A Month In The Country ballet is a one-act ballet choreographed by Sir Frederick Ashton and adapted from Ivan Turgenyev’s play.
The music is by Frédéric Chopin and arranged by John Lanchbery. The decor and costumes were originally done by Julia Trevelyan Oman.
A Month In The Country Ballet was first performed by the Royal Ballet at Convent Garden on the 12th of February 1976.
The dancers included Lynne Seymour as Natalya Petrovna, Alexander Grant as her husband Islayev, and Wayne Sleep as their son Kolya. Denise Nunn played Natalya’s ward and Derek Rancher played Natalya’s admirer.
Other dancers included Anthony Dowell as the tutor, Marguerite Porter as a maid, and Antony Conway as the footman.
A Month In The Country Ballet Synopsis
‘All love, happy or unhappy, is a disaster when you give way to it.’
This is Rakitin’s motto. He is the admiring friend of Natalya Petrovna in Turgenyev’s A Month In The Country ballet, and it is the theme of Ashton’s really skilled adaptation of the tragi-comedy.
Ashton reduces the action to its essence in the disruptive influence of the young tutor Belyayev on the Islayev household.
The curtains rise to the 1850 setting of a drawing room. An idle, charming and bored Natalya is reclining on a chase-longue as her cavalier servant, Rakitin reads to her. Her ward Vera is playing the piano. It is summer in the Islayev country house, and the serene atmosphere is first only disturbed by Islayev’s frantic search for a set of lost keys, and by the buoyant dances of young Kolya.
When Belyayev appears, tensions are felt coming from the drawing room. Vera plainly adores him and avows her love, but Belyayev manages to stop short of kissing her.
Natalya discovers them embracing and warns Vera of the unsuitability of their actions. Vera persists in declaring her love so she gets a slap through her face and is then seized with remorse.
Vera runs away and Natalya goes out to the garden with Rakitin to soothe her nerves.
Belyayev comes back and flirts momentarily with the maid, but when Natalya returns she offers him a rose for his buttonhole and this seems to unlock the feelings he has kept hidden from her, and his passions make her admit her own attraction to him.
A passionate duet is interrupted by the return of Vera, who calls the rest of the household to witness what has been going on. Natalya shrugs the matter off and is led to her room by her husband. Rakitin indicates to Belyayev that it is time for them to leave.
Natalya returns to the empty drawing room in her negligee and stands lost in grief by a chair.
Belyayev returns in silence, and unseen by her, kisses the ribbons on her wrap before tossing the rose she gave him at her feet. He leaves, and Natalya sees the rose as the curtain drops.
Here is the entire ‘A Day In The Country Ballet’ for you to watch. The lead is danced by Sylvie Guillem in this Royal Ballet production.
A Month In The Country History
This ballet was Ashton’s return to creating a major ballet that immediately won its audience.
It is stimulated by his memories of the play which he had seen forty years before and inspired by the dramatic power of Lynne Seymour and her expressive dance style. Ashton produced a work that presents its narrative with all his customary skill and explored the passions of his character in a series of magnificent pas de deux routines.
It is a free adaptation of Turgenev but has crucial moments that resemble the play and in the Chopin score, it finds an ideal musical accompaniment. Ashton’s musical sensitivity makes it seem like the score was written especially for this ballet.
The performances of the original cast were brilliant and Ashton chose several artists with whom he had worked before. Anthony Dowell was ideal as Belyayev and in Lynn Seymour, he found an interpreter as perfect in womanly caprice as in the beauty of dance style.
Denise Nunn as Vera gave a girlish charm and a liveliness of temperament to the difficult role she had.
The ballet has been filmed and it forms a most satisfying record of exceptional dancers in an exceptional ballet.