The Two Pigeons
It is impossible to imagine British ballet without Frederick Ashton. In 1963-1970 he was a Director of this Company. Frederick Ashton created over 80 ballets. He created his own versions of the classical ballets Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty. Wit and superb craftsmanship made some of his earliest ballets survive to this day: Capriole Suite and Façade. There are few ballets funnier than his Wedding Bouquet yet his Dante Sonata is remembered as disturbingly tragic. He shaped his ballets to reveal and develop the gifts of his dancers. Sometimes the result was unique to its original cast (Marguerite and Armand summed up the Fonteyn-Nureyev partnership to perfection), but other ballets which he made with individuals in mind have stayed in the repertoire. Up to 1937 he danced the leads in many of his ballets. Ashton turned his hand not only to ballets, but also dances for operas and musical comedies. He directed operas too (Orpheus).
He partnered Tamara Karsavina, Lilia Lopuhova, Tamara Makarova and Margo Fonteyn, but the audience will always remember him by the parts he created for these ballerinas.
For the first time this ballet was staged by French choreographer Louis Mérante at the Paris Opéra in 1886 to Andre Messager music. Mérante devised it for the popular Spanish ballerina Rosita Mauri. The ballet was based on a poetic fable by La Fontaine entitled The Two Pigeons, which is about loving pair of pigeons, who part but finally come together again.
Frederick Ashton staged the ballet at Covent Garden in 1961. Ashton got John Lanchbery to adopt Andre Messager’s music for the somewhat different story he adopted.
In contradistinction to Mérante Ashton’s Bohemian couple lives in an attic up among the rooftops of Paris.
Young man is a painter in Ashton’s version. He wants to get on with the portrait of young girl, who plays games with him all the time and unable to take anything seriously. He begins to grow tired of her nonsense and starts paining a portrait of Gypsy-girl, who suddenly appears on the stage. Gradually young boy is fascinated by her charms. Young girl tries to outshine her rival imitating and competing with her. The boy goes off and leaves young girl. He follows gypsies, but arrived among them he gets thrown out of their encampment. Left saddened and alone he finds a pigeon flying to him, this is a sign to go home, and he does so, carrying the bird with him. He meets the girl again. They dance tenderly like pigeons. The love expressed in the duet is one of the loveliest Ashton ever made.