Posted 13 November 2008 - 03:41 AM
Thanks to all for the continuing discussion and interesting comments. This is such a rich and fascinating program, that it's difficult to encapsulate it in one post.
Jack is right. Jennifer C. Kronenberg was excellent -- passionate and dancing with true 'Balanchinean risk' which may have been lacking in earlier casts. Carlos Guerra was superb in his partnering and his solo to the Act 1 Pas de Trois male solo music.
Interesting tidbit: The Balanchine Swan Lake's 'white pas de deux adagio' ends with the rarely-included brisk coda from Tchaikovsky's original score. As far as I know, only two other versions of Swan Lake include this coda. One of these is rather predictable: Peter Martins' 1999 version of the complete ballet has an Act II that is about 80% Balanchine,s, including that brisk coda at the end of the pdd. The second is less known: Rudolf Nureyev's ca-1965 version of SL for the Vienna Opera Ballet, in which the pdd ends with a SOLO for Nureyev to that music. Very odd!!! Nureyev smartly removed that atrocity from his subsequent stagings of the ballet in Paris.
I am looking forward to Jack's 1970s scenario of the Balanchine Swan Lake. In the meantime, folks may like to read my notes on the order of numbers in the Miami version and how it differs with the NYCB mid-1990s performance that I saw in New York --
1. Prelude music to Act II - curtain up halfway through. We see lakeside, with big 'doll swans' floating from left to right, behind the reeds.
2. Entrance of the Hunters (short piece) - eight hunters in medieval outfits, carrying crossbows, soon joined by Siegfried. Look at the passing swans in awe. As the music crescendos, the hunters run off, leaving Siegfried alone to see...
3. Entrance of Odette and initial dance together - No bourees...Odette hops onto the stage in a high pas de chat, a-la Ballo Della Regina! The ensuing duet introduces a unique leitmotif of Balanchine's version: high quick-split-leg lifts. Siegfried will lift her thus several times later, most notably in the coda of the pdd. Near the end of this initial dance, Von Rothbart appears in very-heavy cape, mask, boots. This is not a Bolshoi-style dancing role! Von Roth controls Odette, who momentarily holds onto Siegfried's bow, before rushing off stage.
4. Entrance of the Swans, all in ca-1895 Imperial-cut white tutus (rather than NYCB's girls all in black tulle, in a 1920s sort of cut) - a very different, 'light and uplifting' take on the traditional steps usually performed by the swans in this entrance. Balanchine's is lighter but, generally, slower-moving. Instead of constant runs-into-arabesque, there's a bit of a 'stop-pose' built into each arabesque. Lots of interesting patterning...ending in a dramatic long diagonal line; as Siegfried enters, the swans change the positions of their arms in Giselle-like 'peel off' manner, one after the other. At the end of this section, two solo swans (also in the Imperial-cut white tutus) enter, followed by Odette in short modern tutu; all clustered to the upper-right corner (not two lines in the center, as in Soviet versions).
5. Waltz of the Swans - very beautiful, though quite different from either the traditional Ivanov and the K. Sergeyev Soviet versions. When the two solo swans perform the familiar mirroring moves, the entire corps is on its knees, gently swaying back and forth. Very effective in that the two soloists can shine brighter - Balanchine knew how to bring maximum punch to a segment.
6. Pas de Deux, Odette and Siegfried - with swans standing on sides in double-rows, with the hunters sometimes entering, standing in the middle of each double row, swans resting their heads on the men's shoulders. With the exception of the coda, this dance gives the two principals 95% of the Ivanov choreography. The big difference is that brisk coda, ending with a series of high split-lifts (the leitmotif mentioned above) and a snappy final pose that somewhat breaks the romantic mood.
7. Pas de Neuf to Tchaikovsky's Act IV slow "Dance of the Little Swans" (which Ashton used for the start of his Act IV) - a soloist flanked by 4 corps girls on each side. Beautiful use of arms by corps - ever changing patterns. Difficult soloist steps, including a prolonged 'hopping pirouette' in back-attitude pose.
8. Pas de Douze to Tchaikovsky-Drigo's lilting 'Valse Bluette' - soloist plus 11 corps girls. Balanchine's masterpiece within this ballet, IMO. Three clusters of four girls, moving 'in cannon'. The viewers eye is constantly challenged and delighted to see the kaleidoscope of patterns. Balanchine cleverly shifts the clusters into four groups of three girls, then switching back to three groups of four.
9. Odette's solo - very similar to the Ivanov and Soviet originals. major change is the final diagonal, which here is cut short, with Balanchine's Odette launcing into a series of pique turns around the circumference of the stage.
10. Siegfried's solo to Tchaikovsky's Act I Pas de Trois male solo music - this is 80% Petipa's choreography, as seen at the Kirov, etc. (one of the very FEW bits of Petipa that remains in the Kirov version!). Balanchine seems to have added more difficulty, with entrechats-six in-between the traditional back-and-forth leaps in the first enchainement. [At NYCB in the mid-1990s, Siegfried danced a totally-different variation to the powerful 'Dance of the Big Swans' from Act II...the music that Balanchine had originally used for a 'Jumping Pas de Trois' for Patricia Wilde and two corps girls. Wouldn't it be great if NYCB could resurrect that famous Pas de Trois this winter? Hint-hint.]
11. Presto Coda - return of the swans, all entering in twos, to 'forward chugging' movements. Then the two soloists...then Odette appears, performing an energetic diagonal with high leaps, rather than the traditional pique-arabesque renverse series of poses.
12. Finale to Act IV 'storm' music that ends the full-evening ballet - the greatest patterning for the full group of 20 corps swans here. Lots of little running in a constantly-changing spectacle. In the end, Von Rothbart appears and commands the swans to depart. They do. Odette leaves with 'Plisetskaya style' bourees and swan arms, moving into profile as she nears the wings; leaves stoically. Siegfried and the Hunters left alone, heads bowed, with Siegfried kneeling as the 'doll swans' float by and the curtain falls.