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Erik Bruhn's Swan Lake


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#1 innopac

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Posted 02 January 2010 - 10:05 PM

I was wondering if anyone has seen this Swan Lake. I understand that Bruhn changed Rothbart into the Black Queen but I would like to know more about this ballet.

#2 volcanohunter

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Posted 02 January 2010 - 10:34 PM

He also changed Benno into a female "Friend." You get the feeling that the hero is suffocated by a gaggle of females. Why Bruhn didn't transform the Tutor into a domineering School Marm is beyond me.

It's been years since I've seen the production, so I may be fuzzy on some of the details. The characters all had generic titles rather than names: Prince, Swan Queen, Black Swan, Black Queen, Prince's Friend. There was a brooding solo for the Prince toward the end of Act 1. Bruhn used Tchaikovsky's oom-pah ending to the White Swan pas de deux, but otherwise the choreography of the adagio was pretty standard. The Black Swan pas de deux was rechoreographed significantly. He used Tchaikovsky's original adagio (the one used in Balanchine's Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux), and for the Black Swan's variation he used the same oboe-themed music as Grigorovich. The Prince's variation and the coda used the usual music and choreography, so the pas de deux was a strange hybrid. The national dances were pretty standard, except for a Neapolitan pas de deux la Ashton. In the final act the Prince committed suicide on his own, leaving the Swan Queen permanently trapped in her avian body. This struck me as particularly ungallant.

Somewhere in the CBC archives there is a film of the production, apparently abridged, starring Lois Smith, Bruhn and Celia Franca, but it was made before my time, and the CBC never airs stuff from its archives, so I've only seen clips of it in documentaries about the National Ballet of Canada. The company replaced Bruhn's production with James Kudelka's in 1999, and for all the flaws of Bruhn's version, I think Kudelka's is infinitely worse.

#3 rg

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Posted 03 January 2010 - 06:35 AM

indeed, the filmed version of Bruhn's SWAN LAKE is nowadays glimpsed in various documentaries.
the full film was telecast both in Canada and the US a few? times. off-the-air copies are no doubt around.

the NYPL gives the following info. connected with its copy of the film on videocassette (oddly the library's copy is b&w, the telecast was sent out in the NYC-area, whenever that was, in color:
Swan lake / Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; produced and directed by Norman Campbell ; choreography and libretto by Erik Bruhn ; music by Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky. Canada : Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, c1967.(62 min.) : sd., b&w
Cast: Erik Bruhn (Prince), Lois Smith (Swan Queen and Black Swan), Yves Cousineau (Tutor), Olga Makcheeva (Queen Mother), Joysanne Sidimus (Prince's friend), Celia Franca (Black Queen), Hazaros Surmejan (Master of ceremonies), Leeyan Granger, Vanessa Harwood, Elizabeth Keeble, Charmaine Turner (swan princesses), Karen Bowes, Barbara Sherval, Glenn Gilmour, Gunter Pick (Spanish dance), Kristina Sealander and Lawrence Adams (czardas), Veronica Tennant and Jeremy Blanton (Neapolitan dance), and members of the National Ballet of Canada.
Orchestra conducted by George Crum.
Costumes and original stage decor, Desmond Heeley ; settings for television, Robert Lawson.

#4 innopac

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Posted 03 January 2010 - 12:16 PM

Thank you both. In John Gruen's biography Bruhn says that he wanted to create a Prince who was more than a partner. He also says he might like in the future to develop the role of the Black Queen, to better justify her character. "but I will not change it back into a male role."

#5 Alexandra

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Posted 03 January 2010 - 01:52 PM

Loved your summary volcanohunter.

I remember the third act as being like a chess game: each Queen had her own corner. They sat and glared at each other. This was one of the early Let's Rethink "Swan Lake"! versions. When I saw it, during the Cold War and long before the easy availability of tapes/DVDs, I didn't realize that the Soviets had been working along the same lines.

I also remember watching this once at the Met, and at second intermission, the young man sitting next to me asked me what I thought. He obviously loved it, so I didn't want to be rude. "Well, it's very DIFFERENT," I said. He looked stunned. 'This is the only one I've seen," he said. And that's one of the reasons they should think before they rethink.

#6 Helene

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Posted 03 January 2010 - 02:23 PM

If anyone is worried about the character of the Prince's mother, they can watch a tradition production with Carrie Imler portraying the mother. Nothing else needs to be added.

#7 carbro

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Posted 03 January 2010 - 03:45 PM

Thank you both. In John Gruen's biography Bruhn says that he wanted to create a Prince who was more than a partner.

Petipa, Ivanov and their librettist created a character who was "more than a partner," namely the protagonist. It is Siegfried's story more than Odette's.

#8 Hans

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Posted 03 January 2010 - 06:13 PM

Black Queen?


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