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But what about Prince Siegfried??Who's your favourite?

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#1 vissi d'arte

vissi d'arte


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Posted 05 March 2007 - 10:09 AM

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!


#2 Ostrich


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Posted 05 March 2007 - 11:00 AM

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?

#3 vissi d'arte

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Posted 05 March 2007 - 11:25 AM

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????

#4 4mrdncr


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Posted 10 April 2007 - 12:35 PM

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.

#5 bart


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Posted 10 April 2007 - 02:27 PM

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.in...topic=3813&hl=)

#6 SandyMcKean


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Posted 10 April 2007 - 04:53 PM

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.

#7 jllaney



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Posted 10 April 2007 - 05:32 PM

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:

#8 carbro


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Posted 10 April 2007 - 07:08 PM

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:

#9 Paul Parish

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Posted 10 April 2007 - 10:31 PM

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

#10 Renata


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Posted 11 April 2007 - 05:30 AM

Rudolf Nureyev

#11 bart


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Posted 11 April 2007 - 06:00 AM

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.

#12 richard53dog


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Posted 11 April 2007 - 06:11 AM

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

#13 vissi d'arte

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 02:06 AM


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.

#14 FauxPas


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Posted 12 April 2007 - 06:19 AM

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.

#15 Helene



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Posted 12 April 2007 - 08:26 AM

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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