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Who is Siegfried? The Cardboard Prince Question

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One of the main tensions in ballet has been between classicism and expressionism. The classicist will want the hero to Just Be. The expressionist will want him to be a secret drinker, or have seven mistresses, or be afraid he's not ready to rule.

Who is Siegfried? First off, who is he supposed to be, and then who do you prefer to watch, if they're different.

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Well, he seems to be a young, spoiled, rich-kid who prefers to hang out with his friends. We used to opine that he was probably gay - think of all that time he spent with Benno! He sure isn't thrilled at the idea that he's supposed to pick out a princess to marry - even though, lucky guy, he's being given the choice of six (unless it's ABT's production, and he only has 4 to choose from). So off a-hunting he goes - in a fit of pique and melancholy. In the deep, dark woods he meets a creature he's never seen before: a girl in a weird dress who tells him an even weirder tale. Instant chemistry! Poor Siegfried - he can't tell the difference between a white dress and a black one. (Does Odile have an Aussie accent: I understand that that's where black swans originate?) He also fails to recognize VR - whom he KNOWS is up to no good. Well, a prince with brains would.


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I've always been struck by the similarities between Siegfried and some of Mozart's stupider tenor roles. Do these men have no brains. Are they so used to having everything done for them that they have no powers of observation or are they just ultra sheltered by their overbearing Queen Mothers. Siegfried has always been my least favorite male role. He seems so dumb and one dimensional. Maybe he's just ruled by his hormones. How old is he supposed to be again?

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I always used to think he was neck-and-neck with Albrecht in the Dumb Department.

Actually, I like to think that he's just moody and hormonal, now....there are a lot of people of that age who are not real swift at differentiation, subtle or not.....

(I still think Albrecht is just a loser.)

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Sorry, I don't buy the 'Siegfried is stupid' line at all. In my book, he's a nice, intelligent, sensitive young man - maybe a bit immature for 21, but then he's had a sheltered upbringing. He meets his romantic ideal in the forest, and then at the ball later he sees her again: Odile isn't just some girl made up to look like Odette, Rothbart has magically caused her to appear exactly the same. Sure, she's wearing a different dress and she's rather more forthcoming - but this is a ball, after all, not a stroll in the forest; and how on earth is he supposed to know it isn't her?

I think he's the least cardboard of all the princes!

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And there always is the slightly subversive view that hereditary royalty may be pleasant and intelligent enough as people, but are seriously underinformed and unsophisticated in many areas. The Russians had seen it in their own Imperial family, and earlier, both Louis XVI and Anne of Cleves (Mrs. Henry VIII #4) had to have the "facts of life" explained to them AFTER their marriages!

[ 06-30-2001: Message edited by: Mel Johnson ]

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A good number of people who didn't live on farms had to have the facts of life explained to them after their marriage, Mel!!! (My favorite honeymoon story, from my aunt, born 1902, was a friend who came back and said, "Well, it's sticky." Yes? "You take off your clothes and he throws biscuits and jelly at you." This was not a woman of royal blood.)

Back to the task at hand :D I'm with Jane. I hate the term "Cardboard Prince." I think modern Siegfrieds spent so much time and effort trying to make a flesh and blood character out of Siegfried the wrong way -- adding a glower here and a wink there. A really great Siegfried just Is. Dowell was no piece of Cardboard. I didn't know a thing about him -- his past, his thoughts about his mother, his thoughts on comparative brands of crossbows, what he got on his last algebra paper. "But I love not," he mimed when his mother springs the betrothal ball on him. Not gay, not an air head, not a congenital idiot -- a Prince who awaits his destiny.

I once asked a Danish James why James was special -- Effy loves him, the Sylph loves him, even the witch loves him. "He is the hero," I was told. "You cannot ask why he is special." I thought of that for a long time before I understood it, but I think that's the key to the Princes. They're heroes. They don't have biographical details. They have destinies.

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