Thesis: Lilian Baylis Birth of the Royal Ballet

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Lilian Baylis: Birth of the Royal Ballet

Lilian Mary Baylis

The Order of the Companions of Honour is a United Kingdom and Commonwealth of Nations Order. It was founded by George V of the United Kingdom in June 1917, as a reward for outstanding achievements in the arts, literature, music, science, politi

November 1937) was an English

England is the largest and most populous constituent country of the United Kingdom. Its inhabitants account for more than 83% of the total population of the United Kingdom, whilst the mainland territory of England occupies most of the southern

theatrical producer

A theatrical producer is the person ultimately responsible for overseeing all aspects of mounting a theatrical production

and manager. She managed the Old Vic

The Old Vic is a theatre located just south-east of Waterloo Station in London on the corner of the Cut and Waterloo Road, London

and Sadler's Wells theatres in London, and ran an opera company, which became the English National Opera, a theatre company, which evolved into the English National Opera, located at the Coliseum Theatre in St. Martin's Lane is the national opera company of England, and one of two opera companies in London, along with the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden....

English National Theatre, and a ballet company, which eventually became the English Royal Ballet (Lilian Baylis, n.d)

Lilian was born in London of parents whose lives were dedicated to the world of music. Her father, Newton Baylis, was a baritone -- mother, Liebe Cons, a contralto. Liebe was also a professional pianist.

Lilian's education, as you might guess, was musical. At a young age she studied under John Tiplady Carrodus, a famous English composer and violinist who, after studying at Stuttgart, made his first appearance in London as a soloist at a concert given by the Musical Society of London in 1863. Carrodus had quite a reputation as a soloist and quartet player, and for many years appeared at the Philharmonic, the Crystal Palace, and other leading concerts. As a composer he wrote many violin solos and edited a number of violin duets (Thorndike, 1990).

Under Carrodus, Lilian became an accomplished violinist. It was to him that she owed her first great and abiding love of opera.

Lilian's parents were true Bohemians. They were also adventurous. From her young days, Lilian was looked upon as the most practical member of her family, and, apparently, mothered them all just as she mothered everyone -- audience and workers -- at the Old Vic. She was the eldest, followed by sister, Violet, then brothers Ray, and William, who died. Ethel was the youngest child (Thorndike, 1990).

Lilian was sixteen years old when, in order to retrieve their fortunes, her parents packed up and went to South Africa. Like pioneers in America, the whole family lived in covered wagons.

Towns and villages along the way were visted, and musical shows were given by the family to audiences that had never been entertained before. Natives who had never seen a white woman were fascinated at the Baylis' musical instruments -- banjos and mandolins.

Lilian eventually made her way to Johannesburg, South Africa and became a music teacher, one of the first there. For five years she managed a ladies' orchestra and established herself. She might have stayed there, married and raised a family of musicians of her own. However, she received a letter from her Aunt Emma to return to England and help her with a new "scheme."

(Thorndike, 1990).

It turned out that the scheme involved opening music halls in various parts of London where the prices of admission would be the same as at existing music halls. Purified entertainment would be presented with no alcohol sales. The purpose was to be able to offer the British public a class of entertainment that they could enjoy and that would be suitable for families.

The popularity of music halls was obvious by the fact that, in London alone, music halls outnumbered theatres by eight to one. Many complaints had been received over years about the impropriety of many songs at the theatres (Thorndike, 1990).

Lilian's aunt, Emma Cons was a force in her own right, and had acquired the leadership of the Royal Coffee Music Hall, which she re-opened in 1880. It was at this point that Aunt Emma

summoned her niece to take over the management of the theatre under Emma's guidance.

Emma's programs included concerts, lectures and plays. Eventually, a backstage college began, the students taking the title "OVS" or "Old Vic Student." Emma Cons died in 1912 and the theatre passed to Lilian, who had worked with her for many years.

Lilian then went on to produce every play in Shakespeare's First Folio between 1914 and 1923. She ensured that the entry fees were at a price which most of the public could afford. The last play in the cycle, Troilus and Cressida, was performed on 23rd November 1923 before the then Princess Royal (the late Queen Mother) with a copy of the First Folio under glass in the orchestra pit.

This sequence of Shakespeare performances gained honor for "the Vic," an honor no other theatre had achieved. For herself, Lilian did not seek honor. When a university bestowed an M.A. degree on her, she said that she really had done nothing to deserve it, and accepted it on behalf of all the people who had worked so hard to save "the Vic." She was only the second woman who had been thus honored outside the University of Oxford (Thorndike, 1990).

In addition to laying the groundwork for a national theatre, the Old Vic's colorful and "religiously devoted" manager established the foundation for England's national opera and ballet.

Year by year the Old Vic grew in popularity. It now had its regular audiences for the various types of entertainment. But Shakespeare and opera remained Lilian's passions. In 1918,

The Old Vic celebrated its 100th birthday with Queen Mary and the Princess Royal. During their visit Lilian pointed out two pictures in the foyer to the Queen -- one of Emma Cons and a slightly smaller one of King George V (Thorndike, 1990).

The early repertoire at "the Old Vic" included Verdi's popular operas, Carmen, Faust, and Pagliacci, English ballad operas, and on gala occasions -- Lohengrin or Tannhauser.

The first Old Vic Company was lead by John Gielgud in 1929, and in 1933 Tyrone Guthrie took over management working with Lilian. Guthrie brought in Charles Laughton, fresh from Hollywood, to lead the Company with Flora Roson as his leading lady. During the same period Lilian was responsible for rebuilding the Sadler's Wells Theatre, which she reopened in 1931.

She held a gala opening on January 6, 1931, with a production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night starring none other than John Gielgud as Malvolio and Ralph Richardson as Toby Belch. For the first few years the opera, drama and ballet companies, known as the "Vic-Wells" companies, rotated between the two theatres, but by 1935 the ballet and opera companies were based at Sadler's Wells and the drama company at the Old Vic.

Around 1928, Baylis had hired Ninette de Valois. With her direction British classical ballet grew immensely at Sadler's Wells. De Valois encouraged dancers such as Margot Fonteyn and Robert Helpmann, and her productions of classical work often featured guest appearances from Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin. Musical direction was by Constant Lambert, and choreography for new works by de Valois and rising star Frederick Ashton.

The ballet company's descendants today are the Royal Ballet and the Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Sadler's Wells and the Old Vic are not the only gifts that Lilian Baylis bestowed upon England. She founded, after overcoming almost insurmountable obstacles, a truly National Ballet.

She kept three companies going nearly all year -- drama, opera, and ballet. She had a selfless devotion to a great goal -- that of providing world-class entertainment. But she was also an autocrat with her companies; she had to be. This kind, generous, open-hearted lady could be ruthless to keep her companies professional and the best in England. "Your voice is going, dear, I can't keep you on any longer," she said to singers now and then. But you can bet if that singer needed help, she would give it, at the same time she fired him or her (Coloson, 2006).

The English National Opera founded an education and outreach department in 1985, calling it the Baylis Program in her honor. The current Sadler's Wells theatre contains a separate 200-seat theatre named after Lilian and the National Theatre has a Lilian Baylis terrace. Believe it or not, there is a Lilian Baylis rose, and the Royal Victoria Hall Foundation holds the annual Lilian Baylis awards for promising acting students.

Through her appreciation of the private, Baylis was one who sought and enjoyed the company of other pioneering, independent and highly-motivated career women as well as creative theatre practitioners.

After Baylis's death in 1937, other directors such as Michel… [END OF PREVIEW]

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