Swan LakeOregonian Review
Posted 12 June 2006 - 08:37 PM
Posted 12 June 2006 - 08:52 PM
Would you tell us which dancers you liked and which parts were most impressive? Did you see Act III that was performed last year? The reviewer has limited space and only talks about a few of the dancers; usually there are more performances worth mentioning than can fit.
Posted 12 June 2006 - 11:08 PM
Can you give us some of your impressions, seabreeze? And anyone else? For example, how did they handle the sheer numbers of people on stage that is required?
Artistic director Christopher Stowell, basing his choreography on the famous 1895 version by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov and also borrowing from the Pacific Northwest Ballet version created by his father, Kent Stowell, has assembled a cohesive and grandly stated architecture that neatly balances the contrasts between the leisurely first and third acts at court and the more compact, heightened second and fourth acts by the lake, where Siegfried enters the world of magic.
Posted 13 June 2006 - 05:56 PM
Although I have never seen Swan Lake previously and do not know how the "sheer numbers" of dancers have been handled, Christopher Stowell did so in an unobtrusive manner, keeping the "Swans" in a group under the protection of "Odette" (Yuka Iino) at times, and keeping "Odette" under the "wings" of the other swans at times, and magnificantly "circling" and "oscillating" the swans in entrances and exits (I am not a ballet expert and do not know the appropriate terms here).
In Act II Beside a Lake the Pas a Quatre by Ansa Deguchi, Emily Tedesco, Natalie Wilson and Holly Zimmerman was my favorite! It was such a surprise to see such a well manuevered synchronization of dancers, and such a delight to see it performed in the middle of the act...a true pleasure!
The Company as a whole was "right-on" this weekend, and Christopher Stowell has transformed OBT in his lead up to this production described as "a landmark in the maturation of this city's dance culture."
Posted 13 June 2006 - 11:46 PM
In addition to all the discussion of the dancing, I have to mention Alison Roper's acting--with her face and body, in every way, she truly was a fearful, then loving, and ultimately heartbroken Odette, and a teasing and manipulative Odile. Wow!
New York Times critic John Rockwell watched the Friday night and Saturday matinee performances so he could write about both casts (along with PNB's season closing production). You can read his review here.
I heard that OBT has already had a tremendous surge in '06-'07 subscription sales as a result of the weekend's shows. There's really a buzz about it in Portland.
Posted 14 June 2006 - 09:24 AM
There were four acts, with three intermissions (required for set changes) - this was handled beautifully, with the first and last intermission being about ten minutes and the middle intermission perhaps 15 or 20 - I had so much to discuss with friends who were attending that the time flew by. Total run time was almost exactly three hours.
The show was sold out, although I had a single empty seat next to me, as did my husband. The crowd was pretty giddy - lots of clapping, excited murmurs, a charged atmosphere. We knew we were seeing something special for this company and the reaction was positive and excited.
There were a lot of things I liked about Act I - Siegfried's tutor Wolfgang was funny and did a lovely dance with a very young little girl - very sweet. There was a group 'nobles' dance, which looked great, with attractive costumes, engaging choreography, and good dancing. The group 'peasant' dance was another hit for me - the costumes showed off the dancing, which had great energy and was fun. I liked that the noblewomen were en pointe and the peasant women were in soft slippers - a nice touch.
Applause greeted Sigfried, who was having a good time at his party - until his mother dropped the bomb. The queen appeared with a beautiful dog (Lhasa Apsa? I don't know dogs, but a long haired skinny aristocratic greyhound type dog) who looked nervous but did not flub his/her 20 seconds of stage time. Sigfried looked bummed at the prospect of having to get married, but at least he got a crossbow!
For me, the pas de trois was the least effective part of the act, which is a shame because I love the dancers - Kester Cotton, Kathi Martuza and Gavin Larsen are all first rate. I really disliked the women's costumes - they made it difficult to see the legs and somehow managed to not flatter their figures either. I also found the choreography boring a bit boring - 4 bars dancing all three in unison, then one girl does something while the other does a supported pirouette - repeat while switching girls. Bleah. The variations were good though - very strongly danced.
There was no 'Benno' (friend) character for Siegfried either - at the end of the act, when he sees the flying swans and decides to go hunting, he goes alone.
I'll write more on the next acts later - this is getting long.
Posted 14 June 2006 - 08:21 PM
The corps had 16 swans - a quite respectable number for a company of this size I think. The program mentioned that this production used advanced students from the school, so I scrutinized my program tonight - the corps was made up of 7 apprentices (the eighth female apprentice didn't appear anywhere in my cast list - the poor girl must be sick or injured - how sad for her!) and 8 company members - that leaves one swan corps role being filled by an advanced student. Impressed, I looked and saw that this same girl was also one of the six princesses in Act III, as well as a peasant in Act I. Wow!
The Act started well, with fog machines creating an otherworldly look as Siegfried hunted swans (we saw a stuffed swan 'fly' down a wire - the audience laughed - we weren't laughing in Act IV though when this was tragically repeated). Yuka was a magnificent Odette right from the start - her strengths include tons of natural grace and smooth, flowing, connected movement - she used these to great effect in this role. I wanted to see more emotion - but I suspect that it was there and just didn't waft all the way to my balcony seat. She seemed very 'on' - her turns were solid, the partnering was solid, very good all around.
The corps was a moderate success, in my opinion (I am pickiest about corps work - I directed rehearsals for acts II and IV of a local ballet school's Swan Lake last year, so it is difficult for me to watch them without noticing roughness around the edges). A large part of this was due to some odd choreography choices/changes. The corps entrance was played at a funereal pace - so slow that it cannot have been an orchestral mishap, but a deliberate artistic choice. I felt it robbed the corps of energy - these are swans flying in, not slow Bayadere plie arabesque allonges (well, it wasn't _that_ slow, but it was almost half the speed I'm accustomed to)!!! Fortunately after about 8 or 16 bars the music sped up to a more normal speed.
During the sous-sous flaps, the girls in the second row bourreed furiously backwards, and the third row came forward - thus exchanging the places in lines. I didn't like this either - too busy. It is one of the best parts of the choreography for the audience to revel in a large group of dancers all doing the same simple thing to great effect. A friend of mine commented "The first time I thought there had been a mistake and the girls had somehow got to the wrong spot". Also, for some of the flaps, the arms were changed to look less like wings and more like a stylized swoop from fifth en haut to a low first position.
The corps really shined in more static moments, and their arms and heads were excellent throughout. They had excellent uniformity in their spacing while running in circles (beautifully round ones too), though the lines could have used some extra drilling at some points. In their clump while Odette and Siegfried mimed "please don't kill us" - "okay" the corps was soooo beautiful - and I loved the way Odette melted back into the group, disappearing before our eyes - it was very very effective. Poor Siegfried!
The pas de deux was enchanting. I loved the music, I loved the dancing - magical. Yuka just floated up in the sissonne lifts, as if she flew. Aaaahhhhhhh.
Cygnets was very good. I noticed a couple of minor simplifications to the choreography but it was very clean and got lots of (deserved) applause.
Odette's variation was excellent - Yuka's balance was serene and her turns were excellent throughout the performance. I almost feel that I don't have to point out the grace of her arms and hands because she always dances that way, but it makes her a natural swan (and hampered her 'puppet arms' when VR sends her off stage, away from Siegfried - they were still graceful and flowing, haha).
There was no Four Big Swans. Not a huge loss - it is my least favorite part of Act II.
The coda was nice - the music slowed way down for Odette's diagonale fouettes and they were very controlled and beautiful.
What have I forgotten? Oh yes, Von Rothbart. The costume (bald head, bare chest, cape made of furs, what looked like brown 70s corduroy bell-bottomed pants with a gold belt?) was a bit odd - my husband pointed out that he looked like a cross between Lenin and Khan from the second Star Trek movie, and he was so exactly right about this that it was scary! He cut a powerful figure, aided by the fact that he was quite a bit larger/taller than Odette/Siegfried - very intimidating. I would have liked to see more of him.
The orchestra was lovely for the whole production (I wish they had the room/budget for more musicians though), but I really started to notice it in this act - the conductor was extremely in tune with where to place the beats (starts and finishes) so that everything hit at the perfect musical time - really a very lovely effect. I could see that the conductor was closely watching the principals to help pull this off and it was great.
Overall, a beautiful job by all, but lacking polish - not surprising for a first production that is a glorious stretch for this company. It doesn't compare to a Kirov or a POB, but it has so much potential - and it is all ours! So exciting!
I think I'm going to have to do two more posts for the last two acts. I need an editor - I apologize for the length of this.
Posted 14 June 2006 - 08:36 PM
I need an editor - I apologize for the length of this.
No you don't, I enjoyed reading it just as it was.
I drove thru Portland (right near the Ross Island Bridge as a matter of fact) this weekend. I only wish I had somehow managed to see this production. Your review has inspired me to get down there one of these days and see this company that is ".....all ours! So exciting!"
Posted 14 June 2006 - 08:46 PM
The set is great - a 3-D set, with guests seated in its 'balcony', fireplaces, a fancy entranceway with stairs.
Another pas de trois here (same dancers from Act I) - beautifully danced, Kathi Martuza's variation in particular was splendid. Kester and Gavin were also luminous.
The six princesses don't get to do much - too bad. I'm not excited that they have identical costumes either - no wonder Siegfried cannot choose one, they all look alike! Plus, wouldn't they be mortified to have all shown up at a fancy ball in exactly the same outfit?
Spanish was awesome - fast, crisp, energetic, exciting. Neapoliton was my favorite 'ethnic' entertainment - it is a lot harder than it looks to dance while hitting a tambourine really really hard, exactly in time with the orchestra, but Anne Mueller and Jon Drake pulled it off - they stood out in an act filled with great dancing. The choreography was excellent, the costumes were flattering.
Russian was a 'meloncholy Russian princess' with two non-dancing children (about 12?) holding a large white rectangle of fabric. I didn't really get the fabric, but it was pretty. The pale green costume was long but slit up the front to the waist, so in movement you could see the legs, and the fabric moved beautifully, and the pale green shone - I liked it. This music is so beautiful, and it was a nice contrast from the speed of Spanish and Czardas (Hungarian?). Czardas was lots of fun, a red-booted mazurka with a lot of panache.
And then, of course, came the Black Swan. The dancing was solid, but I didn't feel as much from Yuka as I'd hoped - it is, again, likely due to my balcony seat, but Black Swan is not as natural a role for her. She cannot help but be a graceful beauty - it is more of a struggle for her to project power, malice, and contempt. I could have used more Von Rothbart again - he let Odile do most of the work of ruining Siegfried's evening.
The coda was great! Yuka's turns had been good all night, and the fouettes started out beautifully - she threw in so many doubles! You could tell by the end that she was starting to flag a teeny bit - what was really nice was that the audience helped hold her up with their applause, which got louder and louder as the fouettes finished - I know I was clapping my hands off murmuring "you can do it you can do it" and she did, and it was wonderful. Siegfried followed with a set of lovely turns a la seconde - wow.
Siegfried was excellent at the end of this act as well, when he finds that he has been deceived - he looked like he'd been punched in the gut. Running out into the night to find Odette was the only possible course - he sold this wonderfully. What a great act!
Posted 14 June 2006 - 09:20 PM
I wasn't sure what to expect from Act IV, it is the act that seems to vary the most between the different productions I've seen. This production had a new ending that I hadn't seen done before. In short - although I wish Von Rothbart had gotten to gloat more (his triumph is more complete in this version than any other), I really loved the ending. Lovely, yet heart wrenching. I might have cried if I hadn't been on such an adrenaline high from seeing such a great production.
We got more fog, but only from one side - I don't know if this was deliberate or a technical difficulty - did anyone see a different show to know?
In some ways, I felt the corps was more effective in act IV, even though they were visibly more tired (I really shouldn't mention the running - it was the end of their second show of the day, and the whole corps had double and triple duty in other roles as well!). They were meloncholy, and protective of Odette - when Siegfried arrived, miserable and out of breath, every swan on stage 'hid under their wings' and looked away from him - that utter rejection of him took my breath away. Poor Siegfried! Poor Odette too, of course!
Of course, Odette melts and finds that she still has love for Siegfried after the betrayal. As the storm rises, their dancing gains energy - Siegfried begs for some way to repair their error, but in this production there is nothing he or she can do - their fate was sealed when he pledged himself to Odile. It was a wonderfully emotional ending - dawn is coming, and Odette cannot stay, she is being pulled off stage - but she manages to overcome it to fling herself back to Siegfried, for one last passionate embrace - and then she is torn away from him. She disappeared and a white swan flies (on that same Act II wire) up up and away - forever doomed to swanhood. Siegfried is left alone in complete desolation sitting in tears at the front of the stage, railing at his fate as the curtain closed. I loved this ending - a complete tragedy for Odette, and no escape for Siegfried either - his actions doomed Odette, and yet he'll still have to go on with life - including getting married - and if that was distasteful in Act I, imagine how much more painful it is now!
Overall - A very good production for a company of this size. The effort from the dancers was outstanding (only the principals had only one role - a typical corps member danced in either peasants or courtiers in Act I, corps in Acts II and IV, and princesses or ethnic dances in Act III - quite a load, and this was their second performance of the day!). The sets were very good, costumes ranged from very good to so-so, music had some weird tempo choices but was wonderfully conducted, lighting was good... They took care of the little details and should be very proud of the result.
I hope it leads to an upswing in ticket sales next year - There are an awful lot of apprentices if the company can grow (slowly - keep it sustainable please!) maybe a good number of them can join the company in the next year or two.
I'm also excited that OBT is doing the Sleeping Beauty Wedding act next year - does it portend a full length Beauty in two years? Here's hoping!
Posted 14 June 2006 - 09:32 PM
24 company members + one imported Siegfried from SFB
many students (one in the corps, the rest as children at Siegfried's birthday party or the ball)
26 adults from the community in non-dancing roles
1 school director as the Queen Mother
They definitely had enough bodies to pull it off.
Edit: apparently I am wrong about the number of adult supers - I'll have to re-examine my cast list tonight and see what's what - so ignore that number.
Posted 14 June 2006 - 11:52 PM
Posted 15 June 2006 - 06:52 PM
I've written jayo a couple of times off-list to say how much I've enjoyed the review, and it was suggested that I post some information about the supernumeraries in this production of Swan Lake. (I make a distinction here between "supers," all of whom take adult classes at OBT, and the company members, apprentices, and "regular" students who made up the bulk of the cast.)
Edit: apparently I am wrong about the number of adult supers - I'll have to re-examine my cast list tonight and see what's what - so ignore that number.
The ten supers included one of the ladies in waiting, the four men at arms (later courtiers), one more male courtier, three of the female courtiers, and the Master of Ceremonies.
I know that they all enjoyed the experience immensely, due in no small part to the gracious treatment they received from company members, staff, and crew.
Posted 15 June 2006 - 10:35 PM
I just wanted to note that I am very glad I gave my ticket to my friend in Portland. He brought his sister to the performance, and today he left me a phone message to say that she was ecstatic! And it was even her birthday weekend I can't think of a better way to spend a birthday than at the ballet.
Posted 02 July 2006 - 07:45 PM
First time user here with my first post...
This thread seems to have become a catch all for everything related to Swan Lake, so I'm passing along another press review...
From a review in the Willamette Week written by Tim Duroche...
Swan Lake is like a good Western.
The rest can be found here: WW
I don't know what Mr. Duroche's dance background is, but it's always nice to see press on OBT and I look forward to reading more of his reviews. I do take exception with how this article, and others, have described the performance of Yuka Iino as mechanical. The first time I read that description I saw it as a compliment, as in flawless technical execution. But reading it in article after article I'm not so sure I like it...
A machine like performance as in void of emotion? When I saw Act II I could feel the fear of the swan for herself and, eventually, for the prince as he was pulled into a dark curse. In Act III I caught myself laughing at how easily she toyed with the hapless Siegfried. I found plenty of emotion in both of Ms. Iino's performances.
It's been so nice to find this site and to read all the thoughtful posts. I look forward to seeing what everyone thinks of next season.
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