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Nureyev's two Swan Lakes -- like night and day


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#1 canbelto

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Posted 19 April 2006 - 05:41 AM

I have now seen both Nureyev's 1966 film of Swan Lake and his final version choreographed for the POB. And I was shocked at how different the two productions were.
Nureyev's 1966 version seemed to be very self-consciously "different." Different musical arrangements (for the Black Swan pdd especially), different choreography (6 cygnets instead of 4, an allegro ending to the Love Duet, no pas de trois in the first act), different production values (the garish costumes and a year's worth of eyeshadow on Nureyev, Siegfried drowning). It was like the rebellious 60s version of Swan Lake.

Nureyev's final version for the POB, however, is essentially an extremely traditional production. It was as if he decided all his new ideas in 1966 were bad, and it was better to go back to Petipa/Ivanov. All the traditional musical numbers are used. He listened to Margot Fonteyn and restored the mime, especially in the second act. Pas de trois? Back. The production is very understated and classy. The ending is still tragic, but it's much more effective than the 1966 drowning -- Odette jumps back in the lake, and Siegfried lies lifeless, and Rothbart emerges from the lake, victorious. A heart-wrenching conclusion. The only "different" thing about this Swan Lake is of course some extra solos for Siegfried. But the core of the Petipa/Ivanov Swan Lake is firmly retained, something I can't say about many recent productions (the McKenzie version, the Martins version, even the Grigorivich production). I much prefer this to the Bourmeister production that the POB had been dancing before the Nureyev version. Nureyev's is much more traditional, much closer, I think, to Petipa/Ivanov.

#2 Solor

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Posted 19 April 2006 - 06:42 AM

I have now seen both Nureyev's 1966 film of Swan Lake and his final version choreographed for the POB. And I was shocked at how different the two productions were.
Nureyev's 1966 version seemed to be very self-consciously "different." Different musical arrangements (for the Black Swan pdd especially), different choreography (6 cygnets instead of 4, an allegro ending to the Love Duet, no pas de trois in the first act), different production values (the garish costumes and a year's worth of eyeshadow on Nureyev, Siegfried drowning). It was like the rebellious 60s version of Swan Lake.

Nureyev's final version for the POB, however, is essentially an extremely traditional production. It was as if he decided all his new ideas in 1966 were bad, and it was better to go back to Petipa/Ivanov. All the traditional musical numbers are used. He listened to Margot Fonteyn and restored the mime, especially in the second act. Pas de trois? Back. The production is very understated and classy. The ending is still tragic, but it's much more effective than the 1966 drowning -- Odette jumps back in the lake, and Siegfried lies lifeless, and Rothbart emerges from the lake, victorious. A heart-wrenching conclusion. The only "different" thing about this Swan Lake is of course some extra solos for Siegfried. But the core of the Petipa/Ivanov Swan Lake is firmly retained, something I can't say about many recent productions (the McKenzie version, the Martins version, even the Grigorivich production). I much prefer this to the Bourmeister production that the POB had been dancing before the Nureyev version. Nureyev's is much more traditional, much closer, I think, to Petipa/Ivanov.


Funny you should mention this canbelto! I just watched my tape of Nureyev's 1966 Swan Lake the other night! :flowers: I also watched, for the first time, the 1980 film of the Royal Ballet's production w/ Makarova and Dowell, which I found to be terrible - not Makarova and Dowell of course, but just about all of the soloists.

I have heard that Nureyev's POB Swan Lake was called "controversial".....I myself dont care much for non-traditional productions of Swan Lake, but I do like Nureyev's 1966 production - maybe because I have such affection for anything 1960s regarding style of the time, etc. That production is VERY 60s, even the choreography matches the sets and costumes, and vice versa if you know what I mean - theres a style that runs through the whole thing that is really cool. I especially like Nureyev's 'Grand Pas de Cinq' in the first act (Ashton utilized many of the same numbers that Nureyev did for his Pas de Quatre in the ballroom scene - Nureyev's version sure beats Ashton's horrible choreography for the Royal Ballet production :( )

Perhaps Nureyev tastes changed with age, and as it should be, for the better! I would love to see his POB Swan Lake.....is there a film available?

#3 canbelto

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Posted 19 April 2006 - 07:18 AM

I don't understand why the final Nureyev version is "controversial" except for the fact that the POB dancers didn't want to change from the Bourmeister. Because except for a solo at the end of Act 1 and a very brief solo in Act 2, Nureyev's Swan Lake is as traditional as it gets! He, unlike Kevin McKenzie, preserved the tradition of the two Ivanov white acts. He doesn't pull any funny stuff like having two Rothbarts. Rothbart is also not a hideous swampy thing, but more like an evil magician type. And let's not even mention Peter Martins' butchering of Act 2 :(
The 1966 film, I agree, is "cool." It's like the 60s -- it's different. But Nureyev really went traditional with the final POB version, right down to Odette's mime.

#4 Azulynn

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Posted 19 April 2006 - 08:30 AM

I agree with canbelto - it is a pretty traditionnal version. It's just been called "freudian" because of the relationship between Siegfried and Rothbart, which is more developed - for instance the traditionnal "Black Swan pas de deux" becomes a kind of "pas de trois".

Solor, this POB version was filmed in December with Agnès Letestu, José Martinez and Karl Paquette, so it should come out by the end of the year.

#5 canbelto

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Posted 19 April 2006 - 09:07 AM

Even the "pas de trois" Black Swan pdd is probably very close to Petipa's original. I mean, the white swan pdd was originally also a pas de trois with Benno, but Benno was 86'ed because it was much more compelling just to have Siegfried and Odette dance together. The 1960 Royal Ballet film with Fonteyn and Somes has Benno supporting the adagio.
Besides, the pas de trois Black Swan pdd is dramatically very effective -- it contrasts the tug of war in Siegfried's mind between evil temptation (Rothbart and Odile) and the purity of his love for Odette. So in essence, this was simply an embellishment, not a wholesale change of Petipa/Ivanov. Really, the Nureyev Swan Lake for the POB is probably one of the most traditional Swan Lakes out there today.

#6 Hans

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Posted 19 April 2006 - 10:32 AM

Wasn't the Act III pas de deux as choreographed by Petipa originally a pas de trois?

#7 canbelto

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Posted 19 April 2006 - 11:40 AM

Wasn't the Act III pas de deux as choreographed by Petipa originally a pas de trois?


If that's true, then wow, it's even more traditional than I thought. Nureyev really made a complete 180 with this Swan Lake. All to the good of course. The 1966 film is a cool curiosity, but the POB Swan Lake is something I could imagine a company owning for years. A very classy beautiful production.

#8 Hans

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Posted 20 April 2006 - 09:41 AM

Well, don't take my word for it--I have a rather bad track record regarding ballet history here! :wub:

#9 rg

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Posted 20 April 2006 - 10:27 AM

here's what wiley has to say, p. 266, TCHAIKOVSKY'S BALLETS - "Swan Lake" in St. Petersburg - the Production:
"What came to be known as the 'Black Swan pas de deux', which ends the divertissement with glittering, steely virtuosisty in the ballerina's part, is in effect as Petipa had planned it in his sketches, a pas de quatre demi d'action. Odile dances, Siegfried and another cavalier (not Benno) parnter her, and Rothbart acts. There is a short variation for the additional cavalier (preserved in a variant which Alexander Gorsky, who danced this part, made later as a choreographer), but none for Siegfried. The virtuoso requirements of Siegfried's part as notated in this pas d'action raise doubts that it was performed thus in 1895."
[when wiley says 'as notated' he's referring to turn of the 20th c. notations of the production, not records of the '95 staging]
7 more grafs continue his text on this pas, continuing onto p. 267.

#10 Solor

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Posted 20 April 2006 - 02:41 PM

There is a short variation for the additional cavalier (preserved in a variant which Alexander Gorsky, who danced this part, made later as a choreographer), but none for Siegfried. The virtuoso requirements of Siegfried's part as notated in this pas d'action raise doubts that it was performed thus in 1895."



Could this be the variation that Chabukiani danced first in the 1930s that eventually became Siegfried's 'Black Swan PDD' variation? For those who dont know, Im referring to the traditional variation for Siegfried in the 'Black Swan PDD' that was fashioned out of the omitted allegro ending of the 'Black Swan Adage' (musically the 'Black Swan Adage' is an Andantino).

In "Tchaikovsky's Ballet" theres a footnote regarding this variation (pp.318 - notes for pp. 248-254, no.36) -"The original allegro survives in some modern productions, and, although rescored, has been wrongly attributed to Drigo...In the score used in performances at the (Mariinsky) Theatre this music appears with the rubric 'Variation of Chabukiani'."
This variation is performed in different orchestration in the west, in Russia the main melody is orchestrated for oboe (I think?) the first time around, and in the west it is orchestrated for 1st violins. Aso the ending is slightly different in the Russian version - it has a more Minkus/Pugni ending (where the last note is repeated after a pause). Anyway, if this were not teh variation danced by the cavalier in 1895, what was danced?

#11 Solor

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Posted 20 April 2006 - 02:47 PM

this POB version was filmed in December with Agnès Letestu, José Martinez and Karl Paquette, so it should come out by the end of the year.



Im glad this is coming out! :wub: .....Im not to thrilled however about Ms. Letestu danicng Odette.

#12 art076

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Posted 20 April 2006 - 10:54 PM

Letestu does not come off well on the Paquita DVD, but her Odette should be wonderful. If you've seen her Shades variation on the POB DVD of Nureyev's La Bayadere, you'll know what I mean!


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