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Nureyev Swan Lake/ what's the music in Rothbart's variation?-- and why is the variation there?


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#16 rg

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Posted 05 August 2007 - 07:59 AM

though this thread seems to be growing away from bart's intial question, now answered i trust, about the rothbart variation in nureyev's POB swanlake now on dvd, a few more points are now included.
i lazily took down my previn CDs rather than my dutoit set.
indeed john warrak's commentary on the 1877 score includes the ref. to 'two merry-makers' as pointed out above.
i suspect he's taken his cue for so identifying the characters who might have danced this pas de deux originally composed for act 1 from the original libretto's ref. to the Princess's parting 'words' to her son the prince as: "Make merry, don't hesitiate" [Wiley's TCHAIKOVSKY'S BALLETS p. 322].
wiley himself seems to have found little documentation as to what got staged in act 1 - warrack's Tchaikovsky study predates wiley's, which i find supercedes warrack's.
i can't recall reading much about the actual character and 'shape' of this pas de deux when it was given in act 1. (i suspect warrack's descriptions are as much educated guesses as researched facts.)
as pointed out here already, when petipa moved this pas to serve as that for odile and siegfried various changes were made to re-shape it to his purposes as a showpiece for the leading dancers rather than a number for some incidental characters.
as for the color of odile's tutu, it's true the use of black came later, in the 20th c. and i suspect largely in order to differentiate one excerpted, stand-alone act of swanlake, from another - for ex. the much performed 'swanlake, act 2' as distnguished from the ballroom act w/ odile, etc. etc.
from what i can gather, odile wore various colors, i've read about red, chartruese?, yellow, etc. i don't think anyone quite dressed odile in white - beaumont's THE BALLET CALLED SWAN LAKE posits that white might be best, but i gather his suggesting this 'repeat' of odette's color is a suggestion he felt needed making, since it had not yet taken it up.
i trust this makes some sense and that it's clear my intention was not to make anyone feel 'wrong' - we all gather these often too scrappy bits of past performance history in our way and sort them out the best of our ability.
from my point of view, esp. where SWAN LAKE, is concerned it's nearly impossible to be 100% right as we pick through the long and convoluted history of past.

#17 Mel Johnson

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Posted 05 August 2007 - 08:50 AM

A part of the initial post on this thread seems to have been ignored:

What's the point of this particular solo?


To paraphrase Victor Borge, "Nobody knows why except Nureyev, and he is dead."

#18 Mel Johnson

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Posted 05 August 2007 - 08:54 AM

nin one:

One more detail I can add now about Odile is that it was not originally a black swan. Odile's tutu was white as Odette's. The switch from white to black occurred in Western Europe at the beginning of the 20th century just to bring more dramatism to the character and to the situation by using the color symbolically.


Are you speaking of the 1877 production? The 1895 costume sketches show Odile (Legnani) dressed in midnight blue, a shade which looks blacker than black in the right lights.

#19 Mariano

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Posted 05 August 2007 - 08:58 AM

Mel:

I am not sure at what exact point in the history of the Swan Lake it happened. The 1877 was black as you say but somehow they were wearing the white dress even for the third act until the made the definite switch. That was explained by Maya Plisetskaia in an interview.l

#20 rg

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Posted 05 August 2007 - 09:36 AM

true, ponomaraev's sketch (printed in presumably reliable color in demidov's LEBEDINOE OZERO [1985] book shows that legnani's odile has this dark ground color pointed out above - midnight blue seems a perfect description - but it's main palette strikes me as the aurora-borealis rays of color that radiate from the breast of the bodice to the edges and from the waist-line to the edge of the tutu skirt.
the same volume has color illustrations of almost flapperlike dresses, with dropped waists, first one for gorsky's 1920 odile in a deep purple scheme. and others for a 1919 bolshoi production (designed by one V. Dyachokov) showing two different odile sketches - one in blacks accented by grey-greens and reddish purples and another in greens and pinks (under a would-be cloak, shaped like wings, in white).
another odile costume sketch (dated 1937 by S. Samokhvalov) shows a more tradtionally cut tutu silhouette, with a very dropped waist, colored in two different grays mated with black.

#21 Mel Johnson

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Posted 05 August 2007 - 11:09 AM

Alas, when it comes to Ponomaraev's intentions as to dress color, we may be back to Mr. Borge again. :wink:

#22 bart

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Posted 05 August 2007 - 12:41 PM

This has turned into a fascinating discussion. And thank you all for your identifcation of music and its connection with in the origins of Swan Lake.

I'm still puzzled about the reason for the insertion at this point, since it's so completely counter to the thrust of the pas de deux music and to the relationship (personal and in dance) between Odile and the Prince. I can see a brief intervention for a truly villainous Rothbart in the midst of the coda, which has been done in some productions. But a full-fledged variation? By a weakly defined character? And to music like this?

What was Nureyev thinking? It can't be, "Oh, I love this little waltz so much. I love to give male dancers a bigger chance to shine in the classics. And I want to show classical purists that I know my Tchaikovsky as well as the history of the 1877 production. So why not put that sweet little Tchaikovsky 1877 that somehow got dropped and let X have a chance to do it?"

Or can it?

#23 Mel Johnson

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Posted 05 August 2007 - 12:55 PM

Inference is certainly possible and valid, and that seems as good as any. I have this mental picture, though of a von Rothbart dancing this in the Leslie Hurry costume, which could have served in a pinch as Shahriah in "Scheherazade". And it's not a pretty mental picture, either!

#24 bart

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Posted 05 August 2007 - 01:22 PM

Mel, do you mean creating a character who intentionally dances against the tone and feeling of the music?

I'm trying to imagine a faux-orienteal Rothbart who uses this gentle music as a kind of "coming out" to the guests -- projecting arrogance and scorn as the gentle court-dance waltz tootles and glides along.

#25 volcanohunter

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Posted 05 August 2007 - 01:24 PM

I grew up listening to the (1877) score of Swan Lake and had the whole thing committed to memory long before I ever saw the ballet (my first was the Petipa/Ivanov/Ashton/Nureyev production for the Royal Ballet with the Leslie Hurry designs), so from my point of view, the waltz ought to precede that coda. It's the music to Odile's variation that I can't stand: such a boring, inconsequential piece from a musical standpoint. I generally don't like Nureyev's tweaking of classics (I grew up with his Sleeping Beauty, too), but I'm glad he found a way of restoring the waltz to Swan Lake. I could never really make my peace with its absence.

As for his rationale for including it, surely it could be discovered. The POB dancers involved in the original production are still living. Has anyone ever come across any comments on the subject from them?

#26 bart

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Posted 05 August 2007 - 01:30 PM

It's the music to Odile's variation that I can't stand: such a boring, inconsequential piece from a musical standpoint.

I know this is off-topic, but -- coming from a position of relative ignorance about ballet music -- I find it very effective. Especially the parallels to the instrumentation in Odette's earlier solos. Or am I just confusing "effective" with "familiar"?

#27 Mel Johnson

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Posted 05 August 2007 - 01:31 PM

I'm implying my opinion that Nureyev often had a severe case of misplaced priorities (there, I think that's the gentlest way to say it), and 1966 was right in the midst of when those priorities were asserting themselves. And I don't know whether he would have deigned to enlighten anyone else on his thought processes. On that subject, he was about as talkative as Mt. Rushmore and about as likely to move when told he was wrong.

#28 rg

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Posted 05 August 2007 - 01:34 PM

as stated above, we'll never know what was in nureyev's mind (unless some assistant ballet-master comes forward to tell the world what was said and intended in the process of making this ballet) when he inserted this solo here, but i'd say we can tell that the oddity, to put it politely, of re-inserting the solo that tchaikovsky composed for a dance of a different 'stripe' goes to reinforce what an odd, again to put it politely, balletmaster/choreographer nureyev was.
all the things pointed to - the urge to give the rothbart 'character' solo stage time, to give the company's male contingent another opportunity to dance, and to use more of the pas de deux's music - shows at best an 'e' for effort on nureyev's part, but beyond that very little in the way of 'a' for authority, theatrically or dramatically.
i can easily understand why this solo would stand out and/or stick in one's mind as a kind 'huh?' but nureyev's choreographic hand frequently prompted such questions in my own mind over the years, so much so, i guess i just stopped wondering and thought: oh well, that's nureyev.

#29 Mel Johnson

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Posted 05 August 2007 - 01:40 PM

That's just it, rg. When it came to modern dance, he could subordinate himself to direction, if it came from Paul Taylor or Martha Graham themselves. In ballet, it seemed to me that he was operating on the Divine Right Autocracy philosophy: "I AM Nureyev!"

#30 bart

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Posted 05 August 2007 - 02:33 PM

Wonderful responses, rg and mel, and I thank you sincerely. You've resolved it for me -- at least as far as such things can be unresolved in the absence of Nureyev.


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