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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2002 3:14 pm 
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First of all, I've been notified there was an unannounced casting change on Saturday night. I have the parts of Von Rothbart reversed. Sorry. There was no notice given about the change.<P>Azlan, I saw Bournes "Swan Lake." This indeed felt like it took elements from that production. The journey of the Prince is more central to this version just as in the Bourne production, though not as much I think. Much as Bournes Prince watches and longs after the seemingly free, happy couples in the Bar scene, this Prince watches on as his own citizens parade their relationships in front of him, sending him off on his quest of discovery/dissillusionment(?). And Von Rothbart's seduction of the entire court certainly feels reminicent of the Black Swan asserting his sexual energy over the court in the Bourne production. <P>I'm also taken by Basheva and her husband's thought on subtlety and todays younger performers. I would expect two Russian trained dancers to have a better understanding of the subtleties and inuendo's of ballet. Certainly they should have a better insight over American youth. That said, an American director may have lost sight of this. Then again, it may have been by design. Interesting thought. I'm curious to look at other productions with this in mind.


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2002 4:50 pm 
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I agree totally that Dvorovenko has potential - the technique is all there, for sure. And she is young. She may very well grow into a wonderful Odette/Odile. Ballerinas search and research all their professional lives for interpretations of these roles. It's a never ending process.<P>Someone posted in a link to an article on Galina Ulanova in another thread - I am trying to remember which one it was - in which there was discussion on the nuance and sublety she brought to Giselle. I want to see more of that.<P>I get the feeling when I watch younger dancers in scenes such as Swan Lake ActII and Act III, that it seems they think that more is better. More flutters of the arms, move dippings of the heads (birdlike) when actually, less might be better. Sometimes those arms look more like a migration than a gentle flutter.<P>I do think that one magic moment appeared Saturday night when with her back to the audience she bouréed off stage with GENTLEY undulating arms. That was lovely. I would have liked to have seen more of that gentleness in other places. Maybe Siegfried would have too. <BR>


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2002 4:57 pm 
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Well, here it is - what I was trying to say above - this is from the article Azlan posted in:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>The problem seemed to be with embodying the bewitched white swan, Odette. Her trembling, mourning vulnerability eluded both Herrera and Dvorovenko, as beautiful as were their stretched, angled postures.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE> <P>That delicacy, sweetness, vulnerability was missing.


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2002 12:00 pm 
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From the Orange County Register, by Sara Wolf:<BR> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><B>'Swan Lake' doesn't fly : The principals in the ABT production look pretty, lack passion. </B><P>by Sara Wolf<P>Continuing its run of Kevin McKenzie's fresh, lavish production of "Swan Lake" Wednesday night, American Ballet Theatre delivered a satisfying performance marked by technical excellence, even as its new principals favored coolly dispassionate performances. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE><BR><A HREF="http://www.ocregister.com/sitearchives/2002/2/15/show/abt00215cci.shtml" TARGET=_blank><B>More...</B></A><p>[This message has been edited by mehunt (edited February 19, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2002 12:07 pm 
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And more from the OC Register:<BR> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><B>'Swan Lake' brings tutu recall <BR>European exoticism meets American pop in ABT's flawed <BR>new production, but the parts we remember best remain <BR>intact. </B><P>By DAVID GERE<BR>In almost every regard, Kevin McKenzie's new production of "Swan Lake" for American Ballet Theatre comes across as familiar and reassuring.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><BR><A HREF="http://www.ocregister.com/sitearchives/2002/2/14/show/abt00214cci2.shtml" TARGET=_blank><B>More...</B></A>


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2002 11:07 pm 
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More ABT “Swan Lake” thoughts:<P>As attentive a viewer as one tries to be at every performance, repeat visits often brings forth new insights and pleasures. Like all worthy productions, McKenzie’s “Swan Lake” easily repays the effort.<P>Early in her review, Basheva writes, “As the swan’s paddling feet are hidden beneath [the water], so the ballerina’s steely strength is also hidden and we see only the serene glide across the lake.” This is the design’s opening insight. As we take our seats we contemplate Zack Brown’s curtain—a pond of Impressionist blue and green. Immediately after the prologue, the main stage lights go up behind the curtain/screen to reveal the corps already assembled. How long have they been there?<P>It is a brilliant demonstration of the deceptive surface of reality—perhaps a warning to Siegfried about the dual nature of Odette/Odile, or even of von Rothbart … perhaps a reminder to the audience about the Janus faced paradox of the balletic art—to make the fiendishly difficult look effortless, even inevitable.<P>An ambition to more smoothly integrate what in many productions are purely dance sequences into the narrative seems to drive many of the artistic decisions. For example, at the beginning of Act II where other productions have Siegfried pursuing a frightened and fluttering Odette, eventually staying her and calming her down, McKenzie shortens the dancing to make time for a mime passage. Odette explains her curse, which adds continuity to the story (how else are Siegfried or those who don’t read the program notes to know what’s Odette’s problem?); but ultimately I must side with Fokine.<P>I prefer seeing Siegfried use dance to allay Odette’s fear. It sets up the transformation that will happen in the White Swan pdd when Siegfried finally wins Odette’s trust and love paralleled—indeed built upon their partnering. Those supported arabesques – those beautiful, partnered turns.<P>The design also supports the production’s search for dramatic continuity in the landscape backdrops. The daylight backdrop in Act I shows a lake behind the castle, one of the Rhineland variety hanging over a cliff. The backdrop in Act II shows a lake at night on whose far side is a castle and though we can’t be sure, it must be Siegfried’s. What this must mean is that the Lake of the Swans—the domain of darkness, fear, romance, and mystery—is, in fact, not so distant from the world of the Castle. In retrospect, von Rothbart’s and Odette’s dominion must have always been visible to Siegfried (and us, too, in Act I) even if only at a distance. Brown’s design seeks to blur the distinction between Odette’s world and Siegfried’s world much as Act I is divided from Act II by only a pause rather than an intermission.<P>Perhaps I wasn’t paying attention when watching other productions, but I was almost as surprised to see Siegfried dancing so much in Act I as I was to see Svelte Rothbart in Act III. Though it seemed like more tinkering, possibly to give Siegfried more to do than the lolling about, sighing, and general mooning in most productions, I think there is more at work.<P>When Siegfried dances with the Cheeky Girl in the Blue Gown, they are immediately the center of attention. When the Prince kisses her hand (that gallant!), the aristocratic corps whisper behind their hands. For the Prince and heir apparent, dancing with a pretty girl is not just a pleasant diversion, it is nothing less than a political act. So it is in Act III when the Princesses present themselves to the Court, they bring forth their entourage to dance character variations. It is like their suitability for dynastic alliance is judged by the measure of the ballet studio and the concert performance.<P>Is this the fantasy of every ballet company’s artistic director? —that power and influence align with she who can field the best dancers? <P>When Siegfried dances with each Princess, the Court watches breathlessly because the stakes are not home and happiness, but dynastic and civil stability. Of course he can’t choose one of the Princesses no matter how beautiful or elegant because they didn’t get the boost of a great pdd. However, Siegried has already forgotten the lesson of Act I—to dance is never politically naïve.<P>But, Lara H is ultimately right about Siegfried not being a chump. Chucklehead, perhaps, but not chump because his Act III mistake is everybody’s mistake. Basheva (earlier) asked why does the Court accept von Rothbart and Odile at face value? Why does nobody check their heraldry? Its because they can Dance with a capital ‘D.’ Dance as politics goes both ways. Odile’s and von Rothbart’s dancing immediately elevates them on par with the blood royal. Rothbart’s solo variations are his references and the 32 fouette’s are Odile’s family tree. Nobody asked questions.<P>No magic, no sorcery. Everything is in the steps.<P>O yes, and speaking of steps I realize that I have written all this without actually reviewing performance, but I have always maintained that I am more a choreography watcher than a dancer watcher—though in the best productions it is pretty much the same. However, I will want to put something out for emendation and comment, perhaps from opera fans who more used to this sort of thing: “2 Left Feet” mentioned the manner of Siegfried leaping to his death (think MacBeth: “nothing became him in his life like the leaving of it”).<P>At least for the performances I am aware of, there was consistency in Odette and Siegfried’s watery fates. On Tuesday, Julie Kent then Jose Manuel Carreno leapt dramatically off the cliff, soaring very far out—very much a Nijinsky-ian Spectre de la Rose jump. The next evening, Ashley Tuttle then Gennadi Savaliev sort of leaned over and fell off feet first, Tosca-style. On Thursday, Paloma Herrera then Marcelo Gomes went Olympic, free fall style—no doubt resulting in a pretty big splash but certainly clearing the rocks (if there were any) at the base of the cliff. And, on Friday, I saw Nina Ananiashvili and Julio Bocca sort of topple off, probably spinning head over heels on the way down. What style over the weekend?<P>O yes and before I forget: in my earier post I described Siegfried's handling of the princesses as 'impotent' (compared to Rothbart's) which is reviewer's hyperbole and not meant to say anything negative about Marcelo Gomes' dancing, which I thought was superb.<BR><p>[This message has been edited by Jeff (edited February 20, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2002 5:50 am 
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The Lake diving style of choice for Saturday evening was 'determined'. <P>Interesting to read your analysis, Jeff, of why Von Rothbart and Odile are accepted so readily into the Court. However, they seem to be accepted BEFORE they dance. In fact their arrival is heralded by a trumpet fanfare.<P>So I would suggest, it might not be their dancing, it's their clothes. There is a strict hierarchy in clothing - the sumptuary laws could very well have been in effect in written law as well as in common usage.<P>This is evident in the first act - the division between the peasants and the aristocrats (these are the actual titles given in the program) is not only the fullness of the skirts of the aristocrats but the aprons appended to the skirts of the peasants.<P>But a tutu trumps all.<P><BR>


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2002 6:50 am 
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I'm curious:<P>It seems to me that people I speak to who have lots of experience with Swan Lake do not much like this version. However, people with little or no experience with it seem very fond of it. Basheva brought up earlier the possible loss of subtlety with younger dancers. I wonder if we should be going one step further and asking if the piece was aimed entirely at a younger audience instead? Is it possible it has been reshaped and altered in an attempt to reach younger members to garner more interest in ballet? If so, at what price? Do we concern ourselves with older established audiences preconcieved notions or do we aggressively court the younger generations that constitute future markets?<P>Personally, I believe a good story wins out over all. Smiun tried to update ballet in SF by introducing pop culture with mixed to disasterous results (at least in terms of his relationship with the SF Ballet). If McKenzie is trying to give ballet a shot in the arm with younger audiences via story borrowing from popular conceptions of cinema style story structure (arguable the most impacful on younger generations), I would say he's on the right track.


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2002 7:06 am 
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Speaking only for myself - as an older member of the audience...and a long time Swan Lake watcher....<P>I thought that McKenzie's changes were positive. I liked them. What I meant by the loss of nuance was not in the changes that McKenzie wrought, but in the portrayal of the roles by the dancers - specifically Odette/Odile.<P>I think that in our culture there is very little left to the imagination, and yet Swan Lake is all imagination and that younger dancers don't seem able - or less able - to understand that *less can be more.* I know that's a generalization and there are many exceptions to the rule. But that is the trend as I see it. <P>I see a lack of sweetness, too much of a sharp edge, lack of gentleness. The Swan is brave but gentle.....tentative but hoping. But I see a lack of these qualities all through our culture - just in the language we use, the lyrics of songs, comedy, television sitcoms, etc.<P>So it's not changes in staging that I am speaking about.


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2002 8:52 am 
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Azlan, you asked >>Since the two of you have seen Bourne's all-male version, is there any basis to the assertions that McKenzie borrowed from Bourne?<<<P>The only time it was really apparent to me was von Rothbart's wooing of the queen. I thought "whoa, check it out, just like Matt's!"<P>There is an interesting discussion going on on ballet.co based on an article by Jennifer Homans in The New Republic who decries the perfection yet lack of personality exhibited by ABT's female dancers and is it the time for men as the new stars of ballet.<P>The original story is at <A HREF="http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20020218&s=homans021802&c=1" TARGET=_blank>http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20020218&s=homans021802&c=1</A> <P>Very interesting piece. I studied it at length and although I agreed with her on certain points I found that on close examination she contradicted herself too many times and made too many unsubstantiated statements for me to accept the whole article.<P>The reason I bring this up is that her view follows along with much that has been discussed here about the interpretation or lack thereof of Odile by the current crop of female principals.<P>The business with von Rothbart and the stuffed swan in the beginning didn't bother me at all as it did many reviewers. I just didn't notice any weirdness.<P>I have to say I was so entranced by the whole evening that I didn't spend much time analyzing Swan Lake. <P>To me it was just magic that made von Rothbart and his daughter acceptable at the ball, magic that clouded Sigfried's eyes to Odette's duplicity.<P>The only time I really found myself looking deeply into the production was comparing Herrera to Adam Cooper. She came up short in the believability department whereas he totally captured the vulnerability/strength of the Swan which then was a huge contrast to the behaviour of the Stranger (Odette) in Act three.<P><BR>


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2002 9:59 am 
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Interesting, isn't it, that it takes a totally contemporary take of "Swan Lake," by someone like Matthew Bourne, even to the point of creating male swans, for us to better appreciate the subtleties of the classical version of this ballet. For those who haven't seen it, I highly recommend a viewing of Adventures in Motion Pictures' production of Matthew Bourne's "Swan Lake."


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2002 10:03 am 
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Thanks for the link laraH. The thesis that the men have moved more to the centre stage is convincing, but I'm surprised that after the extensive history sections, the author leaves out the Soviet period. Dancers from the late 20s onwards were re-choreographing the male roles to include dance pyrotechnics. Vakhtang Chabukiany in the 30s through to the 50s was a dynamic force in this process which lead to the development of dancers such as Nureyev and Baryshnikov. So it's not a process from the past 20 years but rather the past 70 years.<P>My other problem is that this thesis, that may be summed up as - the ballerina is dead, long live the danseur - is that the evidence is only from ABT and ignores the fine women dancers in SFB, POB, the RB and the Russian companies. <P>


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2002 4:38 pm 
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Here, here, Stuart. Just because ABT has hit what I'm assuming and hoping will be a temporary lull in the ballerina department doesn't mean there are no great ballerinas any more.<P>Backing up a bit. I'm an older audience member, and, like Basheva, I found many of Kevin's changes to be positive ones. <P>And I agree with Lara that it is simply a spell that von Rothbart has cast over the court so that he and Odile can do what they need to do.<P>The only thing I picked up on related to necks in the prologue had to do with Rothbart's transformation from monster to human form. When I saw Malakhov do the human role, he adjusted his neck, much as a chiropractor would do. As I stated in my impressions of the NY performance last spring, he was so effective that I could almost hear his neck crack. I didn't sense any "weirdness" with the stuffed swan. But I wasn't sitting up front, either, so I may have missed details...


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2002 8:46 am 
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>>My other problem is that this thesis, that may be summed up as - the ballerina is dead, long live the danseur - is that the evidence is only from ABT and ignores the fine women dancers in SFB, POB, the RB and the Russian companies. <<<P>Exactly! She made many BIG statements about what dancers should do, but never gave the "How" part. It is an interesting read, but like I said after a long study it was just too flawed.<P>I wonder too, will all ballerinas suffer in comparison to our memories of "Ms. Sheza Thebestava"?<P>If we say that someone is cold because she leaves us unmoved — is that her fault or are we unreceptive — is she cold or are we emotionally attached to other dancers?<P>Just a thought.<P>And to echo Azlan about Bourne's Swan Lake, try to see it on DVD, watch it over and over, especially Act II and Act IV. Amazing performances by all in the cast, especially Cooper.<P>Will Kemp shines in his small parts in the disco bar and as the Italian consort. His flair for the dramatic was showing then, at 19.<P>And Scott Ambler will break your heart as the Prince.<P>lara<p>[This message has been edited by laraH (edited February 22, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' in Orange Count
PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2002 6:22 pm 
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A little late in the game, but another look:<P>American Ballet Theater “Swan Lake”<BR>Friday, February 15, 2002<P>Odette/Odile—Nina Ananiashvili; Prince Siegfried—Julio Bocca; von Rothbart—Brian Reeder & Marcelo Gomes.<P>This appearance was not Orange County’s first experience with Nina Ananiashvili. I saw her as Kitri recently. Nina was a super Kitri. “Super” as in superstar—a performance of Madonna sized proportions—not the Material Girl but contemporary, corporate 24 bit, Dolby-THX surround sound Madonna. Great technique and plenty of joie de vivre, of course, but, with what I imagine is a sort of “Old World” professional luster (“ballerina sheen”).<P>I thought Nina made a great Odette/Odile. Her treatment of the mime passages were worth the stage time taken from the usual dancing in circles where Siegfried calms Odette down. More graceful arms and calmness made for a smoother mime passage that didn’t seem to bring the music and the dancing to a screeching halt. Her Odette seemed to have a more fluid and facile control particularly of what in my non-dancer’s notes I term ‘swan arms port d’bras.’<P>Nina’s Odile was if anything better than her Odette. I thought everything was larger than life. There were supported balances done for the sake of showing that ballerina could do without the support. There were effortless spins, especially the 32 fouette’s, which she zipped through much faster than any other I have seen. Though impressive at that point, the performance resembled Olympic ice skating more than ballet—point scoring rather than pointe work. But, who is complaining? In contrast to Soviet practice, Nina omitted the separate bow after the fouette’s. Russian tradition must not apply when she is working on an American time clock.<P>But, I don’t want to give the impression that Swan Queen has to carry the entire show. Svelte von Rothbart was there with his sexual appetite translated into dance charisma. Marcelo Gomes’ Act III solo variations as SvR show that he can do much more than great partnering. In the Act I pas de trois, Erica Cornejo, Marian Riccetto, and Joquin de Luz were terrific. And, again I thought the Act III princesses particularly delectable, like looking in the windows at Harry Winstons. The Princesses were Yena Kang, Marta Rodrigues-Coca, Erica Fischbach, and Alina Faye (looking like one of these Telemundo telenovela goddesses).<P>On repeated viewing, Neopolitan Dance still seems like an interpolation. The dancers are Jerry Douglas and Carlos Lopez. I was wrong about the disco shirts—they’re country western shirts open to the navel. And, the guys are wearing sweat bands around their foreheads that look distinctly un-Neopolitan. <P>Other random impressions:<P>I liked the pas de trois trio so much their return in Act III (uncredited) was welcome. Also, I was confused about Benno and his pdt friends’ social station. In Act I Benno looks like a courtier in a hunting outfit, but the girls look like villagers. I was a little concerned that Benno was an Albrecht in genesis, so it was a little bit of a relief when they all show up as sumptuous courtiers in Act III.<P>I’m not so sure that the inclusion of the “La Fille mal Gardee” Maypole in Act I was such a good idea. Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention, but I think cross-ballet allusions should have some point.<P>“2 Left Feet” identifies the important theme of the solitary individual apart from the community and this is effective when the Prince dances a short solo variation alone, unobserved while the corps are split up in couples. This is a significant moment especially when one considers that according to the feudal legal theory, the Prince consists in himself of both the body politic, which is the community, and the body corporeal, which is his own personal life, desires and dreams. As in the legend of the Fisher King, the source legend of Arthur Rex and other tales, the land and the king should be one and it is potentially disastrous when they are not.<P>Who else has the soul that could really speak to the Prince except another being, the Swan Queen, who also contains within herself, her own fate and those of her subjects?<P>When the aristocrats and courtier’s depart the stage at the twilight end of Act I, the villagers’ corps start to dance with real abandon and gusto. It’s like they said, there go all the stuffed shirts let’s have some real FUN! This is one of my favorite scenes.<P>Like productions of the classical/ “neo-” classical theater, the ballet does not conform 100%, yet its ambition is for the classical/ “neo-” classical qualities of clarity, balance, and harmony, shown by emphasizing the unities of time, place, and action. For example, it is apparent that the story takes place within the prescribed 24 hours (less if the Prince’s Birthday party occurs in the afternoon). The opening act’s ending with twilight balances the closing act’s ending with the sunrise. The backdrop emphasizes the unity of place in that lake seen behind Siegfried’s castle is the Lake of the Swans so that the action occurs on opposite shores of the Lake. And, action is unified in the sense that the Prologue shows expository information that would otherwise have to be told to us by mime or by the Program Notes.<P>As was commented in several posts, the production has achieved greater narrative clarity and unity, yet I think there is a cost. I think the differences are important between the daylight world of the Prince and his Court in Acts I and III and the night time world of the lovers and the swans in Acts II and IV. Again, Lara H is ultimately right about Siegfried. The ballet gives him the choice of the approved princesses—and everything the Prince knows tells he should choose one. Or, the mysterious Swan Queen of whom he knows nothing. Or, rather, like us he knows nothing about her except the beauty of her dancing in Act II.<P>But, it is enough. Just like Act II is stageable as a stand alone work (evidence in recent years’ appearances by San Francisco Ballet at the Hollywood Bowl—except for last year when Pittsburgh Ballet staged Act II of “Nutcracker”), in a sense, the aura, the mystery, and the supremely romantic symbolism of the ballet blanc are all that really matters. <P>Said differently, the production attempts to impose a version of classical unities onto a work whose conception is ultimately romantic. Though this production comes close, I’m not convinced that the clarity, harmony, and balance will help Siegfried to love Odette more, or audiences the ballet.<P><BR>[This message has been edited by Jeff (edited February 25, 2002).]<p>[This message has been edited by Jeff (edited February 25, 2002).]


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