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Alexandra

How do you like your Swan Lake?

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Question of the week: I'm curious about what people think of when they think of "Swan Lake." What does a production have to have to satisfy you? What do you expect when you go to see a production that you don't know anything about? I'll happily stipulate that there isn't an "authentic" production around, but there are still things -- images, steps, parts of the story -- that mean "Swan Lake" to people: 24 swan maidens, 32 fouettes, love, betrayal, death, owls. Benno or a Jester? Happy ending or sad? All or none of the above.

Alexandra

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My expectations of a proper SW include the basic 4 acts, with Act II and Act IV the "White Acts." Female swans. No psychological re-interpretations. NO JESTER!!! A Black Swan pas de DEUX, not a pas de trois including Rothbart. And they jump in the lake at the end; the score was not written for a happy ending. See the video of the ABT production with Makarova/Nagy to see how to do it right.

~Steve

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I basically agree with Steve, especially NO JESTER. But when I saw Makarova, she used to leave out the 2nd act mime, which to me is essential. Without it, the ballet become more abstract and less tragic. I also really like the Drigoesque last act that ABT does. I think it has a nice flow and variety. And I think Rothbart should be a vaguely menacing evil, not run around the stage in red tights and shadow box. And it should be set in Medieval Germany, because that is the period of the myth. Basically, it shouldn't look anything like the current Royal Ballet production.

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Maybe I've grown up seeing too many Russian productions, but I don't mind the Jester anymore. It gives all those short guys with great technique something fun to do...Truly, I'm not trying to be flippant.

I want the second act mime, too. Too many dancers aren't learning it and I think it's a loss.

I don't care about the gender of the swans. I would not have said this prior to seeing the AMP Swan Lake.

It must be choreography which can match the music--not any easy task--I say stick with Petipa/Ivanov.

Beautifully schooled corps. Properly trained character dancers.

Number of swans not an issue. But...quiet pointe shoes are.

I won't say I don't care about the happy/sad ending--but when you have seen it done really well, it is just another element of a supremely moving experience.

We all have our own little idiosyncratic things which make us cringe (for me it's overweight swans in sloppy patterns and bad character dancing) but I think this is going to be an extremely entertaining thread!

And I'm sure we'll all think of additionos to each of our postings!

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I am happy as long as I can see the Kirov Ballet dancing in the Sergueyev version of Swan Lake. Everything in this production is right in scale and tone. Every performance of Swan Lake by the Kirov is like a ritual to me!

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For me "Swan Lake" is the ultimate test for the ballerina. She's in a tutu so there's no place to hide sloppy technique. This is where she "shows me what's she's got", and if she is one of the best she will never look better. It takes my breath away just thinking about it.

Giannina

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1) Agreement with Steve Keeley on ending--we saw Makarova and Nagy HURL themselves from a rock into the wings at the end of one performance and it is the single most memorable moment we have had in a theater.

2) The concertmaster should really dig into the adagio and play it not just as accompaniment but as a virtuoso solo violin piece.

3) All the things I will think of (as Juliet Shore mentioned) that I will recall as soon as I hit the "submit reply" button.

[This message has been edited by Ed Waffle (edited 03-18-99).]

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Swans danced by girls and led by a ballerina who knows her trade -- preferably Kirov/Sergeyev production.

Can somebody tell me please what's wrong with that poor jester? Thanks.

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I like a solid conservative Swan Lake, and I fear I must agree that the Jester is an annoyance. At the most he's acceptable as a diversion in the early court scenes, but that's that. I also object to giving Siegfried too much prominence, as in the Grigorovich version, mainly because the musical scheme doesn't allow for it. (This is also true for the Jester.) I know the danseurs get unhappy about having to take the back seat, but that's the way it goes, guys. I think the Nureyev solo is all right, though.

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My most vivid memory (5 years ago?) of the Balanchine version of Swan Lake was a ballerina exiting stage far right after a long, long slow bourre across the stage!! I see it in my dreams. That would satisfy me at this point.

By the way, cargill, what exactly is "a Drigoesque last act" ?

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Paul, I also love the Balanchine version of Swan Lake. I last saw it danced by NYCB in 1996 with Kyra Nichols. After the Kirov Sergueyev version, this Balanchine version is my second favourite.

I dread the new Peter Martins production of Swan Lake that NYCB is going to premiere this summer. I saw this Martins version once in 1997 danced by Royal Danish Ballet. It is awful!

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Oh sorry, but the one act Balanchine Swan Lake just doesn't "do it" for me. I like the whole thing, especially the beginning of the fourth act Kirov version with all those sad little swan variations to that delicate music.

I also prefer a thin Swan Queen and corps to give it that otherwordly feeling. There is nothing worse than robust Swan Queen. This is why I quite liked Mezentseva in this role.

Did anyone see Kirkland dance Swan Lake? I can't even imagine what that would have been like?

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Paul, When Petipa decided to choreography Swan Lake (after Tschaikovsky had died), he had Drigo redo the fourth act. As I recall he reorchestrated some of it, and (I haven't looked this up), may have added some of his own plinky-plinky music. The ABT version uses it. There is the drama of the Tchaikovsky storm, and then a brief lighter pas de deux (the plinky-plinky bit), and then the Tchaikovsky suicide and apotheosis. I have come to really like the soft contrast between all the drama. Most redone last acts are so frantic. Another thing I like are a few black swans in the last act, to give a bit of contrast to the second.

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OOOOOOO, this question is for Kevin. I really love New York City Ballet, but I confess to some previous trepidation when I heard about the new Swan Lake. Please give me your impressions of the production. Is it the design, choreography, or the dancing that was objectionable? I am still looking forward to attending performances, but hope that my original reservations are going to be less than anticipated.

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Juliet, I didn't take detailed notes from the single performance of Peter Martins' Swan Lake danced by Royal Danish Ballet, led by Silja Schandorff and Kenneth Greve. But I found the choreography generally over-fussy, like Martins' ballets for NYCB. There were plenty of technically difficult steps busily strung together which formed no coherent shape.

On the whole, the Martins choreography did not improve on the traditional choreography, or indeed the Balanchine choreography in Mr. B's one-act version.

To be fair, the sets and costumes designs were however colourful enough and quite good.

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Thank you Kevin! I appreciate your answering so quickly. Alas, it is as I feared. I wish Martins would leave well enough alone with the choreography. I will try to concentrate on the technique and production...

But it will still be a live performance, a good orchestra and, reputedly, very beautiful costumes. Beats sitting through a lot worse...

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Paul, the "plinky-plinky music" Cargill mentioned for the final act, is actually Tchaikovsky music as well. None of it was composed by Drigo (best known for his "Le Corsaire" pas de deux), who orchestrated some very little known piano pieces (mainly from Tchaikovsky's opus 72 -- ravishing to hear in their original form, by the way) as part of the rather drastic revision of the ballet (new plot by Modest Tchaikovsky, new choreography by Petipa and - let's not forget him - Ivanov, revision of the music by Drigo) for the Maryinsky in 1895 (indeed like Cargill remarked two years after Tchaikovsky had died), which actually saved the ballet from oblivion yet turned it also completely upside down.

It was this 1895 production that became the standard one, but in fact very little of what we see and hear in it is what it should be. The most famous example is the popular Black Swan pas de deux, which is here danced to music originally composed for Act I (nothing to do with Odile; the pas de six Tchaikovsky wrote for the encounter between Odile and the prince at the ball was removed, and sometimes survives in a variation unhappily interpolated in the last Act.)

In the Ken Russell film "The Music Lovers" there is a scene in which Tchaikovsky (Richard Chamberlain) is attending a performance of "Swan Lake": the Black Swan pas de deux (with Georgina Parkinson, I believe), quite incorrectly danced to the music from Act I, since it was only staged that way after the composer died.

Anyone wishing to see a version of "Swan Lake" more respectful of Tchaikovsky's music should turn to the Vladimir Bourmeister production, which is in the repertory of among others the Paris Opera Ballet. A nice break with familiarity.

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There is a very good video of the Paris/Bourmeister SWAN LAKE starring Marie-Claude Pietragalla. It's on the European PAL & SECAM formats. Americans with multi-system TVs & VCRs can also enjoy it.

This version was originally produced for the Moscow-based Stanislavsky Ballet, of which Bourmeister was a founding choreographer/director. The Stanislavsky made its long-awaited USA debut just this December in Washington, DC's Kennedy Center. One of the three programmes on view was this SWAN LAKE. [Truth be told, one of the few highlights of this paltry ballet season in DC, so far.] The Bourmeister SWAN emphasizes dramatic realism but, best of all (for me), it resurrects many portions of the Tchaikovsky score that are usually omitted...the most notable being the melancholic Act IV "Dance of the Little Swans" music. [Of course, Ashton didn't do a shabby job with that lovely piece of music, either!]

- Jeannie Szoradi

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I'm so excited I can hardly think. I'M GOING TO NEW YORK FOR THE BALLET!!! Not Kirov (wedding, remember?) but in May. I need advice on which weekend offers the best program, and I need it fast. If I go the weekend of May 8 I see ABT's "Romeo and Juliet" and NYCB "Swan Lake". I was excited about "Swan Lake" til Kevin Ng nixed it. Just how bad was it, Kevin? On the weekend of May 29 I get "Giselle" and Durante (well, that's Ed's choice) plus a mixed bag at NYCB:

Sat. mat....

Allegro Brillante

Andantino

Mozartiana

Aurora's Wedding

Sun...

Theme and Variations

Serenade

Diamonds

Dale; how do you feel about these choices? Any help anyone can give me would be greatly appreciated.

Did I mention I was excited?!

Giannina

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Thanks cargill, Marc, and Jeannie for the Drigo related discussion. I'm on information overload right now! Need to see the four act version of Swan Lake to really understand what you've conveyed. I am going to Ottawa to see Swan Lake by the National Ballet of Canada in May. Kevin, I may have seen Kyra Nichols in that Balanchine version I remember from a few years ago, but at that time I was not focused much on the names of dancers. I do recall the lead ballerina was lovely.

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Paul, I am glad you have also seen the Balanchine version of Swan Lake.

Giannina, the programme of NYCB on the weekend of 29 May looks heavenly, with these Balanchine masterpieces like "Mozartiana", "Diamonds ,"Serenade", "Theme and Variations". I hope you can catch the divine Kyra Nichols in most of these ballets. I envy you being able to see them.

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Oh, Giannina, you're a lady after my own heart! I'll be in NY then, too, expressly for the last three days of the NYCB Tchaikovsky Festival...which happen to be my absolute-favourite ballets in the NYCB repertoire. The very thought of seeing them all in a concentrated period of time makes my head spin. It's a thrill to see just one of them on a programme...let alone a full programme of these. It's sort of like eating a meal that consists of only rich desserts! Maybe we can exchange notes & impressions on this forum, after the fact.

- Jeannie Szoradi, Washington, DC

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Gianinna,

I'll be making two trips to NY in May: the first, from May 12-16, to see Viviana Durante with Angel Corella in R&J, plus two casts in "La Bayadere" (Jaffe/Herrera/Carreno and Kent/Dvorovenko/Malakhov); the second trip will be Memorial Day weekend for the two NYCB programs you mentioned plus Viviana's "Giselle." So that weekend will be my suggestion. (Yes, I am actually flying cross-country twice just to see Viviana Durante. Am I devoted, or what?)

If you do come the weekend of the 29th, let me know. There will be two other Ballet Alert/a.a.b. denizens joining me at those performances and we can all get a chance to say "hello" to each other face-to-face.

~Steve

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Steve -

Did you read my post to Giannina, just above yours? I, too, will be in NY for those same performances & will be delighted to see you again, as well as Gianninna & the other 2 Ballet Alert/AAB posters. I'm staying at the Radisson Empire. Let's arrange a meeting place & time, as we come closer to the week-end, OK? Cheers, Jeannie

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