|First Publication||1936 - London: Boosey & Hawkes (106 pages)|
|Genre Categories||; ; ;|
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|Work Title||Port Said|
|Alternative. Title||Port Saïd (scènes marines)|
|First Publication.||1936 - London: Boosey & Hawkes (106 pages)|
|Composer Time PeriodComp. Period||Early 20th century|
|Piece Style||Early 20th century|
A number of Ballets Russes companies were formed in the wake of the dissolution of Serge Diaghilev's Ballet Russe following his death in 1929. Between 1936 and 1940 three of these companies visited Australia in tours orchestrated by the entrepreneur Colonel Wassily de Basil. The first, a company assembled in London by de Basil and billed as (Colonel W. de Basil's) Monte Carlo Russian Ballet, toured for nine months between 1936 and 1937. Its sixty-two dancers were drawn largely from the Ballets de Leon Woizikowsky, augmented by artists from de Basil's own company, and from Rene Blum's Ballets de Monte Carlo.
From J.C. Williamson Ltd. Magazine Programme, His Majesty's Theatre, December 1936 in the Maroussia Richardson Collection, 1933-1949 we find the following Program Note :
Special Features for week commencing saturday evening, Dec. 12 : Port Said preceded by Balakirev's Thamar (=Tamar), and followed by Konstantinoff's own arrangement of Schumann's Carnaval (a fact not mentioned on the adjoining performance notice), with Petroushka closing the performance.
The Theme of Port Said, Music by Konstantine Konstantinoff, Scenery by Michel Larionoff, Choreography by Leon Woizikowsky :
The action of this ballet takes place in a cafe in Port Said. It depicts Life at a seaport - a thoroughfare for all nations. Torrid heat - oppressive atmosphere - the monotous rhythm of the sea murmurs at a distance.
The siren of a steamer is heard, which causes excitement amongst the women in the cafe. The sailors arrive and make merry. The captain enters, full of authority, which changes the atmosphere. Suddenly, a French girl dances the "Can-Can" and attracts the captain. She sits on his knees, much to the annoyance of an intoxicated sailor.
A Russian girl dances and the atmosphere becomes subdued. An American girl dances the Rag Time and restores gaiety. Meanwhile, an Oriental girl tries to attract the captain's attention. She dances and achieves her object. The whole company join in the dance with wild abandon.
The siren of the steamer is again heard at a distance. The dance stops - the captain is called back to duty and the sailors leave with him.
Torrid heat - oppressive atmosphere - the sea continues its monotonous rhythm...
The ballet Port Said was choreographed by Leon Woizikowsky in 1935 for his company the Ballets de Leon Woizikowsky. It was first performed by the de Basil Ballet Russes during the Australian tour by the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet, premiering at His Majesty's Theatre, Melbourne, on December 12, 1936. The work had a 'sailor-ashore' libretto by A Shaikevitch, and was set to a score by K Konstantinov. Design was by Mikhail Larionov.
The Argus review of the premiere described Port Said as 'a playful pantomime, a queer mixture of artistry and vulgarity…The sailors who frequent M. Woizikowsky's cosmopolitan cafe are a besotted scrubby crew, led by that clever eccentric dancer Jean Hoyer, whose gauche antics are skilfully designed to amuse the groundlings. M. Woizikowsky, in the role originated by him in London, sets the mood of the piece with curious marionette-like postures and a Chaplinesque walk that might have been derived from the music hall rather than the exalted school of ballet, but it is an amusing study, moulded like the rest of the choreography in this droll ballet, in crisp staccato steps and gestures. Irena Bondireva and Elizabeth Souvorova dance with their customary grace, but the highlights are the frenzied Dervish dance of Nina Raievska and the brilliant rhodomontade of Helene Kirsova, whose work as the French dancer is as showy and finished as anything she has done during the season. It is a richly mixed compound of humour and gaiety, coquetry and conquest.' Bibliography: Humour in Ballet, The Argus, 14 December 1936, p. 4
The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 11 January 1937, gives the following account : The choreography of "Port Said" was by Leon Woizikowsky. He had made this ballet into as entertaining a caricature of low life as one could well wish to see. An effective scene by LarionofI depicted the interior of a waterfront resort. The weather was very hot. One realised that from the shimmering blue sky which appeared through the doorway, and through the drowsy phrases which the composer, Konstantinoff, had allotted to the strings, The girls, clad in grotesquely disreputable remnants of finery, hung over the swinging doors, and idly watched the few passers-by. Suddenly, a steam siren announced the arrival of a ship. In a few minutes, the whole scene became galvanised into action. The captain (represented by Woizikowsky) and three sailors (Yousskevitch, Armour, and Tovaroff) formed an avid audience for four dancers. As "la Française," Helene Kirsova demonstrated once again that extraordinary versatility which makes her such a distinguished artist. In "Carnaval" she had been all grace and sweetness. "Les Présages" brought her forward as a figure of tragic symbolism. In "La Boutique Fantasque" she was pertly gay. Now, in "Port Said," she emerged as the most uproariously shameless hussy who ever gave encouragement to a sailor. From first to last, her sense of comedy was a joy. Irina Bondireva appeared as a handsome, melancholy Russian, Elisabeth Souvarova as a brittle American; and Nina Ralevska as "l'Orientale." This last was an admirable piece of burlesque. Others involved in the lively doings were Miles, Skarpa, Polouchlna, and Valevska (the filles du bar); Serge Unger (a drunken sailor); M. Frank (a negro); Andreleff, and Spirka (musicians), and Antonova (la patronne, euphemistically described in the programme as "the housekeeper"). All those were delightful. There was so much happening on the stage at the one time that the spectator could not possibly keep track of all the details at a first inspection. Sordid as the subject was, all nastiness had been swept out' of "Port Said" by gales of laughter. Mr. Ivan Clayton , conducted the orchestra in Konstantinoff 's, witty score.
Score Notes : The score presented here is not the definite score but a series of proofs : plate prints on one-sided A3 paper sheets watermarked BOOSEY & HAWKES that was returned to the composer or/and his copyist for verification. Why this batch remained in the composer's hands instead of the printers' is anyone's guess. Page 1 is missing. Page 2 has the name Mr Grechi pencilled on the blank side. The printed side has the following dated pencilled annotation : "Dear Mr Grechi, This is on several of Port Said proofs. What does it mean ? We cannot understand it here. Please return with your reply. 1/1/36" The abbreviation that was puzzling the printers was "pup.". A blue line emphasizing this sign is drawn across the page to the answer in blue pencil : "pupitres, put in French" followed by a signature on a damaged part of the page (could be Grechi or/and Konstantinoff). We can assume Mr Grechi was the composer's copyist, who was therefore in a position to check the proofs against the composer's autographed score. Further corrections and variants are inserted in the margins up to p.69. The rest of the score is missing.