man next season most of the members of the company Americans or was it distributed between Americans and Europeans. Let me see now at the moment since I've been here what is it 3 years. Yes last season I had brought the company down I think to being all Americans except for my sister.
Our principal dancer and the new little low soloist Ana around you know who was here on a Fulbright scholarship. Otherwise I think I brought it down to all Americans. And quite amazing really because I know most people would imagine that there was much interest you know in ballet in America so that you could fill out the continent with America great deal of interest and in this I think has been my whole idea and I think the whole idea of the mentality of the management and the board of directors that I this is what I wanted to try and build. An American company here for you. After all the new Opera House I mean you can't do it overnight. But with time and as I say with the seasons and the same thing with their choreographers. So because I feel
after all there should be somewhere then eventually. I mean I may not be be here is still back to where you will have your own opera house or even any of the brand new productions coming up the first season. I know nothing about it but not a lot of Balliol in that no I don't think of a lot of ballet but I think they'll be done says which will be mostly men are going to be involved in that. And then of course the new trivia. Yes this again it's not really a big ballet but the dances are involved in the galaxy gypsy sea and then of course the new Jack condo and have the we have paving slabs already are at this and the other section in
no so there's three productions in addition to working with the ballet company as a whole. You have also worked with individual singers who find themselves with some dancing to do I think most recently was with Nielsen You coached her in her dance of seven veils. SOLOMON Well I don't always be I going to such great admirers Madame Rios and that is that I found that was a wonderful experience. She was really one. The way she she really wanted to approach that role. I mean we all know after all how she would sing about there again it was a matter of discussions with Dr. rennet and the designer and Rick
and because they wanted to try and find a completely new conception. Yeah you saw that and I was surprised pleasantly because at one point I think she said that she would NEVER ONCE I believe and she wouldn't do it again because she thought she looked ridiculous in the day. You know I was initially surprised that she was going to do it here and I was quite anxious to see how she would handle it and I thought it was quite remarkable. In fact it was an event when it is in a way but you see I think the whole thing. This is collaboration. You see Dr. Rennert when we first discussed it I think we were over it live born I was in England kasama holiday and he was at blackboard at the time and we we met and again he sort of told me what he had in his mind.
And again it had to be part than it had to be a reason in this dance. And this I agree with him in the press that this and that there must be a reason for the dance so the ballet whatever it is and this is the whole idea was to find and so that was why I rarely ran away. Right I would say created dance but but it was all thought out. The very first rehearsals when they set the set out here in New York Dr. rennet and myself we composed it on ourselves. I was celebrating and the road and we we worked it out and we were climbing up and down his spine knowing and all of this and then suddenly we come to a point in the tape. No this no that isnt right dramatically you know wouldn't be and so we did we do we'd say well we're all right up to that point but now and then of course musically we had to abide all the time.
And there again with the maestro with it with Maestro Bob he was so pleased which that really made me happiest because with it was it there with a work like there I mean it you know it can suddenly stick out like a sore. I feel. Well I'm glad you feel better. And so then we more or less sketch this out and then put it over on to Madame toto took it from there. Yes and then again you know with the veils you work and you see being so interested in wanting to do it this I think was the goal. Reason that we were able to achieve that because she would go home I know she'd take the scarves home. She said Don't worry I get that I'm going home and that the housework at home with with the machine this evening and apparently that you know she took me in
she. Went because to find how it would be the best for her. You see the whole idea was she couldn't copy me she shouldn't cut me but it was defined by her to express what was necessary and feel right. But how much preparation is required on the part of the company for say a new production. Probably about like Oh it depends. There again with the different operas I think you know we have to work out and with my ballet mistress or tricky. We sit down and you more or less and not so many hours of production we would have to see first when we're jus the first time I'm with you on stage when we have to have something ready. Two for the director to see the maestro. So then I'm a more or less work backward backwards from there as
to how long our section will be or if it's if it's an isolated section of the opera that's easier. But if it has to be something that's woven in with the opera that naturally take much more time. For instance take the Faust and where I mean with Barrow he wanted everybody having a gesture. And at a certain point and it had to fit in with the chorus and everything. So that's why they were there took a great deal of time because musically because that had to will be controlled by the maestro. So all these things each production you see will be different and different requirements and this is why one has to be ready to know exactly. And then for instance I myself I mean you know as you know my life would be in ballet I'd always enjoyed up. And I'd worked it out with our right but just the same there are still many operas that I hadn't been acquainted with so as
soon as we look down the repertoire and I see it for the ticket I am not acquainted with. Then I have no better. I have to have the album because I want to hear the score and I myself then become acquainted with that particular opera before I go into discussion and so that when the director and the maestro designer are all voicing what they have in mind I'm acquainted with the overall picture it's going much easier to to discuss and know what they're getting at or when the certain singer important singer in the opera. That's a very important entrance for them. Then I'm I know that certain things should be happening or certainly shouldn't be happening at that point you see and and can you know more or less collaborate at all with the other clutter. There was an awareness of what was I feeling. And then for instance you know I think during the different seasons mean anything and
you know it's not always a big ballet but there are people from the balance and that means this casting to me dance costumes to be fitted you know all this taking off so that it's all there at the right moment when they need it. That was Dame Alicia about a call of the lady responsible for all the complex problems of organizing the Metropolitan's Korda ballet next week we have a very exciting program planned. They first of two broadcasts in which Giovanni Martinelli and the child Benet's will join us to reminisce about the long period of history at the Old Met embraced by their distinguished careers. I'm sure you'll want to join us today and for now this is Milton Cross on behalf of miles cast and Dick thanking you for listening. Boston University Radio has presented Hall of song the story
of the Metropolitan Opera from 1883 to 1966. The series is created and produced by Richard Calhoun a grant from the National Home Library Foundation has made possible the production of these programs for national educational radio. This is the national educational radio network.
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Hall of song: The 'Met,' 1883-1966
1963 Through 1964
Producing Organization
WBUR (Radio station : Boston, Mass.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
1963 -1964. Dame Alicia Markova is interviewed; she came to the Met to direct the ballet.
Series Description
Documentary series on history of the Metropolitan Opera Company ("The Met") in its original home at Broadway and 39th Street in New York. "The Met" closed its old location on April 16, 1966. Series includes interviews and rare recordings of noted performers.
Broadcast Date
Performing Arts
Media type
Host: Cross, Milton, 1897-1975
Host: Kastendieck, Miles
Interviewee: Markova, Alicia, Dame, 1910-2004
Producer: Calhoun, Richard
Producing Organization: WBUR (Radio station : Boston, Mass.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 66-41-36 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:50
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Chicago: “Hall of song: The 'Met,' 1883-1966; 1963 Through 1964,” 1967-05-09, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 21, 2024,
MLA: “Hall of song: The 'Met,' 1883-1966; 1963 Through 1964.” 1967-05-09. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 21, 2024. <>.
APA: Hall of song: The 'Met,' 1883-1966; 1963 Through 1964. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from