Melissa

Who is your favorite Odette/Odile?

88 posts in this topic

I'm having trouble visualising that...do you mean that when she does the rond de jambe en l'air, she doesn't fully extend her leg before doing the rond?

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I am planning on seeing Oregon Ballet Theatre in October perform Swan Lake with 3 casts. I hope to report on that.

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Single best Odette/Odile I ever saw: Natalia Makarova in her only appearance with ABT in New York 35 summers ago. Arlene Croce wrote about it as a truly great performance. Makarova had a public falling-out with Nureyev earlier that summer (caused, I believe, by a literal fall, a partnering mishap) and there was a sizeable pro-Rudy contingent in the New York State Theater who loudly booed her first entrance. It seems she may have prepared for that, mentally and technically. This was Makarova at her simplest, largest and purest - amazingly clear, fluid, expressive dancing unflawed by calculated and self-dramatizing effects (and supported superbly by Ivan Nagy). Her Odile, too, seduced Siegfried (and us) through beauty, not the crude vamping one often sees. I haven't forgotten it and hope I never will.

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I'm having trouble visualising that...do you mean that when she does the rond de jambe en l'air, she doesn't fully extend her leg before doing the rond?

Lopatkina completes four ronds de jambes per leg, each time, fully extended on the beat.

I've seen it live and canned. She has this down to a science. It's no fluke: She's technically perfect

as Odette. She has complete control of her limbs, and at the same time she is a supreme mistress of

nuance. From first entrance to final curtain she is the Swan. The only other ballerina I've seen execute

four ronds per leg in this variation, (live or canned), was Maximova on tape. Lopatkina's Odile is of the

Asylmuratova School of Odiles: A quiet storm - subtle and technically brilliant, but without femme fatale

fireworks.

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Lopatkina completes four ronds de jambes per leg, each time, fully extended on the beat.

I've seen it live and canned. She has this down to a science. It's no fluke: She's technically perfect

as Odette. She has complete control of her limbs, and at the same time she is a supreme mistress of

nuance. From first entrance to final curtain she is the Swan.

What particularly impresses me about Ulyana Lopatkina as Odette is when she dances alone as Odette, she perfectly captures the vulnerability of the Odette character with her dancing skills, unlike Galina Ulanova or Maya Plisetskaya, which project the vulnerability of the Odette character more through their acting skills. One other thing I noticed: when she makes her first appearance early in Act II (or Act I Scene 2), note the way she moves her head--it's almost like watching a real swan stretch and move its head.

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What particularly impresses me about Ulyana Lopatkina as Odette is when she dances alone as Odette, she perfectly captures the vulnerability of the Odette character with her dancing skills [ ... ] One other thing I noticed: when she makes her first appearance early in Act II (or Act I Scene 2), note the way she moves her head--it's almost like watching a real swan stretch and move its head.
Sacto1654, your comments make me want to look again at this performance.

Another thought: dancers who are most effective as Odette tend to make me listen to the music more carefully, often discovering (or re-discovereing) small phrases or emphases that, in a score so familiar, you tend to forget over time. Musicality at the highest level is central to a memorable Odette. I'm not sure that this is so central to Odile.

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--it's almost like watching a real swan stretch and move its head.

Reminds me of another great line from Arlene Croce: "If it's swans you want, go to the zoo." Doesn't the poignancy and intensity of the lakeside scene, especially the pas de deux, come from the fact that right now Odette and her court are temporarily released from being swans, that they're struggling and suffering young women? I find ballerinas who emphasize the swan moves less convincing than those who let the occasional birdlike passages just flow with the rest of their choreography.

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EAW,

I actually kind of disagree with that because when Maya Plisetskaya first performed in the West in 1959, Western audiences were totally awed by her really flexible arm movements that mimicked a bird's wing in both The Dying Swan and Swan Lake.

I still think Lopatkina's bird-like movements at the beginning of Act II (aka Act I Scene 2) is much of the charm of her performance as Odette. I would LOVE to imagine her in the Odile role in the Vladamir Bourmeister choreographed version, which is quite demanding to dance (and which Svetlana Zakharova did wonderfully), because Odile is so totally different in style from the Odette character.

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I actually kind of disagree with that because when Maya Plisetskaya first performed in the West in 1959, Western audiences were totally awed by her really flexible arm movements that mimicked a bird's wing in both The Dying Swan and Swan Lake.

Yes, her bird imitations were amazing and world-famous, but to me they're more like stunts than organic parts of Swan Lake. I prefer the high-flying, death-defying Maya of Laurencia and Don Quixote.

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I can forgive some bird-like movements at Odette's entrance because some ballerinas like to use that moment to show us her transformation from swan to human. (Although to be nitpicky, the transformation occurs offstage--that's what Siegfried is seeing before he runs away, so by the time Odette has entered, she is already human.)

I went to watch Lopatkina's double ronds de jambe en l'air in the variation, and her technique is ok, but it does annoy me that she feels the need to do the ronds de jambe with her knee in her armpit. From a technical standpoint, while it is very difficult to do en pointe, what the dancer should be striving for is to do a full rond de jambe each time, and that cannot really occur if the leg is raised above 90º (because the working foot is too far away from the supporting leg to come anywhere near the supporting knee at that speed) although there is nothing wrong with extending it higher once the ronds are completed. For comparison, I watched Asylmuratova, Makhalina, and Mezentseva, and they all do the ronds at 90º and then raise the leg. Makarova does a single rond de jambe en l'air (on the video I watched) and that was a nice effect as well--her foot makes a big swirl in the air on the way up.

Lopatkina's version seems to me another example of technique sacrificed to extension that is all too common these days--the thinking that higher=better.

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I can forgive some bird-like movements at Odette's entrance because some ballerinas like to use that moment to show us her transformation from swan to human. (Although to be nitpicky, the transformation occurs offstage--that's what Siegfried is seeing before he runs away, so by the time Odette has entered, she is already human.)

I don't think the Swan-to-Woman transformation has to be an on/off thing. In fact, a valid interpretation might show Odette never fully shedding Rothbart's curse. Of course, the strongest swan effects should be saved for her Act II entrance and exit, where she is clearly fighting to resist her reswanification.

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Live: Makarova No. 1 in one sense and Melissa Hayden No. 1 in Balanchine version in another sense. I'm not going to choose, so I really should have put them in alphabetical order.

On tape: Mezentseva.

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Of course, the strongest swan effects should be saved for her Act II entrance and exit, where she is clearly fighting to resist her reswanification.

I definitely noticed that, and it is VERY effective the way Lopatkina does it. Small wonder why in two documentaries on Russian TV done about her they both mention prominently show a lot of her work in Swan Lake. :(

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I watched Asylmuratova, Makhalina, and Mezentseva, and they all do the ronds at 90º and then raise the leg.

Hans, I think you're on to something. This may be, (but not necessarily), simply a matter of coach's influence. These three women were coached by Olga Moiseyeva. Moiseyeva currently coaches Olesya Novikova. If Novikova ever makes her debut as O/O, it would be interesting to see if Moiseyeva trains her to do the ronds at 90º

In today's Russia, Lopatkina's interpretation is considered to be the platinum standard for this generation. She's a cultural icon. Her coach is Ninelka Kurgapkina, whose approach is as different from Moiseyeva's as night and day. Both coaches are sticklers for by-the-book technique, but Kurgapkina seems to be more liberal in letting her students find their own way in a role. Moiseyeva is like a diamond cutter; Kurgapkina is like an architect. A good example of this is Obratzova who is also one of Kurgapkina's pupils. Now, there are sections of Lopatkina's Odile which I think she finesses, but on the whole, she does only what she knows she can do well, and on this point, she doesn't deviate.

Lopatkina's version seems to me another example of technique sacrificed to extension that is all too common these days--the thinking that higher=better.

IMO Alina Somova, (who btw, is Olga Tchyentchikova's masterpiece), would fit your definition, sans the technique :).

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Now, there are sections of Lopatkina's Odile which I think she finesses, but on the whole, she does only what she knows she can do well, and on this point, she doesn't deviate.

Cygnet, this is a very interesting observation. Can you develop it a bit more for those of us who are not familiar with her work? (On the face of it, it seems to be quite damning when applied to a serious artist.)

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I don't mean to say that Lopatkina's technique is bad--she does many things well--but distorting a step simply for the purpose of raising one's leg higher is a technical mistake, in my opinion. It just isn't rond de jambe en l'air the way she does it, any more than if she put her foot next to her head and fluttered it about, it wouldn't be petit battement. Of course, textbook perfection is not required on the stage; one may sacrifice many things for the sake of expression, but what is she expressing when putting herself in such an awkward physical position other than that higher is better, full stop?

I do agree with you regarding Somova, and to be fair, Lopatkina is not at all alone in thinking the higher leg, the better the step. It seems many of the current Mariinsky ballerinas I've seen also feel this way, judging by the way they dance. I also went ahead and watched some more interpretations--Svetlana Zakharova, Lucia Lacarra, and Tamara Rojo. Zakharova and Lacarra also treat the rond de jambe as an unwelcome interruption on their legs' skyward journeys, and Rojo makes it look like some sort of ornamented developpé. I think that in the case of this particular step in this variation, I like the three 'Moiseyeva Maidens' :) best. They put the step first, and any extension beyond that is icing on the cake. I will say, though, that I do admire much of what Lopatkina does as Odette.

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Now, there are sections of Lopatkina's Odile which I think she finesses, but on the whole, she does only what she knows she can do well, and on this point, she doesn't deviate.

Cygnet, this is a very interesting observation. Can you develop it a bit more for those of us who are not familiar with her work? (On the face of it, it seems to be quite damning when applied to a serious artist.)

Hi Bart! I'm sorry - I didn't mean to imply that Lopatkina isn't a spontaneous artist - quite the

opposite! She's a ballerina with alot of variety and versatility, who accomplishes maximum effects,

but with a great economy of means. She's a spellbinding traditionalist, who approaches O/O and her other

classical roles the way a scientist might apply his or her knowledge of the scientific method in a controlled

experiment. Here was my first impression of her O/O during the 2006 Fall U.S. tour:

http://ballettalk.invisionzone.com/index.p...st&p=191401

It just isn't rond de jambe en l'air the way she does it, any more than if she put her foot next to her head and fluttered it about, it wouldn't be petit battement. Of course, textbook perfection is not required on the stage; one may sacrifice many things for the sake of expression. . .

:) Hi Hans, I think I understand where you're coming from; we don't disagree.

but what is she expressing when putting herself in such an awkward physical position other than that higher is better, full stop?

My guess is that perhaps this may be the way she's found which gives her maximum control, (not necessarily to express anything, per se, in that segment of the variation). For me, the common denominator of Lopatkina's interpretation is total control of her limbs. Perhaps her height is (another) unknown variable that effects how she executes the ronds > (?)

She has released a studio dvd called "Lopatkina Lesson," (2007, TDK-Japan). In Russian, (with Japanese subtitles), she explains her roles, taking us through Nikiya's Act 2 lamentation, Raymonda's Act 3 variation, "Paquita's" variation, Dying Swan and O/O. Dying Swan and O/O are covered in the last segments :).

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I much prefer an Odette that takes it easy on the swan mannerisms. They can be very effective when used sparingly – i.e. at the beginning and ending of the first lakeside scene and maybe a little preening here & there but I think they lose their effectiveness in direct proportion to how often they are displayed. The 2 most striking examples of swan arms I’ve ever seen (both live) were by Makarova and Cynthia Gregory, both in those last few seconds when Odette’s turned back into a swan and is exiting the stage at the end of the 1st lakeside scene. The physical movements of their arms were completely different but both started somewhere deep in their backs. It was along time ago but as I remember Gregory’s arms were like powerful rippling wings, Makarova’s fluid & boneless but both created chilling, spine tingling magic that demonstrated how powerless they were to break Von Rothbart’s spell.

I can forgive some bird-like movements at Odette's entrance because some ballerinas like to use that moment to show us her transformation from swan to human. (Although to be nitpicky, the transformation occurs offstage--that's what Siegfried is seeing before he runs away, so by the time Odette has entered, she is already human.)

I don't think the Swan-to-Woman transformation has to be an on/off thing. In fact, a valid interpretation might show Odette never fully shedding Rothbart's curse. Of course, the strongest swan effects should be saved for her Act II entrance and exit, where she is clearly fighting to resist her reswanification.

While I’m sure a constant swan/woman Odette can be a valid interpretation in terms of the logic of the story I just don’t think it’s an effective one. For one thing – there’s the yuck factor. A couple of people posted (in the Siegfried’s Vow thread) about how weird Siegfreid was to fall in love with a bird. Well, if Odette is played as a bird or some bird/woman monstrosity then I totally agree. For me Swan Lake derives it’s power from the fact that Odette is NOT a bird, she’s a woman who’s been cursed & is doomed to live as a swan by day, only regaining her human form at night. Well, when Siegfreid (and the audience) meet her it’s night, and he falls in love with Odette the woman, not a bird. The pathos of the story comes both from his thwarted attempt to save her and from her struggle, her hope to find love and to be a whole, full woman again – to have her life back. I don’t think it’s anywhere near as moving if she appears to be a continuous human/animal hybrid

I think the most important characteristics of an O/O (or more correctly, an Odette) are the ballerina’s extensions, line, fluidity and phrasing and her ability to make you see that human essence in Odette. I’ve only seen Lopatkina’s Odette live once, though I’ve watched the DVD many times. I think she is a wonderful, beautiful O/O, but not quite up there with my 3 favorites simply because I am too mesmerized by the beauty of her form to be truly moved by Odette’s dilemma. Perhaps if I have the opportunity to see her live a couple more times I’ll change my mind. Another top current O/O for me is Veronika Part. She is stunningly gorgeous with endless extensions and a deep emotional connection to the role. I believe she would be truly heartbreaking in a better production but unfortunately I am cursed to have to watch her in McKenzie’s SL so for now my pantheon of O/Os remains Fonteyn, Makarova & Pavlenko.

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I much prefer an Odette that takes it easy on the swan mannerisms. They can be very effective when used sparingly – i.e. at the beginning and ending of the first lakeside scene and maybe a little preening here & there but I think they lose their effectiveness in direct proportion to how often they are displayed.
Thanks, nysusan, for putting this so well. Excessive "swanisms" appear to me to be contrived, as though the dancer were always thinking things like: "Now I can put in a couple of extra pecks! Time to bend the wrists and flap helplessly! Etc. This always distracts me and pulls me away from the music. Possibly that's why I like the Balanchine approach so much.
The 2 most striking examples of swan arms I’ve ever seen (both live) were by Makarova and Cynthia Gregory, both in those last few seconds when Odette’s turned back into a swan and is exiting the stage at the end of the 1st lakeside scene. The physical movements of their arms were completely different but both started somewhere deep in their backs. It was along time ago but as I remember Gregory’s arms were like powerful rippling wings, Makarova’s fluid & boneless but both created chilling, spine tingling magic that demonstrated how powerless they were to break Von Rothbart’s spell.
Again, 100% in agreement. It's sad that so many younger ballet fans never had the chance of observing Gregory -- and especially, for me, Makarova -- in live performance. Gregory's "deep emotional connection" and Makarova's perfection breadth of technique were, each in its own way, deeply moving and satisfying. You got the point -- strength but powerlessnses, vulnerability, sadness, yearning, purity -- without the filigree and fidgiting.

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As a youngster, one of the Odette/Odile's who made a strong impression on me (on film) was wonderful Canadian ballerina Evelyn Hart, in the Makarova production for London Festival Ballet, alongside Peter Schaufuss. Despite her wiry, bird-like physique, she exuded great passion, strength, and devilish charm as Odile while being a perfectly natural, quite regal Odette as well.

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Technically, a lot of dancers have done beautifully in both Odette and Odile, from past to present. A lot of great names have been mentioned in this thread (over the years!) but I can only write about the ones that I have seen. For a long time I didn't like Swan Lake, there was always "Giselle, Giselle, Giselle". But my interest has been renewed since I watched the Nureyev/Fonteyn's Swan Lake (1967) on DVD. I was most impressed by the way Fonteyn protrayed Odile with the use of her eyes. As soon as Odile busted into the ballroom, she gave one single look and that completely defined who Odile was. I haven't seen a lot of Odiles that would give me that "dramatic high".

In recent years, thanks to youtube, I'm most memorized by Alicia Alonso (Odile), Gillian Murphy (Odette/Odile) and Svetlana Zakharova (Odette) to name a few...

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Technically, a lot of dancers have done beautifully in both Odette and Odile, from past to present. A lot of great names have been mentioned in this thread (over the years!) but I can only write about the ones that I have seen. For a long time I didn't like Swan Lake, there was always "Giselle, Giselle, Giselle". But my interest has been renewed since I watched the Nureyev/Fonteyn's Swan Lake (1967) on DVD. I was most impressed by the way Fonteyn protrayed Odile with the use of her eyes. As soon as Odile busted into the ballroom, she gave one single look and that completely defined who Odile was. I haven't seen a lot of Odiles that would give me that "dramatic high".

In recent years, thanks to youtube, I'm most memorized by Alicia Alonso (Odile), Gillian Murphy (Odette/Odile) and Svetlana Zakharova (Odette) to name a few...

little-junkie, Fonteyn was my first Odette-Odile and even not having any basis for comparison, I was very impressed. I recall her being extremely dangerous and charismatic as Odile, she didn't use any of the exaggerated vampish type effects we often see, she was just irresistible. Very sophisticated and very much the person that attracts the attention of everyone in whatever room she has entered.

Although the quality is poor, particularly the movement , which is somewhat jerky, I think this clip shows the Fonteyn/Nureyev dynamic better than the Nureyev film. They are both a bit nervous in the first moment or two but they settle in and Fonteyn is mesmerizing in her attraction. Siegfried simply is overwhelmed, this is no over the top siren but an irresistible force that simply can't be ignored.

Although Fonteyn was never a virtuoso, some of her effects are very impressive, particularly the last part of the coda. She attempts the 32 fouettes, which was more than she did on stage at this point but only gets about 29 out. but the diagonal afterwards is amazing. Also , throughout, her use of her hands and head is very captivating.

This was posted a while back but wasn't the complete pdd, I believe it ended with the adagio. This source includes the variations and coda.

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Mmm...tough question. Need some time to think about it... :dry:

So after thinking about it-(for almost four years... :P )-, here are my picks.

Best Odette live. Mme. Josefina Mendez-(RIP). I saw her live in the role only once, and she was past her prime, but few times-(probably until Lorna Feijoo came along)-have I seen such exquisite portray of the Swan Queen.

Best Odile live.Aurora Bosch-(The BEST "bad girl" the Cuban ballet ever had....)

and

Rosario Suarez-(the one and only Charin, of course...)

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I realize this may be a tough question to answer since few ballerinas have the technical and dramatic abilities to dance both roles successfully.

My favorite Odette is Natalia Makarova. No other ballerina I've seen has captured the pathos of the character or brought out the poetry of Ivanov's choreography more eloquently than her. Some may not like her swan mannerisms, but to me they're exquisite.

I've yet to see the perfect Odile. Plisetskaya acted and danced the role to the hilt, so she's probably my first choice. Makarova would be a close second, even though she didn't project Odile's wickedness as effectively as Plisetskaya.

I've never seen Plisetskaya's Odile, sadly for me. The best Odile I've seen from a dramatic point of view is oddly enough, Makarova, which might sound like I'm contradicting you. I saw Makarova live, in Swan Lake only once but I've watched her video performance with Anthony Dowell many, many times. And I have to tell you, I haven't seen an Odile surpassing her from the point of view of dramatic power, ever. I'm speaking now of the younger crop of ballerinas. They all have the looks, the turns, the balances, the high extensions but none I've seen seem to be able to inhabit the role completely the way Makarova did.

Makarova was not a powerhouse technician by any stretch of the imagination and her turns were never a testament to unshakeable bravura. But, and I think the blocking of the action in Act Three helps with this, her entrance with Von Rothbart could stop an entire city block. One of the oddities of the Russian productions of Swan Lake I've seen is the early introduction of Von Rothbart and Odile in Act Three. The curtain rises, the march starts, the music changes, then Odile and Von Rothbart make their entrance, bow to the Queen, scarcely acknowledge Siegfried, and then run off for twenty minutes! To where? and for what? The productions of SL that I got to see Makarova perform, and captured beautifully on tape in her performance with Anthony Dowell, has the diabolical duo make an arresting uninvited entrance right in the middle of the festivities. They make their introductions to the Queen Mother, Siegfried is astounded and overjoyed that "Odette" has shown up, and with one half-turn of her body to face him and a baleful and penetrating stare, Odile lets Siegfried take her hand, and with that one gut-wrenching key change in the music, the pas de deux begins.

I'll refrain from raving on and on about the pas de deux itself, other than to mention the sharpness of Odile's attack, Odile's ravishing but brittle backbends and her brazen flirtation with Siegfried. Finally, Makarova's and Von Rothbart's exit from the ballroom is every bit as gripping as their entrance. All of this is captured on film in that 1982 Royal Ballet production. I've watched other performances on tape and now, on DVD but none have risen to the same level, as far as dramatic impact is concerned, in the Ballroom Scene. I find myself going back to the Makarova-Dowell performance over and over again. The more time passes and the more performances I watch, either live or recorded, the more I realize what a singular Odette/Odile Makarova was, and how even more effective her dramatic powers were enhanced, when she was paired with Anthony Dowell.

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Odette/Odile makes or breaks a Swan Lake, and I find it far more renewing and interesting when an O/O tells me something colossal and terrible about being imprisoned, rather than if she makes a more or less aesthetic swan. As long as her 'birdiness' is drawing me away from any 'reality' into the super-hyper-unreality where this bird-woman thing makes metaphorical sense, that's fine. But she doesn't have to 'be' a swanny maiden for the prison metaphor to work. I'm thinking of why above all the perhaps 80 O/Os I've seen (live) in 20 years, Uliana Lopatkina and Tamara Rojo affected me on an entirely separate scale than any others, 'great' though many of them are at swanlike beauty or classical delicacy or aerialness etc. Lopatkina & Rojo are wholly unalike, though they have both taken their technique to that rare level where they merely use the steps to express the ideas the ballet gives to them.

Rojo is all music, a vibrantly feminine, tender, and very 'present' vision that comes and goes in different guises as her Siegfried dreams her to be - she is about as 'human' an Odette as I have ever seen. She is sexually charged in both disguises, and there is real horror in seeing such a beautiful woman enslaved, and a real urgency in one's desire for her to be released. I suppose it's a modern kind of horror.

Lopatkina is elemental, she doesn't come across as a sensate woman you might meet, but something more like the mythical soul of a nation. Her Odette seems to be resigned, her feelings muted, after centuries of enchainment. Sexual attraction, trust, faith, all these things went long, long ago. She is like one of Michelangelo's stone slaves, a ravishing form struggling in vain out of cold stone.

It matters with Rojo who her Sigfried is, because that is how she fashions her performance. It really does not matter with Lopatkina, because she would represent the permanent suffering of the damned whoever the current villain was. They both fashion their Odiles with equal care, Rojo flamboyantly to dazzle, Lopatkina, on at least one occasion, to repel. Either way, the message about evil is irresistible and neckprickling. Rojo's finale is heartbreaking because she is lucky enough to have the Royal Ballet version to dance, and one's tears just pour; Lopatkina, who is made for tragedy, is saddled with the implausible Soviet 'happy' resolution which she never appears to believe in. I wonder if Lopatkina will ever get the right ending for the story she tells in her Swan Lake, or whether she will remain trapped in artificial optimism for all time.

I've never been a fan of Lopatkina's, and I've seen her live and on the 2006 DVD. I do agree wholeheartedly with you, however. For a ballerina as prodigiously talented as Lopatkina and for whom Swan Lake has become a signature role, I hope, I really, really, hope that before her career ends, she will free herself from that truly vexing and totally unnecessary Soviet-era "happy ending". I agree with your observation that Lopatkina doesn't believe in it herself and isn't very successful in hiding it.

It's been over twenty years since Glasnost and the break up of the Soviet Union. You would think that the directorial powers that be at the Maryinsky and Bolshoi, would open up their thinking about the staging of Act IV, and fashion something more closely attuned to to what Tchaikovsky and his librettists intended.

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