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A modern "reference" version of Swan Lake?


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#16 leonid17

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Posted 23 October 2008 - 02:12 PM

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.

#17 Mel Johnson

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Posted 23 October 2008 - 03:26 PM

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".

#18 bart

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Posted 23 October 2008 - 04:31 PM

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.

#19 Hans

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Posted 23 October 2008 - 04:51 PM

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.

#20 Sacto1654

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Posted 23 October 2008 - 05:56 PM

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.

#21 Hans

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Posted 23 October 2008 - 08:05 PM

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.

#22 Mel Johnson

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Posted 24 October 2008 - 03:07 AM

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.

#23 leonid17

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Posted 24 October 2008 - 03:33 AM

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.

#24 leonid17

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Posted 24 October 2008 - 04:06 AM

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.

#25 volcanohunter

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Posted 24 October 2008 - 06:52 AM

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.

#26 bart

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Posted 24 October 2008 - 09:35 AM

Here's a link to Ismene Brown's interview with Yuri Fateev, the Kirov/Mariinsky's new ballet director, referred to by leonid in an earlier post.
http://www.telegraph.../13/btdance.xml

The following portion of the interview is especially relevant to this discussion. (I've put some interesting information regarding Irina Kolpakova in boldface.):

But, I say, what about the fact that the Kirov keeps throwing up dancers of extreme flexibility who distort classical line - 20 years ago it was Yulia Makhalina, then Svetlana Zakharova, and now Alina Somova is the latest hyper-bendy Kirov ballerina dismaying purists.

Fateev is at ease with such variations. His approach appears to be accommodating but not lax, given that he wants (supported strongly by Gergiev) to lure the iconic Kirov classicist Irina Kolpakova back as coach from America to re-establish shapes and lines. For well over a century, St Petersburg has regularly produced physically amazing dancers, the ones who redefine the "look", from Anna Pavlova and Olga Spessivtseva on, and Fateev adores Zakharova.



#27 Sacto1654

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Posted 24 October 2008 - 01:37 PM

A couple of comments:

1) I've LOVE to see the Royal Ballet do a true reconstruction of the 1895 Petipa/Ivanov version of this ballet. Given that several people here say the Royal Ballet version is closest to the 1895 original, it wouldn't take much to pull it off. The Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet could do it but given Fateev's dislike of "historical reconstructions" and the fact the dancing style of the 1895 original is quite different than the 1950 Sergeyev version, that could be a bit of a challenge.

2) I wouldn't be surprised that Fateev has his way and Irina Kolpakova returns as a coach. Kolpakova is a highly-respected name in the history of the Kirov/Mariinsky company and she would be more than welcome to return as coach to the ballet company by almost everyone there.

3) Mel, you wrote "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." All I can say is :clapping: The Kirov/Mariinsky company was during the latter half of the 19th Century the most influential ballet company on Earth, and I would love to see them revive many of Petipa's old ballets, NOT in the original dancing style of the period, but in a more modern dancing style that today's balletomanes can appreciate.

#28 Mel Johnson

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Posted 24 October 2008 - 03:54 PM

That's why I recommended a "curator" mentality for the ballet masters. Being a curator myself, I know that I'm always seeking new ways of extracting information from a subject artifact, and that should be the objective of a "keeper of the flame" production. The metaphor is not lightly used!

#29 leonid17

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Posted 25 October 2008 - 08:28 AM

A couple of comments:

.... and I would love to see them revive many of Petipa's old ballets, NOT in the original dancing style of the period, but in a more modern dancing style that today's balletomanes can appreciate.


We do not know the original dancing style of the Petipa Classics and in the case of Swan Lake perhaps the nearest measure today would be from those who remember the Sadler’s Wells production with Alicia Markova staged by Nicholas Sergeyev. I saw Margot Fonteyn dance Swan Lake on numerous occasions with a variety of partners and with a wide variance in her technical ability.
It is my personal opinion, that in all probability Fonteyn at her best, danced Swan Lake in a style not too dissimilar from earlier St. Petersburg exponents of Odette/Odile but perhaps some distance from the style of Legnani.
I have in the past had friends who saw both Vera Trefilova and Fonteyn in the role(s) and gave fulsome praise to them both without particularising a gulf in performance style only in personality.
I would be quite happy to see Odette/Odile performed in the manner of Fonteyn at her best in a reconstruction, but extremely unhappy to see it danced in such a production in the current manner of either Lopatkina or Zakharova.
I am of the opinion that serious followers of the classical ballet tradition would welcome a reconstruction of Swan Lake. For a new audience who had never seen Swan Lake it would become their "reference" version. I however remember balletomanes and fans complaining about Swan Lake and Bayadere reconstructions as they were too long and not as exciting as other productions.

#30 Sacto1654

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Posted 25 October 2008 - 10:50 AM

I would be quite happy to see Odette/Odile performed in the manner of Fonteyn at her best in a reconstruction, but extremely unhappy to see it danced in such a production in the current manner of either Lopatkina or Zakharova.
I am of the opinion that serious followers of the classical ballet tradition would welcome a reconstruction of Swan Lake. For a new audience who had never seen Swan Lake it would become their "reference" version. I however remember balletomanes and fans complaining about Swan Lake and Bayadere reconstructions as they were too long and not as exciting as other productions.


If any ballet company were to try to do a "historical reconstruction" of the original 1895 Petipa/Ivanov version, the way Odette/Odile is danced by Ulyana Lopatkina or Svetlana Zakharova is out of the question--their dancing styles are too modern for a "historical reconstruction."

By the way, the old Sergeyev Collection at Harvard University does include a full dance notation for the 1895 production of Swan Lake, so doing an authentic historical reconstruction is quite possible.


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