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The PrologueIs it necessary or wanted?

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#31 Jane Simpson

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Posted 16 February 2009 - 01:25 PM

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).

Yes, it was the Helpmann production from 1963. The synopsis describes the prologue:

"The Princess Odette and her attendants, whilst visiting the forest, unknowingly enter the domain of Von Rothbart, the Evil Owl Magician, who wants Odette for his bride. He abducts her. Because of her royal birth, he cannot change her into an owl but only transform her into a Royal bird - the Swan..... {description of what will break the spell}.... But if his oath is not kept for one month, she must remain a Swan forever."

A month! That doesn't seem too taxing for even the most fickle. The synopsis, reprinted in Dance & Dancers, is then followed by about 7 pages from Clive Barnes, mostly tearing the production to shreds. He says a lot about the Prologue - thinks it removes 'something of the work's essential romantic quality' to know too much about Odette before Siegfried meets her, but admits he might have chosen to try a prologue although he'd have cut it when he saw it didn't work. Also he suggests that Helpmann might have taken an idea from his own Hamlet and made a prologue showing the dying Siegfired, so that the whole ballet is a flashback. (Hasn't someone else since done that?) But he does say the transformation of Princess to Swan (Fonteyn to Ann Jenner) was brilliantly done.

I rather liked Peter Wright's idea of showing Seigfried's father's funeral, but it did make Act 1 a bit glum.

#32 Helene



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Posted 16 February 2009 - 06:08 PM

According to Rachel Howard's preview, Helgi Tomasson's new production of "Swan Lake" for his San Francisco Ballet will have a prologue:

Still, small yet important storytelling tweaks bookend the ballet. Tomasson has added a prologue showing how the princess Odette came to be transformed into a swan maiden by the sorcerer Von Rothbart. And in the final lakeside scene, instead of dancing a pas de deux to interpolated music (from Tchaikovsky's "Serenade Melancolique" in the old production), Siegfried begs for Odette's forgiveness to music usually given to the corps of swans.


#33 Sacto1654


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Posted 16 February 2009 - 07:51 PM

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

In the Vladimir Bourmeister version of the ballet (which essentially only kept the Ivanov choreography from the Petipa/Ivanov version), the danced Prologue before Act I uses the Overture music, based on the DVD I have of the version danced at the Teatro de la Scala with Svetlana Zakharova and Roberto Bolle in the lead roles.

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