rg

Baryshnikov's SWAN LAKE for ABT from 1988

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scan of performance photo from the ballroom sc. of Baryshnikov's SWAN LAKE with van Hamel as Odile and McKenzie as Siegfried. costumes by PierLuigi Samaritani.

post-848-0-24466900-1376881546_thumb.jpg

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scan of performance photo from the ballroom sc. of Baryshnikov's SWAN LAKE with van Hamel as Odile and McKenzie as Siegfried. costumes by PierLuigi Samaritani.

Am I understanding this correctly: Odile is in a white dress? Was this modeled after an historic production that used a white dress? Or was Samaritani just trying to come up with something new and startling?

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Baryshnikov did a good deal research and thinking when preparing his staging of SWAN LAKE.

i know for a fact he read Demidov's SWAN LAKE book (in Russian) as well as, i assume, Beaumont's The Ballet Called 'Swan Lake' and it's in this latter that there is a musing, by Beaumont, when considering costuming for the ballet that perhaps to be most convincing an impostor of Odette by Odile, a white costume would make much (the most?) sense.

whatever his motivation/logic Baryshnikov chose to have the Odile of his production dressed in white, as shown in this photo.

all Samaritani did was execute Baryshnikov's wishes here.

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When did the idea of Odile wearing black get started?

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According to Doug Fullington in this video (http://youtu.be/6xpOVN3cfGc?t=28m50s), Odile wasn't referred to as the black swan until the 1940s. Up until that point she was known as a sorceress/Rothbart's daughter. Fullington also cites some earlier productions in which she wore colored costumes. So I'm guessing that she started wearing black in the 1940s as well. 1942 is the earliest picture I have of Odile in the black swan outfit in the Soviet Union (in the Bolshoi's new production), but I don't have nearly as good records for the US or Europe, so I don't know when it would have started there.

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The 1940s is interesting for the timing of the black swan. Balanchine's one-act Swan Lake dates to 1951. He put all the swans, except Odette, into black and gave a puzzling explanation: "there are black swans as well." I wonder what influenced Balanchine, both in Russia and elsewhere. Had he seen (or heard about) another production that used black? Do we know which production first put Odile into black?

Here's the NYCB site on Balanchine's version, with that quote: http://www.nycballet.com/ballets/s/swan-lake-(balanchine).aspx

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if mem. serves, this question has been discussed elsewhere on this site over time, perhaps more than once.

my hunch, in brief here and as stated previously, is that The Black Swan moniker was more or less devised around 1941 for THE MAGIC SWAN, w/ choreography by Alexandra Fedorova-Fokine, as a way for Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo to distinguish its presentation of the ballroom scene from SWAN LAKE as a stand alone ballet (see NYPL cat. listing below) from the ubiquitous "White Swan" pas de deux then a fixture of touring ballet companies.

Tho' the designs were credited to Dunkel, i suspect Karinska, who was responsible, if mem. serves, for building the costumes, may have had a strong hand in dressing Odile in glittering black.

(elsewhere on this site are some scans of photos posted by me of Toumanova and Youskevitch in their MAGIC SWAN costuming, black and white photos, to be sure, but still documents of the designs' actual black palette.)

it's possible that previous Odiles were dressed in black but that evidence isn't readily available.

here's the NYPL entry:

Swan lake: Chor: Alexandra Fedorova-Fokine after Marius Petipa; mus: Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky; scen & cos: Eugene Dunkel; under title The magic swan. First U.S. perf: New York, Metropolitan Opera House, Oct 13, 1941, Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.
as for NYCB's claim that the Alain Vaes scheme for the current production of Balanchine's staging, which Peter Martins expanded regarding the number of swan maidens and which dates from after Balanchine's death, i suspect the key to the program notes wording is "may" (see emphasis below).
i've always seen this re-do of a Balanchine classic as a Kirstein-directed affair - he was a champion, for reasons best known to himself, of Vaes - and that the claims about the "almost all black" scheme as being Balanchine's own are questionable at best.
certainly for the 1940 I WAS AN ADVENTURESS Balanchine did a SWAN LAKE number where Zorina was dressed in black, with black tights and toeshoes as well as tutu (unlike Vaes's scheme for the current NYCB swan maidens), but his swan maidens here were in white. unless one can find hard facts in the Balanchine archive or Hollywood records, it's hard to say who decided on this "odd" scheme for the movie. maybe it was simply a visual choice, aimed at making Zorina stand out strikingly in rich black and white film.
to say that Balanchine "put the swans, except Odette, into black" (as stated above) is quite inaccurate; Martins and possibly Kirstein did this.
again, elsewhere on this site, there are scans of Zorina as Balanchine's black-costumed swan queen from ADVENTURESS.

<<

In 1986 the production was redesigned once more by Alain Vaes who created an icy landscape instead of the traditional Gothic lakeside, and dressed the corps of swans in black, which Balanchine may have been planning in 1981 when he mysteriously ordered 400 yards of black tarlatan. When asked to justify this odd request, Balanchine merely said, “There are black swans as well.”

>>

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Another source on the Balanchine Swan Lake: Nancy Reynolds' wonderful Repertory in Review (1977). On p. 131, she includes a photo from the mid-1950s, with Tallchief and Eglevsky. Odette is in a short white tutu, and the corps is in knee-length white tutus with atrocious swan-wings (or whatever they would be called). Also on p. 131 is a photo from "mid-1960s (new production)" with McBride and Villella. All the women are in white again. The corps tutus seem to be just above the knees and the swan-wings seem to have disappeared. I don't find any discussion of the black tulle mentioned on the NYCB site, again suggesting that this idea came later.

An intriguing footnote on p. 130: "Balanchine staged a Swan Lake for Spessivtzeva in 1929 (Diaghilev's Ballets Russe)." It would be interesting to learn what that looked like. Was it all the acts? How was Odile dressed (if she was included)?

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According to Doug Fullington in this video (http://youtu.be/6xpOVN3cfGc?t=28m50s), Odile wasn't referred to as the black swan until the 1940s. Up until that point she was known as a sorceress/Rothbart's daughter.

I understand that sometimes the roles of Odile and Odette are split between two ballerinas, although it is much more common to have the same ballerina do both roles. If Odile is actually someone completely different from Odette, having two different dancers as Odette and Odile makes sense. I actually think it woudl be interesting to see two differnt ballerinas.

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if mem. serves, this question has been discussed elsewhere on this site over time, perhaps more than once.

my hunch, in brief here and as stated previously, is that The Black Swan moniker was more or less devised around 1941 for THE MAGIC SWAN, w/ choreography by Alexandra Fedorova-Fokine, as a way for Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo to distinguish its presentation of the ballroom scene from SWAN LAKE as a stand alone ballet (see NYPL cat. listing below) from the ubiquitous "White Swan" pas de deux then a fixture of touring ballet companies.

Tho' the designs were credited to Dunkel, i suspect Karinska, who was responsible, if mem. serves, for building the costumes, may have had a strong hand in dressing Odile in glittering black.

(elsewhere on this site are some scans of photos posted by me of Toumanova and Youskevitch in their MAGIC SWAN costuming, black and white photos, to be sure, but still documents of the designs' actual black palette.)

it's possible that previous Odiles were dressed in black but that evidence isn't readily available.

certainly for the 1940 I WAS AN ADVENTURESS Balanchine did a SWAN LAKE number where Zorina was dressed in black, with black tights and toeshoes as well as tutu (unlike Vaes's scheme for the current NYCB swan maidens), but his swan maidens here were in white. unless one can find hard facts in the Balanchine archive or Hollywood records, it's hard to say who decided on this "odd" scheme for the movie. maybe it was simply a visual choice, aimed at making Zorina stand out strikingly in rich black and white film.
to say that Balanchine "put the swans, except Odette, into black" (as stated above) is quite inaccurate; Martins and possibly Kirstein did this.
again, elsewhere on this site, there are scans of Zorina as Balanchine's black-costumed swan queen from ADVENTURESS.

Thanks, rg! As always, your photos are some of the best references I've seen. For those who weren't involved in those other conversations, I've dregged them out of the archives - here you provided a photo of Toumanova as Odile

http://balletalert.invisionzone.com/index.php?/topic/26840-toumanovas-odile/

And another of her with Youskevitch

http://balletalert.invisionzone.com/index.php?/topic/26546-the-magic-swan/

And here's the I WAS AN ADVENTURESS picture:

http://balletalert.invisionzone.com/index.php?/topic/33535-i-was-an-adventuress-publicity-photo/?hl=%2Bzorina+%2Badventuress

This afternoon, I looked at my Swan Lake program from the Bolshoi, which includes a lot of photos of the past Bolshoi productions, and there are pictures of Ulanova in the 1937 production in an outfit that looks like the black swan (strongly resembles the costume that Plisetskaya wore in her famous 1950s performances - black tutu, big black feather headdress). However, in the press clippings I have regarding the ballet's 1941 restaging (probably similar to 1937 but done in exile in a different city), Odile is referred to as the Evil Genius's "earthy, seductive" daughter but never as a swan. So, while the title 'Black Swan' clearly originates in the US during the Toumanova productions mentioned above, the black tutu outfit may have been first designed in Russia. Perhaps, we could infer the following timeline - this is just speculation:

1937 the Bolshoi dresses Odile in black with some fancy feathers for aesthetic effect

1937-1940 someone from the US sees this production and likes it (problems - world war II?)

1940 - Balanchine uses black costume for Adventuress

1941- Toumanova uses black costume for Magic Swan

1944-45 - as rg and atm have posted in the Toumanova thread, during publicity for the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, someone gets the idea to rename this the 'Black Swan' pas de deux

Of course, it might equally be possible that at similar times the Bolshoi designers (Sergei Samokhvalov and Leonid Fedorov) and Karinska independently had the same idea to dress Odile in black - after all, given that Odette's identifying feature is a white tutu, it isn't that far an artistic jump to make.

I wanted to include the picture of Ulanova from the program and the Russian press clipping (from October 2, 1943 Literature and Art), but I can't figure out how to do attachments here.

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Vaganova's 1934 SWAN LAKE, an early example of an 'updated' staging of the 1877/95 Tchaikovsky ballet, had two dancers in the leading ballerina roles: Galina Ulanova danced Odette; Olga Jordan, Odile.

the "Black Swan" moniker is another late entry into SWAN LAKE lore and another one that leads too many late 20th century observers, not to mention producers of SWAN LAKEs, to think of the leading roles of Odette and Odile as 'swans' vs. women.

re: the two pronged black panache headdress for Odile, this Russia/Soviet detail is not exactly an aesthetic element; from the start, i.e. Ponomaraed's 1895 Odlie costume sketch includes a little 'horned' headdress, identifying Odile as the daughter of Rothbart, whose alternate 'form' was an owl; the species known as the horned owl was a well-known feature of wildlife in Russia's part of the world.

by way of random illustration, see the attached cover from a Russian book cover, published in 1986 with a horned owl as its lead image. (the book's title means: Small Hiding Places in the Forest.)

post-848-0-17615200-1377129727_thumb.jpg

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it's possible that previous Odiles were dressed in black but that evidence isn't readily available.

From Novosti i birzhevaya gazeta (6 Apr. 1901), p. 3. via Wiley, Roland John, The Life and Ballets of Lev Ivanov, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1997, page 179

"In a review of Kshesinskaya in Swan Lake in 1901, it states: "The ballerina was very effective in the second act, in her elegant black dress, which went so well on her, and danced the famous pas d’action with aplomb and great artistic finish.”

And here is Karsavina as Odile and Vladimirov as Siegfried, 1913

swanlaketamarakarsavinaasodile.jpg

I also wonder which could be the role of La Legnani in this photo...?

pierina.jpg

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If I remember correctly, San Francisco Ballet's first Swan Lake had two dancers as O/O -- the director thought that neither of them were strong enough to perform the entire role. Janet Reed was Odile and Jacqueline Martin was Odette. As a redhead, they thought Reed was better suited to Odile.

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Those Ginger haired vixens! Always stealing the hearts of princes. Fair warning Christina Bennett, Gillian Murphy, Yekaterina Kondourova and Ulyana Lopatkina. We'll be watching you!!!!

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to take the 'hue' question back to the tutu, Wiley's noting reference to an "elegant black dress" is of interest. as a scholar with Russian in his vocabulary, and, i suppose one could take this at face value, but it's just possible that the word he gives us as 'black' might have been less specific, say, maybe also meaning 'dark' - Wiley, primarily a musicologist, is sometimes off where non-musical aspects of ballet production are concerned. he might have fixed on 'black' because he, like so many others studying SWAN LAKE, took as a given that black was the longstanding color of choice for Odile's costuming, which of course it wasn't until sometime in mid-20th century.

if mem. serves, supplementary articles by him about SWAN LAKE for program essays and the like, have included a somewhat famous photo of Legnani in dark tutu and dark tights - the actual color of which (black?, deep blue?, red?, whatever) is unknown from black-and-white reproductions - claiming this shows Legnani as Odile, an assumption i've never found convincing.

true, Ponomarev's design with light tights might ave been rethought on the way to the stage, but no subsequent Russian Odile adopted this dark look for her legs. the only presumably black tutu with black tights in illustrations i've seen of SWAN LAKE at the Mariinsky around the time of creation has been a shot of Vera Trefilova, who in 1895 appears to have danced one of the black-clad swan maidens in final act of the ballet.

still, assuming Wiley is accurately translating the 1901 report about Kshessinska, it evidently didn't start a trend in Russia, as subsequent, albeit black-and-white, photos of early 20th c. Odiles in Russia show hues clearly other than black.

oddly too, in a much illustrated, recent, Russian monograph on Kshessinska there is not one illustration of her as Odette or as Odile, so these photos are probably not plentiful. likewise though the illustrative matter occasionally includes reproductions of printed programs, none for SWAN LAKE are included.

attached is a scan of a photo card showing Yelizaveta Gerdt, said to be costumed for Odile, a role she danced around 1919.

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the only presumably black tutu with black tights in illustrations i've seen of SWAN LAKE at the Mariinsky around the time of creation has been a shot of Vera Trefilova, who in 1985 appears to have danced one of the black-clad swan maidens in final act of the ballet.

(and since she was born in 1875, that's a long career)

That is a beautiful image of Y Gerdt -- her pose is very evocative.

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It is very interesting how there are almost no photos of any Imperial or Diaguilev era dancer as Odile-(or pre1940's). Apparently, when N. Sergueev staged the ballet for Markova during the 1930's at the Vic-Wells, she wore a non black costume also, but there's no way to find a photo of it anywhere. All the photos of Swan Lake from those days are usually with the white attire.

Apparently by the time the PDD was being danced in the early days of the BRdMC, the costume had turned into black already...

Mia Slavenska...

http://digital.lib.buffalo.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/LIB-MUS010/id/92/rec/16

I wonder what could be the role in this Doubrovska pic...

Felia.jpg

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if mem. serves this photo of Doubrovska is captioned as showing her in the title role of some production of THE FIREBIRD. if i can find a firm date and credit, i'll post it.

and duhhh. that's some typo in my Trefilova comment: o'course i meant to place her in the 1895 SWAN LAKE not some production in 90 years later...

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if mem. serves this photo of Doubrovska is captioned as showing her in the title role of some production of THE FIREBIRD. if i can find a firm date and credit, i'll post it.

and duhhh. that's some typo in my Trefilova comment: o'course i meant to place her in the 1895 SWAN LAKE not some production in 90 years later...

Hey, it's August -- silly season ho!

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whatever production that photo is attached to -- it's an amazing costume!

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f.y.i. the photo above of Doubrovska would seem to be one from the same time as a similar one reproduced in The Russian Ballet, 1932, W. A. Propert. It's shown in plate XXV alongside a full figure photo of Lydia Lopokova, in a harem-pants' variant on the costume for the Firebird.

the full caption in the book is "Two 'Firebirds' in 1926."

the picture of Doubrovska is credited to Lipnitzki, who may or may not be responsible for the photo scanned above.

(my copy of this somewhat rare volume is too fragile and oversize to fit into my scanner.)

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Yes, I found also some other poses taken from the same Bluebird Doubrovska's shot. (I wonder if she ever danced the whole SL ballet...)

Back to the pre-black costume for Odile...I wonder why is it so hard to find old pics of ballerinas costumed with the ballroom attire...either Imperial or Diaghilev era.

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the mention of 'bluebird' above i take to be a slip of the keys, an action i'm quite practiced in myself, and that what's meant is 'firebird'?

Beaumont's rundown of what SWAN LAKE stagings were given in Diaghilev's co. is succinct and clearly stresses that these Ballets Russes versions were truncated, with the first act/scene on the terrace of castle cut altogether.

oddly when he notes casts he calls the leading ballerina only Queen of the Swans, Kshessinska or Karsavina for instance, and makes no particular mention of Odile, tho' we know from reports, Svetlov's, for ex., that Trefilova (and Kshessinska) did Odile complete with fouette turns.

and yes, it would seem that pre-revolution photos of dancers in the role of Odile are scarce to put it mildly.

Andrew Foster's Karsavina book has some pre-1917 photos of the ballerina as Odette but not Odile. those of her Odile, in the same mode as the one posted above and that appear toward the end of his book date from 1918, and even these seem rarities.

re: Doubrovska's connection to SWAN LAKE, the entry on her in The International Dictionary of Ballet lists her in the role of Odette for SWAN LAKE, ACT 2 but doesn't list anywhere that she danced a full production as Odette/Odile.

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It is very interesting how there are almost no photos of any Imperial or Diaguilev era dancer as Odile-(or pre1940's). Apparently, when N. Sergueev staged the ballet for Markova during the 1930's at the Vic-Wells, she wore a non black costume also, but there's no way to find a photo of it anywhere. All the photos of Swan Lake from those days are usually with the white attire.

Actually there are some photos of Markova in Odile's costume for the Vic-Wells production - you can almost always find a Gordon Anthony photo of productions from that era! Mary Clarke described the costume as 'golden with red-gold sequins' and in the photos it looks very light-coloured. (GA even has a photo of Markova at a rehearsal wearing the tutu half-finished, before all the sequins were added.)

Hugh Stevenson re-designed the production in 1937 for Fonteyn, and her costume for Odile had a very dark bodice - possibly black - but the skirt was definitely not all-black, and had light-colourd drapery on it too.

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as Mel pointed out on a previous thread regarding the color of Odile's costume, black and white photos are a world unto themselves, with red reading as black. if mem. serves early British Odiles were dressed in scarlet, tho' i'm not certain if this hue was associated with Fonteyn's costuming per se.

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