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Great Swanhildas of the past


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 15 May 2001 - 12:58 AM

Alexandra Danilova, Margot Lander, Inge Sand, Margot Fonteyn, Svetlana Beriosova. None of these have I seen, but I've read about them. Fonteyn and Beriosova wouldn't seem to be ideal Swanhildas, but they danced the roles quite young, I believe, and I have friends who saw them and admired them greatly. Danilova was THE great "American" Swanhilda.

Any others? Who are the great Russian and French Swanhildas? AntoP, does Coppelia still exist in Italy? Any great 20th century Italians?

#2 Manhattnik

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Posted 15 May 2001 - 10:19 AM

For me, Patricia MacBride will always own Swanhilda. It's very hard for me to imagine a more perfect dancer for the role.

#3 Natalia

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Posted 15 May 2001 - 11:50 AM

Miyako Yoshida of the Royal Ballet is as good a Swanhilda as I've ever seen. She is a natural comedienne in addition to being spot-on, technically. I'm sure that she'll bring these qualities to another great comic role - Lise in FILLE MAL GARDEE (next month at Kenn. Center).

A long time ago (20+ years), I saw a film of Lis Jeppesen's Swanhilda in the Danish version. Jeppesen imbued the role with a natural girlish 'charm' that was very special. Sure -- the technique was fine but that wasn't the point. She was Cute in the best sense of the word.

#4 Alexandra

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Posted 15 May 2001 - 02:19 PM

Just a note -- we'll get to dancers of today eventually, but please keep this thread to Swanhildas of THE PAST. McBride and Jeppesen are rather recent past, but they are no longer dancing the role, so that's okay. But please, no one still dancing the role, until we've gone through the history and choreography parts. :)

#5 cargill

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Posted 15 May 2001 - 02:49 PM

I don't suppose there is anyone around who has seen her, but from reports and pictures Adeline Genee seems to have been adorableas Swanhilda. I don't know whose choreography she danced, but I would have loved to have seen her at the Empire!

#6 Estelle

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Posted 16 May 2001 - 05:32 PM

I'd have to check some references (I attended a performance of "Coppelia" by the POB school a few weeks ago and the program notes are very informative) but one name which seems to be associated with Swanilda (French spelling, without "h") is that of Solange Schwarz (1910-2000). It was said to be her favorite role, she chose it for her farewell performance in 1957, and she even called one of her daughters Swanilda!

I also remember reading about Carlotta Zambelli (1877-1968) in that role, and Lycette Darsonval (1912-1996).

#7 atm711

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Posted 17 May 2001 - 10:25 AM

All the high praise for Danilova's Swanilda is not in the least over-stated. Her 2nd act toyshop scene was pure delight. I loved her nonchalance towards Coppelius when he was trying desperately to please her; and then teasing him unmercifully as she broke into a Scottish or Spanish dance. Of course, she was also fortunate to have Frederic Franklin as her Franz. Over the years I have avoided most Coppelias--but I regret not seeing McBride--I think she could have competed favorably with my remembrance of Danilova.

#8 felursus

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Posted 18 May 2001 - 11:20 AM

I'm going to mention Ann Jenner of the Royal Ballet. She was a wonderful comedic actress and shone in works such as Coppelia and La Fille. She was also a very fine dancer. I used to love the expression on her face when she, while pretending to be the yet-immobile doll, would peer at Coppelius while he was busy consulting his book of spells.

#9 Helena

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Posted 18 May 2001 - 11:52 AM

I do agree about Ann Jenner. She was superb in everything I ever saw her in, and a great favourite with audiences. Nobody ever expressed joie de vivre better. I have always felt she deserved to be much more famous than she was.

#10 Drew

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Posted 21 May 2001 - 08:35 PM

I saw Fracci when I was a little girl and remember loving her in it -- especially the Act II, in which (as I remember) she utterly transformed herself from dance to dance. I don't know if this would be my "grown up" opinion...and this is not one of the roles that people typically mention when they mention Fracci...but my memories of Act II are still sort of alive, so I'll stand by it!

#11 Lovebird

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Posted 25 May 2001 - 09:48 PM

For me,the best Coppelia was Alicia Alonso.She had a wry sense of humor that fitted the role well and was very in keeping with the style of the ballet.I only saw her on video.I think that both Lesley Collier and Yekaterina Maximova should have been given the chance to interpret this ballet.Their styles were perfectly suited to this role:short,soubrettes,and with a comic flair.It is a pity they never danced it.

#12 Drew

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Posted 26 May 2001 - 06:53 PM

I'm joining this chorus rather late, but I wanted to say...yes, yes, yes: Mcbride was truly a sensational Swanilda. Probably the best I've seen. It doesn't hurt, of course, that she danced the production I love best!

I've been restraining myself, too, from the utter predictability of mentioning Gelsey Kirkland, but will restrain myself no longer! I saw her dance this twice, at two very different times in her career, and loved both performances. The first was during her very first week of performances with Baryshnikov at the Kennedy Center (Fall '74?). I saw a Friday night Coppelia, the second one they danced together. I am being that specific because it just seemed like one of those nights when everything on stage comes together perfectly. (Clive Barnes reviewed this performance and he said exactly that.) Even the rest of the company seemed, during the ballet, to be watching Baryshnikov and Kirkland with a kind of giddy pleasure. And the two of them were absolutely sparking off each other. Kirkland -- not in my memory a consistently great balancer -- stayed on pointe in arabesque seemingly forever in the Act III pas de deux, while Baryshnikov watched her with a kind of gleam in his eye. It was fabulous. And, I guess I should add, since we're supposed to be reflecting on the ballet Coppelia, that it perfectly embodied and even enhanced the gaiety and joy of the ballet. They were having so much fun. Years later I saw Kirkland dance the ballet with Charles Ward. As I recall this performance it had more pathos and delicacy, though less dazzle, than the earlier one -- this was an older and more waif-like Kirkland albeit at a time when her technique was completely and happily intact. Ward was very tall, handsome, fair, and boyish and I thought he partnered her quite well. They had two especially beautiful overhead lifts in (I think) Act III, where he lifted her way high over his head, holding her about the waist with her leg in retire, and as he let her down, the closer she came to the ground the more slowly he moved her through the air, so she just seemed to drift like a feather to the ground -- utterly weightless. I know Swanilda is not "about" overhead lifts and weightlessness, but it was beautiful -- and I do remember finding her a terrific Swanilda all round, her Act II (a bit like Fracci's) very effective in its shifting character tones...

[ 05-26-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]

[ 05-28-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]

#13 pnbdc

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Posted 27 May 2001 - 07:16 PM

Regarding the role of Swanilda - I was piano soloist with the NYCB when Mme. Danilova staged her role for Pat McBride - and played for many of those rehearsals. Also I played again for Danilova in Geneva when she again staged much of the ballet and taught her role for that company (Balanchine was Artistic Director, and Patricia Neary was Director.) Danilova was a joy to watch - she could dance much of the choreography - and was most explicit when teaching the various 'acting sequences' - such energy. I also thought Pattricia McBride was a wonderful Swanilda as was Gelsey Kirkland who also danced the role at NYCB.

#14 Juliet

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Posted 27 May 2001 - 08:01 PM

Welcome to the board, DDianne--it is so interesting to hear these things. A great many of us are very interested in ballet history--and recent history, while bringing us up short to realize that what WE remember is now "history," is no less valuable than that which is 100 years old. Please feel free to share thoughts, opinions, and reminiscences--

[ 05-27-2001: Message edited by: Juliet ]

#15 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 27 May 2001 - 09:33 PM

I'd also like to welcome you to the board, DDianne. I've had an opportunity to hear you play (for Balanchine Foundation coaching sessions of Agonwith Melissa Hayden) so it's a treat to have you share your thoughts and recollections as well.


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