Interview With Zachary Solov
December 14 and 15, 1976, January 3, 6, and 7 [?], 1977, October 3 and 4, and November 2, 9, and 10, 1978
Title supplied by cataloger
Interview with Zachary Solov conducted by Peter Conway at Solov's home in New York City on December 14 and 15, 1976, January 3, 6, and 7 [?], 1977, October 3 and 4, and November 2, 9, and 10, 1978, for the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Jerome Robbins Dance Division's Oral History Project. It is not clear as to whether the third January session in 1977 was on January 7 or January 11
Disc 19, November 10, 1978 (approximately 48 minutes). Zachary Solov speaks with Peter Conway about his classes with Hanya Holm; more on his duet with Bea Seckler; more on choreographing, including for Galina Samsova and for the opera Samson et Dalila; working with Margaret Webster in connection with the opera Aida at the Metropolitan Opera; his choreographing of the composition Pictures for an exhibition for Emily Frankel including his incorporation of a Jewish dance and his use of sign language; his experience with musicals including Along Fifth Avenue; taking music, dance, and acting classes with money from the G.I. Bill [Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944]; [continues on disc 20].
Disc 18, November 9, 1978 (approximately 51 minutes). Zachary Solov continues to speak with Peter Conway about choreographing including for a small touring company comprised among others of André Eglevsky, Patricia Wilde, Hugh Laing, Diana Adam, and Nora Kaye; working with dancers including Alicia Markova; the disbanding of the Zachary Solov Dance Ensemble; working with the Kansas [City] Civic Ballet [later the Kansas City Ballet]; his work for the Kansas City Performing Arts organization including anecdotes about TamaraToumanova and her mother; programs he organized including his ballet Love-in; his ballet Carnival of the animals for the Kansas [City] Civic Ballet; choreographing to the music of [Hector] Berlioz; his participation in a benefit performance organized by John Martin in the 1940s including his barefoot duet with Bea Seckler, his partnering of Nora Kaye and Nan [Nancy] Goldner as a substitute for John Kriza, and Ruth St. Denis's performance; his thoughts on various dancers of the time including Katherine Dunham, Pearl Primus, Valerie Bettis, and Helen Tamiris; Balanchine's choreography for the musical The lady comes across including for Solov and Eugenia Delarova and for Gower Champion and his wife [Marge Champion].
Disc 17, November 9, 1978 (approximately 48 minutes). Zachary Solov speaks with Peter Conway about Nancy King Zeckendorf; the Zachary Solov Ballet Ensemble, a touring company created by Solov under the auspices of Sol Hurok; Hurok including an anecdote illustrating his knowledge of ballet; more on the Zachary Solov Ballet Ensemble and its repertoire; Solov's almost exclusive use of live music; the dancers including Irina Borowska and [Galina] Samsova; the art of choreographing.
Disc 16, November 2, 1978 (approximately 54 minutes). Zachary Solov continues to speak with Peter Conway about choreographing a new production of La Gioconda for the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center; the new space; the role of Alicia Markova as director of the ballet company; his experience with the San Francisco Opera including his choreography for a ballet version of Turandot with Cynthia Gregory as a soloist; other operas he choreographed in San Francisco; different styles of ballet he has observed among different companies as well as companies that he views as having no individual style at all; working with the San Francisco Ballet; more on different styles, including examples of French and of Russian style; Vera Volkova's tutoring of Margot Fonteyn to use of her eyes in the Russian style; Lupe Serrano; Sallie Wilson including her extraordinary memory for the steps and nuances of a work; her power as a dramatic dancer; Bruce Marks; the relationship between intelligence and a dancer's ability, as for example in the case of Janet Collins and of Alicia Markova.
Disc 15, November 2, 1978 (approximately 45 minutes). Zachary Solov speaks with Peter Conway about his choreography for the opera Samson et Dalila including working with Blanche Thebom; his Dance of the hours in the opera La Gioconda including the lead dancers and the costumes; choreographing Peter Brook's production of the opera Faust including an anecdote about the costumes; more on his Dance of the hours; the performing of dances created for operas and musicals as separate works; the gala celebration for the dancers and choreographers organized by Solov and Sol Hurok upon the closing of the old Metropolitan Opera house including anecdotes about Hurok, Martha Graham, Jerome Robbins, Agnes de Mille, [Tamara] Toumanova, Mia Slavenska, and Alicia Markova; his first assignment, to choreograph a new production of La Gioconda, for the Metropolitan Opera after its move to Lincoln Center [continues on disc 16].
Disc 14, October 4, 1978 (approximately 50 minutes). Zachary Solov speaks with Peter Conway about his work Vittorio including the influence of [Auguste] Bournonville's ballet Napoli and an anecdote about Asia Mercoolov; the poor audience response [from approximately 12:42 to 24:25 there is significant extraneous noise]; his work Soirée [presented with the opera Don Pasquale in 1953] including anecdotes about Oleg Briansky and Mary Ellen Moylan; Cecil Beaton's design for the set; briefly, Carmen De Lavallade; briefly, his choreography for the opera Ernani and his hiring of Melissa Hayden; his methods for restaging his dances; Michael Maule; Alicia Markova and her solo in Orphée [et Eurydice]; his experience with the musical The captain's paradise [Oh Captain!]; his eventual boredom with his work at the Metropolitan Opera; his work with other opera companies; the system with respect to choreographing operas at the Metropolitan Opera before he was hired and the system now.
Disc 13, October 4, 1978 (approximately 48 minutes). Zachary Solov continues to speak with Peter Conway about his time as chief choreographer at the Metropolitan Opera ballet company including his choreography for the opera Rigoletto; working with Rudolf Bing; the influence of vaudeville on Solov's choreography; his conceptual goals when choreographing an opera; briefly, his choreography for the opera The marriage of Figaro; the success overall of his first season at the Metropolitan Opera; more on Bing; Solov's choreography for the opera Samson et Dalila including an anecdote about Doris Humphrey [from approximately 33:15 minutes through 38:00 minutes, there is significant extraneous noise]; his choreography for the opera Salome in particular working with the singer Inga Borkh; Vittoria, his independent ballet for the Metropolitan Opera [sound quality from 43:35 to end of disc at 47:28 is very poor].
Disc 12, October 3, 1978 (approximately 49 minutes). Zachary Solov speaks with Peter Conway about Janet Collins and his choreographing the Tyrone Guthrie production of the opera Carmen; working with directors, for example Peter Brook; his work for a production of the opera Rigoletto directed by Herbert Graf; his hiring of guest artists for the lead roles; his choreography for Dance of the hours in the opera La Gioconda; working with Alicia Markova including in the opera Orphée [et Eurydice]; working with Janet Collins; working with [Mia] Slavenska including in La Gioconda; an anecdote about Markova and her stage lighting; working with Melissa Hayden in the opera Ernani; choreographing on a particular dancer; his thoughts on seeing his choreography years after its creation.
Disc 11, October 3, 1978 (approximately 49 minutes). Zachary Solov continues to speak with Peter Conway about his time as choreographer at the Metropolitan Opera ballet company including discussion of the choreography for the company of his predecessor, Antony Tudor; more on how Solov came to be appointed choreographer including his initial interview with Rudolf Bing; his first assignment, to choreograph Die fledermaus, including his first impressions of the company; the favorable audience and critical response to his choreography; his feelings about replacing Tudor's work with his own; reasons he thinks the term "ballet company" was not appropriate for the dance company at the Metropolitan Opera; Janet Collins including his hiring of her for his first season; choreographing the opera Aida including the influence of his experience in India and Burma [now Myanmar]; choreographing the opera Lucia di Lammermoor; his work on the opera Manon; working with Kristen Flagstad in the opera Alcestis; some of the dancers in Alcestis including Maria Karnilova [continues on disc 12].
Disc 10, January 11, 1977 (approximately 55 minutes). Zachary Solov continues to speak with Peter Conway about his time at the Metropolitan Opera including working with Rouben Mamoulian; Zinka Milanov in Aida; choreographing the opera Manon, with Maria Karnilova as the lead dancer; choreographing Tyrone Guthrie's production of the opera Carmen including Solov's research of Roma dance in Spain; Risë Stevens as Carmen; briefly, Gian Carlo Menotti's production of Samuel Barber's opera Vanessa; his choreography for the opera Rigoletto; his winning of the first Capezio [Dance] Award, in 1952; his ballet Mademoiselle Fifi, which he created for Alexandra Danilova to dance on tour, including anecdotes about Danilova and Anton Dolin; working with Danilova.
Disc 9, January 7 [?], 1977 (approximately 42 minutes) Zachary Solov speaks with Peter Conway about the role of the choreographer and the ballet company at the Metropolitan Opera now compared to when he was chief choreographer; working with directors at the Metropolitan Opera including Alfred Lunt in connection with the opera Così fan tutte; working with Inge Borkh in connection with the opera Salome; Peter Brook and the opera Eugene Onegin; choreographing the polonaise in that production; working with Brook on the opera Faust including an anecdote about the costumes for the dancers; the imposition of labor union rules at the Metropolitan Opera ballet company.
Disc 8, January 6, 1977 (approximately 53 minutes). Zachary Solov continues to speak with Peter Conway about Olga Preobrajenska and his life in Paris at the time; other dancers who were studying with Preobrajenska including Michael Somes and Margot Fonteyn; Preobrajenska's teaching style; his work for the Metropolitan Opera including his choreographing the opera Aida; his hiring of Janet Collins and working with Margaret Webster on the staging; choreographing Aida for the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto; more on Janet Collins; an anecdote about Lupe Serrano; his choreographing of La traviata, with Maria (Marush) Karnilova as the lead dancer; more on Karnilova; choreographing the opera Alcestis including working with Kirsten Flagstad; the help with his research he received from Genevieve Oswald of the New York Public Library; his tendency to use showy ballet technique in his choreography for the Metropolitan Opera; the joy of working with Diana Adams and with Nora Kaye.
Disc 7, January 6, 1977 (approximately 45 minutes). Zachary Solov continues to speak with Peter Conway about his professional activities after Ballet Theatre disbanded including his work for television with respect to the Omnibus series and the Show of shows; more on St. John Terrell's Music Circus in particular its impact in the performing arts world; the circumstances of how Solov was hired by Rudolf Bing to be chief choreographer of the Metropolitan Opera including his choreography for the opera Die fledermaus; studying with Olga Preobrajenska in Paris during the summer; Rosella Hightower [continues on disc 8].
Disc 6, January 3 and 6, 1977 (approximately 51 minutes). Zachary Solov continues to speak with Peter Conway about Ballet Theatre; Agnes de Mille's Fall River legend including Solov's experience working with De Mille; his overall experience with Ballet Theatre; choreographing for St. John Terrell's theater-in-the-round [St. John Terrell's Music Circus]; the musical Along Fifth Avenue [after brief gap at approximately 22:45 minutes, recording resumes, with the session held on January 6]; Solov speaks with Peter Conway about his time at Ballet Theatre including his memories of Lucia Chase; Antony Tudor and his work Shadow of the wind including an anecdote about Solov's role; Tudor's ballet Undertow; Tudor's harshness; Solov's professional activities after Ballet Theatre disbanded, including staging Eugene Loring's Billy the Kid for Ballet Theatre, performing in Along Fifth Avenue, and studying with Hanya Holm; more on dancing with Ballet Theatre, on tour [continues on disc 7].
Disc 5, January 3, 1977 (approximately 46 minutes). Zachary Solov speaks with Peter Conway about his time in the U.S. Army in India during World War II, in particular his performing in and choreographing of shows for the military; more about Boris and Kyra Lissanevitch including his working with them in India; his study of Indian dance; his friendship with Kate [Drain] Lawson, in particular their attending local concerts and dance performances; his experience with folk dance in Burma [Myanmar]; joining Ballet Theatre [later American Ballet Theatre] for a London tour immediately after returning from India, in 1946; the tour including the repertoire and some of his roles; Keith Lester; Frederick Ashton's staging of Les patineurs for the company; dancers on the tour,including Alicia Alonso; Margaret Craske's company classes; more on Alonso, in particular Fernando Alonso's working with her on her technique; Lucia Chase [continues on disc 6].
Disc 4, December 15, 1976 (approximately 50 minutes). Zachary Solov speaks with Peter Conway about performing at the Roxy Theatre in New York City after Dance Players disbanded, including discussion of some of the other dancers there; the broader experience of dancers at that time; his impressions of Ted Shawn's company and of Helen Tamiris; an anecdote involving Agnes de Mille, rehearsing the musical Oklahoma, and his draft notice; performing dances choreographed by Balanchine for the newly-created New York City Opera; an anecdote about Lucia Chase; more on his dancing, as a child, for opera productions in Philadelphia choreographed by Catherine Littlefield; dancers and choreographers who understand theatricality as for example Peter Martins and Balanchine; his service in the Army during World War II, in particular his performing in Army shows and choreographing; being sent to India where he worked with Kate Drain Lawson on shows for the military; touring with the shows in Asia including his reminiscences of the racially-segregated camps and being bombed; an anecdote about meeting Boris and Kyra Lissanevitch.
Disc 3, December 15, 1976 (approximately 48 minutes). Zachary Solov speaks with Peter Conway further about the American Ballet Company and its South American tour including Balanchine's mentoring of him; the beginnings of Solov's own choreographing; Balanchine's working methods; Antony Tudor's ballet Time table; performing Billy the Kid with Aaron Copland conducting; Lew Christensen's work Filling station; Balanchine's work Errante; William Dollar's Juke box; the state of ballet in South America at the time of the tour; Eugene Loring's Dance Players including his requiring Solov to change his name, to Carlson; the dancers; Loring's ballets Prairie and City portrait; the company's communal life in the house provided by Winthrop B. Palmer, including anecdotes about Palmer and her classes; Solov's work Ethan Frome including Palmer's assistance with the production; the company's repertoire including Lew Christensen's work Jinx; Loring's work The man from Midian; working with Loring; Joan McCracken [continues on disc 4].
Disc 2, December 14, 1976 (approximately 46 minutes). Zachary Solov continues to speak with Peter Conway about his dance training; Solov speaks further about his association with Catherine Littlefield, including dancing with her company at the John Wanamaker department store in Philadelphia; more on his teachers and dance classes in New York including Catherine Littlefield's mother, Caroline Littlefield, and Muriel Stuart; Helen Kramer; Anatole Chujoy; the American Ballet Company and its South American tour including his reminiscences regarding Balanchine's choreographing of Concerto barocco and Ballet imperial; dancers on the tour and works performed; audience response; Balanchine's collaborations with local composers; other aspects of the tour; more on the repertoire including Balanchine's work The bat; the musical The lady comes across, choreographed by Balanchine; touring with Eugene Loring's company Dance Players [following brief gap, recording resumes to note that the name of Leon Fokine's mother was Alexandra Fedorova].
Disc 1, December 14, 1976 (approximately 51 minutes). Zachary Solov speaks with Peter Conway about his family background; his first dance lessons including how he came to study with Catherine Littlefield; his impressions of Littlefield; his decision to become a dancer after seeing a rehearsal of The sleeping beauty; singing commercial jingles on the radio; Dorothy and Catherine Littlefield as dancers; their husbands; George Balanchine and Littlefield's dancers; Catherine Littlefield's ballets Barn dance and Cafe society; his work with her company; performing in Littlefield's American Jublilee at the New York World's Fair in 1940 including the uncompensated rehearsals; his continuing study of ballet, at the School of American Ballet, including an anecdote about George Balanchine; Muriel Stuart; his focus on port de bras [continues on disc 2].
New York State Council on the Arts, 2012-2013
Oral histotry archive. Oral history project
Former classmark: *MGZT 5-419
For transcript of interview: see *MGZMT 5-419
World War, 1939-1945
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