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 Post subject: BBC's Tchaikovsky Celebration
PostPosted: Sun Jan 21, 2007 11:31 am 
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Location: Canada
Day 1

First on TV was an introduction to "Swan Lake" by Darcey Bussell. I can't say the Bussell is my choice to present ballet programs, but this was a nice introduction to the story, dance and music. There were some beautiful scenes of Bussell and Robert Bolle rehearsing the lead roles, including a fascinating section where Bussell performed and narrated Odette's major mime in the 1st act.

However, my main gripe was that there was almost no admission that today's choreography is almost certainly not the original - it was said flatly that one section was choreographed by Petitpa, the other by Ivanov - and then admitted that the 32 fouttes were stuck in much later by a ballerina who dance Odette/Odile. Considering that most viewers are likely to see a production other than the Kirov (which is hardly an original anyway), it's misleading not achknowledge that many individual stagers & choreographers have modified and edited the choreography. No less when Adam Cooper and Matthew Bourne were heavily featured as commentators on the ballet.

Makhar Vaziev's comments (though translated) about the choreography being handed down from body to body (and the inference that they are doing the original, or close to it) seemed a bit misleading. Bodies are fallable - and as an article in one of today's newspaper discussed, so are minds. Each time the choreography goes through a person, it is changed subtly or not so subtly to suit that person and then again when they teach it to someone else. Even the Danes don't pretend that they are doing the original Bournonville. The version done by the Kirov today is as much a version as the versions performed by any other company.


Today's second bit was an edited version of the Kirov's current version -with Danilo Kursuntsev (sp)? as Siegfried and Lopatkina as Odette/Odile. I've never seen the Kirov production, and it's a very interesting contrast to that of the Royal Danes, ABT, NYCB or the Royal Swedish Ballet. And hard to get a full feel when it's chopped up by Darcey Bussell's somewhat odd narration.

I agree with those who dislike this jester - he is ANNOYING. The dancer is tiny and very talented, but give me the more intelligent, less bouncy Martins' jester anyday. This Von Rothbart also earns my thumbs down - as with the jester, the dancer was excellent, but the costume gaudy and out of place. This is a fairy tale - fiction - but would any queen invite a man in a Skeletoresque mask, wings and glitter into her court, let alone encourage her son to marry his daughter. I'm not even fond of the face paint for Martins' Von Rotbart - the ABT version is my favorite. Von Rotbart can be less human, more otherwordly in the Swan scenes, but he needs to be humanly believable when he sweeps in to the court. Otherwise the deception is obvious - doesn't Siegfried see Von Rotbart in Act 1? And his final act death contortions are overly dramatic - urgh.

I also felt that the flow of the black swan pas de deux was badly jarred by a long gap between the fouttes (of which Lopatkina did only 25-26 if you don't count the multiples and was moving considerably) and Siegfired's coda. It looked awkard and completely ruined the dramatic, pulsing atmopshere that should pervade this pdd. Siegfried should be rushing on in the power of her turns, not waiting for her to milk the applause and the conductor (Gergiev) to start again. And more unforgivebly in the flow of the story, the pdd ends with her held up in a high press lift. In ANY other production I've ever seen, the pdd ends with him kneeling in front of her holding one of her hands on his heart, her head thrown back as if in a cackle of glee at fooling him. The overhead lift loses all that this final pose tells you about the scene and seems like showboating to me. Shame on the Kirov for allowing showboating over story.

It was announced that the taped performance was Gergiev's first time conducting "Swan Lake"!! This is a man who is supposed to be the uber conductor of the theatre where "Swan Lake" was born and he's never picked up the baton for the ballet before?! I'm not impressed. I'm not attuned enough to music to comment much on his conducting, though I thought he was very slow at times, especially in the Act 1 pd trois.

The 2nd act dancers were sliced up, so I can't really comment on them, other than that I thought the man in the pd trois, though technically solid, looked very effortful. The four cygnets were good, if physically mismatched in bodytype (not height), though I found their dancing lacking in spark.

In general, I hesitate to comment on the actual dancing as it's hard to judge the true depth and quality of dancing via TV screen. And I was trying to Danish homework at the same time, so my focus was in two places.

In general, I think BBC would have been better off with an uncut version and not bothering with the narration. After all, we'd just gotten a 45 minute intro to the ballet, and if they really need to narrate, it could have been done in a brief intro and a brief intermission. The cut version wasn't particularly dramatically cohesive. I also wonder why the BBC could not use a Royal Ballet version - of course it wouldn't be as close to Petipa & Ivanov, but it would have been a nice boon for the Royal Ballet and more likely to be what people in this country would see in the theatre.


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 Post subject: Re: BBC's Tchaikovsky Celebration
PostPosted: Sun Jan 21, 2007 11:58 am 
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Joined: Sun Dec 12, 1999 12:01 am
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Location: The Bronx is up; the Battery's down
Quote:
In general, I think BBC would have been better off with an uncut version and not bothering with the narration.


My bet is that they were programming for people who are not (yet) a regular part of the dance audience.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2007 9:11 am 
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Location: London UK
Kate, this version is widely regarded as being closest to the original but in recent years lots revisionist aspects have crept in. I was only able to watch the first act yesterday (though I've videoed the whole thing) and the leeway now allowed was well illustrated by the performances in the pas de trois with the strange, almost perverse phrasing of the first female solo and the repeated entrechats performed by Korsakov. Only the second female solo was acceptable.

The Royal Ballet also used to claim an original version - the one bequeathed to them by Nikolai Sergeyev and there used to be a lot of similarities between the two productions though at the same time a lot of differences, e.g. Ashton's waltz and act III pas de quatre and the compulsory Soviet happy ending. But you're right about edits and modifications; a lady who once worked with Sergeyev told me he often altered the chorography to accommodate the individual abilities of dancers he worked with.

What I hate most about Kirov Swan Lakes is the drawn-out tempi that is so completely at odds with what Tchaikovsky originally wrote. I was genuinely surprised that Gergiev went along with this. The last time I heard him conduct ballet was Leningrad Symphony at the Coliseum last summer and he conducted exactly what Shostakovich wrote. Usually when Gergiev is on the podium dancers are expected to move.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2007 4:56 am 
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Location: Scotland.UK
I waited in anticipation of watching the new version of Swan Lake, only to find it cut very short by unnecessary interruptions telling us what was happening. First, nearly everyone knows the story, second, there was a programme before the performance telling us the basics of the story- so why the interruptions? The guy who danced von Rothbart was brilliant.
Talking of the Royal Ballets Swan Lake, when do you think they will release it onto dvd?
Now onto the revamped version of Sleeping Beauty. So Monica wanted to keep true to the version of Madame from 1942 era, am i the only one who thought i was still watching Sir Anthony Dowells version? Apart from a change in costume, a terrible garland dance, what was different? I might be wrong here but is diamond supposed to be dancing with gold and silver at the wedding of Aurora and her prince? I only saw gold/silver along with the male escort.
Cattalabutte will forever be David Drews role. Carrabosse was not that wicked looking, i wonder if maybe it should be performed by a man(as Sir Anthony did in his version from time to time)?
I must admit i do prefer Sir Anthony's version, i thought it was(and still is )delightful.
The masterclasses so far have been a great insight into how the dancers obtain the knowledge and feelings to perform the parts, watching Sir Anthony and Dame Antionette take two young dancers through their paces was fantastic. The chemistry between Anthony and Antionette is still there, still correcting each other, whilst teaching the young dancers-breathtaking. I did enjoy Sir Anthony teaching Carlos the solo created on him by Ashton, it was such a technical piece.
I wonder if they will be doing the Nutcracker next, in this Tchiakovsky season?


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2007 11:05 am 
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Location: London UK
Quote:
So Monica wanted to keep true to the version of Madame from 1942 era, am i the only one who thought i was still watching Sir Anthony Dowell’s version? Apart from a change in costume, a terrible garland dance, what was different?


You're quite right, Sugar Plum Fairy, there are very few differences in the choreographic text. I think the Dowell version was ditched because of negative opinions about the sets and costumes. The Makarova production that replaced it had a lot to commend it, but as it wasn't the traditional RB version it was decided that it too should be dumped in favour of yet another production. What it has to do with Oliver Messel though, I don't know.

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Cattalabutte will forever be David Drews role.


That's a generational observation I think, as I'll always associate the role with Leslie Edwards. Pity they couldn't have persuaded Drew or another older dancer (even Dowell perhaps?) to return for a few performances as Catalubutte requires a certain pompous gravitas that younger dancers don't seem capable of.


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