Sacto1654

A modern "reference" version of Swan Lake?

63 posts in this topic

This is the kinda thing that fascinates me. I just posted in this forum asking about Pierre Lacotte's reconstruction using the 1895 designs for the Nancy Ballet in 1998 but if no one has mentioned it here it must be obscure.

It does seem odd that with all the ballet reconstructions being done--the Marrinsky/Kirov stuff (even if sadly that era may be at an end), the Lacotte stuff (faithful or not) etc--that no one;'s done a major Swan Lake. Then again most companies seem to have commercial success with ANY version fo Swan Lake, so maybe they don't feel the need?

As to the original question... I'm a Kirov/Mariinsky whore. I love the Imperial Russia ballet they came out of and I admit my bias is almost always to them when it comes to doing the ballets of Petipa (and Ivanov...), except in obvious examples like Nutcracker where there are so many differences. Even before the 1890 Sleeping Beauty reconstruction (wouldn't it be sad if that isn't performed anymore--as might happen--and we never got a good filming of it complete??) I'd argue long and hard why the Sergeyev production of Sleeping Beauty they performed was the most authentic--even with the mime missing and the known changes--compared to other choices people like to make liek the Royal Ballet. I feel the same about Raymonda and Bayadere and Giselle and others...

But when it coms to Swan Lake I just can't agree with the original poster. The jester (who did come from Gorky's mor enaturalistic staging) is one thing, but as others have said, to me chaning the ending to a happy one is just... It's not Swan Lake. I can't accept a version with a happy ending as an essential version of the ballet. Silly as it may sound, and as much as I actually love a lot of their production.

Has Vladimir Bourmeister's production been released to DVD or video? It sound sinteresting--I have to say I grew up listening to the original 1877 arrangement of Swan Lake so much that when I see the ballet all the re-arranged numbers, and new numbers (from other Tchaikovsky pieces) catch me by surprise. While the Petipa Black Sawn Pas de Deux is unquestionably classic, the music certainly doesn't have the menace and sneakiness that the actual pas de deux Tchaikovsky wrote for the scene had--particularly in Odile's variation which has such a gorgeous strange quality in the original score, but in the 1895 version (which used a Drigo orchestrated piano piece I believe) it's completely missing. Still, as a ballet I probably prefer the '95 score even if to listen to I'll stick with the '77.

I haven't seen Grigorovich's production for the Bolshoi but I like (with reservations) his productions of other Petipa classics like Sleeping Beauty and Raymonda--is it really not that good? What ending does it use?

If the Royal production is the most faithful which DVD would people recommend?

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But when it coms to Swan Lake I just can't agree with the original poster. The jester (who did come from Gorky's mor enaturalistic staging) is one thing, but as others have said, to me chaning the ending to a happy one is just... It's not Swan Lake. I can't accept a version with a happy ending as an essential version of the ballet. Silly as it may sound, and as much as I actually love a lot of their production.

Has Vladimir Bourmeister's production been released to DVD or video? It sound sinteresting--I have to say I grew up listening to the original 1877 arrangement of Swan Lake so much that when I see the ballet all the re-arranged numbers, and new numbers (from other Tchaikovsky pieces) catch me by surprise. While the Petipa Black Sawn Pas de Deux is unquestionably classic, the music certainly doesn't have the menace and sneakiness that the actual pas de deux Tchaikovsky wrote for the scene had--particularly in Odile's variation which has such a gorgeous strange quality in the original score, but in the 1895 version (which used a Drigo orchestrated piano piece I believe) it's completely missing. Still, as a ballet I probably prefer the '95 score even if to listen to I'll stick with the '77.

I think the reason why the versions of Swan Lake in the Soviet Union changed so much was simple: Soviet-era censors did not like the 1895 tragic ending. That resulted in a lot of reworking of the ballet, and both the Bolshoi and Kirov troupes did extensive changes (the Kirov changed it three times, once in 1933 with Agrippina Vaganona's major changes to Act 1 Scene 2 (As Act II is known in the Petipa/Ivanov version) with the way the corps de ballet moved on-stage and the second time in 1950 by Konstantin Sergeyev in the version we see performed today, and the last time in 1988 by the Oleg Vinogradov version (which was disliked by many Russian balletomanes and was promptly dropped after Vinogradov left the Kirov/Mariinsky company)).

As for the Bourmeister version, we are very fortunate that it has been filmed. This was filmed at the Teatro alla Scala with Svetlana Zakharova as Odette/Odile and Roberto Bolle as Siegfried in 2004, and you can get it from Amazon.com from this listing:

http://www.amazon.com/Tchaikovsky-Zakharov...652&sr=8-32

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has the Pietragalla/Dupond Burmeister SWAN LAKE ever been re-released on DVD? wasn't it on videocassette, at least in PAL, at one point?

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I think the reason why the versions of Swan Lake in the Soviet Union changed so much was simple: Soviet-era censors did not like the 1895 tragic ending. That resulted in a lot of reworking of the ballet, and both the Bolshoi and Kirov troupes did extensive changes (the Kirov changed it three times, once in 1933 with Agrippina Vaganona's major changes to Act 1 Scene 2 (As Act II is known in the Petipa/Ivanov version) with the way the corps de ballet moved on-stage and the second time in 1950 by Konstantin Sergeyev in the version we see performed today, and the last time in 1988 by the Oleg Vinogradov version (which was disliked by many Russian balletomanes and was promptly dropped after Vinogradov left the Kirov/Mariinsky company)).

This was one reason for the changes but I think there were others too. During the mid 20th century the Soviet audiences looked for more bravura dancing from the male dancers. So you have the Jester being thrown into the mix as well as a Rothbart that hops all over the stage. Also Siegfried is made into a more heroic character.

Personally I don't like these additions. Particularly in the last scene, the new passages are jarring as they are in a different style from the original Imperial one. It's almost like Swan Lake meets Spartacus.

The Soviet ending contradicts the original mime; Odette stops Siegfried from firing an arrow at Rothbart in the first lake scene, explaining that if Rothbart is killed the spell will never be broken. But this is exactly what the more heroic Siegfried does, he rips Rothbart's wing off causing him to die on the stage and the spell is broken. Since the mime has been dropped from the first lake scene, there isn't an apparent contradiction.

Overall, I think these changes were both due to Soviet era dogma as well as a change in what the audiences looked for.

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This was one reason for the changes but I think there were others too. During the mid 20th century the Soviet audiences looked for more bravura dancing from the male dancers. So you have the Jester being thrown into the mix as well as a Rothbart that hops all over the stage. Also Siegfried is made into a more heroic character.

That does jog my memory--I remember reading from a chapter of a Ph.D thesis on Russian ballet saying that during the 1930's, Soviet censors wanted stronger male roles in ballet. As such, in such ballets of the period such as The Flames of Paris offered stronger male roles, and to conform with the edicts of the time they extensively changed Swan Lake for more extensive male roles. Why they didn't expand the role of Siegfried's friend Benno instead of putting in the jester could make for an interesting discussion; I believe the jester was put in originally in the Alexander Gorsky production for the Bolshoi Ballet at the beginning of the 20th Century, and Russian audiences liked it enough that the jester role became part of later Russian productions of the ballet.

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One change audiences might find hard to accept was in the 1895 production (and apparantly the Moscow 1877) Odile was merely Rothbart's daughter and wore a multicoloured jeweled tutu, no black feathers to be seen...

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So, as a consensus, can someone say which is the most authentic *on DVD or video*? Has that Royal Ballet production (which I'm now dieing to see) been filmed *anywhere*? I have the Kirov DVD (it came in a box set) and a few others on video but would love to have something more in my collection.

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So, out of those on DVD, which would be the most faithful to the 1895? I really am not a fan of the Royal Ballet's designs, but I wish we had it available to watch if only for much of the choreography. Has this production been filmed in whole or in part at all?

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The pas de deux wouldn't necessarily have to turn back into a pas de trois with Benno though in a "reconstruction." As early as 1897 Nikolas Legat was dancing Siegfried without a Benno because unlike Pavel Gerdt he was a strong male partner. I do wonder how modern audiences would accept changes to the pas de deux like deleting the final penchee or some of the now-standard overhead lifts.

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Wasn't partnering mostly what Gerdt did toward the end of his career?

I hadn't realised that the Act II pas d'action didn't always end with a penchée. I think it might work better finishing with the lunge, as the dancers usually seem rushed trying to fit the écarté devant, lunge, and penchée in there, and the penchée is generally no longer a beautiful line but rather a split.

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Gerdt partnered but by 1895 he was over 50 years old and needed "help." But point is seems that the pas de trois was turned into a pas de deux rather quickly at the Mariinsky with different dancers.

If you want a good idea of how the Swan Lake pdd probably looked in 1895, there's a video with Margot Fonteyn and Michael Somes that has Benno in the pas de deux and the pas de deux ends with the lunge into Benno' arms.

Oops actually you can see it here:

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Yes, but in the original Petipa version of the pas d'action, Siegfried does the lifts (according to what I've read here on BT) and Benno does the promenades. Doesn't seem like much help to me.

I've also been told that the lunge is ballet symbolism for a kiss, but it doesn't seem appropriate that Benno would perform the lunge, then. Can someone explain this?

Edit: I just watched the video canbelto linked to, and I really need to know why it is not performed that way anymore! There is so much about that choreography that makes sense, I don't see why it was altered. It also makes clear that Siegfried really gets barely any partnering assistance from Benno, and as Benno is not onstage most of the time, I don't understand why people felt the need to eliminate him totally.

Also, this is the first clip of Fonteyn as Odette that has any complete dances in it, and I can finally see (hopefully) what people mean when they talk about her Odette. She is THE swan queen, from her acting to her port de bras, épaulement and the first-rate technique of her legs and feet. Breathtaking. She really makes me see Swan Lake in a new light, as does the excellent staging.

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