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Most memorable Swan Lake endings... ?good or bad


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#1 bart

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Posted 04 August 2007 - 11:04 AM

On another thread, fandeballet posted the following description of a Swan Lake ending:

During the run of ABT's Swan Lake in 2005 at the Met, Carlos Acosta did a jump into the lake that left me breathless, with jaw dropped and my central nervous system in shock, trying to process what I just saw. While most times the dancer takes a careful step off into oblivion, Acosta did something astounding. If you ever saw those ABC Sports shows that showed divers jumping off the cliffs in Acapulco, Mexico, you'll know what I mean!!!! When he jumped off, his form was a perfect SWAN dive, but in the dramatic scope of defiance to Von Rothebart.

Does anyone else have some other memorable Swan Lake endings to share? Memorably great ... or memorably (not great).

One of mine is La Scala dvd with Bolle and Zakharova -- memorable for exciting visuals and an exceptionally lame and silly ending.

This is a scenic rather than a dancing memory. Odette has fled.. Siegfried wrestles with von Rothbart, who does his cape-waving routine quite effectively. Siegfried drives Rothbart away, but, falls exhausted.

In comes a most impressive flood of white smoke and undulating parachute cloth. It submerges Siegfried, who struggles upward and falls back down again (rather like a salmon migrating upstream, come to think of it). He's clearly drowning, and the effect is powerful.

Odette returns to the stage having changed from tutu to fairly plain, white princess dress. Her reappearance drives away the flood. She waves her arms in Odette's familiar swanlike fashion. but she then notices she is ... no ... longer ... a ... swan. She's a human. :wink: Love conquers all in a brief finale of smiles, promenade, and wedding-cake pose as curtain falls.

The drowning effect is spectacular. Odette's rescue, on the other hand, seems like a last-minute addition (courtesy of Disney) to fill some time before the curtain falls and to make the more sentimental memberse of the audience go home happy.

#2 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 04 August 2007 - 06:49 PM

Does anyone else have some other memorable Swan Lake endings to share? Memorably great ... or memorably (not great).


I always found extremely shocking the very political oriented ending of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba production after the soviets. They wanted to preserve everything from the original, including the final "reunited" pose of the couple, but the idea of an "after life" was a no-no, (it would go against the official atheist anti religious commands), so they came out with the idea of the reunited couple ON EARTH, AS A RESULT OF THE BROKEN SPELL because of Von Rothbart's death. It always looked forced to me... :tiphat:

#3 whetherwax

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Posted 05 May 2008 - 06:24 PM

Bart, I love the La Scala ballet too but I am confused about the ending. Does Siegfried's leap into the lake ( so well portrayed) mean that because he was READY to die he was able to overcome Rothbart? There seems to be no psychological reason for the ending at all. Also just by the way do you think that the two horns of Rothbarts cape sticking up as he goes down the plug is intended to remind us of the Russian Owl which is apparently two horned?

#4 bart

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Posted 05 May 2008 - 06:46 PM

Bart, I love the La Scala ballet too but I am confused about the ending. Does Siegfried's leap into the lake ( so well portrayed) mean that because he was READY to die he was able to overcome Rothbart? There seems to be no psychological reason for the ending at all. Also just by the way do you think that the two horns of Rothbarts cape sticking up as he goes down the plug is intended to remind us of the Russian Owl which is apparently two horned?

Confused? -- that makes two of us. Maybe someone can help us out on this. My cynical side wonders if the drowning episode isn't primarily a chance for thrilling visuals? Perhaps this ending was pieced together by a committee.

Cristian, I've also been puzzled by Soviet Communism's love for stories about royalty. Perhaps Odette and Siegfried renounce their crowns and live happily everafter as workers on a collective farm? Maybe they become cast members in Bright Stream? :smilie_mondieu:

Thanks, whetherwax, for reviving this short-lived topic. Can anyone answer our questions about the La Scala version? Or have other memorable endings to recount?

#5 Solnishka79

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 09:17 AM

It's been about 10 years since I've seen the video....how about the version with Nureyev and Fonteyn? I remember the billows of blue silk "drowning" Siegfried as he jumped around looking for Odette. (I could imagine him yelling, "help! help!")

#6 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 12:02 PM

It's been about 10 years since I've seen the video....how about the version with Nureyev and Fonteyn? I remember the billows of blue silk "drowning" Siegfried as he jumped around looking for Odette. (I could imagine him yelling, "help! help!")

Oh, God, yes...i got the DVD recently, and i had to laugh when i saw Nureyev's little head sticking in and out of the fabric... :smilie_mondieu:

#7 whetherwax

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 02:41 PM

The Nureyev version is not a good experience on DVD - minimalism might have helped. I thought Rothbart looked like a Huntman spider - common here - not a Horned Owl at all, and he had a sort of jerky movement which seems reminiscent of some indigenous dances I've seen. And poor Fonteyn floating off with her head down as if she really was looking for minnows.

#8 Solnishka79

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 06:16 AM

Now I'm going to have to find it and watch it again! I can so vividly remember the "Nureyev Angst" face through the waves.

#9 Solnishka79

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 06:27 AM

I must admit that I do find humor in the Kirov's "happy, good prevails over bad" with Aliev as Rothbart. I have to chuckle when I see his wing get torn off by an impassionate Zelensky and writhe on the ground like an earthworm in the sun. Sorry for my twisted sense of humor...not enough oxegen in ballet studios.
Seriously, I like the Odette and Siegfried drowning version best (primarily the ABT). It shows absolute love and devotion. It also demonstrates how sorry Siegfried is for his Odile mistake-he is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to Odette to prove his love. Odette accepts and joins him through forgiveness and adoration. They both understand the spell will only truly be broken through death-death is the one state where mortal and magic is same.

#10 popularlibrary

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 07:40 AM

While I do understand nobody mentioning Peter Martins' version for NYCB, I kind of liked Siegfried being left alone on the shore, as it were, an Albrecht who isn't saved. Sorry, I'm a bit of a cynic. Does anyone remember how Eric Bruhn's version ended?

#11 bart

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 09:26 AM

Seriously, I like the Odette and Siegfried drowning version best (primarily the ABT). It shows absolute love and devotion. It also demonstrates how sorry Siegfried is for his Odile mistake-he is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to Odette to prove his love. Odette accepts and joins him through forgiveness and adoration. They both understand the spell will only truly be broken through death-death is the one state where mortal and magic is same.

I am always moved by this interpretation of the story. But does actual performance support it?

In the ABT version, there is only one minute of stage time Odette's mime gesture of "death" and her leap into the lake. It takes another 10 seconds for Siegfried to join her. There is -- in every version I've seen that includes suicide (whether or not there's a happy sailing off to paradise) -- a sense of trying to get a complicated plot line over with too quickly.

Audiences who are not deeply familiar with the ballet -- or deeply commited to an interpretation of how the story should go -- are invariably puzzled. Given the way the score hurls itself towards a conclusion, is it possible that any suicide scenario will come across as unsatisfactory?

While I do understand nobody mentioning Peter Martins' version for NYCB, I kind of liked Siegfried being left alone on the shore, as it were, an Albrecht who isn't saved.

I like this, too. After Rothbart is gone, Odette experiences a jarring transformtion -- reflecting striking shift in the music -- and is pulled backwards toward the lake and a life sentence as a swan. Siegfried tries to stop her (or possibly join her?) but she is screened by shifting lines of swans (white and black) as she departs. He's left alone in despair.

Although this takes only a minute or so, I think it is an approach that can work. The 1999 NYCB performance on U.S. public television suffered, I think, from Weese's failure to convey fully the overwhelming power of the fate that is overcoming her -- something that is really there in the score. It also suffered from the raggedness (not to be confused with animal wildness) of the corps. I can imagine this working it with other dancers, or possibly in another production.

#12 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 10:57 PM

Audiences who are not deeply familiar with the ballet -- or deeply commited to an interpretation of how the story should go -- are invariably puzzled. Given the way the score hurls itself towards a conclusion, is it possible that any suicide scenario will come across as unsatisfactory?


Probably. The sovietiziced cuban ending with a newly swan-to-princess transformation of Odette after an effectively choreographied fight between Siegfried and Rothbart , with the death of the last one and the emerging Odette's castle in the distance was always well received in Havana, and it always made sense to me...It was weird when i first saw my first suicidal ending in US. But see, now i like the lake jumping... :blush:

#13 bart

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Posted 10 May 2008 - 07:57 AM

I just came upon a description of Cranko's production for Suttgart in the 50s. (I don't know if this is still used, or if it has been adopted by other companies).

Cranko said that he was opposed to the idea of a happy ending. ("I believe Tchaikovskky intended to write a tragic ballet. ... Siegfried is a tragic hero and must be vanquished.")
John Percival writes, in his biography of Cranko:

"Obviously it was an idea whose time had arirved, but r evolutionary and controverrsial when John thought of it. He invented, with the aid of Jurgen Rose as designer, a great flood conjured up by the wicked sorcerer, Rothbart, through which the hero Siegfried tries in vain to swin to save his beloevd Odette, and the ballet ended with Odette once more transfored into a swan and Siegfried left dead as the waters subsided.

Does anyone know how the Cranko "flood" was accomplished? Ws his the first use of billowing cloth to simulate the waves that engulf Siegfried? (It's interesting that La Scala uses the drowning sequence as something Siegfried has to overcome on the way to his happy ending, a la Bournmesiter, but not Cranko.)

#14 Sacto1654

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Posted 19 May 2008 - 06:24 PM

I always found extremely shocking the very political oriented ending of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba production after the soviets. They wanted to preserve everything from the original, including the final "reunited" pose of the couple, but the idea of an "after life" was a no-no, (it would go against the official atheist anti religious commands), so they came out with the idea of the reunited couple ON EARTH, AS A RESULT OF THE BROKEN SPELL because of Von Rothbart's death. It always looked forced to me... :P


Ah, ha!! That explains why even the 2006 Mariinsky Ballet DVD video release had a "happy ending"--the original 1895 version probably didn't sit well with Soviet officials, which explains why the major productions done by both the Mariinsky (Kirov) Ballet and the Bolshoi ended this way instead of the deaths of Siegfried and Odette like we see in productions done in the West.

#15 Rosa

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Posted 04 October 2008 - 07:01 AM

A not so great memorable Swan Lake ending, in my opinion, is the DVD of the London Festival Ballet with Hart and Schaufuss. During a good part of the finale Schaufuss dances/runs about the stage, surrounded by swan maidens, with no Odette in sight. A projection of owl-Rothbart (he is never an actual dancer on stage during the lake acts) often appears, taunting Siegfried one is left to assume. Odette finally comes back and the lovers drown in the lake. A projection of owl-Rothbart spins around and around, dying. The swan maidens dance to move along the music now that all three main characters are gone. Then the ballet ends with a shot of Siegfried and Odette walking through a strange tunnel towards...the afterlife?

For me there is no sense of struggle, of conflict between good and evil with Rothbart being just a visual image and Siegfried rushing about aimlessly, unable to fight a foe he cannot touch. This ending left me confused and unmoved.


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