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White adagio


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It is the old Mikhailovsky version of Swan Lake (before Messerer), considered the most authentic of all classical productions, the purest Petipa.

This is definitely not pure Petipa and Ivanov; there's too many Soviet changes with many authentic Petipa and Ivanov material missing.

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Could you be more specific?

Sure, I can give a list of the biggest Soviet changes from the authentic Petipa/Ivanov version of the first act:

Act 1, scene 1

  • Siegfried's best friend, Benno is omitted (he's often replaced by a jester in Russian productions).
  • Petipa reversed the order of the Waltz and the Pas de trois - the Pas de trois is supposed to be danced before the scene with Siegfried's mother and the Waltz is performed after.
  • All the important mime scenes are omitted e.g. the point of Siegfried's mother arriving is that she almost ruins the party by expressing her disappointment of Siegfried neglecting his royal duties and reminds him of the upcoming ball where he has to choose a bride, which upsets him.
  • Siegfried ventures to the enchanted lake alone in this production (like he does in many Russian productions), whereas in the authentic Petipa/Ivanov version, he goes to the lake with Benno and a group of hunters.
  • The finale music for this scene has been cut from this production - the first scene is supposed to end with Benno seeing the flock of swans flying into the forest and suggests to Siegfried that they end the evening with a hunting expedition with their friends.

I will say this, the Waltz performed in this production is close to Petipa's authentic waltz in regards to the use of stools and a maypole, but it does not use Petipa's choreography. Petipa's authentic waltz is for 40 dancers - it's one of his signature dances for a huge corps de ballet.

Act 1, scene 2

  • The scene (aka Swan theme) is supposed to be a musical introduction to the second scene; there's not meant to be any dancing at this point.
  • Rothbart is a dance role in this production, but he's actually supposed to be a purely mimed role.
  • The mime scene between Siegfried and Odette, in which Odette tells Siegfried her story, is omitted and is replaced with Vaganova's extra dance.
  • In Ivanov's staging, Siegfried brings a crossbow with him to the lake and nearly uses it to shoot Odette in her swan form. He then tries to shoot Rothbart, only to have Odette stop him because killing Rothbart will only make the spell permanent.
  • Like in many modern productions, there are no children as swans.
  • The Swan Maidens are supposed to encircle Benno, not Siegfried.
  • The two straight lines that the Swan Maidens make in the centre of the stage is a Soviet change. In Ivanov's authentic staging, they gather in a big group at stage-left (right from the audience's point of view) and are cornered by Benno and the hunters, who nearly shoot them, until Siegfried arrives in time to stop them. Odette makes her second entrance at this point and she is followed by twelve female students as swans; she stands to protect her friends and through mime, pleads for no harm to come to them.
  • Benno and the hunters are omitted from the pas d'action (aka White adagio). In Ivanov's original staging, Benno assists Siegfried in partnering Odette and this is primarily because Pavel Gerdt, the first Prince Siegfried, was 50 years old at the time in the Petipa/Ivanov Swan Lake premiere in 1895. Eventually, the lakeside pas d'action became a pas de deux when Nikolai Legat succeeded Gerdt in the role of Siegfried and he chose to partner Odette alone. As for the hunters, they stand with the Swan Maidens during the pas.

If you're interested, watch this clip from 1960 of Margot Fonteyn as Odette because this is much closer to the original Ivanov pas d'action:

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the Messerer after Gorsky "Swan lake" is the most famous Soviet production, the so-called "Old Moscow" version. It was the first "Swan lake" the Bolshoi performed in the West, during the historical London tour in 1956. It was the first ever Western tour of Soviet company. Exactly this production brought international glory to Maya Plisetskaya.

Now it can be seen only at the Mikhailovsky, restored by Mikhail Messerer. Not much from Petipa and Ivanov left here, but nevertheless it is a beautiful production with glorious history.

It is a live performance from 2012.


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