STAGE TUBE: Frederick Ashton's A MONTH IN THE COUNTRY, February 12, 1976
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by Barnett Serchuk
A Month in the Country, considered one of Frederick Ashton's most affecting and beautiful ballets, premiered on February 12, 1976. Based on the late 19th-century play by Ivan Turgenev, the ballet tells the story of the hopeless love of Natalia, the bored wife of a wealthy landowner, for her son's tutor, Alexei, in mid 19th century Russia.
Ashton had seen the Turgenev play in the 1930s, but any thoughts of creating a ballet were set aside. A meeting with Isaiah Berlin in the 1960s made him think of the play again, and this time his imagination and creativity were ignited. Taking Berlin's suggestion of using the music of Chopin, Ashton approached John Lanchberry, who orchestrated a number of Chopin pieces, much to the horror of musical purists.
The ballet's first cast had Lynn Seymour and Anthony Dowell in the leading roles. The work was performed by the Royal Ballet every season from 1976 to 1979 and is regularly revived at Covent Garden. The ballet has also been seen on tour in New York and Havana. In 1995 Anthony Dowell mounted the ballet for the National Ballet of Canada, the first time it had been performed by any other company.
Peggy Ashcroft" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peggy_Ashcroft">Peggy Ashcroft, after seeing a performance, told Ashton that she thought his adaptation was better than the original play.
Luckily we have the entire A Month in the County on YouTube. Sit back and watch. Be prepared to shed a tear or two.
Photo© John Ross