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choreography and scenario: David Nixon
music: Daugherty, Pärt, Rachmaninov, Schnittke
arranged by: Mikhail Popov
set design: Dan Gray
costume design: Linda Pisano
lighting design: Alexander V. Nichols


Dracula
A dance work in two Acts inspired by Bram Stoker's novel of the same name
 
World premiere of Dracula, BalletMet Columbus, October 28, 1999
These notes compiled by Gerard Charles, BalletMet Columbus, October 1999


All readers are left with strong images of a story, but the moments which are memorable for one reader may have merely passed another by. I would be foolish to think that I could retell Bram Stoker's novel in complete detail in dance. My ballet Dracula represents those images, ideas and thoughts that left their mark upon me. The story moves forward in tandem with the novel, but focuses on images, thoughts and emotions.

 

David Nixon, 1999

 

 

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Dracula Becomes a Ballet



When translating a work of literature into another medium it is natural to re-examine the content of the material and to frame it from the new creator's perspective. Dracula is probably better known from film and other adaptations of the work than the original novel. When translating a literary work into a ballet - working without words either written or spoken - it is essential to distill the essence of the story and to have a clear outline and character development to follow. Only then can one go about selecting music, scenic and costume designs to enhance the work.

 

Although inspired by much of the film imagery of Dracula, David Nixon has based most of his ballet on Bram Stoker's original writing. Much of Stoker's Dracula is written in letters, journals and newspaper articles and contains too many characters, plot twists and changes of location to make any coherent sense in a ballet. David first looked to the book not for literal passages to adapt but to discern strong images.

Perhaps the most persistent image is that of contrasts. The world of the light and that of the shadows, living as opposed to death - such opposites cannot exist without each other. Such interdependence, however, can make us question where the dividing lines may lay. What is real, what is perceived as real, and which do we choose to discredit?

Dracula himself is a combination of contradictions. He is repulsive yet seductive. Although dead he can live forever, but he can also be killed. David seeks to play with the confusing lines between reality and perception. He shows us on stage an uncertainty about what is real and what is imagined in a dream or otherwise.

David views the novel as a challenge to our ideas of what love is. Love is a passion that drives us all. It is a powerful emotion that we follow not always with the best results. It can not be confined or rationalized. It is neither good nor bad. All the traveling around in the book is not really about being in different places but underscores the sense of love knowing no boundaries. For the most part it does not matter if an event takes place in a castle, an open field, in Transylvania or England; it is the actions and the relationships that are important. David says, "Dracula is viewed as an evil, preying character, but he knows love and will act upon it." He seeks to show this in the pas de deux he has choreographed for Dracula and Mina. Dracula should not be in love with her, but against his better judgment he is. He is less aggressive with her than with his other victims. At the same time it is she who wants to be a part of him, to take on his love, even though it is not the decision thing for her.

David also finds in the story the recurring human theme of the quest for immortality. But what is the lure of immortality? What is worse; the fear of the unknown of dying, or the known continuance of life, even in an horrific form? Dracula offers up the hope for everlasting life, but what kind of life is it? His immortality carries with it the restraints of maintaining certain conditions for his 'life' - a sickly appearance, the inability to enjoy the sunlight, etc.

David's is not a campy or light telling of the story; it explores the human psyche and eroticism. However, he does not hope to cover all the material in the lengthy novel. Some of Stoker's topics include science, women stepping beyond their Victorian strictures and men's reactions to women's sexual aggressions. The sets and costumes place the ballet in the romantic gothic style of the Victorian period. David sees this as a fitting support for the imagery of the work which allows the audience of today to more fully accept the characters and plot. If this ballet were to present a story about contemporary vampires, there would be a lot of resistance to such an idea. Historical distance allows us to embrace the tale more easily, focusing on an exploration of human nature rather than the sometimes rather bizarre details.

 

 

The question of the moment, which lies most heavily upon my thoughts as I approach the end of this work, is once born, does this love remain neutral or does it, like our need and hope, always fulfill itself by finding the light? Only time and the performances will tell.

 

David Nixon, 1999

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The Music


All the music David chose for the ballet is composed by 20th century composers. At the beginning of the process David knew he wanted to use Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel, a haunting yet beautiful and simple piece. However, this eight minute piece was not enough to fill a whole evening, and there were not sufficient other suitable works by Pärt that could complete the program. David consulted with Mikhail Popov, BalletMet's company pianist who was brought the music of Alfred Schnittke to his attention. Mikhail observed that Schnittke's music is compatible to Pärt's composition and that Schnittke had composed a requiem, an element that David wanted to incorporate in his ballet. Although not a fan of Schnittke, based on ballets he had danced in the past, Nixon listened to his Concerto grosso and immediately heard the possibility in the work. Mikhail brought all the music of Schnittke that he could find for David to consider. Although not often played, and therefore unfamiliar to most listeners, the music is mostly very easy to listen to. Schnittke's compositions juxtapose a variety of styles - an interesting mixture of tonal and melodic compositions - in a method known as polystylism. He draws on a variety of sources, especially Bach and Mozart but also such as Ives and Berg. The music's quality of presenting an obvious melody and then distorting it tied in very well with Mr. Nixon's concepts for the ballet Dracula. Despite the wealth and success of Schnittke's music for a majority of the work, David still sought a piece that was suitable for the society ball to feature a large group dance. The solution was found in Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances, op. 45. The second movement waltz suited David's was needs, and its placement, preceding Schnittke's waltz In memoriam, creates a perfect return to the twisted world of Dracula.

 

The other composer featured in this ballet is an American, Michael Daugherty. David heard his Red Cape Tango on the radio and believed it would make an ideal concluding piece for the ballet. It is somewhat lighter than much of the other music and results in a somewhat more optimistic conclusion.

Mikhail Popov notes that although the music comes from many different sources, there are certain elements that hold the whole together. For example, the sonorities of bells and the solo violin work are present in most of the pieces. The Red Cape Tango corresponds to the tango in the Concerto grosso, and is based on the melody of the Dies Irae of the Requiem.

The process of selecting the music began in June 1999 and continued through the incredibly hectic summer. It was finalized, after an all day session, in August.

Along with using music new to him, David also used a choreographic style not seen in his previous ballets: the women are not always wearing point shoes. He has deliberately kept those who are still alive 'en pointe' but has designated those of the other world to wear 'flat' shoes. They are more a part of the earth; indeed they need the earth in order to survive. This use of shoes supports this concept.

Music used in Dracula

ACT 1

Faust Cantata - Alfred Schnittke
Concerto grosso no.1 - Alfred Schnittke
(K)ein Sommernachtstraum - Alfred Schnittke
Sonata (in the olden style) - Alfred Schnittke
Concerto grosso no.1 - Alfred Schnittke
Requiem - Alfred Schnittke
Symphonic Dances, op. 45. II Andante con moto - Sergei Rachmaninov
In memoriam - Alfred Schnittke
Concerto grosso no.1 - Alfred Schnittke

ACT 2

Requiem - Alfred Schnittke
Collected Songs Where Every Verse is Filled with Grief - Alfred Schnittke
Requiem - Alfred Schnittke
Wenn Bach Bienen Gezüchtet hätte - Arvo Pärt
Spiegel im Spiegel - Arvo Pärt
Requiem - Alfred Schnittke
Metropolis symphony. V. Red Cape Tango - Michael Daugherty
 
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Dan Gray On The Scenic Designs For Dracula


"When I got the call about doing Dracula I was both excited and frightened. The idea of bringing this gothic horror classic to the stage presented an enormous range of extraordinary visual potential. It also brought a frightening array of preconceived images of Dracula's world. From the legendary 1930's Lugosi version to Coppola's lavish retelling of the story, we have all seen the environment this bloodthirsty Count inhabits. As I began collaboration with David and the other designers, the challenge became "How would we make this 'our' Dracula?" Early discussions made it clear that we could use the audience's familiarity with the story to our advantage. By not having to fill in every detail we could focus on selective, suggestive and highly dramatic visual elements to carry the story. Evocative and veiled erotic images (similar to those prevalent in Victorian literature of the time) began to play heavily in our thinking.

 

The idea of transformation and things not being quite what they seem also became important. To that end, we have created a spare but frightening series of physical elements that will assist the dancers and the audience in fleshing out the world of Dracula. To say more would give away too many surprises!

As a theater designer, I have enjoyed this challenging and highly rewarding foray into the world of Dance. Working with David and the talented staff at BalletMet has been as exciting as I had hoped. I look forward to sharing our vision of Dracula with you.

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Linda Pisano And The Costuming Of Dracula



"The concept for the costumes was really based on David's idea of 'images' rather than 'story.' This opened the door for me to explore textures and colors that might not be in the Victorian period because I could detach myself from a specific idea or character and focus more closely on creating a 'look' or 'idea.' This is a more abstracted concept, which I would normally apply to modern dance rather than something so theatrical. I really enjoyed this approach as it gave me more liberties in creating designs from imagination rather than from a set of characters or a dramatic story line. Ultimately however the dance does need to be coherent and create a time line of action. Through the use of color (such as red) I'm able to make particular moments or the progress of a particular action (or character) more accessible to the audience.

 

"Unlike traditional theater or opera, the physical articulation of the dancer is the most important image. The Victorian as well as the medieval period stifle this a great deal. As a matter of fact, the Victorian fashion set out to cover up and hinder any movement, specifically that of the woman. I did not approach it as a compromise to make the Victorian style fit ballet, but rather as an abstraction of the Victorian period to show the sensuality, and quite frankly, the erotica that the Victorian period was 'pretending' to defy. Simplifying the silhouette and opening up the skirts accomplishes two things: it creates a really sensual and dramatic look and secondly, it allows us to see those things we expect to see in ballet such as the legs and hands and neck. This is one of the single most important ideas that I have learned (and continue to learn) in designing for ballet.

"My main concern for fabric and trim choices was to find rich, opulent and sensual textures and colors. I utilize silk velvets, silk taffetas, silk organzas and some wonderful wools from Scotland. The shopping for fabrics and trims was exciting. David sent me to New York to shop which gave me a broad spectrum of sources to select from. Those sources included many European & Asian made fabrics and trims that otherwise would not have been available except through mail. The downside is that if any fabrics need to be replaced or garments remade, then there is the chance that the unique fabrics used the first time might no longer be available. I also spent a great deal of time on details such as unique buttons, linings and jewelry accessories as these are important in finishing off the look of the images.

"Dan Gray and I met with David early on in the design process. We also talked independently as to color and concept. Really, David Nixon has been the unifying link between us. This was a work in progress. We knew, as designers, that we needed to start with a strong foundation and then be flexible to the changes that might occur when the choreography was created. That is a challenging, but ultimately rewarding, process to see evolution of the 'whole' production design. It is also the most collaborative way to work in our field.

"When I saw the dancers in costume I had a number of reactions. I was incredibly pleased by the quality of work demonstrated from the costume studio. Their craftsmanship and attention to details make the difference in how well the design is executed. The dancers worked well in the costumes and seemed excited. The men look particularly stunning, and the hunters ball costumes and the funeral procession will be quite dynamic. My favorites are the costumes of Mina, as the dancer wears them well. The designs of her costumes, as well as those of Dracula, have stayed constant since their inception. The challenges I had were mostly with the women. The Victorian silhouette that we were creating is really made for rounded and full bodies. Being athletic and needing the lightness required for the art of ballet, some of the dancers have extremely petite bodies that don't always parallel the ideal from the Victorian period. This causes some of the garments not to fit as they were intended."

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Synopsis of the Ballet Dracula



ACT 1

 

Prologue - A man, Dracula, steps from a coffin. Naked we step into the world, naked we re-enter.

Voyage - Jonathan Harker, a young attorney at law, boards a carriage alone. This is the final leg of a journey that has brought him far from his home of England.

Arrival and Sojourn - Jonathan's decision to enter Count Dracula's castle will change his, and many others', lives forever. Jonathan reads through his papers as Count Dracula watches, listens and observes. Jonathan becomes terrorized by the vampire, but as the scene ends we ask ourselves: Is what happened reality, fantasy, or both?

The Plot Thickens - Jonathan strengthens his mettle by looking at his beloved Mina's photograph. Count Dracula reaches into Harker's mind and conjures the living image of Mina. The door is locked; Jonathan is alone as a prisoner. Though the thought of Mina is with him, Jonathan willingly allows himself to enjoy his seduction by the brides of Dracula. These creatures are dispersed by Dracula who claims Jonathan for his own. Simultaneously Jonathan watches Dracula depart for England as the real Mina and Lucy are seen in their English garden.

Engagement - The young Lucy Westenera awaits her suitors. The intelligent but melancholic Dr. Jack Seward is sadly rejected, while the confident and flamboyant Lord Arthur Holmswood is accepted with joy.

Fluttering Bats - Dracula, skittering among his fellow bats, arrives at the cell of Renfield. The encounter clearly shows that although Dracula sees Renfield as his pet, the master feeds before the servant.

The Sanatorium - Dr. Seward returns from Lucy's unaccepting arms to the study of his most peculiar patient, Renfield. Renfield, who hungers after bugs, spiders and all living things, grows more violent as he cannot get his way with Seward. The doctor relieves himself with morphine injections.

Foreshadowing - Alone in England, Dracula seeks his new wives. While sleep walking Lucy Westenera is lured by Dracula into a cemetery. He lulls her into his arms and then feeds upon her blood. Once he has had his fill, Dracula opens the veins of his wrist to infect Lucy with his blood.

Celebration - Lord Arthur Holmswood and Lucy celebrate their engagement with a party. Lucy arrives late upon the arm of an unknown stranger. She draws attention, as uncaring of social protocol, she displays her sensual enjoyment. As the party proceeds to its climax, the real Lucy resurfaces and runs out in embarrassment and exhaustion.

One Dance - Dracula stops Mina from following Lucy. Time stands still. Dracula who should feed upon Mina can not; Mina who should be repulsed by Dracula, is drawn toward him. Unbidden, the vision of Jonathan breaks in upon the intimate couple. Mina leaves upon reading a message that Jonathan has returned.

Anger, Retribution - Dracula flies into the night, imprisoned by the shadows which he has chosen. Dr. Van Helsing arrives to view the ailing Lucy. Dracula stalks Mina and Jonathan as an invisible creature longing to be with Mina. Tortured by the grasp Mina has upon him, Dracula serves his retribution upon Lucy. In a final wild seduction Dracula draws the last drops of life from Lucy. Holmswood, Seward and Van Helsing arrive. Through blood transfusions they hope to save Lucy, in the end they must simply sit out the death watch.

ACT 2

Funeral - Final respects are paid to Lucy as she is interred in the Westenera family mausoleum.

Grieving - Friends and lovers grieve the loss of Lucy. Collectively they give support, individually they face their personal shadows. Mina cannot free her thoughts of Dracula.

Freedom - Van Helsing leads the young men back to the mausoleum where Lucy is entombed. The men discover to their horror that the coffin is empty. Lucy returns as dawn approaches, seeking her tomb. She attempts to lure the men but is driven back by the cross of Van Helsing. Lucy seeks the refuge of her coffin, but Van Helsing arranges that she be staked and beheaded.

The Hunt - The men return, with Mina, to the Sanatorium where she is to spend the night. Van Helsing hypnotizes Renfield and learns of Dracula's hiding place. The men seek out and destroy Dracula's crates, bearing unhallowed earth. As the crates are burned, Dracula punishes Renfield and seeks out Mina for his ultimate revenge.

Two Become One - Alone in her room Mina realizes that although she should not love Dracula, she does. Out of the night the exhausted, hunted, and broken Dracula arrives to seek revenge by ravishing Mina. Instead he crumbles and crawls to her feet.

Discovery - The men return to discover Renfield dead and Mina in Dracula's arms. Dracula flees into the night.

Paths to be Followed - Jonathan finds his wife once more in one of her strange trances. Mina feels for Jonathan; she fears for him as well. She attempts to escape into the night but it stopped by Van Helsing, Holmswood, and Seward. Van Helsing leads all on his crusade to free Mina and the world from Dracula. Each of our characters lives simultaneously with fears and grief which have now become a part of them. All follow the path which they must, and in so doing come to the end of our story.

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Alfred Schnittke, composer


Alfred Schnittke was born on November 24, 1934, in the German speaking community of Engels, some 400 miles southeast of Moscow. His father was German-born but of Russian extraction, and his mother was a Volga German. He received his first piano lessons in Vienna at age 12 when his father was sent there as a journalist following the Second World War. The majority of his musical studies took place in Moscow, studying conducting at the Moscow Special Music School (1949 - 53) and then composition and instrumentation at the Moscow Conservatoire (1953 - 58). He also benefited from the unofficial teaching of Filip Gershkovich, who introduced Schnittke and his fellow students to the music of the second Viennese school, especially Webern. He remained at the Conservatoire for ten years as a teacher, but after 1972 made his living primarily from composing film scores, which have totaled some sixty-four.

 

Growing up at the time he did, Schnittke's music was greatly influenced by Shostakovich. As early as 1958 Schnittke was already becoming interested in the latest developments of western music. A period of serial composition between 1954 and 66 did little to endear him to the Soviet authorities, nor to himself, as he was also dissatisfied with this work. During the course of his film work Schnittke developed what he was to call polystylism. He juxtaposes a variety of different styles, drawing on a variety of different sources, especially Bach and Mozart, but also Ives and Berg.

Schnittke's health declined beginning in 1985 following a series of debilitating strokes. However, his musical output increased. In 1988 he completed his first major stage work, the full-length ballet Peer Gynt which he followed with three operas. In 1990 Schnittke settled in Hamburg where he had been appointed Professor of Composition at the Hamburg Musik Hochschule. Further strokes led his music of the 1990s to become more austere. Schnittke died on August 3, 1998, at age 63.

The 1977 Concerto Grosso no. 1 was the first work of Schnittke's to gain significant reputation in the West. The greater part of the work is based on Vivaldian figurations. The composer identifies three stylistic levels: "figurations and formal types from Baroque music, free chromaticism and micro-intervals, and vulgar, banal, Gebrauchsmusik." To this latter element Schnittke ascribes a fateful force, a disturbing influence "from outside." It is heard in the Tango episode of the fourth movement and in the "sentimental song" at the opening of the prelude.

(K)ein Sommernachstraum: "Between 1946 and 1948 I lived in Vienna. It was of decisive importance for my life, for it was there that I began my musical studies at the age of 12. In Vienna I received important impulses. . . I recall a basic musical tone, a certain Mozart-Schubert sound which I carried within me for decades and which was confirmed upon my next stay in Austria some 30 years later . . . I received the commission - an honor for any composer - to write an orchestral piece for the [Salzburg] Festival, which illness prevented me from completing in time [for the 1984 Festival]. . . It is called (K)ein Sommernachstraum ((Not) A Midsummer Night's Dream). . . I should add that I did not steal all the 'antiquities' in this piece; I faked them."

The Faust Cantata dates from 1982-83 and was created simultaneously with the preparation of a future opera. Schnittke had received an offer to write something for the Vienna Singakademie for the 1993 Vienna Festival and thought immediately of Faust as a subject. The Faust Cantata was the result. Christophe von Dohnanyi also approached Schnittke to write something for the small stage of the Hamburg Opera, and so he produced an opera on the same theme.

Schnittke's Requiem came to his mind as he was writing his Piano Quintet (1972-76), which was dedicated to his mother who had recently died. He had wanted one of the movements to be an instrumental requiem. Having made sketches of the major themes, Schnittke realized they were more vocal than instrumental so were not used in the Quintet. Due to sacred music being banned in Soviet Russia, the Requiem was first performed as the accompaniment to Schiller's play Don Carlos at the Mossovet Theater, Moscow. Originally he wanted to title the piece Misa brevis, as most of the movements are very short. There is no orchestra in the work, just a small instrumental ensemble of percussion, guitar, bass guitar, keyboard instruments, trumpet, trombone and organ. The organ is very important compensating for the lack of orchestra. The first performance of the Requiem took place in Budapest in 1977, performed by the Kodály Chorus.

The Sonata in the olden style was first published in Moscow in 1977 and is for violin and piano or harpsichord. The last of the five movements is called Pantomime.

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Arvo Pärt, composer


Born in Paide, September 11, 1935, Arvo Pärt is the first Estonian composer to have achieved universal recognition. From 1958 he studied with Heino Eller in the conservatory in Tallinn, Estonia's capital, having already fulfilled his national service as an oboist and side-drummer in an army band. As a student, Pärt's music was obviously influenced by the Russian neoclassic composers, Shostakovich and Prokofiev. At the same time as he studied, he worked as a recording engineer for the state radio station (1958 - 1967). Pärt was presented with opportunities to compose the music for more than fifty films.

 

Pärt's compositions may be divided into three periods. In the first he followed Schoenberg's twelve note system. While the Soviet authorities were scandalized, even having some of his works banned, they also awarded him prizes for his compositions. Pärt's second period is marked by experimentation with collage techniques where he inserted material borrowed from composers such as Bach and Tchaikovsky into a contemporary serial structure. The dissatisfaction with this method of composition led Pärt into a period of self-imposed silence beginning in 1968. During this time he studied Gregorian chant, the music of Renaissance composers, as well as Russian Orthodox Church music. Out of this, in 1976, came a style Pärt dubbed tintinnabuli. He explains it thus; "In my dark hours, I have the certain feeling that everything outside this one thing has no meaning. The complex and the many-faceted only confuses me, and I must search for unity. . . I have discovered that it is enough when a single note is beautifully played. This one note . . . or a moment of silence comforts me. I work with very few elements - with one voice, with two voices. I build with primitive materials - with the triad, with one specific tonality. The three notes of a triad are like bells. And that is why I call it tintinnabulation."

Pärt emigrated to Vienna in 1980 and later moved to Berlin. He has emerged as one of the most distinctive and personal voices in contemporary music.

Wenn Bach Bienen gezuchtet hatte, was written in 1976 for piano, string orchestra and wind quintet. It begins as a minimalist piece, with repeated notes in increasingly complex polymeters. But the point of the piece is the slow metamorphosis of the humming (originally centered on B flat) into a luminous coda in B minor, ending with protracted Bachian cadence and a final 'tierce de Picardie.'

Spiegel im Spiegel was composed in 1978.

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Michael Daugherty, composer


Michael Daugherty was born in 1954 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the oldest son of a dance band drummer. All Michael's five brothers became professional musicians. Daugherty grew up playing keyboards in jazz, rock and funk bands. He composed his first orchestral work while a student at Texas State University, then spent a year as a Fulbright Fellow, studying computer music in Paris at Boulez's IRCAM. He performed live synthesizer concerts of his own music with classic silent films and collaborated with jazz arranger Gil Evans in New York. After studies in New Haven and Hamburg, he received his Doctorate in Music from Yale University in 1986. From 1986 - 1991 Daugherty taught composition at Oberlin Conservatory after which he joined the faculty of the University of Michigan as Associate Professor of Composition.

 

Michael Daugherty's music has been performed throughout America and abroad by, among others, the New York Philharmonic, the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra, the Philharmonia (London), the symphony orchestras of Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and ensembles including Lontano, Viva Netherlands Winds and the Kronos Quartet. In the past decade Daugherty has received numerous awards for his music including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation and a Friedheim Kennedy Center Award.

Daugherty's compositions combine the idioms of jazz, rock and funk with symphonic and avant-garde composition. His catalog reveals an array of titles drawn from contemporary American culture, such as Sing J. Edgar Hoover and Elvis Everywhere (for the Kronos Quartet). He completed an opera entitled Jackie O for the Houston Grand Opera and recently wrote a piano concerto entitled Le Tombeau de Liberace for the London Sinfonietta.

Daugherty began composing his Metropolis Symphony in 1988, inspired by the fiftieth anniversary of Superman's first appearance in the comics. The score was completed in 1993. David Zinman and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra gave the Metropolis Symphony its New York (Carnegie Hall) and Baltimore premieres in 1994.

Of his work Daugherty writes:
"The Metropolis Symphony evokes an American mythology that I discovered as an avid reader of comic books in the fifties and sixties. Each movement of the symphony - which may be performed separately - is a musical response to the myth of Superman. I have used Superman as a compositional metaphor in order to create an independent musical world that appeals to the imagination. . . .

"Red Cape Tango was composed after Superman's fight to the death with Doomsday, and is my final musical work based on the Superman mythology. The principal melody, first heard in the bassoon, is derived from the Medieval Latin death chant Dies irae. This dance of death is conceived as a tango, presented at times like a concertino comprised of string quintet, brass trio, bassoon, chimes and castanets. The tango rhythm, introduced by the castanets and later by finger cymbals, undergoes a gradual timbral transformation, concluding dramatically with crash cymbals, brake drum, and timpani. The orchestra alternates between legato and staccato sections to suggest a musical bullfight."

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Sergei Rachmaninov, composer



Rachmaninov was one of the finest pianists of his day, and also a composer and conductor. He was born in Semyonovo, April 1, 1873. His wealthy father soon squandered the family fortune and they moved to near Novogrod where Sergei received his first piano instruction from his mother. In 1882 the family moved to St. Petersburg where Sergei entered the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Due to major family problems, Sergei's studies in St. Petersburg were curtailed and he was sent to the conservatory in Moscow. His piano teacher, Nokolay Zverev, with whom he lived, was a strict disciplinarian and did not believe Rachmaninov should waste his time on composition. It was because Rachmaninov insisted he needed more privacy in order to compose that Zverev threw him out of his house. He remained in Moscow and passed his piano finals with honors, a year early, in June 1891. He took the next year to study for and take his finals in composition. These he also passed a year early and with the highest possible marks, gaining the Great Gold Medal, only twice previously awarded.

 

His opera Aleko was produced with great success, and he entered into a self-confident period of composition that came to an end with the disastrous premiere of his First Symphony in 1897. His depression at this failure caused him three years of non-productive composition from which he was drawn by his success as the conductor of the Moscow Private Russian Opera. Despite success as a conductor and the presentation of his Aleko in St. Petersburg, he did not return to composition until he had sought hypnotic treatments from Dr. Nikolay Dahl. He completed his Second Piano Concerto, the enthusiastic reception of which reaffirmed his confidence in composition.

In May 1902, after some strings were pulled, he married his first cousin Natalya Satina at the Archangel Cathedral in the Kremlin. Following a honeymoon in Europe he returned to Russia to compose, but the time he could devote to composition was compromised by his appointment as conductor for the Bolshoi Theater. In 1906 he resigned his post at the Bolshoi as instability in Russia worsened. For the next few years Rachmaninov and his family spent time out of the country in Italy and Germany.

He toured to the United States for the first time in 1909, but did not find it a pleasing experience and declined further tours. He returned to Russia and was able to compose during the summers spent in the countryside. In 1917, as chaos reigned in Russia, Rachmaninov, was initially unable to get a visa but eventually was able to leave the country for what turned out to be the last time. Firstly traveling to Stockholm and later moving to Copenhagen. There he realized that the income of a concert performer would sustain his family more than that of a composer and in November 1918 accepted a lucrative contract to perform in America. After signing a recording contract with the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1921, the Rachmaninovs purchased a home in the United States. In 1924 Rachmaninov founded TAIR, a company that would publish the works of Russian composers, in Paris. In 1931 his works were banned from performance in Russia for two years on account of his criticism of the political regime.

The 1942-43 season was to be the last time that Rachmaninov would tour the United States. After a concert in Knoxville, he became so ill that Rachmaninov and his family returned to their home in Beverly Hills. Far from being pleurisy, as the first doctor had diagnosed, Rachmaninov was suffering from cancer, of which he died, March 28, 1943.

Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances date from the summer of 1940. The piece was dedicated to the Philadelphia Orchestra which gave the first performance, under Eugene Ormandy, in 1941. Although the work contains some quotations of earlier compositions it has a freshness, a stronger rhythmic thrust, and a sparser orchestration than some of his earlier work.

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A Selection of Other Dracula Ballets


 

 


 Title Choreography Music Company/Premiere
Prince des tenebres Lazlo Szilagyi  Count Neuhaus zu Westenholz   Budapest Opera
Apr 1 1899 
Dracula Katherine Litz  Charles Ives  Katherine Litz and Company Feb 1 1959 
Dracula Heinze Weitz  Bodo Reinke  Kiel Stadttheater June 15 1985 
Dracula James Kudelka  Michael J. Baker  Les Grands Ballets Canadiens 1986 
Dracula Charles Bennet   Delibes, Philip Glass California Ballet Company 1987 
Wakey Nights James Kudelka  Michael J. Baker  Joyce Trisler Dancecompany May 5 1987 
Dracula Mary Hepner & Leslie Jane Pessimier    Ballet Theatre Pennsylvania 1988 
Love, Dracula James Kudelka   Michael J. Baker  Les Grands Ballets Canadiens Feb 14 1989 
Dracula Stuart Sebastian  Verdi, Rossini, Rachmaninov   Dayton Ballet 1990 
Dracula Jochen Ulrich    Tanz-Forum Koln (Cologne) Apr 7 1991 
Dracula William Starrett  Thomas Semanski (commissioned score)   Columbia City Ballet Oct 23 1992 
Dracula Jill Eathorne Bahr   Bernard Hermann Charleston Ballet Theatre 1992 
Dracula Kim Tuttle  African drums and dance of Abayomi   Goodall Dance Alive! Gainesville, FL 1992 
Dracula Alun Jones  George Crumb, Bela Bartok  Louisville Ballet Oct 1996 
Dracula Christopher Gable & Michael Barrett-Pink  Philip Feeney   Northern Ballet Theatre Nov 12 1996  
Dracula Ben Stevenson   Liszt, arr. John Lanchbery   Houston Ballet Mar 13 1997 
Lucy and the Count Leslie Friedman   1997 
Dracula Barry Van Cura    Ballet Tennessee 1998 



 

 

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Movies of Dracula
(A selection from the more than 80 currently listed)


Nosferatu the Vampire, 1922, directed by Friederich Murnau

 

Dracula, 1931, directed by Tod Browning (Bela Lugosi)

Vampyr, 1932, directed by Carl Theodore Dreyer

The Horror of Dracula, 1957, the original Hammer Studios film directed by Terence Fischer

Black Sunday, 1960, directed by Mario Bava

Billy the Kid vs. Dracula, 1966, directed by William Beaudine

Count Dracula, 1971, directed by Jess Franco

Blacula, 1973, staring Shakespearean actor William Marshall

Andy Warhol's Dracula, 1975

Love at First Bite, 1979, directed by Stan Dragosti

Dracula, 1979, directed by John Bradham (Frank Langella)

Salem's Lot, 1979, directed by Tobe Hooper

The Lost Boys, 1987, directed by Joel Shumaker

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 1992, directed by Fran Rubal Kazu

Bram Stoker's Dracula, 1992, directed by Francis Ford Coppola (Gary Oldham)

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Bibliography



Bram Stoker: A Biography of the Author of Dracula. Written by Barbara Belford, 1996, Alfred A. Knopf

 

The Man Who Wrote Dracula: A Biography of Bram Stoker. Written by Daniel Farson, 1975, St. Martin's Press

A Biography of Dracula: The Life Story of Bram Stoker. Written by Harry Ludlam, 1962, Foulsham

Reflections on Dracula. Written by Elizabeth Miller, 1997

In Search of Dracula, The history of Dracula and Vampires. Written by Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu, 1972, New York Graphic Society

Vampires Written by Daniel C. Scavone

The Essential Dracula. Leonard Wolf, Editor.

Dracula. Between Tradition and Modernism. Written by Carol A. Senf, 1998, Twayne Publishers

Dracula. Edited by Glennis Byron, 1999, St. Martin's Press

http://www.chebucto.ns.ca/~vampire/vvault.html

http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~emiller

 

 

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