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Cranko's Swan Lake

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YESS, I’ve finally seen it! And yes, I LOVE it – others may call this production old fashioned or even Kitsch, but it’s Swan Lake, and it’s Cranko. Some notes on the production and on the casts I saw (sorry, once again this is LONG):


It is a classical Swan Lake, no modern production. Especially the second act Cranko left widely untouched, and with 24 swans in tutus this looks great (I had forgotten how nice tutus look for a change, being used to Munich and London long skirts).

Basically, Cranko wanted to show Siegfried as a real human being, not just as a “crane for the ballerina” (as written in the informative programme), and consequently made the role bigger than it was before. And since Siegfried is human and to blame for betraying Odette, there can be no happy end for the two lovers: he has to die at the end, and she has to remain a swan.

In the first act (the sets of Jurgen Rose reminded me somehow of “La Fille”), he’s celebrating with friends the day before his birthday, trying to escape the royal court and his mother – but when the Queen finds him and blames him for not behaving accordingly to his status, he cannot hide any more that inside, he is sad and lonely. Which leads to the second act.

For the third act, Jurgen Rose created an impressive set of the palace. There are four national dances (Mazurka, Spanish – with VERY strange costumes that reminded me more of medieval times, not of Spain -, Russian and Italian), only the Tarantella is danced in pointe shoes. It’s all quite bombastic and admittedly not modern – but on the other hand, why does Swan Lake always have to be modern? Of course, the third act also incorporates the Black Swan pdd – not sure whether it is Cranko or adapted for the various casts, but I found that Odile’s variation has been modified/simplified, while Siegfried’s variation looked familiar to me. And “of course”, there are the 32 fouettés.

Since Cranko has consequently taken out all the classic pantomime scenes, this is probably the only Cranko ballet where I found it a bit difficult to follow the story – it does not become entirely clear what he has done wrong, without his oath in both, first and third act – plus I also missed Odette in the background begging him to realize his fatal error before it is too late… In this production, when the Queen blesses Odile and Siegfried, Rotbart takes her away and laughs loud at Siegfried who frantically looks for his beloved – and realizes what he has done after he has run upstairs, looked out of the window and obviously seen Odette. Typically Cranko: Even the icy Queen becomes a mother when her son runs towards her in despair and buries his head in her lap.

Act four brings back basically a white act – but it wouldn’t be Cranko if there was not a final pdd for the lovers. Rotbart gives them a last short time together – the music is not Swan Lake, no idea what it is – but it’s beautiful. Odette is broken and almost too weak to walk, Siegfried tries to lift her up, holding her under her arms/wings, trying to put her on her feet, but she slips through his arms, down to earth every time.

The finale shows Siegfried drowning in the overflowing lake – really impressive if seen from the stalls, the impression caused by metres and metres of blue tissue “flowing” on stage.


The revival was not under a lucky star – one after the other princes had to pull out… according to an article in a local newspaper, Douglas Lee, Roland Vogel, Jiri Jelinek and also Mikhail Kaniskin are injured, so for a second cast, Jason Reilly had to learn the role in only one week. Plus Roberta Fernandes had to dance with him, not with her “normal” partner.

Understandably, they left out some technical tricks; understandably, she looked a bit nervous in some moments – but they got the spirit of the roles, and it would be interesting to watch them again once they have danced some performances.

First cast were Stuttgart’s youngest first soloists, Alicia Amatriain and Friedemann Vogel – and what a debut for both of them! They look great together, and there is a lovely rapport between them. She looks fragile and is very flexible – and she did not show off her high extensions beyond limit this time! I loved how she changed from the vulnerable Odette to a vicious, seductive woman and back to a broken being – this impressed me!

Friedemann Vogel looks like a true prince – and he can look so deeply sad and melancholic one does feel sorry for him. As a contrast, when it comes to his variations, he flies through the air without any visible effort. And I loved his arabesques and scissonnes!

Despite of the nervosity of a first night, it was a great performance (frantically applauded by Stuttgart audience) – and it had improved already in their second performance the following night. I am sure they will develop an interesting partnership on stage if they are allowed to.

A note on the orchestra: When playing the evening performances under Davor Krnjak (sp?), they sounded pretty good! (The matinee under Glenn Prince I found played a bit unattentively, even for my not well trained ears…)

And a note on Stuttgart audience: This is ballet city for me – wish we had only some of the flowers thrown there! Thanks, Stuttgart, for adding a special extra to three unforgettable performances! (I hope to be back later to see other casts – although I would not mind seeing the above two again either…)

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Jasper...thanks much for your review of the recent Stuttgart Ballet Swan Lake performance. Please know that at least one person out here is greatly appreciative of your effort and looks forward to any other comments or reviews you may have of the Stattgart Ballet.

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Thank you, CDM -- and welcome to Ballet Alert!

I agree. I'm always sorry that Jasper's posts are so lonely -- we don't have other people seeing performances in Munich and Stuttgart so it's difficult to have a discussion about them. But I'm sure there are a lot of people who enjoy reading them!

When Cranko's production was new, there were those who liked the modernizing and, of course, those who thought he was "dumbing down" "Swan Lake," as they would call it now, and that the company was too small, with not enough first-rate dancers, to do it. Now, reading your scenario, it sounds almost old-fashioned!

I'm glad you enjoyed it -- it sounds much closer to a real "Swan Lake" than many of its imitators!

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Thank you, Sonja, for the review. Cranko's "Swan Lake" was indeed in its time quite influential on western stagings of this ballet. The idea of the Prince as a real human being was, as we know, particularly attractive to Nureyev who danced in Cranko's version in 1963, and used and took it further in his own productions for Vienna and Paris.

Of course, almost forty years later, it takes the "genius" of a Jan Fabre to throw all this overboard and present the Prince as a complete numbskull not allowed to show any emotions whatsoever... if you talk about "dumbing down" Swan Lake :)

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thanks for your repliey!

Jiri Jelinek did his premiere 2 days ago with Bridget Breiner for your information. The others are still injured. But slowly coming back.

The music in the 4th act is from Tjaikovsky's Hamlet. It is a beautiful piece of music and I think it fits the ballet very well.

The costumes are indeed a bit strange in the 3rd act, especially the boys Sopnisch costumes.

About the tutu's: the were long last time, 5 years ago or so, I believe. But now they changed it, I dont know why.

But I think to; it's nicer than the longer ones.

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Hi Stuttgart,

thanks for your news! Would be great to read a bit more about Bridget Breiner and Jiri Jelinek - I know Bridget Breiner has danced the role before, but think J.J. hasn't? A friend saw him dance I think in Prague and was fascinated by his high and easy jumps (in "Raymonda").

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well, he is a very good partner. But not really a prince type. But I dont think thats very important.

I think he did a great job partnering Bridget with still pain in his back. And he also learned the ballet very fast.

Bridget is a very nice Swan. But I did not see her as black Swan.

But I love her very much!!

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I saw the Stuttgart Ballet perform 'Onegin' with Marcia Haydee, and saw a rep program that same MET season (1976-77). I also saw Stuttgart in 'Onegin' in Saint Louis (about three years ago.) The company looked wonderful.

I am lucky to have seen Haydee and Cragun with Joffrey in 'Taming of the Shrew' and 'Romeo and Juliet'.

I've never seen the Cranko 'Swan Lake'. I know it has been danced at Kennedy Center because a friend of mine told me she supered as a nun in Act I.

I hope they bring Crankos 'Swan Lake' it to the U.S. again, soon.

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as you can see from Marc's reply, my real name is Sonja - but you got the idea where I took my Ballet Alert name from. (Silly me forgot my password for username Sonja - so I took the chance to create a new one as "tribute to Cranko"...)

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