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Swan Lake Casting and Reviews


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#1 Globetrotter

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Posted 11 February 2009 - 02:31 PM

Swan Lake Opening Night
Saturday, February 21, 2009, 8pm

SWAN LAKE
Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Choreographer: Helgi Tomasson

Odette/Odile: Yuan Yuan Tan*
Prince Siegfried: Tiit Helimets*
Von Rothbart: Damian Smith*


Swan Lake Matinee
Sunday, February 22, 2009, 2pm

SWAN LAKE
Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Choreographer: Helgi Tomasson

Odette/Odile: Lorena Feijoo*
Prince Siegfried: Pierre-Francois Vilanoba*
Von Rothbart: Anthony Spaulding*


Swan Lake Evening
Tuesday, February 24, 2009, 8pm

SWAN LAKE
Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Choreographer: Helgi Tomasson

Odette/Odile: Tina LeBlanc*
Prince Siegfried: Joan Boada*
Von Rothbart: Anthony Spaulding


Swan Lake Evening
Wednesday, February 25, 2009, 7:30pm

SWAN LAKE
Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Choreographer: Helgi Tomasson

Odette/Odile: Lorena Feijoo
Prince Siegfried: Pierre-Francois Vilanoba
Von Rothbart: Anthony Spaulding


Swan Lake Evening
Thursday, February 26, 2009, 8pm

SWAN LAKE
Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Choreographer: Helgi Tomasson

Odette/Odile: Sarah Van Patten*
Prince Siegfried: Ivan Popov*
Von Rothbart: Damian Smith


Swan Lake Evening
Friday, February 27, 2009, 8pm

SWAN LAKE
Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Choreographer: Helgi Tomasson

Odette/Odile: Vanessa Zahorian*
Prince Siegfried: Ruben Martin*
Von Rothbart: Damian Smith


Swan Lake Matinee
Saturday, February 28, 2009, 2pm

SWAN LAKE
Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Choreographer: Helgi Tomasson

Odette/Odile: Tina LeBlanc
Prince Siegfried: Joan Boada
Von Rothbart: Anthony Spaulding


Swan Lake Evening
Saturday, February 28, 2009, 8pm

SWAN LAKE
Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Choreographer: Helgi Tomasson

Odette/Odile: Maria Kochetkova*
Prince Siegfried: Davit Karapetyan*
Von Rothbart: Damian Smith


Swan Lake Matinee
Sunday, March 01, 2009, 2pm

SWAN LAKE
Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Choreographer: Helgi Tomasson

Odette/Odile: Yuan Yuan Tan
Prince Siegfried: Tiit Helimets
Von Rothbart: Damian Smith

#2 Helene

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Posted 11 February 2009 - 03:17 PM

Wow, six Odette/Odiles! Tomasson is certainly giving lots of opportunities to his women.

#3 Globetrotter

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Posted 11 February 2009 - 06:05 PM

Looking at the six Odette/Odile's, it will be tough to choose who to see. I remember Sarah Van Patten's Juliet some years back, so I'm interested to see what she will do. I've always liked Vanessa's dancing so this will be a nice opportunity to see her acting. And then there's Lorena, Tina, and Yuan Yuan - all three pros at everything they do, but each unique. Maybe there's some TARP money for balletgoers?

#4 Helene

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 01:04 AM

Helgi Tomasson's new production of "Swan Lake" begins with a projection of moonlight on lake, a projection on a scrim and two inner curtains, and it looks like shimmering silver crushed velvet. As the overture plays, the scrim rises, and a young woman in an empire-waist diaphonous dress -- the type seen often on Masha/Clara in "The Nutcracker" -- enters and sits by the lake. On the other side of the stage, von Rothbart slivers off a rock, startles her, and, eventually traps her. She seems to escape as she runs behind the curtains to the center of the stage, but his spell makes her freeze, collapse, and, through projections, she is morphed into a swan. Unfortunately, dancers are much more lovely and graceful than swans, so it seems a bit hokey, but perhaps that, too, shows how Odette was diminished.

Jonathan Femson's set for Act I is a rather forboding palace exterior. Siegfried, in this performance Ivan Popov, makes his entrance, and he is in a happy mood. He accepts toasts with Benno and Wolfgang at his side, socializes, and joins the quintet of aristocratic ladies, with whom he is at ease, as if they were cousins growing up together. All is well, until Mom -- a cross between the Countess and Carabosse in a giant Marie Antoinette wig -- enters, gives him the crossbow (things are still looking good, although Mom is scary), and then tells him he must marry. Talk about taking the buzz off. I never knew that the Pas de Trois was performed to try to get his mind off of his impending marriage decision. Then six aristocratic children ask if they can dance, and eventually lure Wolfgang in with them, then the peasants, who perform the Polonaise. Siegfried and Wolfgang are heads down in a book during most of these two dances. Is it the "Complete Book of Royal Etiquette" and are they looking for loopholes, like "Prince cannot marry after King dies before a year's mourning is over" or "Prince born in a leap year must marry in a leap year"? Finally, the Prince dances a brooding, introspective solo, not that it was necessary, because he's made his mood quite clear for the last 10 minutes, but it was musically responsive and showed off Popov's beautiful line, carriage, and turnout. Then, Siegfried runs off to hunt.

Act II takes place by the lake. At the back of the stage is a rising rock formation, and the moon shines over it. It is a more powerful and oppresive image than the standard forest. The standard dances are in this production -- Valse Bluette, repeated, Pas de Deux, Dance of the Cygnettes, Dance for two swans, coda -- but even more, the Odette's mime is performed. I almost cried with happiness. I loved the swan wigs, a variation on the "duck" do from the 1950's that made the swans look sleek. And I really loved how, at the end of the act, on an empty stage, Siegfried swears to her.

I think that in the way Tomasson creates a multi-layered society and establishes the hierarchy within it, this is the most dramatically coherent Act I of "Swan Lake" that I have ever seen. Each dance not only characterizes the group, but is tight in structure and full of invention that never veers into cleverness. The long Polonaise was particularly fine, with interweaving and changing patterns and groupings. Apart from the Prince's solo, which is in many productions, the one miss in Act I was the Pas de Trois. If there was a subtitle to this "Swan Lake", it's "If You Can't Follow This You Don't Have A Pulse". Tomasson doesn't dumb it down, but he foreshadows, and not just narrative, but also steps and gestures. In the Pas de Trois, for example, one of the soloists does fouettes, and the man's solo, particularly the circle of jumps, it seemed like the jester was making an appearance, but perhaps the performance quality led me to this conclusion. Of the three dancers -- Dores Andre, Hansuke Yamamoto, and Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun -- I think Andre was the strongest, but even in her last solo, I lost the dance logic.

Sarah van Patten made her debut as Odette/Odile. Wow. She was not a delicate creature, and I found her strength mixed with elegance as Odette extremely moving. What made her interpretation unique in my experience was how she differentiated Odette from Odile from the waist up, mostly with her arms and hands. From the waist down, she was very similar in both roles. Her arms and hands weren't fussy, but they were clearly deliberate and differentiated. Her legs move best in creamy, expansive movement, and I was very impressed by how in the Act II solo, when the music speeds up, she did not change the quality of her turns; many dancers I've seen switch into allegro/Odile-like mode here. The few times she had to go turbo-allegro -- the Act II coda, in the passe beat sequence and in the Black Swan solo -- it didn't quite fit like the entire rest of the performance. She was a convincing Odile -- and she did not downplay any of Odile's badness -- because half of her was a convincing Odette at almost all times.

The corps was sharp and disciplined, if their opening entrance was on the aerobic side. The patterns and images were breathtaking. Kudos to the corps, in this and the final act. I think Balanchine was right to drop the Dance of the Four Cygnettes: the audience giggles on queue when the four dancers tilt their heads to the side repeatedly, and it's right after the ravishing pas de deux. (I also think he was right to give Odette the flying entrance in the coda, instead of stopping the standard build-up with the Makarova-slow repeat for the diagonal fouettes downstage, which then shifts into overdrive for the passe/beat sequence.) Tomasson stuck to the standard outline, but in the two solo swans' coda part, he added touches like giving them Rothbartian jumps, just so we wouldn't forget that these are women in his service. The two swans were Elena Altman and Ludmilla Campos. I've never seen Campos before, and I'm not sure which dancer was which, but one was taller and more in every way: energy, expansiveness, and musicality. I wondered what her Odette would be like, she was that vivid.

Act III opens in a sterile ballroom at the bottom of a staircase that curves up to both sides and continues in a circle towards the flies, like a ring of Saturn, through which the moon shines; it is almost as if the moon were harnessed and trapped. The costumes for Siegfried are one of the few misses; Siegfried looks less formally dressed at his formal party: in Act I, his tights are white, but here he wears grey jacket, tights, and boots. The party looks oddly sparsely populated. The act begins with the Master of Ceremonies -- an impressive corps member, Aubert Vanderlinden, who has the stature of a long-time character dancer -- introducing each of the foreign princesses: Spanish, Czardas, Neopolitan, and Russian. There were two reasons they were princesses: 1. It says so in the program and 2. The Queen wants him to choose one of them later in the act.

Each of these dances is a treat, and the most wonderful and impressive thing about them is the way they balance the focus between the men and the women in each dance. That makes very much sense for dance, but not much sense dramatically, since if they are here to compete for the Prince, I'd think they'd have to be presented like jewels, however ethnically inflected. Elana Altman led a spirited Spanish, flanked by two terrific men, Gaetano Amico and Brett Bauer. She had such deep arch in her back, and her nape-length mantilla practically grazed her skirt. Pauli Magierek, with flaming red hair, was perfect as the lead in Czardas, using the inflections of her neck, shoulders, and hands to infuse character in the role. Dores Andre and Martyn Garside were delightful in the playful Neopolitan, which had a stroke of genius: Andre went into passe on point, held it, and then clapped overhead! The women's roles in the Russian were happy and light, full of spark and cheer, countered by the Cossack-inspired men, here Matthew Stewart and James Sofranko. The two styles meshed together beautifully, and the women, Frances Chung and Charlene Cohen, really turned it on in the fast turns in place at the end. Femson's costumes for the international dances were particularly beautiful.

After the Russian Dance, the Queen gathers the women from these dances, and asks Siegfried to pick. This was the first dramatically dissonant moment for me, because the only one who showed any aristocratic character was Magierek, who would have had Popov's Siegfried for an appetizer, and if these are princesses, why are the men their equals instead of presenting them? My secret desire was for the five aristocrats from Act I to do the Princesses dance -- symmetry and foreshadowing and all -- and for Siegfried to show the same ease with them, only to be shocked when Mom asks him to choose one of them. But, as he registers shock and dismay, von Rothbart and Odile arrive, the Black Swan Pas de Deux happens, the fouettes are finished, the audience stops the show to applaud them, and then the fatal moment comes, and it's such a great moment, because the mime is so clear:

von Rothbart: Wait a minute!
Siegfried: What?
vR: Do you love her?
S: Of course I love her.
vR: Do you want to marry her?
S: Is the Pope Catholic?
vR: Swear then.
[If this were an audience in India, they'd be standing and yelling, "DON'T DO IT!!!!!]
S: I swear.

I'm glad I didn't have an aisle seat, because I would have done a tap dance. Yes, clear mime! Yes, no dumbing it down for the audience, which got it! During the ensuing mayhem, Siegfried even shows some moxie, and dives for von Rothbart, but vR has a bit more experience in street fighting, and throws him to the ground.

Act III morphs into Act IV, and there are more beautiful patterns and entrances by the swan corps, and von Rothbart lifts and partners Odette for a few phrases, establishing his ownership. Tomasson has choreographed an Act IV pas de deux for Odette and Siegfried that begins with the corps in the background, and slowly the corps gives them privacy. I've been watching dry, intellectual, mathematical ballets by Tomasson for over a decade. I'm convinced that he saved 15 years of emotional content for this one pas de deux, because while its vocabulary is classical, it is emotional verismo, the Mimi-Is-Dying-Box-of-Kleenex kind. Move over Anne Hathaway, Marian Cotillard, Halle Berry, et. al., because Sarah van Patten was heartbreaking.

While not exactly a happy ending, there is redemption and justice: as Siegfried and von Rothbart vie for Odette, the corps breaks von Rothbart's grip, Odette's and Siegfried's love weakens von Rothbart, and finally does him in, as first Odette, and then Siegfried, run up to the peak of the rock and fling themselves to their deaths. Two swans are seen flying across the moon, as von Rothbart lies prone downstage right, and the swans form a wedge facing the downstage left corner, on the ground, one leg facing front, arms back in flight, a knockout image for an ending.

Just a note: if even Marcelo Gomes can't quite transcend ABT's Swamp Thing, I never expected a von Rothbart to be so, um, appealing, but Anthony Spaulding -- it's a good thing I was equipped with smelling salts.

#5 PeggyR

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 06:43 AM

Helene: Thank you so much for your vivid and interesting review. So far I've seen Lorena Feijoo last Sunday and Sarah Van Patten last night. SVP left me breathless. She's so good in contemporary works, it was a little stunning to see the passionate (and, of course, musical) performance she gave as Odette. While I liked that SVP's Odile was clearly a different character from Odette (Feijoo, aside from some blazing fouttees, was pretty much the same as both), I did find her Odile a little mannered, but that's not really inappropriate to the character.

The two swans were Elena Altman and Ludmilla Campos. I've never seen Campos before, and I'm not sure which dancer was which, but one was taller and more in every way: energy, expansiveness, and musicality. I wondered what her Odette would be like, she was that vivid.

I believe the taller swan was Altman -- she's more impressive every time I see her. I've heard she's a terrific tall girl in Rubies (full-length Jewels is coming up later this season :D).

Just a note: if even Marcelo Gomes can't quite transcend ABT's Swamp Thing, I never expected a von Rothbart to be so, um, appealing, but Anthony Spaulding -- it's a good thing I was equipped with smelling salts.

For me, both last night and Sunday, the best Siegfried on stage was Spaulding! He's an up and coming young soloist (promoted after only two years in the corps). If this production is revived any time soon (next year maybe, please???), I hope he gets his crack at the lead role.

I've got tickets for Tina LeBlanc on Saturday and Yuan Yuan Tan on Sunday. Tried getting a ticket to Kochetkova's on Saturday night, but it's sold out (not complaining - sold out is good); might try standing room.

#6 leonid17

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 07:25 AM

Helgi Tomasson's new production of "Swan Lake" .............


Helene, what a really proper and interesting review. I could see it all before my eyes. Thank you so much.

#7 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 09:46 AM

I was there on opening night and Sunday as well. I'm reviewing so just brief comments -

Peggy - I know what you mean about Feijoo. I didn't think her Odette and Odile undifferentiated, but she's like Katherine Hepburn to me. What's she's fabulous at is being Lorena Feijoo. There's a lot to be said for this, but she's not the sort who disappears into the character.

I found Tan to be extremely sculptural as Odette, more believable as Odile and impressive but not moving. Tiit Helimets was carrying the emotional weight of the pairing. I agree with Rachel Howard in the Chron about it being a Jane Austen Swan Lake and having problems with that.

I would have loved to see Kochetova - if anyone goes, report back!

Little tips for nearby - I had time during the day so took a tour of City Hall - there's a fun sound exhibit in the rotunda (walk around and different natural sounds can be heard). I've found a new place for Banh Mi on Larkin Street (such a lovely area :D ) - Baguette Express. Much better than buy aboard - take two Banh Mi on your plane flight! Really good Thai food to be had around the corner from Larkin at O'Farrell - Sai Jai Thai. It's a diner-y kind of place with a fabulous kitchen. Also, if anyone goes to the Bhutan Exhibit at the Asian Museum I'd like to hear about it.

#8 sandik

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 10:33 AM

Little tips for nearby - I had time during the day so took a tour of City Hall - there's a fun sound exhibit in the rotunda (walk around and different natural sounds can be heard). I've found a new place for Banh Mi on Larkin Street (such a lovely area :P ) - Baguette Express. Much better than buy aboard - take two Banh Mi on your plane flight! Really good Thai food to be had around the corner from Larkin at O'Farrell - Sai Jai Thai. It's a diner-y kind of place with a fabulous kitchen. Also, if anyone goes to the Bhutan Exhibit at the Asian Museum I'd like to hear about it.


I must say that, as much as I appreciate your criticism, I'm always tickled to see your tourist commentary!

#9 sandik

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 10:38 AM

Just a note: if even Marcelo Gomes can't quite transcend ABT's Swamp Thing, I never expected a von Rothbart to be so, um, appealing, but Anthony Spaulding -- it's a good thing I was equipped with smelling salts.


I haven't seen this production (can't afford to travel right now) so am extra glad for the reporting from everyone. Courtesy of my son's Humanities class reading Dracula, and an excellent lecture from film historian about German Expressionist film I've been thinking about the dark side of Romanticism lately (re-watching Nosferatu). The drama of SL won't really work unless Odile is fully realized, unless she is truly desirable, and I think this extends to the characterization of Von Rothbart. I don't think he needs to sweep the Queen Mother off her feet, but he needs to alluring on some level -- when he's reduced to a flapping caricature in spandex the balance is all off.

We're Swanning up here soon, and am looking forward to seeing this dynamic again.

#10 Quiggin

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 10:48 AM

I agree with Rachel Howard in the Chron about it being a Jane Austen Swan Lake and having problems with that.


I agree too with Rachel Howard's reservations, about the little red riding hood prelude and the slimmed down choreography, but for me this Swan Lake didn't seem invite comparison Jane Austen as much as to Stendahl. The A-line dresses are empire dresses and the set of the opening scene is out of a Jacques-Louis David or Ingres painting--or maybe the recent film Duchess of Langeais--but neutered of all political nuances. No hint of Revolution or Restoration (my history is a bit rocky in this period). Usually when an opera or ballet is reset so drastically, there is some sort of dialogue with the period. Even Jane Austen has a keen awareness of what's going on offstage. Here the peasants (the set designer refers to them as being working class) are on rollicking good terms with the aristocrats. The sets are very handsome (though the Doric order is used on tall slender columns that perhaps should be ionic). The opening scene also has a bit of the feeling, the spatial disposition and the milling about, of the annual Nutcracker first act that shares the same stage. This and the ball and its bright divertissements seemed to sort of made Swan Lake a jovial sibling of Nutcracker or Don Quixote, rather than Giselle.

I saw it on Tuesday with Tina LeBlanc and Joan Boada, and Tina danced it with great clarity--she was in great form, everthing was there, and Frances Chung who was quite a standout in the pas de trois. But the part where Tina and Joan were brilliant and really dancing with fire was the black swan pas de deux, but it was perhaps more the fire of Don Quioxte.

The moon was too big. (A petri dish, one person said, but it also looked like the fat moon of Melies 1902 Voyage to the Moon.)

#11 Helene

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 11:15 AM

For me, both last night and Sunday, the best Siegfried on stage was Spaulding! He's an up and coming young soloist (promoted after only two years in the corps). If this production is revived any time soon (next year maybe, please???), I hope he gets his crack at the lead role.

I'd travel for that.

Many thanks for the ID on Altman.


The moon was too big. (A petri dish, one person said, but it also looked like the fat moon of Melies 1902 Voyage to the Moon.)

It was small compared to the one in Ming Cho Lee's setting for Pacific Northwest Ballet that plays later this season.

#12 kfw

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Posted 27 February 2009 - 12:34 PM

Thanks so much for taking the time to write that rich and really enticing review, Helene. It makes me a little sorry that PBS just broadcast SFB's Nutcracker. Wish they'd waited and filmed this instead.

#13 Helene

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Posted 28 February 2009 - 05:30 PM

My superstitions got the better of me, and when I found out that Tina LeBlanc was scheduled for today's matinee, one of my two tickets, I couldn't rejoice prematurely. (Or even tell anyone I would be there.) When there was no substitution slip in the program, I still didn't quite believe it. When the substitution announcement before the performance was made, it was Anthony Spaulding replacing Damian Smith, but I still had my worries. Even after her delicate and ravishing Odette in Act II, I was still at edge: the one time I saw Evelyn Cisneros, years ago, her partner was injured during Act II, LeBlanc completed the ballet, and the irony was too hard to miss. (I could, though, at least be thankful that I had seen her in both roles, albeit a decade or so apart.) It wasn't until she appeared in Act III, a confident Odile who needed no "ta-das" or mannerisms, but who clearly revelled in the Con, playing the good girl and convincing everyone, that I could relax. By the end of her Act IV Pas de Deux (with Joan Boada), I could barely breathe.

This was a performance by a master ballerina, her last Odette/Odile with San Francisco Ballet. What is amazing is that in the year of her retirement, in her 40's, having recovered from what would have been a career-ending injury for most, the work was still transparent, and the dancing astonishing. I've loved LeBlanc for many years, and today's performance was a great gift

#14 PeggyR

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Posted 28 February 2009 - 05:44 PM

Helene: What a beautiful tribute to a truly great ballerina. I just got back (to work :wink: ) from the performance. Of the three I seen so far, this was the one that had me in tears at the end.

And did you notice some of those "supported" pirouettes? Boada just stayed out of the way, and then reached in and caught her waist to stop her when it was time. Amazing.

Tonight, standing for Kochetkova.

#15 Helene

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Posted 28 February 2009 - 05:49 PM

All of the supported pirouettes this afternoon were amazing and fluid. Boada was a wonderful partner.

Please tell us all about the Kochetkova performance! (I won't be able to be there.)


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