Sacto1654

A modern "reference" version of Swan Lake?

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Given that since Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov successfully produced their version of Lebedinoye Ozero 113 years ago, there seems to as many major new versions of the ballet since that time as the number of weeds in my back yard during the summer. :crying: Even the Russians have not been immune to revising this ballet--choreographers at both the Kirov/Mariinsky and Bolshoi troupes made some significant changes during the Soviet era, and of course we know of the famous Vladimir Bourmeister version from 1953 that went back to (mostly) the original music order Tchaikovsky used.

But here's an interesting question: what is the closest thing to a currently-performed reference version of this ballet? In my humble opinion, it would have to be the 1950 Konstantin Sergeyev version, because this version is currently used by the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet troupe, the same troupe that premiered the Petipa/Ivanov version. Sure, there are adherents to the 1953 Bourmeister version and the later 1976 Grigorovich version for the Bolshoi Ballet (not to mention all those versions done in the West!), but because this ballet is so closely associated with the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet from a historical perspective, that's why I consider the 1950 Sergeyev version as the closest to a "reference" for this ballet.

(By the way, I'm surprised no one has in recent years tried to produce an authentic reconstruction of the original Petipa/Ivanov 1895 version. It would be a natural production for the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Mariinsky Theatre building coming in 2010, since the theater officially opened back in 1860.)

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But here's an interesting question: what is the closest thing to a currently-performed reference version of this ballet? In my humble opinion, it would have to be the 1950 Konstantin Sergeyev version, because this version is currently used by the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet troupe, the same troupe that premiered the Petipa/Ivanov version. Sure, there are adherents to the 1953 Bourmeister version and the later 1976 Grigorovich version for the Bolshoi Ballet (not to mention all those versions done in the West!), but because this ballet is so closely associated with the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet from a historical perspective, that's why I consider the 1950 Sergeyev version as the closest to a "reference" for this ballet.

In my opinion the 1950 Sergeyev has significant departures from what I understand to be the 1895 version, among other things the Jester (very annoying to my mind), the Rothbart dancing in Act 4, the happy ending and the cutting of most of the mime. I think the versions done by the Royal Ballet during the 20th century have a closer pedigree, they basically were staged in the 30s by Nicolai Sergeyev (the OTHER one!) which he based on his participations in the staging done by the Mariinsky during the last part of the Imperial period.

I'll admit much of the choreography and overal staging between the two different Sergeyev versions is similar but for my taste all the "improvements" of the Soviet version are best discarded.

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i believe it is generally acknowledged that anthony dowell's 1987 production for the royal ballet (see NYPL cat. entry below) is the most reliable 'text' of the '95 on the boards nowadays. the biggest problem many viewers have crediting this staging wholeheartedly is, besides the additional work by bintley and yacobson, the presence of sonnabend's designs which take the action from medieval germany to late 19th c. russia.

still overall the production, which is based on the nicholas sergeyev staging from the maryinsky stepanov notations and had the added 'advice' of roland j. wiley, the author of the invaluable TCHAIKOVSKY BALLETS. in particular wiley's efforts led to the use of adolescent/student dancer swans in the first lakeside scene to reclaim some of what's understood about Ivanov's 1895 efforts.

unfortunately this production was not telecast or filmed from release by the usual BBC source largely b/c of the 'problems' many found w/ the design, etc.

Swan lake: Chor: staged by Anthony Dowell after Lev Ivanov and Marius Petipa, with additional new choreography by Irina Yacobson & David Bintley; mus: Peter Tchaikovsky; scen & cos: Yolanda Sonnabend; lighting: John B. Read. First perf: London, Covent Garden, Mar. 13, 1987; Royal Ballet.//First U.S. perf: New York, Metropolitan Opera House, July 8, 1991; Royal Ballet.

it's probably important to remember that the kirov ballet's 'familiar' version has a 'happy ending', as well as any number of soviet additions.

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I think I should clarify myself--what I mean by "reference" is that it's the version that everyone is more or less familiar with that doesn't extremely diverge from what Petipa and Ivanov envisioned (outside of the end of the ballet, which has all kinds of different endings depending on if it originated outside or inside the Iron Curtain during the Soviet era).

Anyway, I still consider the 1950 Sergeyev version the closest thing to the "reference" version because of the fact it originated in the same troupe that performed the Petipa/Ivanov original. Sure, there are substantial changes compared to the 1895 version, including adding the jester (based on changes done around 1905), removing most of the mime, and adding in the changes done in 1933 to Act II (aka Act I Scene 2) by Agrippina Vaganova that substantially changed the way the corps de ballet moved, but the fact the 1950 Sergeyev version is still performed more or less intact 58 years later is good reason why I consider it a "reference" version of the ballet for a currently-performed version.

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It's got a happy ending and a jester.

I consider the Royal's version my reference.

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Choreographically, the Royal Ballet has a lot going for it. A few things don't really ring true for me--Prince Siegfried partying with peasants, for example. The Mariinsky has also preserved the Valse Bluette (how original the choreography is I cannot say, but the music is there) which, like it or not, was part of the Petipa/Ivanov version. Importantly, though, the Royal Ballet has mime, no jester, and the 'suicide' ending.

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I think I should clarify myself--what I mean by "reference" is that it's the version that everyone is more or less familiar with that doesn't extremely diverge from what Petipa and Ivanov envisioned (outside of the end of the ballet, which has all kinds of different endings depending on if it originated outside or inside the Iron Curtain during the Soviet era).

Anyway, I still consider the 1950 Sergeyev version the closest thing to the "reference" version because of the fact it originated in the same troupe that performed the Petipa/Ivanov original. Sure, there are substantial changes compared to the 1895 version, including adding the jester (based on changes done around 1905), removing most of the mime, and adding in the changes done in 1933 to Act II (aka Act I Scene 2) by Agrippina Vaganova that substantially changed the way the corps de ballet moved, but the fact the 1950 Sergeyev version is still performed more or less intact 58 years later is good reason why I consider it a "reference" version of the ballet for a currently-performed version.

Having seen some 14 productions of "Swan Lake" many of which should have been renamed "Wan Lake", I personally measure "reference" in terms of performance not productions.

The concept of a 'gesamtkunstwerk' cannot be attributed to Dowell's RB production due to the sets and costumes. It is a near miss only which might have been seen to have be more important, if a near legendary performances had been given to reinforce its memorability since it was first staged.

In case the question is asked, my near legendary performances some of which may seem controversial and in no particular order of absolute preference include, Zubkovskaya, Osipenko,

Plisetskaya, Fonteyn, Beriosova, Yevteyeva, Samtsova as well as many other satisfying dancers.

The problem of recreating the 1895 production lies not only in the choreographic plan but in the style in which it is danced.

Authenticity, if that is what some people seek, would have to be in the production ‘in toto’. modern Russian companies for instance, would have to revive the dance style that got lost with the adoption of the Vaganova method of execution especially when you look at the manner to which it has been taken(not developed) in the last 20 years.

Nobody today dances “Swan Lake” with a technique or style that Ivanov and Petipa in my opinion would have required or possibly admired. I believe the last performances that came close to a style that they might have appreciated ended in the 1960’s.

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This is turning into an interesting discussion. :crying:

The Royal Ballet version is probably closer to the 1895 Petipa/Ivanov original, but the set design is probably not what Petipa and Ivanov quite had in mind.

I do agree that the changes Agrippina Vaganova did in 1933 for the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet substantially skewed the choreography of this ballet, but her version was very well-received when it first premiered. Sergeyev took that version and improved on it for the 1950 version that is pretty much the staple of the Kirov/Mariinsky troupe since then--they're still performing that version more or less intact 58 years later! Given that longevity, that's why (in my humble opinion! :pinch: ) it's my choice to be the current "reference" version of Swan Lake.

I still think somebody ought to try to do a true reconstruction of the 1895 original version, complete with the pre-Vaganova style ballet dancing. Very few companies could pull it off, possibly the Royal Ballet because their version is close to what Petipa and Ivanov envisaged, and possibly the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet because of their work in "reconstructing" Sleeping Beauty, La Bayadere and The Awakening of Flora to how Petipa envisioned it originally.

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It's got a happy ending and a jester.

I consider the Royal's version my reference.

The happy ending is actually kind of going back to the Julius Reisinger original 1876 version. If I remember correctly, Soviet-era censors didn't like the tragic ending of the Petipa/Ivanov original, and as such they had to go back to the happy ending, as noted by the 1933 Vaganova version, 1950 Sergeyev version and 1953 Bourmeister version.

The jester character is actually a pretty old one, first shown in the 1901 in Alexander Gorsky's production for the Bolshoi Ballet. Given it this character was pretty well-received, it's small wonder why it ended up in the later Kirov/Mariinsky versions.

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Leonid, I love Yelena Yevteyeva based on what I've seen of her on video--I've thought she would do an excellent Swan Lake, and I'm glad to hear that it was indeed the case. :crying:

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Sacto1654 mentions the Vagonova version of 1933. I am confused, however, by the following:

If I remember correctly, Soviet-era censors didn't like the tragic ending of the Petipa/Ivanov original, and as such they had to go back to the happy ending, as noted by the 1933 Vaganova version, [etc.]

Coincidentally, I've just been reading a long description of this production in Vera Krasovskaya's Vaganova: A Dance Journey from Petersburg to Leningrad. Here's what Krasovskaya has to say about the ending. The "Count" is Vaganova's 19th century update of the Prince in the original.

The curtain goes up in the beginning of the third act to reveal a triangle of swans with its apex pointing upstage toward the darkened lake. Slowly and sorrowfully, they begin their dance, punctuated by pauses. Suddenly a gun-shot is heard and the frightened flock flap their wings. The wounded Odette appears and flies around her swan friends, brushing up against them as each tosses up her wings in response. [ ... ]

The swans' disarrayed flight merges in a peculiar tragic chorus when a flock of black swans intermingles with the white swans. The Count runs onto the stage and whirls amid wave after wave of swans. As the storm subsides, the flock steps aside and allows him to approach his dream. Ulanova's Odette forgives him his betrayal of her with a restrained and fading plasticity blended with a soft, but deeply dramatic imagery. With the intensity of fervent prayer, the Count watches his dream die. He bends over her in deep sorrow, together with the corps of swan maidens, each a replica of his fading dream. The scene ends with the Count and Odette covered by the swans' wings.

Krasovskaya is a little confusisng at this point. After a few unrelated sentences, she goes on to suggest that there was more before the final curtain:

The Count stabs himself, and the dead Swan Queen is replaced by a stuffed bird that is raised to the stage through a trapdoor. The final scene [shows] the mansion's [the "palace" in traditional productions) servants gathered on the stage ...

Doesn't sound like a happy ending to me. (Especially the "stuffed bird." :toot: ) On the other hand, Vaganova's version -- parts of which seem to have been picked up by subsequent productions -- seems both consistent and quite interesting. It certainly eliminated elements of mime and tradition that, in Vaganova's opinion, were no longer acceptible to "modern" audiences.

Does anyone know whether the Vaganova version has ever been revived?

P.S. In Vaganova's version, Odile is a separate person and wears bright red rather than black. The "dream" concept allows this, it seems to me. Vaganova's Odile was Olga Iordan, a very different kind of dancer from Ulanova.

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quote]

Doesn't sound like a happy ending to me. (Especially the "stuffed bird." :toot: ) On the other hand, Vaganova's version -- parts of which seem to have been picked up by subsequent productions -- seems both consistent and quite interesting. It certainly eliminated elements of mime and tradition that, in Vaganova's opinion, were no longer acceptible to "modern" audiences.

Does anyone know whether the Vaganova version has ever been revived?

P.S. In Vaganova's version, Odile is a separate person and wears bright red rather than black. The "dream" concept allows this, it seems to me. Vaganova's Odile was Olga Iordan, a very different kind of dancer from Ulanova.

I have searched for revivals in Russian companies of the era and later and cannot find any. I have read that Dudinskaya also performed Odile to Ulanova's Odette bit cannot at present, find corroborative evidence.

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P.S. In Vaganova's version, Odile is a separate person and wears bright red rather than black. The "dream" concept allows this, it seems to me. Vaganova's Odile was Olga Iordan, a very different kind of dancer from Ulanova.

From what I've read, the most significant change in the Vaganova-choreographed version from 1933 was the complete redoing of how the corps de ballet danced. I believe these changes were incorporated into the "definite" Sergeyev version of 1950 that the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet performs today.

I believe there are three significant versions of the ballet performed inside Russia today: the Sergeyev 1950 version by the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet, the Grigorovich 1976 version for the Bolshoi Ballet and the Bourmeister 1953 version for the Stanislavsky Ballet (Moscow). The Dowell 1987 version for the Royal Ballet is probably the closest thing to a "reference" version done in the West (based on what some posters have said here), mostly because it adheres fairly close to the Petipa/Ivanov original.

It would be very interesting to see if any ballet company in Russia is willing to go back to perform the Vaganova 1933 version, let alone the original 1895 Petipa/Ivanov version!

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They don't seem to have been too happy with the reconstructed 'Sleeping Beauty' or 'La Bayadère'.

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They don't seem to have been too happy with the reconstructed 'Sleeping Beauty' or 'La Bayadère'.

It's understandable--they're EXPENSIVE to do and the reconstructed version has a totally different dancing style than the versions originally done during the Soviet era. I think we could revive the 1895 original choreography for Swan Lake with little problems, since it doesn't require the enormous expense of re-creating the original costumes and sets like they did with Sleeping Beauty or Bayaderka.

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They don't seem to have been too happy with the reconstructed 'Sleeping Beauty' or 'La Bayadère'.

QUOTE (Hans @ Oct 23 2008, 11:50 AM)

It would be very interesting to see if any ballet company in Russia is willing to go back to perform the Vaganova 1933 version, let alone the original 1895 Petipa/Ivanov version!

QUOTE Sacto1654

It has been reported that Mr. Gergiev does not want the reconstructions of “The Sleeping Beauty” and “La Bayadere” to be performed.

These reconstruction reveal a desire to return to the values of the original conceptions which were a product of artists the like of which have not seen been seen in the 20th or 21st centuries. They are the

gift of a real Russian cultural activity that was unrivalled anywhere else in the world.

The reconstructions were noble enterprises in an age when genuine

expressions of high art are losing out to populist expressions manipulated by the media and bolstered by those seduced by the cult of celebrity.

What Mr Gergiev is left with, are ballet productions which are the product of a discredited Soviet era and if he really doesn’t want these ballets productions performed he is closing a gateway to the revival of Russian classical ballet that reflects an artistic expression that has never been matched.

I believe the Kirov reconstructions are the most import events towards the education of what 19th century academic ballet is all about and what has been lost since their creation.

For me ballet is an art that can entertain but is not entertainment.

It should have values that reflect a positive artistic and aesthetic

credo that can always be resuscitated from the damage of a war, a nihilistic political system or a get rich era doomed to collapse.

The tragedy of our age is that it is too far removed from the aesthetic influence of earlier ages because the second-rate is easier

to produce and assimilate.

I would happily watch a film of the original Vaganova production of “Swan Lake” but could not happily watch what I would call a retrograde step of its performance on stage.

I look forward to renaissance of 19th century ballets reconstructed

for future generations and if the Russians do not see this as important, it would be a great coup for ballet companies in other parts of the world to achieve.

"This is turning into an interesting discussion." Quoth Sacto.

I hope it doesn't die too soon.

Ps

I do not rate the Grigorovich as it does not stand unless given

an outstanding performance and although I admire the Bourmeister,

now having seen what can be achieved with reconstructions,

I go for Swan Lake as number three in a list that look as appetising

as a four star restaurant menu.

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I've said it before, and I'll say it again: About the most "revolutionary" thing a ballet master could do would be an Old, Unimproved version of the 1895 Swan Lake. Back to the notation, and to blazes with everybody's "take" on the original. Audiences are there now which haven't seen the Ivanov/Petipa dances, and can't tell when somebody's being "witty" with the original "text".

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For me ballet is an art that can entertain but is not entertainment.

It should have values that reflect a positive artistic and aesthetic

credo that can always be resuscitated from the damage of a war, a nihilistic political system or a get rich era doomed to collapse.

The tragedy of our age is that it is too far removed from the aesthetic influence of earlier ages because the second-rate is easier

to produce and assimilate.

The distinction between "entertainment" and something deeper which entertains while also raises the consciousness and spirit of the audience is important. It's also very tricky to know where to draw the line distinguishing them. I hope this discussion adds light to that problem.

I would happily watch a film of the original Vaganova production of “Swan Lake” but could not happily watch what I would call a retrograde step of its performance on stage.
I understand your point, leonid. I actually would love to have the chance to watched Vaganova's ideas presented on a real stage with contemporary dancers. But I do not think that time and money should be spent on doing so if other work must be sacrificed as a result.

Question: Swan Lake has been so altered, so many times: Is it really possible to go back to some sort of ur-text? And if it were possible, would it be aesthetically accessible to anyone but a few specialists? I ask this not to provoke or to be tendentious, but because I genuinely don't know the answer.

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I believe there is a Stepanov notation of Swan Lake, so it should be possible to reconstruct it. Aesthetically, I imagine it would be similar in style to Sleeping Beauty, as it was choreographed a few years afterward. (I am speaking of the general Petipa/Ivanov style--obviously there are stylistic differences between the two ballets.) Unfortunately, the Mariinsky would probably dance it in its current overstretched, floppy manner, so it would be a mixed blessing.

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I think Mr. Gergiev is not thrilled about performing the "reconstructed" versions of Sleeping Beauty and La Bayadere because they require very expensive stage props and equally expensive costumes.

A "reconstructed" performance of the original 1895 Petipa/Ivanov Swan Lake could be done, but it would require an older dancing style (not Vaganova method!) and probably a simpler choreography. I'm note sure if modern audiences will enjoy the old corps de ballet choreography in Act II (or Act I Scene 2) compared to the changes that Aggripina Vaganova incorporated in 1933 that found their way into many modern versions.

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Vaganova method and the Imperial style are not incompatible, to my mind--after all, the goal of the Vaganova method, and any training method, is to produce the best dancers possible. The Mariinsky's dancers have already been trained, but to dance in the Imperial style (such as we know of it) does not require going backward in terms of technique. Let's not confuse a teaching method with a style--they are two different things.

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Besides, who says that the Mariinsky is the only company who would be able to stage the "reference" version of the 1895? When last seen, it was lingering around Covent Garden somewhere!

Directors love to say "This is not a museum company." Perhaps the time has come for a museum company, which could stage the "reference" versions of classics and historically important ballets, and perform them in ways that would both enlighten AND entertain a modern audience. The ballet masters could fulfil the function of curators.

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Vaganova method and the Imperial style are not incompatible, to my mind--after all, the goal of the Vaganova method, and any training method, is to produce the best dancers possible. The Mariinsky's dancers have already been trained, but to dance in the Imperial style (such as we know of it) does not require going backward in terms of technique. Let's not confuse a teaching method with a style--they are two different things.

Absolutely.

The Vaganova method allows proficient dancers to execute the dance vocabulary of two centuries.

Thus you can witness on stage a whole Vaganova trained corps de ballet executing perfectly a gargouillade (hardly a fashionable step in new choreography of the last 90 or so years) a tempo. This is something which dancers in classical ballet companies not having experienced such a broad training method can generally achieve.

The Vaganova method prepares for the present, but is steeped in the past. An important influence on the training methods of the Imperial Theatre School in St.Petersburg was Christian Johannson(1817-1903) who taught Vaganova and who was a pupil of Auguste Bournonville son of Antoine Bournonville who was a pupil of the legendary Jean- George Noverre(1727-1810). Johannson was the partner of Ellsler, Cerrito, Grisi and a number of important Russian ballerina’s in the middle of the 19th century.

Enrico Cecchetti brought the Italian School to St.Petersburg which was found in general to increase strength and stamina in execution.

This was assimilated into the late Imperial style of the Maryinsky Ballet, which survived until the early years of the 20th century.

Correct style and emploi are inextricably essential to the faithful rendition of 19th century ballets both Romantic and classical and there is an unbroken line in the inheritance of the ballet vocabulary of those earlier times within the teaching of the Vaganova method at its best.

It is true that frequently instead of witnessing style over execution we can now witness execution over style but that is not the result of teaching but production.

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I think Mr. Gergiev is not thrilled about performing the "reconstructed" versions of Sleeping Beauty and La Bayadere because they require very expensive stage props and equally expensive costumes.

I do not know about expense of these productions being a problem as corporate funding seems fairly easy to obtain for new productions. Now maintaining them and transporting them, is another question entirely. I do not know how many salaries are paid for each performance at the Maryinsky but it must be approaching at least 250.

You may have read the following concerning the new Director of the Maryinsky Ballet.

“Fateev is not, to my deep regret, a fan of the reconstructions of 19th-century period performance.”Their time has gone," he says firmly.”

Ismene Brown interview Daily Telegraph 13/20/08.

This is appalling to me as it reflects something of a Philistine approach to a company that exists as an international entity due entirely to its 19th century heritage.

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Perhaps the time has come for a museum company, which could stage the "reference" versions of classics and historically important ballets, and perform them in ways that would both enlighten AND entertain a modern audience.
Amen to that.

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