vissi d'arte

But what about Prince Siegfried??

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Since there's a topic up about favorite Odettes/Odiles, I thought but why doesn't anyone discuss Prince Siegfried. Swan lake still is and will always be about the ballerina, but the story is actually told through Prince Siegfried's point of view.

I think it would be interesting to discuss this role a bit more. Who's your favorite Prince Siegfried, and maybe more important how do you think Prince Siegfried should and should not be portrayed!

:blushing:

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He should definitely not be portrayed as too short-sighted to see the difference between black and white!

Seriously, although I "technically" like Siegfried very much, I seldom actually see one that I can admire. Mostly this is the ballerina's fault, because if she does the big, vicious, she-devil act as the black swan, there's nothing he can do except pretend he hasn't noticed, which isn't a great reflection on his future capabilities as king/husband. Not to mention the palace security being seriously lacking. How come they let such an obvious "baddie" as Rothbart enter in the first place?

Swan Lake is difficult ballet for the lead dancer in that the believability and sincerity of his portrayal relies so heavily on the appearance/acting of his partner and, to a lesser degree, Rothbart. I like to see Siegfried as an idealistic, courageous, faithful and heroic character, but if I spend half the performance wondering why he doesn't just grab his crossbow and shoot Rothbart and the other half wondering why he can't see the difference between Odette and Odile, these qualities suffer considerably.

In short, I think a very subtle approach is needed by Odile and Rothbart, otherwise the poor prince doesn't stand a chance! Anyone have any ideas how a dancer could turn such a situation to his advantage?

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Well the only way I can think of, if the ballerina plays Odile of as you describe, would have to be that Siegfried actually knows he's making a mistake but is seduced by Odile. That would maybe add a dimension to his character, showing that for the first time he's actually sexually attracted to a woman. But that reading of the role whould of course require a really tragic ending (not the lovers face death together).

:blushing: or I don't know...... what do you think????

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Ok, forget dancing/technique for now and relying strictly on acting (or reacting) ability, I remember an Act III Siegfried who showed...

a) True boredom, discomfiture with having to dance with/choose a princess before O/R's arrival

b) Surprise the ball was interrupted and looked to Queen/head doorman-MC to see their reaction

c) Jubilation/relief when he recognized his supposed love (and remember she may be in black so we know she is evil, but if true to story she would be the "image of Odette"--and I suppose in white?)

d) Attempts at affection/closeness in the pdd, and once a 'take that' challenge clinch as he stopped a supported pirouette.

e) Shocked surprise AND true WARINESS when Odile pushes away, pulls her hand away from his kiss, or stalks over to hear advice from Rothbart. In fact his face actually changed from a very wary seriousness, to a smiling relief when she then smiled seductively and returned to him.

f) A "what the...!?" quick turn of the head when Queen & Rothbart expected him to ask permission to marry, and then swear his fidelity (and of course unknown to him, break his vow to Odette, condemning her).

g) Horror/desperation when he realized finally what he'd done.

One of the first times, I actually felt for Siegfried versus normally just concentrating on O/O's interpretation. And all that from a Siegfried who wasn't a tall, blonde, germanic prince. Oh yeah, he could dance pretty well too.

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It's about time that Siegfried got a thread of his own !! Congratulations, vissi d'arte.

Of course, Ballet Talk has had many posts on individual Siegfrieds. But I searched the site for "Siegfried" and had to go through a list of 18 pages of threads before I found one that included Siegfried's name in the title.

There I found Alexandra's interesting topic: "Who is Siegfried? the Cardboard Prince Question". But it dates back to 2001. And there were relatively few posts. 4mrdncr's post shows me that some of us at least are looking very closely at Siegfried. so what are you seeing? And what do yout think the dancers who try to make him more than cardboard?

(For those interested, you'll find the earlier thread here: http://ballettalk.invisionzone.com/index.p...topic=3813&hl=)

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I've never liked Siegfried. I think he's a dolt. Some dancers handle him better than others (primarily via their acting), but he's a forgetable character IMO.

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Marcelo Gomes!!!!!

If he can't change your mind about Seigfreid, no one can.

One of the smoothest dancers in the world. (IMO)

The best actor in the dancing world. (IMHO)

The best partner in the world! :clapping:

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I agree, jllaney. Marcelo reminds us of the Prince's youth, making his gullibility a byproduct of his inexperience.

I'm not sure he's a better partner than Carreno, though -- not that it's a competition. :clapping:

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Anthony Dowell, or Nureyev. Both played him as Hamlet-like, very complex, imaginative, delicate, not very fit for this world.

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Nureyev for me, too. He brought passion to the role, even in confusion and doubt, and a fusion of facial expression and gesture.

Nureyev's insistance on putting the man at center of his classical productions -- usually by increasing the amount of dancing, but also by subtly re-arranging the story line -- actually made some sense in the case of Siegfried. This prince is a linch pin on which hangs the aspirations and fates not only of Odette, but also of Odile, Rothbart, and the Queen Mother. In a real sense, none of these other characters can transform their own lives without his involvement. They NEED Siegfried, and know it. If you imagine this role as a cipher, or dance it without passion and a sense of drama and motivation, you undercut the motivation of the other characters as well.

(Of course, most people went to these performances largely to SEE Nureyev no matter who else was on stage, so the audience was following him with the eyes no matter what he did. But "cardboard" he was NOT.)

I also liked the Act I of Damian Woetzel: one of nature's bouncing and insosuciant frat boys who is slowly realizing that a life of mindless pleasure is a boring and soul-killing thing. He sets the stage beautifully for the emotional transformation that is about to come.

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Rudolf Nureyev

As well as Nagy, Dowell, and Bocca.

All four overcame the difficult trap for this character, falling for Odile's ruse and seeming hopelessly stupid for doing it.

I could believe in each case that Odette sincerely forgave these Siegfrieds

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HI!

I've been thinking about this Prince Siegfried, and well I must say his a troubled young man :off topic:

(just kidding).....

No I think to be able to understand Siegfried we have to go back to what's happened before the curtain goes up (I'm talking about productions without the silly Odette transformed into swan by some green monster :smilie_mondieu: ) ....wich I think is a bit unnecessary!

Before the action on the stage begin Siegfried's father (the King) has died (in some productions reacently, in others he has grown up without a father). SIEGFRIED has to become KING before he has even had time to discover life; and he's romantic and want's to marry someone he love's (wether that's a woman, a man or a swan).

Odette becomes his ideal, and he falls in love with her. But he's tricked by Odile.

Siegfried's not stupid, at least I don't think he is. I think he's traped by his kingship (he has to marry and produce an heir) and he want's to be loved so badly that he doesn't realise that he's being tricked by Odile and Rothbart until it's too late.

I know different productions have different interpretations, but I think what's important is not to reduce Siegfried to just being the ballerinas partner; the story is actually told through his eyes (why would he get a whole act otherwise) and besides Tchaikovsky's music is so haunting and telling that you just can't change the story.

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First of all, I believe that the success of the Siegfried is very dependent on the interpretation of and chemistry with the Odette-Odile.

For example, in Act III for Siegfried not to seem an easily deluded dolt or worse a feckless betrayer, the Odile can't be too blatant in her villainy. Many Russian ballerinas go for the swirling mustache and cape approach, sneering and pouncing on the partner. She has to disguise her intentions with Siegfried while revealing them behind his back in her exchange of knowing glances with Von Rothbart. Natalia Makarova in her "Dance Autobiography" said that she eventually settled on an interpretation of an aloof woman of mystery who is alluring but remote at the same time. This would work completely. Then the mistake seems natural as Odile's manner isn't so remotely different from Odette's but still sinister.

Act I the Siegfried interpreter has to decide if he is bored with court life or friendly with the happy dancing peasants (as in old Soviet stagings where he is eager to join the proletariat but disgusted with the aristocracy). Is he tortured Hamlet from the beginning or a jaded rich playboy or a happy hedonist wanting to delay responsibility and marriage? Some dancers play him detached and introverted from the get go, others are party boys with a melancholy side that emerges later. Then there is the scene with Momma, his relationship with Benno and his tutor Wolfgang etc. Then you have the usual "melancholy and longing for something but don't know what" solo with all those tendus after the big party ends that may not be in the original. Then the decision to go and hunt for birds.

Naturally, Act II is a big challenge for both soloists to create a relationship right on stage and both have to contribute there. This is where someone like Ivan Nagy or more recently, Vladimir Malakhov and Marcelo the Magnificent Gomes are very adept. Siegfried in a traditional version has little to dance here but his reaction to Odette is crucial to the success of the whole evening.

Act IV is the place where the traditional choreographic text changes the most and so does our male protagonist. Here Siegfried is either St. George slaying the dragon or a doomed Romantic hero drowning himself rather than live without love. There is also the question that Gelsey Kirkland posed to Ivan Nagy when they danced it at ABT in the 70's - who decides on the double suicide? Does Odette take the plunge and Siegfried follow? Gelsey and Ivan decided that it is a joint decision and they leapt off the rocks together like in Mayerling. I have also seen a version (discussed before) where Siegfried is killed in the duel with Von Rothbart freeing the swans but losing his life and the Swan goes on as an eternal force, sad and alone into an unending night.

The other interesting thing about Siegfried is that he is the character who changes the most when choreographers decide to go modern and psychological. The Swan doesn't change that much unless it's Matthew Bourne's version (feral semi-punk wild boy vs. rough trade in black leather). Of course there is the old Freudian interpretation with the overbearing mother proffering the phallic crossbow. Didn't Nureyev in his POB staging suggest a little homosexual subtext between Siegfried and his tutor Wolfgang, a virile middle-aged man in his view?

So Siegfried changes the most what with the addition of more dancing for him from what was originally done in 1895 and newer psychological views of the character. He is the character where the reviser makes his message felt.

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I think there are several things that are important to consider, regardless of the dramatic framework of a given production:

1. Fatherless Siegfried has a mother who is calling the shots, regardless of whether he is a playboy or a poet

2. Any Siegfried, however clueless, would know that the obligation and expectation was that he'd marry, produce heirs, and rule the kingdom within the conventions of his time (i.e., with a lot of private leeway and public responsibility)

3. Siegfried's mother takes the buzz off his birthday by insisting that he fulfill his obligation immediately, and his only stalling mechanism is to run out into the woods before the birthday ball

4. Siegfried's mother puts him on the spot at that party, forcefully, in an about-to-be-explosive situation, when, at the very last minute, he's saved by the fanfare announcing the arrival of Odile and von Rothbart. As he's at the point of no return, he thinks he's escaped in the nick of time.

5. He doesn't get a chance to be engaged, go through formal teas, actually get to know his potential bride, etc. He's pressured by his mother to make a choice on the spot, and by von Rothbart to pledge now, now, now or lose Odile and have to fall back to one of the princesses.

6. People are different in public all dressed up than they are in private. If there's a discrepancy between the private Odette and the public Odile, which he is processing throughout their scenes together, he has incentive to conflate the two. From his point of view, his life is on the line, however he misunderstands and underestimates how (except in the Soviet happy ending).

7. Almost forgot: If Odette had shown up at a ball as herself, without a powerful/charismatic protector like von Rothbart, what is the likelihood that Siegfried's mother would have accepted her in lieu of the princesses? Odile is somehow an acceptable bride, in which the Queen also makes a personal decision: she accepts a daughter-in-law although she has no idea who Odile/von Rothbart really are or where they come from, and she doesn't step aside and say, "fine, they can be guests while I do the background checks." (In a non-tragedy, Sleeping Beauty, tempered power and temper is a theme, with consequences: Lilac Fairy mitigates Carabosse's curse; the Queen convinces the King not to kill the spinster, allowing Aurora to prick herself on the spindle.) Whether she accepts Odile because she's relieved Siegfried has found someone and/or she's been seduced by Odile/von Rothbart, the decision is not a cool-headed one.

People make huge mistakes under pressure and when they first fall in love. I don't think Siegfried is a dolt at all, just human.

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In a recent Yanowksy/Greve Swan Lake at Covent Garden, I noticed Greve watching Odile with the dazed but happy expression of a young man who's fallen in love with a mysterious stranger and now finds that as well as being beautiful and entrancing she's also the hottest thing in town - he can't believe his luck. He's definitely not stupid!

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I don't think Siegfried is a dolt at all, just human.

I might agree with you (and your well constructed arguments) IF Siegfried were perhaps 12 years old.

......have to fall back to one of the princesses

Ah, such a horrible fate????? Seems like your case for Siegfried primarily depends on him doing his kingly duty. So then he ought to grow up and get on with it!

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......have to fall back to one of the princesses

Ah, such a horrible fate????? Seems like your case for Siegfried primarily depends on him doing his kingly duty. So then he ought to grow up and get on with it!

I don't think that's the essence of my "case" at all. There is pressure on him to fulfill his kingly duty. If he did this -- marry one of the princesses and have lots of Odettes on the side -- there wouldn't be a story. That he fights against this and is looking for something else -- something he can't quite put his finger on, reflected in the yearning of Tchaikovsky's music -- is the catalyst for the story.

If everyone in the human race made rational decisions under pressure and emotional duress the majority of the time, I night put Siegfried in the "dolt" category, but I don't think many people would pass Navy Seal training, let alone live up to that standard.

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.....marry one of the princesses and have lots of Odettes on the side -- there wouldn't be a story.

Sounds like a helluva story to me :wink:.

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This is a fascinating thread – I think that the role of Siegfried is often performed with little thought except to get through the steps and the partnering, but it can also be a really meaty role. As with so much else about Swan Lake it is just layered with metaphor & symbolism and thereby presents endless interpretive possibilities. There have been some great points made in this thread, I would just like to add a couple of my own thoughts as they relate to some of Helene’s points.

I think there are several things that are important to consider, regardless of the dramatic framework of a given production:

2. Any Siegfried, however clueless, would know that the obligation and expectation was that he'd marry, produce heirs, and rule the kingdom within the conventions of his time (i.e., with a lot of private leeway and public responsibility)

6. People are different in public all dressed up than they are in private. If there's a discrepancy between the private Odette and the public Odile, which he is processing throughout their scenes together, he has incentive to conflate the two. From his point of view, his life is on the line, however he misunderstands and underestimates how (except in the Soviet happy ending).

Let’s not forget that from the minute Siegfried falls for Odette he is betraying his duty to his kingdom – he’s not just risking his own life he’s also risking the future of his people. After all, a feudal kingdom without a king is ripe for invasion and as the only heir his people have been waiting for him to grow up and take the throne

Also – no matter how blatant his Odile it’s hard to blame Siegfried completely for mistaking her for Odette. In addition to the confusion and pressure that Helene describes even the most evil Odile LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE ODETTE. I mean, come on – it’s the same dancer. She may behave differently, but she's literally exactly the same person. They’re identical – who wouldn’t be confused.

I loved the young Nureyev but he’s never been my favorite Siegfried, for me that was Ivan Nagy and more recently the magnificent Marcello Gomes.

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I loved the young Nureyev but he’s never been my favorite Siegfried, for me that was Ivan Nagy and more recently the magnificent Marcello Gomes.
I was ialways deeply mpressed by Nagy, but there's a big hole in my memory where the details of his Siegfried should be. What was he like, nysusan?

Also, about Gomes, I've seen the video of his remarkable, memorable Rothbart. What was his Siegfried like?

Have there been other dancers who were exceptional as both Siegfried and Rothbart at the same stage in their careers?

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What I remember most about Nagy's Siegfried is the elegance of his line and the uncontrived nature of his portrayal. I recall a simple, straightforward reading of the role on his part without one ounce of insincerity or condescension. You believed that he believed completely in what he was doing.

Gomes has a unique combination of qualities that make him my favorite current Siegfreid. He isn't the quite the greatest jumper or turner around - not in the Acosta/Cornejo/Corella league - IMO he's just a notch below their level in terms of "WOW" factor, but still very impressive. He also has beautiful line and what I think would be referred to as ballon. I know that ballon usually refers to the way a dancer 'hangs' in the air at the top of a jump but the quality I see in Gomes is the way he lands from jumps - with a big, soft deep plie that kind of steals time at the end of a jump or phrase. That gives his dancing a very plush, romantic look. He also presents the ballerina like no dancer I've ever seen - I really think it is impossible for a ballerina to look bad when he's partnering her. Finally, his acting is very compelling, and he always interacts on a very deep level with his partner. I've seen him twice with Part and the passion they bring to SL is incredible. He's also scheduled to dance it with Vishneva at ABT this season, so I have my fingers crossed hoping that his knees hold out! I think it is very unusual for a dancer to be so acclaimed as both Siegfried and von Rothbart - but then I don't know of any other production that gives von Rothbart the opportunity to steal the show like McKenzie's does.

I don't want to give the impression that I didn't like Nureyev's Siegfried - I just don't really remember him live and I don't like him in the taped version I've seen - the Berlin Staatsopera tape circa 1968. I saw him twice with Fonteyn in the RB production in the late sixties or early seventies and I remember liking him very much but I don't remember any details or what it was that I liked about him. All I remember from those performances is Fonteyn, and the huge impact the two of them made together. I still remember small details of Fonteyn's Odette, but I remember nothing of Nureyev's Siegfried from those live performances.

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Have there been other dancers who were exceptional as both Siegfried and Rothbart at the same stage in their careers?

Interesting question. It requires a dancer who can perform two directly opposing characters. Nikolai Tsiskaridze, an unforgettable Rothbart, has also performed Siegfried on occasions, but whether his performance as Siegfried lived up to the standard he set by his Rothbart I don't know, never having seen it.

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I love Carlos Acosta, but I have to admit that Gomes is the greatest all-round Siegfred I have ever seen. His character development in all ballets is what a ballet artist should strive for. IMO Gomes would have fit in perfectly with the Royal and Stugart Ballet co's of the 60's and 70's with McMillan and Cranko!!!!

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IMO Gomes would have fit in perfectly with the Royal and Stugart Ballet co's of the 60's and 70's with McMillan and Cranko!!!!
But aren't we lucky to have him in our time and place!

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