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That old party game ‘name five famous Belgians’ is a little unfair on the Belgians. A more difficult game is ‘name five Italian ballets’, I’ve discovered. Until, that is, I found this wonderful catalogue of Italian Ballet Plot Synopses, 1816-1933 . I first came across Manzotti & Marenco when I read Giannandrea Poesio’s paper on Galop, gender and politics in the Italian ballo grande
(20th annual conference of the Society of Dance History Scholars, 1997). Before that I had never heard of Amor, Excelsior and Sport, let alone the others. The only time I have ever seen any of Romualdo Marenco’s music is when the archivist Jane Pritchard lent me her precious copy of the score for Excelsior. An Italian wiki entry on Marenco shows just how prolific he was, and if the other scores as much fun as Excelsior, he must count as one of the most underrated and under-acknowledged ballet composers around. I’m only sorry I missed the 3rd international conference on Romualdo Marenco e il ballo grande italiano. There isn’t a single item by Marenco on either Naxos or Amazon, apart from the DVD of Excelsior, and I am still trying to find a recording on an Italian site.

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Jonathan Still, ballet pianist