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Swan Lake on PBS -- Great Performances

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both principals danced beautifully but I want more than clean execution in a "Swan Lake." 

My feelings, exactly. Four years ago I saw Murphy's first SL in NY (with Gomes) and I thought she had a smashing success in her first SL. I was looking forward to seeing her development in the role, but, I saw too many fidgeting mannerisms which were not there 4 years ago---then, she was a much more calmer, serene performer. I fail to understand why any star male dancer would want to dance the Prince in this version---he is constantly being outdanced in most acts by other characters. When the Prince finally gets a solo in ACT3, he has been knocking himself out lifting all those potential mates. But I was most impressed with Corella's demeanor--he was a truly sensitive Prince. What I dislike most about the production are the sets and costumes. The costumes, in particular, tend to overpower the dancers---

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I wonder why the choreography was changed for the swans; I found entering with pas suivi ridiculous and unnecessary (is the stage small?) and I find nothing in the music to support this step. And changing the swans' nice port de bras à l'envers that is so swanly with the aristocratic pose effacée en allongé got me screaming. The first act carousel borrowed from la fille mal gardée made me fear for a clog dance, it is completely unnecessary.

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The problem I find is that if I start enumerating everything I didn't like both about the choreography, the production and to a somewhat lesser extent, the performances, it makes me sound mean, so I can't. I agree with you there, Mireille.

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The first act carousel borrowed from la fille mal gardée made me fear for a clog dance, it is completely unnecessary.

Mireille, the carousel/maypole is in the 1895 Petipa/Ivanov original. Although it's been excised from the 1950s K. Sergeev version at the Kirov-Mariinsky, it remains in the Maly-Moussorgsky Theater, St. Petersburg's 2nd opera house.

My take on last night:

On the whole, a wonderful film. Thank you, PBS! However....

As someone who was 'there' in the audience during a couple of the filmed performances, it appears that quite a bit was later 're-danced' just for the cameras, most notably Murphy's 32 fouettes, which floundered in my two 'live' viewings, with huge travelling downstage & messy endings.

Too, I'm surprised that entire dance segments that we saw during the live performances -- most notably the "Dance of the Little Swans" by the corps de ballet, at the start of Act IV, performed in front of the 'trees' front-curtain -- were excised. Does anyone know if this & other scenes that were performed 'live' on stage, but excised for the telecast, will be restored for the commercial DVD?

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These have been great to read -- keep 'em coming!

I wanted to interrupt for just a minute to welcome Myrtha. WELCOME MYRTHA! :jawdrop: Thanks for your comments -- that's a knock out first post and I hope we'll be reading more of you! Please drop over to the Welcome forum and introduce yourself. I hope you'll stick around and join in our discussions.

I especially agreed with this:

The music seemed to be taken at the slowest pace possible and just about everybody looked like they were more interested in getting perfectly pointed feet and making no errors rather than just dancing full out. The corps de ballet was quite impressive in their synchronization. And their port de bras much better than I expected.

When I see ABT in DC they often look badly underrehearsed and so I was surprised at how cleanly they were dancing here. (And couldn't help but wondering when I'd see that level of care live on stage!) As Myrtha pointed out, this performance looked overrehearsed, as though the goal was not to make any mistakes. Something in the middle would be nice!

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I was disappointed by how rushed the whole performance felt. The story felt chopped; the pacing didn't work. Adding back some of the cut music and dance would create a more satisfying experience for the audience, I think...the heck with it being a longer production.

I thought the heavy costuming and elaborate scenery was gorgeous but more suited to a theatrical production. I've been disappointed by the Broadwayesque look that ballet companies in my area of the country (Utah/Idaho) have adopted for their productions (and the ridiculously fast pacing and numerous scenes) and now I know where they're getting it....though this was orders of magnitude higher in quality. I think it must be something the audience demands--Andrew Lloyd Webber-ish. Also, I was a bit taken aback by the shorts and tights on the men, and some of the dresses on the women (princesses, particularly) didn't seem proportioned quite right to me. Too many historic periods and too many ideas maybe???? What do you all think?

Other things: I was disappointed by how on top of the stage the cameras were; I wish there would have been a lot less changing cameras and focal lengths. For example, I didn't think it was very fair to the corps, at the end, to show them concentrating so hard; it ruined the illusion for me. And the pacing of the music bothered me a bit too; I think it's important in this ballet to balance equally the gorgeousness of the music and the dance, even if the dancers sometimes have to compromise or the choreography has to be changed. Also, I did fine with the whole ballet all the way through Odette's death leap, but Angel Corella's leap was too much like a dive onto a mattress for me--I didn't think his head would ever disappear--and Rothbart's straddle wasn't quite right. Unfortunately, we cracked up laughing at those two things. Darn it.

Oh, and the swamp monster's chest makeup made me think of all the joking about the anatomically correct batsuit in one of those past Batman movies. I actually had to look to see if he was wearing some kind of padded 'swampman suit' before I could continue watching...which makes my point, I think. The audience shouldn't be so distracted by the costuming, should it?

On the other hand, I really enjoyed the dancing, especially in the Act I pas de trois, and of them particularly Herman Cornejo. And Marcelo Gomes is truly wonderful. Gillian Murphy looks like she's going to become a truly dominating dancer...so incredibly strong. I thought that strength worked well for her as Odette; she was more of an intelligent and controlling, even ruthless queen with Siegfried. He really didn't have a chance with her at all. I thought her characterization established Angel Corella's; he really had no way to look like much other than somewhat bewildered, naive, and easily manipulated young man. She continued that manipulative behavior as Odile, but if she was trying to make him think she was Odette, I couldn't see how he could have been taken in. I think adding a bit more of that manipulativeness back into Odette would be more coherent. I wasn't that impressed with Odile's fouettes, not because Miss Murphy isn't technically and athletically impressive, but because I felt that quite a bit of her hard-won acting was lost in that variation.

Still, I'm glad I saw it and recorded it. I learned a lot.

Ah, I just read Natalia's comments about the editing that was done (which I accept as necessary in making films), but that fouette section did look odd to me. Maybe it was slightly different lighting, or characterizations, or camera angles the other nights? It could be what I noticed that made that variation seem so off to me. Of course, it could also be that I've read too much lately in too many reviews and articles about her tendency to put in as many turns as she can.

Edited by werlkj

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For me, Gomes stole the show; he is such a mature dancer with amazing acting skills. He really knows how to keep the audience's eye - What an inspiration!!!

I also missed some of the Act IV. But it flowed very nicely for a TV version. I really liked Act III when Siegfried finds out that it is not Odette and an explosion turns Rothbart into the creature. Cool!

Erica Corjeno - beautiful six!

:jawdrop:

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Question: I was watching this on a fuzzy portable black and white TV/Radio - in Act III when they cut from Odile and Rothbart to the real Odette beating her wings in a vision in the back did they use a double as they do in stage performances? It looked to me that they cut in a close up of Gillian Murphy in her Odette costume. Am I correct? (If so a very good idea...)

I think McKenzie's version follows contemporary trends of cutting down mime and processions to get to the dances and streamlining the evening so that you cut out intermissions. Also Western stagings have less patience for character and folk dances which were almost equal in stage time to the classical dances in the Petipa era. Also with all those great men in the company, McKenzie needs to create multiple male leads with virtouso solos (no miming Rothbart but a dancing one too). Obviously the 50 something Pavel Gerdt in the original production wasn't doing what Angel did on TV last night (and he had help from Benno lifting Odette in Act II). This has been the trend for the last fifty years.

When the Kirov brought the reconstructed 1900 "La Bayadere" that was as long as a Wagner Opera (over three hours) with long scenes of pure mime to balance the dance suites you got an idea of what the 19th century expected of dance theater which is very different from what we expect today. We have less patience for mime (if you see the film "Les Enfants du Paradis" you will see that Europeans had a taste for mime theater without dancing - a lost art form) and now we want more dancing and less waiting. This didn't start recently - the standard "Bayadere" that the Kirov did in 1940 that became the template for worldwide productions until the recent reconstruction also cut mime scenes and cut the score to speed up the storytelling and added male bravura numbers (the Golden Idol). At least McKenzie didn't give us the capering hyperactive Jester that haunts most Russian stagings and Peter Martins NYCB version.

I thought that Gillian Murphy was one of the finest Odette/Odiles I had seen live when I saw her dance it at the Met last season with Carreno (I have also seen Asylmuratova, Ananiashvili, Susan Jaffe, Sylvie Guillem, Zhanna Ayupova, Uliana Lopatkina, Svetlana Zakharova and I have seen Cynthia Gregory do the second act at her farewell and many others). It is interesting to see that we now have a taste for subtle Odiles - I think the older Russian ballerinas were very happy to vamp away. I think that preserving a role that you have only been dancing a few years for the cameras is a great pressure. She seemed more self-conscious on the camera and a little less in control than what I remembered from last Spring. Also I think that the first five years a dancer does a classic role, the dancer is giving the performance the coaches want from them. Later on they find themselves and their own interpretation. I think Murphy has amazing maturity and is very giving emotionally for someone who has only been dancing this role three or four years.

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A quick note on Pavel Gerdt, since this is one of my causes :jawdrop: I've read that theory of the change (no Benno) in the white swan pas de deux, too, but I have a different one. Siegfried wasn't a mime role because Gerdt was 50 but because the idea of a leading dancer, of a danseur noble, was different in the 19th century. Then, the hero would have danced in the waltzes -- and they read that as "dancing" while we today think of it as "marking time" or "not dancing" -- and he partnered. He often did not do the kind of dancing that's been standard in Russian and Western productions since the 1960s NOT BECAUSE HE COULDN'T but because danseur nobles didn't do that. He would not "dance" in the way we think of as dancing, at all. For the danseur noble were reserved the stately measures -- meaning it was all about adagio, control and line. Benno is in the Act II pas de deux for dramatic reasons (as Von Rothbart was in the Act III pas de deux). A 50 year old would be able to do the partnering in that duet (watch 50 and 60 year olds teach partnering classes!). Some of the lifts in White Swan are 20th century additions.

Quite a few people have mentioned how much they liked Gomes's Von Rothbart -- and I agree! I did too -- but I don't think that Siegfried, as the hero, should come off second best, and I don't think that he did was Corella's fault (although Corella is not an ideal a Siegfried, in my book.) But the Von Rothbart role has been changed so competely that he dominates -- and that's not sound dramaturgy, to me.

Faux pas, I think they did use Murphy rather than a double, as, in the prelude, they had her change into her Act II costume while on stage they use a toy swan. It is a good idea, but not easy to do in live performance!

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Hardly anyone has mentioned this but seeing that grand "old" man of the ballet stage, Frederic Franklin, trodding the boards on last night's broadcast brought a smile to my face.

And I'm probably deranged for saying this but I find The Swamp Thing oddly compelling!

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Thanks for mentioning Franklin -- how could we have forgotten! He can still hold the stage. He's amazing.

And, miliosr, I think Swamp Thing needs a fan :jawdrop: Glad you spoke out.

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I dubbed him "The Creature from the Swan Lagoon"

"And I'm probably deranged for saying this but I find The Swamp Thing oddly compelling!"

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Sorry to be a pest & continue to ask this question:

Does anyone know if the commercial DVD will include the parts that were danced at the live performances here in DC, yet were cut from the telecast? For example, the 'Dance of the Little Swans' at the start of Act IV was seen live but cut from the telecast.

Thanks.

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I wish I could sit down over coffee and discuss this shared experience with so many of you. Here are just a few reactions to these posts.

The music seemed to be taken at the slowest pace possible

Maybe that helps explains (for me) the relative lack of real pathos in the main story.

I wonder why the choreography was changed for the swans; I found entering with pas suivi ridiculous and unnecessary (is the stage small?) and I find nothing in the music to support this step. And changing the swans' nice port de bras à l'envers that is so swanly with the aristocratic pose effacée en allongé got me screaming.

I appreciate the technical expertise here. I did feel that the role of the swan corps had been seriously changed from other productions I've seen, and not for the better. At the end there main purpose seems to be to clutter the stage, making it difficult for von Rothbart (whom they ignore entirely) to die his interminable death.

And the pacing of the music bothered me a bit too; I think it's important in this ballet to balance equally the gorgeousness of the music and the dance, even if the dancers sometimes have to compromise or the choreography has to be changed. Still, I'm glad I saw it and recorded it. I learned a lot.

Agree on the music. And agree VERY MUCH that I, too, learned a lot.

At least McKenzie didn't give us the capering hyperactive Jester that haunts most Russian stagings and Peter Martins NYCB version.

I thought that Gillian Murphy was one of the finest Odette/Odiles I had seen live when I saw her dance it at the Met last season with Carreno (I have also seen Asylmuratova, Ananiashvili, Susan Jaffe, Sylvie Guillem, Zhanna Ayupova, Uliana Lopatkina, Svetlana Zakharova and I have seen Cynthia Gregory do the second act at her farewell and many others).....  She seemed more self-conscious on the camera and a little less in control than what I remembered from last Spring.  Also I think that the first five years a dancer does a classic role, the dancer is giving the performance the coaches want from them.  Later on they find themselves and their own interpretation.  I think Murphy has amazing maturity and is very giving emotionally for someone who has only been dancing this role three or four years.

Hooray about the missing Jester, whom I've also seen in other versions, including one by the Kirov. Your thoughts about Gillian Murphy echo Alexandra's, and have convinced me 100%.

And then there's Natalia's very excellent point:

On the whole, a wonderful film. Thank you PBS! However ........

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I wonder why the choreography was changed for the swans; I found entering with pas suivi ridiculous and unnecessary (is the stage small?) .....

.....The first act carousel borrowed from la fille mal gardée made me fear for a clog dance, it is completely unnecessary.

Mireille, that entrée was one of the changes that thrilled me! Only the first four swans did it, so it wasn't a significant modification, but I thought it was just delicious and enjoyed it immensely (I remember letting out a cry of delight when the first swan entered!).

Likewise, the "carousel" was a cheerful addition/reconstitution. Unnecessary? Maybe. But "unnecessary" is in the eye of the beholder. So unnecessary has been deemed the jester that this production didn't even hint at his existence. Black cygnets seemed to be unnecessary to this version as well. So, why not insert something as charming as the maypole if it doesn't hurt the story in any way? Visually, the effect is stunning. I just loved it! It was a smart move for television.

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So, why not insert something as charming as the maypole if it doesn't hurt the story in any way? Visually, the effect is stunning. I just loved it! It was a smart move for television.

I also liked it. But at one point there was a long shot showing the ribbons all tangled up around the pole. The next long show showed them all perfectly in order. I spent an unnecessarily extended amount of time trying to figure out how the dancers had managed that trick. Possible point: adding stuff also expands the potential for distracting the viewer.

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A few thoughts on the ABT Swan Lake.

First the cuts made me angry. Yes, Act 3 can seem long but as a whole the thing looked amputated rather than cut. I would estimate the actual performance, minus credits, chat, etc to be a little more than 1 1/2 hours.

Is PBS going to sell this version?? The cuts alone impinge on the integrity of the performance. Why buy "Swan Lake - Abridged" ? Or will the DVD version have more material.

I didn't like Corella and Murphy together. Also she's a bit tall for him, at the end of the Black Swan adagio, when Corella was steading Murphy's hand in preparation for her balance, he could just barely reach.

I liked Murphy a lot. There have been many comments from people surprised at her Odette, expecting she would be an Odile but not an Odette. I felt so too before I saw her last Summer and was really blown away by her Odette.

She was not so much swan, or woman, she was more queen than anything else .

Very grand, but still tragic.

I was really taken aback by Odile's imitation of Odette, I usually find this cheesy but was startled by her change in movement, Odette didn't seem so different than Odile until that moment and I though wow she really has a whole different world of movement.

Because the rest of the ballet was SO cut, the same thing happened again in Act 4.

There were only a few moments between the end of the Black Swan and the entrance of the sorrowfull Odette and I was struck again at the change in movement.

Corella didn't impress me all that much. Maybe chemistry?

How is Marcelo Gomes so GOOD at playing BAD guys. I saw him last week playing the heavy in Sylvia.

And I can't forget Herman. I go back long enough that I wanted to close my eyes during the ABT Act 1 pdt, but this was beautifully done.

Does anyone else think that ABT, at this point, is really top heavy with terrific male dancers?

But the cuts . Grrrrrrrrrrrr.

:angry2:

Richard

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I was at ABT last night, so I missed the broadcast, but I've already ordered the DVD. It's on backorder and will be shipped out July 15....just a heads up. However I will watch it this Sunday :-)

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Don't shoot me for this, please, but I really think that the "vision" of Odette was Julie Kent, not Gillian Murphy.

I noticed that Gillian Murphy's make-up when she first took the stage made me think she had made herself up in the manner that Julie Kent usually does, and that it made her look just a bit more like Julie Kent than she usually would.

ok, just my 2 cents. I do realize that this little detail does not make for a review of the merits of the entire ballet.

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richard53dog wrote:

I didn't like Corella and Murphy together. Also she's a bit tall for him, at the end of the Black Swan adagio, when Corella was steading Murphy's hand in preparation for her balance, he could just barely reach.

When they embraced, he was looking passionately into her....nostrils. I thought she might swallow him.

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Thanks for the heads up about the backorder. I taped it, but sent it to my daughter at her summer intensive, figuring my DVD would be here in a few days. At least it repeats on Sunday.

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I didn't mind what height difference there was at all, and there really wasn't all that much, was there? However, I do think that there could have been a difference worth noting if Gillian Murphy's Odette was more fragile, delicate, and girlish (which I don't think she was), instead of being not at all fragile and more inhuman than human--otherworldly and maybe even a bit unbalanced/neurotic. I don't know if that's how she intended her Odette, but that's how I read it. I think Odette's situation would make anyone a bit crazy.

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I do think that there could have been a difference worth noting if Gillian Murphy's Odette was more fragile, delicate, and girlish (which I don't think she was), instead of being not at all fragile and more inhuman than human--otherworldly and maybe even a bit unbalanced/neurotic. I don't know if that's how she intended her Odette, but that's how I read it. I think Odette's situation would make anyone a bit crazy.

At least that's how the Trocks play it. To great acclaim.

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