The PrologueIs it necessary or wanted?
Posted 13 February 2009 - 05:55 AM
Most of the prologues I've seen (ABT, POB, La Scala,) show Odette being captured and turned into a swan, while others (Staatsoper in Berlin, Royal Swedish Ballet) center on Siegfried.
Is the prologue a necessary addition to the ballet, or really desirable? Does it make the ballet better? More complicated?
Posted 13 February 2009 - 08:46 AM
Posted 13 February 2009 - 09:54 AM
Posted 13 February 2009 - 10:14 AM
Posted 13 February 2009 - 10:31 AM
While I agree with this in principle, I think it is perhaps expecting a bit much from the general audience.
A lot of people do not find the mime very accessible. I love it (and really prefer when it is included) but to the lay modern audience I don't think it is easily understandable.
I don't think the prologue is necessary, strictly speaking, but I think it probably *does* enrich the experience for a lot of viewers, and I don't find it distracting or to diminish the strength of a production. Its short, if you don't like it you can close your eyes and listen to the music
Additionally, in ABTs (much criticized) production, where you have *2* versions of Von Rothbart--the swamp thing and the suave princely VR--the prologue serves to clarify that distinction/connection, eliminating possible confusion when the elegant Rothbart shows up for the ball with Odile.
Posted 13 February 2009 - 10:43 AM
I've lost patience with the 'just close your eyes' reaction to bad choreography: If I wanted a concert, I'd go to the symphony.
And I would respond to ABT by telling them that if they hadn't needlessly complicated things in the first place, they wouldn't have to explain it all with a prologue.
Posted 14 February 2009 - 12:26 AM
I know in musical theare more and more "intense" pieces do without an intermission at all cuz they say it's so hard to "bring an audience back" after they've gone back out "to the real world" had drinks, chatted about the show, etc, and a short entr'acte can help. I just think that often some sort of instrumental overture gets people more into the feel of the piece than suddenly thrust into the action. Of course it seems nowadays many people spend the overture as time to talk to their friends, text people, and do other things--basically as "pre show music"...
With Swan Lake in particular I sorta feel it gives away some of the surprise by showing us the backstory--and some of the magic (I feel the same about Nutcracker using the overture to show the nutcracker being cursed or similar things--like at the Royal, but not as strongly)
Posted 14 February 2009 - 03:54 PM
BTW, SFB's new SL (premiering next week) will have a prologue. 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].' "
Posted 14 February 2009 - 06:08 PM
That performance took place in the early 1990s, and I never saw one like it (even from van Hamel, whose performances I always tried to catch) before or since. I don't understand why van Hamel hasn't passed this eloquent interpretation along to some of ABT's current O/Os. Maybe she's tried and they either rejected it or couldn't make it happen.
Posted 14 February 2009 - 06:10 PM
Posted 15 February 2009 - 12:01 AM
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.
Posted 15 February 2009 - 05:42 AM
McKenzie's version -- which I just looked at again on YouTube -- is story-telling at its most ham-fisted, relying on quick costume changes to make dramatic points (Rothbart into gentleman; Odette into Swan).
I have less confidence than Hans in the communicative power of traditional mime in the modern world. I agree with carbro that the answer probably lies in great acting, though that is a rare skill. Also, I suspect that the Swan Lake experience does not really require a literal, cover-all-bases narrative structure -- IF it is danced by principals who know how to communicate feeling.
My own preference is for the traditional theater experience of: (1) lights go down, (2) music establishes a mood(in the sense of overture), (3) curtain rises. This gives the audience a chance to settle down. It also gives time for a sense of anticipation, even suspence, before you actually SEE anything.
Modern audiences seem to respond best with lots of visual information and stimulation. Maybe it IS preferable, given current realities, just to tell some kind of story in the 3 or so minutes of the Prologue. Rather like the "dumb show" in Hamlet's version of "The Murder of Gonzago."
Posted 15 February 2009 - 06:29 PM
Posted 15 February 2009 - 07:13 PM
Posted 15 February 2009 - 08:55 PM
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.
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