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SWAN LAKE - "Musical America" illustration

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this post shows scans of a program from 1911 and an illustration, clipped from an issue of Musical America (no date showing), of SWAN LAKE as presented at NYC's Metropolitan House, in 1911?, with Mordkin and Geltser

there aren't that many full-stage pictures from this era that are familiar to me, so this one seems something of a curiosity.

among other things for the spelling of Tchaikovsky's/Tschaikovsky's name - as NYCB continues to do - as well as for the details of the action captured by the photo, presumably taken here in the States.

the program seems to indicate that the Imperial Ballet group led by Mordkin and Geltser presented a bill with, more or less? four acts of Swan Lake in an evening that then ended with a selection of divertissements.



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the 'feather in his cap' was seemingly de rigeur for Siegfried costuming in Russia for some time.

there are numerous Siegfrieds costumed wearing a feather.

David Vaughan has a photo, if mem. serves, of Anatole Obukhov as Siegfried here in the West with a telltale feather very much in his cap.

nowadays there isn't much in the way of hats for ballet costuming, esp. for men. (i noted with some dismay that Carreno chose not to wear the cap designed for Sergei in Ratmansky's ON THE DNIEPER.)

in DANCERS Baryshnikov wears a hat for his act 1 entrance in GISELLE - nowadays no one does in this production.

Arlene Croce pointed out that Lilac's gestural mime denotes w/ a flourish of her hand that Prince Desire will come - and that we'll know him by the 'feather in his hat' etc.

early 20th century Soviet Albrechts are also sometimes shown w/ beplumed hats - i recall one of Yermolaev sporting a very sleek pheasant feather.

i think too there are a number of photos of early 1900s Siegfrieds with an egret feather in their caps very much like this one on Mordkin.

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Mordkin played Siegfried to A. Djuri's Odette/Odile in Aleksandr Gorsky's 1901 staging of the ballet for Moscow's Bolshoi Theater - presumably following to some extent the Petipa/Ivanov 1895 version out of St. Petersburg.

(there wasn't a further one in Moscow until 1912, led by Geltser and VasilyTikhomirov.)

the designs in '01 were by Korovine and perhaps are the ones on which Mordkin's 'touring' production were based.

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I believe that this is Mordkin's production with the four acts compressed into two, and a lot of consequent editing. That would have left time for divertissements to end the matinee. This was at the old Metropolitan Opera House, as the producer is listed as Gatti-Casazza, and the old monogram of the Metropolitan Opera is in the top center of the cast list. I can't recall whether this production played in the old Hippodrome in NY, or whether it was just the one in London.

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I love the title the editors gave the photo: Scene from Wordless Tschaikowsky Opera at the Metropolitan. :lol: "Ballet" hadn't yet entered the popular lexicon?

Maybe not for NYC audiences at that stage. They had a bit of experience with opera at that point with regular companies performing frequently since the 1870s or so but I believe ballet performances were less regular.

I got a chuckle out of that definition of Swan Lake too!

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a recently acquired program for the Mordkin Ballet in 1938 includes the following copy to accompany the group's then new staging of SWAN LAKE.

interestingly Mordkin makes no ref. to Vaganaova's 1933 production, which i suppose he may not known much about, but in which Konstantin Sergeyev's tam-wearing Siegfried looked something like the 'poet' featured in Mordkin's 'new interpretation.'

the program notes also mention Sedova, who alternated with Geltser opposite Mordkin's Siegfried of 1911, which leads me to wonder if the Odette shown in the Musical America illust. is really Sedova, rather than Geltser, as the caption says.


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A thought about the no-Vaganova program note - Mordkin would have known Gorski personally, but Vaganova was a good three generations removed from "his crowd". He wouldn't have known much about her work, he having left Russia permanently after the October Revolution. It may simply be a case of "mention your friends, you never know when they might need work."

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point well made and taken, Mel.

interesting to me me, tho' that the two - Mordkin and Vagnova thought to make their Siegfrieds something of a generic poet rather than the imperfect prince he was traditionally.

as we know Vaganova's 'concept' included the look of Siegfried's costuming - tam, velvet jacket, and boots in the vein of 'romantic' student, etc. while Mordkin kept to the look of the feather-in-his-cap, old world, heir to the throne of land.

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In biology, we see it a lot. Parallel development quite aside from environment. The octopus' eye is vey like the human eye, but they have traveled independently from the original phototropic spot on Euglenoids, for example. Ballet, one side of the socialist/capitalist line or the other, will display quite the same characteristics as people develop, but theory proves insufficent to explain it all.

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