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A modern "reference" version of Swan Lake?


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#1 Sacto1654

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Posted 22 October 2008 - 07:59 AM

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.)

#2 richard53dog

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Posted 22 October 2008 - 09:24 AM

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.

#3 rg

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Posted 22 October 2008 - 09:50 AM

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.

#4 Sacto1654

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Posted 22 October 2008 - 11:43 AM

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.

#5 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 22 October 2008 - 12:00 PM

It's got a happy ending and a jester.

I consider the Royal's version my reference.

#6 Hans

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Posted 22 October 2008 - 12:29 PM

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.

#7 leonid17

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Posted 22 October 2008 - 02:19 PM

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.

#8 Sacto1654

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Posted 22 October 2008 - 06:26 PM

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.

#9 Sacto1654

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Posted 22 October 2008 - 06:40 PM

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.

#10 Hans

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Posted 22 October 2008 - 08:00 PM

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:

#11 bart

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Posted 23 October 2008 - 06:17 AM

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.

#12 leonid17

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Posted 23 October 2008 - 08:59 AM

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.

#13 Sacto1654

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Posted 23 October 2008 - 10:45 AM

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!

#14 Hans

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Posted 23 October 2008 - 10:50 AM

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

#15 Sacto1654

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Posted 23 October 2008 - 11:04 AM

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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