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Swan Lake: which productions have you seen?

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I've seen several over the years (including a couple with Fonteyn/Nureyev), but the one that really stands out for me took place sometime in the '70s. The Royal Ballet (I think it was the full company, not some 'stars of...') had a Makarova/Dowell SL scheduled for a weekday matinee. Bought a ticket and asked for the afternoon off from work (note the order :dunno: ).

In the opera house lobby, there was a considerable buzz -- usually a sign someone has cancelled. My heart sank; sure enough, Dowell was injured. What had everyone abuzz was the news that Nureyev had come in specially to dance this performance.

Whatever his faults, they were forgiven that afternoon. And she was absolutely glorious; I don't think I've ever seen such exquisite developes. Sometimes the audience is just 'with' the performers, no matter what, and this was one of those times. Great memory.

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Here are the versions of the ballet I've seen on video:

1) Margot Fonteyn with Michael Somes (1959)

2) Maya Plisetskaya with Nicolai Fadeyechev (1957)

3) Natalia Bessmertnova with Alexander Bogatyrev (1984)

4) Svetlana Zakharova with Roberto Bolle (2004)

5) Gillian Murphy with Angel Corella (2005)

6) Ulyana Lopatkina with Danila Korsuntsev (2006)

Of all these versions, Plisetskaya has by far the best on-stage acting ability, Zakharova has the best-danced Odile, and Lopatkina has the best-danced Odette. :)

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Productions of Swan Lake I've seen on TV:

Makhalina/Zelensky -- Kirov-Mariinsky Ballet

Bessmertnova/Bogatyrev -- Bolshoi Ballet

Fonteyn/Nureyev -- Vienna State Opera Ballet

Adventures in Motion Pictures

Mezentseva/Zaklinsky -- Kirov-Mariinsky Ballet

Makarova/Dowell -- Royal Ballet

Makarova/Nagy -- American Ballet Theatre (Blair's version)

Nordquist/Nordström -- Royal Swedish Ballet

Murphy/Corella -- American Ballet Theatre (McKenzie's version)

Hart/Schaufuss -- London Festival Ballet

Fonteyn/Somes Act II -- Royal Ballet

Letestu/Martinez -- Paris Opera Ballet (Nureyev's version)

Scherzer/Matz -- Staatsballett Berlin

Yevteyeva/Markovsky -- Kirov-Mariinsky Ballet

Lopatkina/Korsuntsev -- Kirov-Mariinsky Ballet

Zakharova/Bolle -- La Scala Ballet

Mikhalchenko/Vasyuchenko -- Bolshoi Ballet

Kolesnikova/Akulinin -- St Petersburg Ballet Theatre

Guangdong Acrobatic Troupe Of China

Nunez/Soares -- Royal Ballet

Semionov/Jermakov -- Zurich Ballet

Alexandrova/Skvortsov -- Bolshoi Ballet

And live:

Lorenzo/Hench -- Pennsylvania Ballet (Wheeldon's version)

Part/Gomes -- American Ballet Theatre (McKenzie's version)

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Ok, so...

Live SL's, I've seen...

-Alonso's for CNB-(with the pro of a very cute mime scene related to the whole wedding-to-be ordeal and the cons of the happy soviet era ending :innocent: , which I stopped liking after seeing the original suicidal ending)

-McKenzie's for ABT. I didn't like this production, with that weird Prologue, the Alien-look/alike Rothbart and the Maypole thing... :pinch: but...I liked the ending.

-Villella's for MCB-(Balanchine's). Still missing Odile on that one...! :(

On video I have...

-Nureyev/Fonteyn...(very surreal...from N's makeup to the ending...)

-Ulanova/Dudinskaya/Sergueev...(I can't help it... but I love it...Ulanova and Dudinskaya are unique, and the puffy tutus of the swans are lovely...plus it has a delicious vintage feeling...even with the truncated choreography)

-CCBM. Oh, this are my people... :wub: , and they did their best to put up a decent production, plus I love Hayna Gutierrez as O/O on it...

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THE '60's

My first Swan Lake, I was two years old (my mother said it was ABT, but not certain) it was probably in Tokyo. I remember a very dark theater, and a very small greenish square with very small white dots/people dancing in it. (We were in a very high balcony, last row). I sat throught it all, and didn't cry.

Then Nureyev/Fonteyn Vienna film. (Don't remember much now, but I used to play the soundtrack over and over and dance to it.)

My next "SL" was the Ice Capades (probably 4-5yrs old), I had a tantrum and cried/shrieked because they spoofed my favorite music/ballet.(I remember a big egg moving out across the ice, and cracking open with a clownlike feather- shrouded figure emerging :jawdrop: )

THE '70's

Mostly in Japan:

KIROV: (I don't remember much except that I liked ACT2, the sets/costumes of ACT3, not the ending, and especially my program with a "M.Baryshnikov" listed as Benno)

BOLSHOI: I do remember Plisetskaya, and always shall. Also liked the sets/costumes and choreography until ActIV.

ABT: Had tickets for Sleeping Beauty, showed up the wrong night, but with the strong persuasive abilities of my mother's friend was able to attend, seated on the aisle steps.

LONDON FESTIVAL BALLET: I remembered the prologue

And of course the performance, I rehearsed forever, but never got to dance in because we moved back to the US on short notice.

THE 80's - now:


BOSTON BALLET / Kirov with Nina Ananiashvili. I also remember Patrick Armand's Siegfried. I LOVED the sets and costumes. The choreography was traditional enough and impressive enough.

ABT (Blair) with Makarova/Nagy (also got the taped version), Makarova/Dowell, and Gregory (she still had best swan arms I've seen as Odette). I loved the staging of this, and the way the backdrop changes perspective of the castle's view from Act1 to Act2. And Act4 choreography/ending.

(Baryshnikov) with Susan Jaffe's debut, and then later casts including Van Hamel, Gudanov (sp?) etc.

(McKenzie) Kent, Murphy, Dvorovenko, Bocca, Corella, Gomes, Carreno. (How I miss Act4!)


Royal Ballet (Dowell choreography)- Agree about sets being disappointing, and costumes something I had to get used to. I didn't mind the choreography in Act4.


London Festival Ballet (Makarova-choreography)

Royal Ballet (Makarova/Dowell)

Kirov (Lopatkina)

Bolshoi (Plisetskaya)

ABT (Murphy/Corella)

Also saw NYCB's on PBS. Ditto everyone's critique of that.

Still deciding which parts of which above performance I like best.

(But must mention Tereshkina's '07 Mariinsky Festival Odette on YT too as a favorite.)

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I saw Nureyev and Karen Kain in Erik Bruhn's Swan Lake, by the National Ballet of Canada in the early '70's. It has gotten some negative comments by traditionalists, but I thought getting rid of Rothbart was a great idea. He doesn't dance that much; his part is mostly mime, and his evil character was easily taken over by the Black Queen, who had a much more empowered role. It also frees up his music for the Prince and the Black Queen to share. The ending was the most dramatically satisfying one I've seen. The happy endings don't work for me. Having them both die is too depressing. Having only the Swan Queen die doesn't make sense; the Prince is the one who screwed up. The swans drive the unfaithful Prince into the lake and drown him for hurting their Queen. The Swan Queen is left alone with her grief, gliding in her sorrow offstage. Karen Kain made this unforgettably iconic exit her own. But, the original curse is apparently still in effect, and that means that there might, just might be another chance to break the spell. There might be another prince, and the emotional pull between sorrow and hope was catharsis as Aristotle described it in the Poetics. Add to that Nureyev's phenomenal dancing and charisma, and it was the best Swan Lake I've ever seen, out of dozens.

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On video I have...

-Nureyev/Fonteyn...(very surreal...from N's makeup to the ending...

I'm watching this version right now, and Nureyev's makeup definitely stands out!

Not sure what is coming my way regarding the ending, but I think i'm in for an interesting afternoon.

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I always expect NY'rs to boo me-( :happy: )-when I keep saying that the most satisfying version I've ever seen is ABT's in terms of really getting the original scenario worked by Petipa and Tchaikovsky. Well...once more...ABT is my favorite...if only for that-(The Swamp Thing has to go though...)

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I've seen:

(my first) - Peter Darrell's for Scottish Ballet where the white act is Siegfried's opium induced dream (I was totally bored by it but, if it was ever staged again would go to see it in case my opinion has changed).

Natalia Makarova's for London Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet) - loved it.

Raisa Strukhova's for ENB - loathed it.

Derek Dean's proscenium version for ENB - liked it.

Robert de Warren's for Northern Ballet - liked it.

Christopher Gable/?/Michael Pink's for Northern Ballet - loved it.

David Nixon's for Northern Ballet - love, love, love it - very different. (Currently touring the UK again)

Matthew Bourne's production - love it.

Bolshoi Swan Lake in late 1980s - bored rigid - just a technical exercise and no emotion.

Anthony Dowell's for Royal Ballet - loathed it. I saw it in 1989 and have never had any desire to see it again.

And the granddaddy of them all - Sir Peter Wright's for Birmingham Royal Ballet - absolutely love it - from the first time I saw it to date.

And for something completely different ... Australian Dance Theatre's Bird Brain was terrific!

Looking forward to seeing ... David Dawson's new production for Scottish Ballet

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I've seen a lot of different "Swan Lake" productions - a couple live performances, but most versions I've seen were on video.

The ones I've seen live are:

- Nadezhda Kalinina's version for Russian Ballet Theatre (probably my first ever "Swan Lake" - saw it in 2018 and later in 2022)

- Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte-Carlo's version (super funny; like Odette's interactions with Siegfried and Benno)

The versions I've fully seen on video:

- Yuri Grigrovich's Bolshoi version ~ "revised" 2001 version (my preferred Russian ballet company version; first viewing was at a cinema broadcast event; now I own both the DVD and Blu-Ray of it)

- Konstantin Sergeyev's Mariinsky version (maybe the only version besides Kalinina's version I saw that has a happy ending)

- Kent Stowell's PNB version - the sets and costumes are really nice, twice on their video stream{s} of the production

- Matthew Bourne's New Adventures version - I like seeing the male "swan" corps de ballet and the Act I "ballet parody" scene is funny

- Rudolf Nureyev's POB version - I like the psychoanalytical undertones of this production, also like José Martinez as Siegfried a lot

- Kevin McKenzie's ABT version - possibly my favorite "Swan Lake" in general, Gillian Murphy as Odette is superb

- Liam Scarlett's ROB version - maybe my second favorite to McKenzie's, the costumes were excellent especially in Act III divertissements and the sets are a nice improvement over Anthony Dowell's version

- Patrice Bart's Berlin Staatsballet version - possibly my least favorite version, pacing just feels too long but the focus on the queen-mother character was fascinating

- Peter Wright's Royal Swedish Ballet version - liked it a lot, was surprised by how Wright changed the Act III structure

- Jean-Christophe Maillot's "LAC" version - interesting "modern" take but the Act II portion was too streamlined for my liking and the Odette "bird/wing gloves" were a bit overdone)

- Natalia Makarova's London Festival Ballet version - Evelyn Hart was really good as Odette, Act III was done in an interesting way but I like seeing more divertissements in other versions

Edited by Ray Boucher
I wanted to make one of my opening statements clearer and more concise.
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