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The PrologueIs it necessary or wanted?


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#16 carbro

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Posted 15 February 2009 - 09:42 PM

Here's an excerpt from Swan Lake chapter of the Season Guide:

" 'Helgi said that though it's called Swan Lake, it was always Siegfried's story, because he was the character you were introduced to first,' says [designer Jonathan] Fensom. 'We wanted to make it Odette's story, and to do that we needed to introduce her then [in the prologue].' "

I look forward to hearing how he does this. Until then, color me baffled. :wink:

Swan Lake is Siegfried's story and was conceived as such. That's why we are introduced to one lead at his party and the other after the wizard has cast his spell on her. Turning it into Odette's story would mean omitting the birthday party, because that has nothing to do with her.

Later on, in Act III, she is not the one with the dilemma of choosing a mate. How does a stager shift the POV to Odette (who actually only "appears" as her spirit, not her person, as it were) in the act? Are we to assume that she has magical powers?

McKenzie's staging is beginning to look maybe not so misguided.

Good luck, Bay Area balletos. :beg:

#17 4mrdncr

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Posted 15 February 2009 - 10:54 PM

Later on, in Act III, she [Odette] is not the one with the dilemma of choosing a mate. How does a stager shift the POV to Odette (who actually only "appears" as her spirit, not her person, as it were) in the act? Are we to assume that she has magical powers?



I had always heard the ball was held too early for Odette to assume human form at midnight. (Or is it sundown?) Therefore, the image of Odette that appears in the ballroom scene is NOT a spirit. It is the swan at the window trying to get Siegfried's attention. (Though some Odettes boo-hoo a lot too.)

#18 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 15 February 2009 - 11:08 PM

In the Dudinskaya/Sergueiev clip they introduce an animation of the swan flying and getting the attention of Siegfried. In Cuba there is no show of Odette in any form at this sequence, but it does make sense to me that she flies and shows up at the window in her swan nemesis.

#19 Rosa

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 08:00 AM

Thank you everyone for your responses! This is an interesting discussion.

Over with Prologues and stuffed swans...(can't stand that). That's what Google is for, if anybody wants to see what the performance will be about. The Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami started their production with a weird Prologue, showing a caravan of mourners following a coffin being carried away. Among the mourners are Siegfried and his shaky mom, so one assume that the ballet starts by telling us that this is the kid's turn to be in command from then on after his father's death. Didn't like it either. Let Mr T's beautiful music do the magic.


See I actually like this idea of the mourners etc. I guess it just depends on how the choreographer or person setting the ballet wants the story to be told. And to what kind of audience it is for.


The DVD of Sir Peter Wright's version for the Royal Swedish Ballet has a prologue showing the funeral procession of the king, among the mourners Siegfried, the Queen Mother, and Benno. Of all the prologues I've seen I have found this one the most effective. It sets the mood of this production and shows the prince, instead of simply displeased his carefree days are over, having to assume a lot of responsibility sooner than he expected.

Swan Lake is Siegfried's story and was conceived as such. That's why we are introduced to one lead at his party and the other after the wizard has cast his spell on her.


I agree. Sir Wright made a comment on the DVD to the effect of, "Swan Lake is Siegfried's story, but the ballerina's ballet."

Introducing Odette at the opening of the ballet takes away, at least for me, some of the magic when she makes that grand jete onto the stage, sealing her and Siegfried's fate.

#20 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 09:02 AM

Thank you everyone for your responses! This is an interesting discussion.

Over with Prologues and stuffed swans...(can't stand that). That's what Google is for, if anybody wants to see what the performance will be about. The Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami started their production with a weird Prologue, showing a caravan of mourners following a coffin being carried away. Among the mourners are Siegfried and his shaky mom, so one assume that the ballet starts by telling us that this is the kid's turn to be in command from then on after his father's death. Didn't like it either. Let Mr T's beautiful music do the magic.


See I actually like this idea of the mourners etc. I guess it just depends on how the choreographer or person setting the ballet wants the story to be told. And to what kind of audience it is for.


The DVD of Sir Peter Wright's version for the Royal Swedish Ballet has a prologue showing the funeral procession of the king, among the mourners Siegfried, the Queen Mother, and Benno. Of all the prologues I've seen I have found this one the most effective. It sets the mood of this production and shows the prince, instead of simply displeased his carefree days are over, having to assume a lot of responsibility sooner than he expected.

Swan Lake is Siegfried's story and was conceived as such. That's why we are introduced to one lead at his party and the other after the wizard has cast his spell on her.


I agree. Sir Wright made a comment on the DVD to the effect of, "Swan Lake is Siegfried's story, but the ballerina's ballet."

Introducing Odette at the opening of the ballet takes away, at least for me, some of the magic when she makes that grand jete onto the stage, sealing her and Siegfried's fate.

True. Plus I dont' know if this is just me, but I sense that ABT's Prologue shows a different, more contemporary approach to the choreographic style and general atmosphere that that of the rest of the ballet . It feels out of place. Is McKenzie's intention to clearly show that this is him and not Petipa/Ivanov or whatever the traditional sources...?

#21 Hans

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 09:04 AM

Do you mean they play the written overture with the curtain (or front scrim) down?


Yes. The April 2006 Mariinsky Ballet performance that is now available on DVD/Blu-ray disc has the orchestra play the entire Prologue with the big main curtain down.


Just to be clear--Swan Lake as written by Tchaikovsky does not have a prologue. The ballet starts with Act I, preceded by an overture.

#22 bart

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 09:12 AM

Sir Wright made a comment on the DVD to the effect of, "Swan Lake is Siegfried's story, but the ballerina's ballet."

Wonderful comment !!! :D Depends on whether you consider the "story" most significant -- or the "ballerina." Wright apparently decided to focus on Siegfried's back story. (Set to Odette's music, however. See below.)

If you focus the audience's attention on Siegfried, there's not really a need for a Prologue. The first scene in effect BECOMES the prologue to the most significant experience in his life.

Rudolph Nureyev famously complained that Siegfried has "nothing to do" in the ballet. He then set about in the 60s refocusing the audience's attention to the "Siegried story," adding solos, switching music around, etc. Later (for Paris, iin the 80's) he merged Siegfried's Tutor with Rothbart. This is interesting and enjoyable as a variant. But it's not the Swan Lake most of us want to see again and again.

I prefer to focus on Wright's claim that SL is "the ballerina's ballet." If you agree with Wright, it makes sense to use Odette's musical theme (or the suggestion of her theme) in the "Introduction" as the opportunity for showing us her back story.

So what about Act I (i)? No one on stage even knows that Odette exists. It's been suggested that having a Prologue takes away the sense of the Prince's birthday party which follows. I don't agree. No one on stage knows about Odette, but WE know. Our awareness of her imprisonment hovers over the scene and infuses our experience of it. It adds texture and emotional depth to Siegfried's discontent, which he feels but cannot understand. Later, in the lakeside scene, Siegried will learn the story from Odette herself. This is a revelation for him, but a confirmation for us.

Great drama is full of instances like this, when the audience is "in on the secret" long before the protagonist finds it out. Those of us who know the SL story by heart don't need a Prologue. We already have the information. But what about those who don't have it? Maybe they do need a little extra visual assistance.

#23 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 09:18 AM

Do you mean they play the written overture with the curtain (or front scrim) down?


Yes. The April 2006 Mariinsky Ballet performance that is now available on DVD/Blu-ray disc has the orchestra play the entire Prologue with the big main curtain down.


Just to be clear--Swan Lake as written by Tchaikovsky does not have a prologue. The ballet starts with Act I, preceded by an overture.

I assumed Sacto was referring to the overture, which is what has been used as the Prologue music...

#24 Hans

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 09:33 AM

I assumed so, too. :D

#25 bart

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 10:05 AM

In video, the Introduction is often used as a sound backdrop to the credits. (A rather different kind of "prologue," come to think of it. :D )

For those with a copy of John Roland Wiley's Tchaikovsky's Ballets: have a look at p. 65.

There you'll find:
-- the first 4 bars of the melody of the Introduction;
-- the first four bars of the "swan theme" (with its inversion of the introduction's four note scale in measure 2);
and
-- the melody that accompanies the first appearance of Odette.

Wiley writes:

The introduction of Act I promotes unity through the entire work. While nothing it contains is quoted later, the melodic affinity of its opening melody with the swan theme, and the smilarity of its powerful orchestral outburst [the Allegro ma non troppo at bar 36] to the music of the storm at the end of the ballet, make it an exordium in the best sense: not only does it introduce the work, but also announces in brief the essence of the tragedy to come.


I had to look up "exordium," which my ancient Webster's defines as "a beginning or introduction esp. to a discourse or composition."

#26 PeggyR

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 11:04 AM

Wasn't there an old RB production with a prologue? Google turned up this. There's something way down the thread about a Carl Tom production that had a prologue (no dates given), but I can't find out anything more.

I remember seeing the prologue with Fonteyn (sans Nureyev) when the RB was on tour in the US; it must have been the early 60's. What I chiefly recall was Fonteyn running around in a little nightie outfit with her hair in a ponytail until she turned into Odette (presumably a corps dancer).

#27 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 11:10 AM

Wasn't there an old RB production with a prologue? Google turned up this. There's something way down the thread about a Carl Tom production that had a prologue (no dates given), but I can't find out anything more.

I remember seeing the prologue with Fonteyn (sans Nureyev) when the RB was on tour in the US; it must have been the early 60's. What I chiefly recall was Fonteyn running around in a little nightie outfit with her hair in a ponytail until she turned into Odette (presumably a corps dancer).

Isn't this same nightie/ponytail look the one used by McKenzie...?-(or maybe she wears her hair loose...or something...I can't really remember...)

#28 PeggyR

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 11:20 AM

What I chiefly recall was Fonteyn running around in a little nightie outfit with her hair in a ponytail until she turned into Odette (presumably a corps dancer).

Isn't this same nightie/ponytail look the one used by McKenzie...?-(or maybe she wears her hair loose...or something...I can't really remember...)

You're right. I got out the ABT SL DVD with GM and AC (don't you love initials) and that's exactly how ABT's Prologue Odette is dressed (hair kind of loose, though). Which brings to mind the question, what is a young woman doing in the middle of a forest, in the middle of the night, in her nightgown? Is this a typical Prologue scenario?

#29 Rosa

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 11:36 AM

Good question, Peggy! ABT's prologue I find a bit over the top. I never pictured Rothbart seducing Odette when he transformed her into a swan. It doesn't seem to quite match the story she later tells Siegfried. (And I say! Is that the lake of her mother's tears I see in the background? :D)

#30 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 12:53 PM

Oooh, so bad girl Odette was flirting around at night time with a handsome stranger wearing a nightie in the middle of the forrest... ? naughty naughty girl! :D
God...the whole idea is ridiculous...it needs to go.


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