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What productions of Swan Lake would you recommend traveling to see?

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What productions of Swan Lake would you recommend traveling to see?  I've started making Swan Lake a focus of vacation travel, but having limited resources to spend on travel am wondering which productions to make a priority, particularly those with relatively traditional 2nd and 4th acts. I love Kent Stowell's production at PNB (especially the ending), and also enjoyed Helgi Tomasson's production in San Francisco. Paris is next on my list.  Where would you recommend going?  Thanks in advance for any recommendations.
 

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I like Cranko's which you can only see in Stuttgart.

I also love Neumeier's version but it wouldn't fit your requisite of "relatively traditional 2nd and 4th acts".

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55 minutes ago, kbarber said:

I like Cranko's which you can only see in Stuttgart.

I also love Neumeier's version but it wouldn't fit your requisite of "relatively traditional 2nd and 4th acts".

Much appreciated!

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I have not seen it yet, but Alexei Ratmansky's reconstruction of Swan Lake is very high on my wishlist. It is being performed next March-April in Zurich and in May at La Scala. Unfortunately, both cities are very expensive to visit, but if I were able to choose, I would go with Zurich, because from what I have seen, the company there is stonger, and, with apologies to our Italian members, Milan is boring (by the standards of Italian cities!).

 

I am assuming you are interested primarily in American productions, and I'm pretty sure most people here would tell you that the productions by American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet are not worth a trip. I would also put a big, fat NO on the current production by the National Ballet of Canada.

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59 minutes ago, volcanohunter said:

I have not seen it yet, but Alexei Ratmansky's reconstruction of Swan Lake is very high on my wishlist. It is being performed next March-April in Zurich and in May at La Scala. Unfortunately, both cities are very expensive to visit, but if I were able to choose, I would go with Zurich, because from what I have seen, the company there is stonger, and, with apologies to our Italian members, Milan is boring (by the standards of Italian cities!).

 

I did see it (in Milan) and I would highly recommend it.

 

I would also argue (apologies Volcanohunter) that Milan is not boring. The Brera is one of the great art museums of the world, and there are many other excellent smaller museums as well (the Poldi Pezzoli is a favorite of mine). There are also many wonderful churches, including ones designed by Bramante and more early christian structures than generally survive in Italy.

 

Milan also has the only decent metro system in Italy (not a lot of competition there--those of Naples and Rome are atrocious although I love both cities), excellent food and is generally the least expensive place to fly to in Italy from the US thanks to a plethora of direct flights from NYC (Both Delta and Emirates).

 

 

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Definitely Alexei Ratmansky's reconstruction; it'll be going on tour next year, I think.

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I haven't seen yet Alexei Ratmansky's reconstruction, but it comes in Paris with La Scala this November 5-13

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I really liked Milan and didn't find it terribly expensive. It can be hard to get good tickets though. And you have to be sure you're not there during one of their fashion weeks, when hotels really are expensive.

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Gosh, thanks all!  Your impressions of the different cities are appreciated, too. 

 

volcanohunter, I was actually wondering about the National Ballet of Canada production, so it's helpful to know it's not recommended.  Poking around on the forums here yesterday - what a wealth of info! - I stumbled on a review that served as a similar warning. 

 

Alrighty, I've added the Ratmansky to my wish list (and appreciate the Milan tips and touring heads up, aurora, Amy and silvermash) along with the Cranko (and I'd be game for the Neumeier even if not exactly traditional - thanks kbarber for all the helpful info on the Tours en l'air site as well... I'm going to start saving and hope the stars will align with the Cranko and/or Neumeier in one of your wonderful sounding holiday tours in a future year.).

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Currently the Teatro Alla Scala is visiting Japan with Nureyev's Don Quixote and I was happily surprised that the standard of dancing there has improved a lot and they have several good dancers (especially Nicoletta Manni) of their own, It must be because of Vaziev. But I am afraid the standard might go down as Bigonzetti has now taken over.

 

Anyway, it would be lovely to see Ratmansky's Swan Lake. I agree Milan is not so exciting but as mentioned above, they have several wonderful museums such as Brera, Poldi Pezzoli and excellent food, and shopping. The Scala is gorgeous inside. And you can take a day trip to cities nearby.  

 

Also I would not recommend National Ballet of Canada's Kudelka Swan Lake because the second act is so ugly and the whole piece is misogynistic. (of course it would be wonderful to see Svetlana Lunkina as Odette/Odile, but)

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6 hours ago, gravitysalad said:

Alrighty, I've added the Ratmansky to my wish list (and appreciate the Milan tips and touring heads up, aurora, Amy and silvermash) along with the Cranko (and I'd be game for the Neumeier even if not exactly traditional - thanks kbarber for all the helpful info on the Tours en l'air site as well... I'm going to start saving and hope the stars will align with the Cranko and/or Neumeier in one of your wonderful sounding holiday tours in a future year.).

 I would like that too, gravitysalad! I always keep my eyes peeled for the Neumeier Swan Lake when planning my trips.

 

I would also not recommend the Kudelka Swan Lake (and unfortunately since I live in Toronto, that's the one I get...). I don't agree that the ballet is misogynistic in itself though. It portrays a misogynistic society.

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On 9/21/2016 at 6:44 PM, volcanohunter said:

I have not seen it yet, but Alexei Ratmansky's reconstruction of Swan Lake is very high on my wishlist.

 

Mine too!  I doubt I'll get to Zurich or Milan for this, and so am hoping for a DVD.

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7 hours ago, kbarber said:

I would also not recommend the Kudelka Swan Lake (and unfortunately since I live in Toronto, that's the one I get...). I don't agree that the ballet is misogynistic in itself though. It portrays a misogynistic society.

 

I don't know enough about this production to have an opinion -- why would you recommend against it?

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I find it doesn't engage one emotionally.

The swan choreography is quite awkward.

Rothbart is fairly ridiculous and the final fight between him and Siegfried is quite laughable.

The only part I really like is the four princess's (ie Siegfried's potential brides) dances.

Naomi and volcanohunter can probably weigh in with more thoughts.

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The Royal Ballet is creating a new Swan Lake next year I believe. It will be traditional and replace the current, much criticized version.  

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Christopher Wheeldon's version, which is not a traditional one, has many lovely moments.  He made it for Pennsylvania Ballet a number of years ago, and the Joffrey now does it as well. 

 

(not sure that PB will be keeping it with their new administration)

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Live I have seen Bolshoi-(Grigorovich)-, Mariinsky-(K. Sergueev)-, Mikhailovsky-(Messerer)-, Alexandrinsky, POB-(Nureyev)-, Miami-(Balanchine)-, NYCB-(Martins)-,and Cuba-(based on Mary Skeaping 1958). Overall I recommend ABT's.

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15 hours ago, kbarber said:

I find it doesn't engage one emotionally.

The swan choreography is quite awkward.

Rothbart is fairly ridiculous and the final fight between him and Siegfried is quite laughable.

The only part I really like is the four princess's (ie Siegfried's potential brides) dances.

Naomi and volcanohunter can probably weigh in with more thoughts.

Katherine has told almost all the low points that I also find with this version. The swan choreography is awkward and I don't like the lighting in the white acts which are strangely bright. Plus the violence toward women in the first act (with a gang rape..) National Ballet of Canada now has wonderful Odettes such as Lunkina and Dronina so it is time they should replace the version.

 

I also agree with Katherine's opinion of Neuemeier's Illusions Like Swan Lake, although not a traditional one it is very beautiful. Along with Hamburg Ballet, it had recently entered the repertoire of Munich (as it is the hometown of King Ludwig II who is the main character in this ballet), but it will no longer be performed there with the arrival of Zelensky. 

 

And also not a traditional version, but I like the Bourmeister Swan Lake (which was originated in Stanistavsky Theatre, where Zelensky also directs) which has a stunning and dramatic 3rd act. There is a DVD available because Paris Opera Ballet also used to perform it. 

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11 hours ago, Jayne said:

The Royal Ballet is creating a new Swan Lake next year I believe. It will be traditional and replace the current, much criticized version.  

 

Thank you for the heads up, Jayne!  I was hoping someone would recommend a London production, and look forward to learning more as news on it unfolds.

 

11 hours ago, sandik said:

Christopher Wheeldon's version, which is not a traditional one, has many lovely moments.  He made it for Pennsylvania Ballet a number of years ago, and the Joffrey now does it as well. 

 

(not sure that PB will be keeping it with their new administration)

 

... adding Wheeldon to my list as well.  Thanks, sandik!  

 

10 hours ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

Live I have seen Bolshoi-(Grigorovich)-, Mariinsky-(K. Sergueev)-, Mikhailovsky-(Messerer)-, Alexandrinsky, POB-(Nureyev)-, Miami-(Balanchine)-, NYCB-(Martins)-,and Cuba-(based on Mary Skeaping 1958). Overall I recommend ABT's.

 

Wow, that's a great endorsement for ABT.  I was wondering if any of the Russian productions would be recommended.   Much appreciated, cubanmiamiboy!

 

4 hours ago, naomikage said:

Katherine has told almost all the low points that I also find with this version. The swan choreography is awkward and I don't like the lighting in the white acts which are strangely bright. Plus the violence toward women in the first act (with a gang rape..) National Ballet of Canada now has wonderful Odettes such as Lunkina and Dronina so it is time they should replace the version.

 

I also agree with Katherine's opinion of Neuemeier's Illusions Like Swan Lake, although not a traditional one it is very beautiful. Along with Hamburg Ballet, it had recently entered the repertoire of Munich (as it is the hometown of King Ludwig II who is the main character in this ballet), but it will no longer be performed there with the arrival of Zelensky. 

 

And also not a traditional version, but I like the Bourmeister Swan Lake (which was originated in Stanistavsky Theatre, where Zelensky also directs) which has a stunning and dramatic 3rd act. There is a DVD available because Paris Opera Ballet also used to perform it. 

 

Thank you, naomikage... I will definitely wait for National Ballet of Canada to replace theirs, and seek out the Neumeier.  And thanks for the tip about the Bourmeister DVD.

 

With all of this collective knowledge, I wonder if there is a compendium somewhere (perhaps within the forums here and I didn't look hard enough?) with basic production info and impressions/opinions of all the current Swan Lakes... If not, and if it might be useful, I volunteer to help set up a matrix or something like that if anyone else would be interested (since I'll be doing this offline for my own travel dream purposes anyway).

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4 hours ago, gravitysalad said:

 

 

 

Wow, that's a great endorsement for ABT.  I was wondering if any of the Russian productions would be recommended.  

 

 

 

 

The Russian productions are, in the judgment of many Western fans (including myself) marred by Soviet accretions -- notably a happy ending. And they cut a great deal of the mime. However, ABT's production minimizes the fourth act and re-arranges the music so Odette gets Siegfried's glorious, "repentant" entrance music,and it has its own accretions mostly around the character of Rothbart. It is visually very lovely I think in a traditional vein.  The Second Act set seems a touch pre-Raphaelite to me which seems exactly right for a nineteenth-century medieval fantasy.

 

The current Grigorovich production at the Bolshoi has many unorthodox elements and lops off some of Tchaikovsky's most incredible music. I find it unbelievably dreary. Even the color schema of the sets and costumes is depressing.

 

But if you simply want the essential poetry of the Lake scenes in particular and the full splendor and elegance of the choreography for the court/celebration scenes...I still don't think you can do better than the Mariinsky Sergeyev production. Yes, there's a happy ending at the close and in the first act a "jester" character that many Western fans also find annoying, but the sheer beauty of the dancing (including spectacular character dancing in Act III that no Western company I've ever seen approaches in quality) is unspeakably wonderful...and indeed much of the staging is fantastic as well. Sergeyev may give one a happy ending in Act IV but he also gives one an extraordinary storm and the Mariinsky corps de ballet conveys the sense of a sisterhood among the swans in a genuinely profound way. You feel their shared sorrow. (Credit to the Mariinsky dancers and the tradition they embody in this ballet--but it also reflects choices of the staging itself. The ABT staging of Act IV doesn't really allow all of the profundity of Act IV to surface in the same way whatever the quality of dancers. And the suicide of the lovers--which I like a lot--has almost become a "schtick" at ABT: which Siegfried can leap the most spectacularly into the Lake?! The audience sometimes cheers as if it were the Don Quixote pas de deux. Understandable when the dancers approach it that way, but...not good.)

 

Even when the Sergeyev/Mariinsky production is 'true' to the Petipa/Ivanov inheritance it does not, in the manner of Ratmansky, try to accord to (what Ratmansky and his collaborators interpret as) a nineteenth-century style of dancing. This issue leads to other areas of debate among fans, but one could argue that with Tchaikovsky as inspiration Petipa and, especially, Ivanov were in fact discovering something new in what classical ballet can be and express with Swan Lake and much of the Soviet and more recent Russian approach develops--probably to the point of problematic exaggeration--that 'new' dimension in adagio especially. Personally, I hate the happy ending and am not crazy about the jester, but EVEN acknowledging that, I would vote for the Mariinsky as the production that I am most grateful to have seen in recent decades. The one that has moved me most profoundly even when I disagreed with its choices.

 

I would be a bigger fan of ABT's production if they went back to a traditional Act IV and got rid of the prologue.


 

Edited by Drew

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On 23.09.2016 at 0:09 AM, sandik said:

I don't know enough about this production to have an opinion -- why would you recommend against it?

 

Adding my two cents to what kbarber and naomikage have already written about the Kudelka production, I would say that the adjectives that first pop into my mind when I think of it are seedy and decadent. The first act is unspeakably awful, something like a collection of frat boys in an environment that projects rot, and how the Queen Mother would ever deign to drop in on such a place is incomprehensible to me. It is a nearly all-male world, with the exception of the unfortunate "Wench" who ends up gang-raped at the end, and I find the resulting waltz in particular to be at complete odds with the music. The second act is cluttered, and the tinkering with Ivanov's choreography is pervasive and extremely irritating. Whatever demerits we may find in the cygnets choreographically, for example, trying to change the dance, whether by dropping it entirely or by altering it in gimmicky ways as Kudelka does, simply doesn't work. I am opposed to the potential fiancees doing the national dances in principle, since it is anachronistic in anything but a 19th-century setting. (As an aside, I don't care for 19th-century resettings.) And the way the fiancees are treated is appalling. The final act I find mostly silly.

 

Kudelka may have been trying to make some point about misogynistic society, but I don't think he actually says anything meaningful. Instead he's simply been subjecting audiences to an abject, unpoetic and nihilistic interpretation of the ballet for the past 17 years for no constructive reason.

Edited by volcanohunter

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3 hours ago, Drew said:

"But if you simply want the essential poetry of the Lake scenes in particular and the full splendor and elegance of the choreography for the court/celebration scenes...I still don't think you can do better than the Mariinsky Sergeyev production. Yes, there's a happy ending at the close and in the first act a "jester" character that many Western fans also find annoying, but the sheer beauty of the dancing (including spectacular character dancing in Act III that no Western company I've ever seen approaches in quality) is unspeakably wonderful...and indeed much of the staging is fantastic as well. Sergeyev may give one a happy ending in Act IV but he also gives one an extraordinary storm and the Mariinsky corps de ballet conveys the sense of a sisterhood among the swans in a genuinely profound way. You feel their shared sorrow."

 

I agree with Drew. I think the Mariinsky's Sergeyev version creates a beautiful "mood" in the lakeside scenes that is unmatched. Simply stunning. And there is NOTHING like seeing it in the historic Mariinsky Theatre. You feel like you have died and gone to Heaven. The happy ending doesn't bother me as much as it bothers others, because I consider the ending where they jump in the lake and re-unite in Heaven as a happy ending as well. I don't see much difference, and I love how Odette and Siegfried re-live their love and actually quote the love duet choreography in slightly different ways. This may not be in the notations but it is so lovely.

 

I am also not bothered by the Jester like most people. What's not to like about a bouncy guy dancing impressively?

 

The first lakeside scene in the Mariinsky's version is worth the whole thing, in my opinion. I play that scene every few days in the various Mariinsky videos I have.

 

I am not a fan of the ABT version....everything is so Disney-esque to me......to me it is Swan Lake for the suburban middle class Soccer Mom and her kids. It is not elegant at all to me. I keep expecting Donald Duck to come out and wave to the audience.

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Oh my gosh, your evocative descriptions of the lakeside scenes in the Mariinsky production are so compelling, Drew and Birdsall.  I very much look forward to experiencing hopefully most of the recommendations here in the years to come.  --with gratitude to all from a newbie balletomane with so much to learn

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Several people have mentioned the Milan performances of Ratmansky. On their current web site, it's scheduled for July 11-21, 2017:

http://www.teatroallascala.org/en/season/2016-2017/ballet/swan-lake.html

 

Does La Scala have any sort of Friends program that gets to buy tickets earlier? If you pounce on the day single tickets go on sale on line, is there a reasonable selection of seats?

 

Other than the Paris performances noted above, have any other tour visits been announced anywhere? I would really like to see this and perhaps this is the time to visit Milan. But it would be great to know where/when it's touring, if there are plans. No hints that I've seen of a US visit or staging on a US company.

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