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Swan Lakethe process of self-education


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#1 dido

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Posted 15 April 2004 - 03:49 PM

OK. Boston Ballet is doing Swan Lake soonish and I would very much like to be in the position of knowing what I'm looking at, what I should be looking at and other such matters. I hope to go to several performances (we'll see how the stipend is holding out), but in the meantime I hope to get some 'homework' from the board.

I claimed (with wild exaggeration, as is my wont) to have 5 or 6 Swan Lakes. I actually have only 2: the Makarova/Dowell and the Nordquist/Nordstrom (performed by the Royal Swedish Ballet). I know there are others out there, and I was hoping that the better informed could give me some reccommendations with appropriate description (don't ask much do I? :blushing: )

The RSB performance has an interview with Sir Peter Wright, who gives a pretty clear idea of what he tinkered with, and what he didn't, but I'm curious about other productions.

Sorry. This is so rambling. Let me put it this way: What should I do (reading/watching/thinking) so that I'm not watching this ballet from a position of ignorance?

#2 Cygnet

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Posted 15 April 2004 - 05:30 PM

OK. Boston Ballet is doing Swan Lake soonish and I would very much like to be in the position of knowing what I'm looking at, what I should be looking at and other such matters. I hope to go to several performances (we'll see how the stipend is holding out), but in the meantime I hope to get some 'homework' from the board.

I claimed (with wild exaggeration, as is my wont) to have 5 or 6 Swan Lakes. I actually have only 2: the Makarova/Dowell and the Nordquist/Nordstrom (performed by the Royal Swedish Ballet). I know there are others out there, and I was hoping that the better informed could give me some reccommendations with appropriate description (don't ask much do I? :blushing: )

The RSB performance has an interview with Sir Peter Wright, who gives a pretty clear idea of what he tinkered with, and what he didn't, but I'm curious about other productions.

Sorry. This is so rambling. Let me put it this way: What should I do (reading/watching/thinking) so that I'm not watching this ballet from a position of ignorance?

Hi. There are sooo many resources to choose from. You could start by researching the story and the music. Browse "Swan Lake" and "Tchaikovsky." See if the following books are available on Amazon or Ebay: "Tchaikovksy's Ballets" by Roland John Wiley, "Four Centuries of Ballet - Fifty Masterworks" by Lincoln Kirstein, "The Official Bolshoi Ballet Book of Swan Lake" by Yuri Grigorovich and Alexander Demidov. See if the public library or Ebay has the JVC Maryinsky "Swan Lake" CD 1895 Drigo edition conducted by Victor Fedotov(1994). The book inside the CD has the entire history of the ballet and a reprint of the original story submitted September 24, 1894 to the Imperial Theatres. Very detailed. This document is housed today at the Lunacharsky Library of Drama in St. Petersburg. The corps de ballet is everything in this work. Look for grace, lyricism, nuance, discipline, precision, fluidity of movement, understanding of the story, and tradition when you see Boston dance. The Royal Ballet, Kirov and Bolshoi are peerless in this respect because of their uniform schooling and distinctive styles. The title role of Odette/Odile is the one role that separates the good ballerinas from the great ones. There are too many recorded performances to mention here. I'd look for Fonteyn & Nureyev (Vienna Ballet). I'm too young to know whether they ever taped a full performance at Covent Garden - I was a baby :D . Makarova & Dowell - that's a keeper. Check out any Kirov tape for the corps work, or an old Bolshoi tape with Plisetskaya in the starring role, to see, IMO, the clearest distinction between the two swans. If Boston Ballet offers a pre-performance seminar, attend it. Hope this helps.

#3 Hans

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Posted 16 April 2004 - 06:28 AM

There are at least two Kirov-Mariinsky Swan Lakes out there (and probably more) one starring Yulia Makhalina and another with Galina Mezentseva. Besides the Fonteyn and Nureyev tape with the Vienna State Opera Ballet, there is another tape of Fonteyn (not with Nureyev, but with more traditional choreography).

#4 cargill

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Posted 19 April 2004 - 10:58 AM

If you can find it, I think Cyril Beaumont's A Ballet Called Swan Lake is a very good introduction. It has a very interesting chapter on the swan mythology as well as information about the ballet itself--though it was written long before Freud intervened!

#5 dido

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Posted 19 April 2004 - 11:27 AM

Thank you all for all those resources (the pre-performance seminar is an especially nice reminder; I'm fairly sure they do quite a bit of that at BB, but never can remember).

I'll definitely look for the books mentioned as well; is there one (or anything?) that goes through productions identifying new/redone choreography? For example I know that certain productions do the Act 3 national dances all in character shoes, and some productions have some of the dances en pointe.

I'm going to hunt down one of the Kirov performances and the Bolshoi with Plisetskaya (or parts thereof).

I really love the Makarova/Dowell myself; would it be considered traditonal/faithful?

#6 Alexandra

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Posted 19 April 2004 - 11:50 AM

If no one has yet mentioned it, check Robert Greskovic's "Ballet 101" too.

The Makarova/Dowell is based on the Stepanov notation and is certainly traditiona -- but much of the choreography is by Ashton. (the first act waltz, the pas de quatre and tarantella in the ballroom scene; I blush to admit I can't remember whether this video is Ashton's act IV or not!

I think you're on the right track -- one problem of readng and seeing everything that's out there is that a new Swan Lake is likely to be different. Nothing you could have read would have prepared you for ABT's Swamp Thing von Rothbart :)

#7 Cygnet

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Posted 19 April 2004 - 12:20 PM

Q: ' Is there a book that outlines productions with new/re-done choreography for
SL?' Good question! :) My souvenir book from the 1986 Kirov tour says that, "... over 500 productions have been chronicled." All of Balanchine's works have been itemized in a book. Is there a book out there that lists all 'Swan Lake' productions for all time? I haven't come across one. If there isn't one, there
should be. That's a good research topic. :D

#8 cargill

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Posted 20 April 2004 - 06:27 AM

The only problem with the Makarova/Dowell version is that Makarova doesn't do the lake scene mime, which I think is so important for Swan Lake, because it tells Siegfried clearly that he has to swear to love only Odette. If he doesn't know that, then he can hardly be blamed for falling for Odile!


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