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 Post subject: Re: Swan Lake on video
PostPosted: Wed Jul 31, 2002 4:30 am 
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Location: London UK
It's strange isn't it that its usually Russian dancers and conductors that take the most liberties with Tchaikovsky's scores? You would think they would regard his memory with more respect than to tinker with the tempi of his scores, after all every note has an exact time value together with the composers’ instructions printed on the score. So in theory the music shouldn't vary that much from one conductor to another.<P>A dancer's requirements should be taken into consideration of course, but surely its in allegro passages rather than legato where help from the conductor becomes necessary. Imagine Odile's 32 fouettes with an unsympathetic conductor; slowing down could lead to disaster!<P>Perhaps we video fanatics should get out our recordings of the Swan Lake Act II pas de deux and time a few. I think we would see minutes rather than seconds added to performances by Russian interpreters.<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Swan Lake on video
PostPosted: Wed Jul 31, 2002 4:48 am 
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It seems to me that when Tchaikovsky composed the score, he knew it was for dance. Wasn't there also some collaboration between him and Petipa? As I recall - there was. So both the choreographer and the composer had in mind some vision of the final product; how it would be used and how it would look.<P>It also seems to me, that part of the training of the dancer is to present the choreography and the music exactly as written and set. That's part of the training.<P>Let's move over to Balanchine for a second. I know that when he set the choreography for his ballets, many of his dancers (see Jillana's interview in the interview section of the board) say that he often changed his choreography to suit a particular dancer. As the author of the choreography that was his perogative. <P>However, can anyone tell me if he changed the music? I don't know - I am asking. I know he was extremely musical and had a great respect for it. Did he change tempi to suit his choreographic purpose?<P>Moving back to Makarova and Swan Lake...while slowing the tempo certainly did draw out her movement and it was beautiful to watch (almost mermerizing), it also, in my opinnion, took the life out of the music. <p>[This message has been edited by Basheva (edited July 31, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: Swan Lake on video
PostPosted: Wed Jul 31, 2002 10:53 am 
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The first thing that popped into my mind concerning whether Balanchine ever changed the music was that he changed the order of the movements of the <I>Serenade in C for Strings</I> for his ballet <I>Serenade</I>.<P>I have no idea what constituted the very first score of <I>Swan Lake</I>, or the revival at the Mariinsky. My idea of the "correct" version of the score is the one the Bolshoi used in its first couple of tours, because I saw that production quite a few times. Other later productions from the Bolshoi and other companies used what I believe was supposed to be the original Act 3 pas de deux, which sounds wrong to me, as it wasn't the one I was used to hearing.<P>In the party scene of SFB's <I>Nutcracker</I>, there's an omission of a short bit of music that just drives me crazy every time I see the ballet. It's a segue, and the change from one section of the music to the next, without the segue, is very jarring to me. For those of you who have seen this production, I unfortunately can't pinpoint the moment. I think it's in the action leading up to the dancing dolls.<p>[This message has been edited by djb (edited July 31, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: Swan Lake on video
PostPosted: Wed Jul 31, 2002 11:53 am 
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I've just been reading some articles about metronome markings. Since it seems to be acceptable for conductors to ignore the suggested tempi, I suppose choreographers and dancers should be given the same latitude.<P>There's one type of distortion of music for dance that I wish would disappear forever, however, and that is the practice of having the conductor delay the final note of the music for the classical male variations so that the dancer can take his time getting into the final pirouettes and double tour. It's just lazy and sloppy, in my opinion. In Fernando Bujones's variation from <I>Paquita</I> on the <I>ABT at the Met</I> video, he lets the music play as written, and lands the double tour right on the beat. I think it's so much more exciting that way.


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 Post subject: Re: Swan Lake on video
PostPosted: Fri Aug 02, 2002 9:48 am 
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Thanks to all for your comments. I just ordered the Makarova/Dowell and the Fonteyn/Nureyev videos. <BR>It's interesting that people here cannot agree on what is the "perfect" Swan Lake. Clearly, perfection is very much in the eye/ear of the beholder.<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Swan Lake on video
PostPosted: Fri Aug 02, 2002 11:08 am 
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Crandc, I hope you have many hours of viewing pleasure from those videos. I guess there is no such thing as a perfect "Swan Lake." Or a perfect anything! But you made two great choices, and it should be interesting to compare those productions and those dancers. Enjoy!


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 Post subject: Re: Swan Lake on video
PostPosted: Fri Aug 02, 2002 12:05 pm 
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What I find interesting is that with all the live performances of <I>Swan Lake</I> that I've seen and loved, I haven't seen one on video that I unreservedly like. I guess the old Plisetskaya/Fadeyechev version comes the closest, just because I like the leads, the choreography and the sets and costumes. But then there's a problem with sound synchronization with much of it (not the grands pas de deux, however).


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 Post subject: Re: Swan Lake on video
PostPosted: Sat Aug 03, 2002 5:38 pm 
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Crandc asked: "Your opinions please: Of the easily available Swan Lake videos, which do you like the best (or least) and why?"<P>OK. Here are my opinions about "Swan Lake" on video. These are all either complete or abridged productions, not excerpts. Last time I checked, they were all still available commercially. I also have several versions which are no longer available that I have not included here: Starting from most favorite to least favorite:<P>Versions I watch for enjoyment:<P>Bolshoi with Maya Plisetskaya and Nicolai Fadeyechev: I've never felt totally comfortable recommending this because the video has some technical problems, but it's the one I watch the most, and I've come to accept its faults. It's abridged and only about 90 minutes long. So many excerpts are available of Maya doing both White Swan and Black Swan that it should be a hint to you that you should check her out. Great arms, flexible back, outstanding turner and jumper. Also renowned for her "Dying Swan" routine, which is very similar in character to Odette. I love Fadeyechev's variation in the third act pdd. Happy ending.<P>Kirov with Mezentseva and Zaklinski: Overall, I think it's a very strong performance, and I love the corps work. Something about this one always gets me emotionally during the harp runs at the very end. I don't know if it's proper to describe ballet productions in terms of being appollonian or dionysian, as it is with premier danceurs, but this production is very satisfying to me in an appollonian way. For comparisons, Nureyev's German production is very dionysian in character.<P>Kirov with Makhalina and Zelensky: Not that much difference between this and the previous version. I believe that this production is Russian, whereas the previous one is Soviet. The previous one is a little longer and includes a few more dances on it. Zelensky is a fine technician, but I have trouble liking his character as well as Zaklinski. Makhalina is a little easier on the eyes than Mezentseva because she's not so thin. You really can't go wrong with either of them.<P>Kirov with Ulanova (Odette), Dudinskaya (Odile), and Sergeyev on "Stars of the Russian Ballet" (Abridged): It's primarily of historical value, but I often watch it because it's short, and you can watch it quickly during meal time!<P>Versions I use for comparison purposes. I also sometimes put these on when I really feel like having ballet going on in the background, like if your cleaning house or doing something where your attention is divided. That way you don't ruin your favorites by overuse.<P>Berlin with Nureyev and Fonteyn: Lots of great dancing by Nureyev, but I dislike his characterization of Siegfried.<P>Boshoi with Bessmertnova and Bogatyrev: As a Bessmertnova fan, I found this one disappointing, primarily because it's a Grigorovich production. It includes some silly things like having the third act divertissements all danced on pointe.<P>Royal Ballet with Makarova and Dowell: I appreciated Dowell's dancing a lot, but there wasn't nearly as many opportunities for him, as say there was for Rudi in his German production. I admire Makarova's adage, but I don't like her distortions of the tempo. "Kirov Ballet in London" is even worse! I refuse to sit there and watch a ballet for enjoyment when someone does that to the music. I don't think that her black swan is especially distinguished. So far, I don't remember anyone raving about it. The choreography was obviously modified to suit her strengths. I can see that this tape might be of interest to ballet students if they wanted to study her adage.<P>Perm Ballet with Ananiashvili and Alexei Fadeychev: Why watch Perm Ballet when you can watch Maya or the Kirov?<P>London Festival Ballet with Hart and Schafuss: Interesting production, but it didn't catch my fancy to become one of my favorites.<P>Berlin with Scherzer and Matz: Long, with contemporary themes added such as Benno having a crush on Siegfried and being jealous of Odette.<P>Other versions I haven't found a use for:<P>Matthew Bourne: Not for me.<P>Offerings I wish Kultur Video had:<P>I've wished for some time that Kultur Video would offer an Altynai Asylmuratova "Swan Lake" to go with their documentary "Backstage at the Kirov," which is the story of Altynai going up through the ranks to star in the ballet. I also wish that Kultur would bring back the '69 Kirov film by Sergeyev with Yevteyeva and Markovsky, except that this time they should leave it in widescreen format instead of formatting it to fit the TV. As it is, the dancing sometimes goes off the screen. Nevertheless, it's one of my very favorite "Swan Lake" versions that are no longer available.<P><BR>[This message has been edited by RSS (edited August 03, 2002).]<p>[This message has been edited by RSS (edited August 03, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: Swan Lake on video
PostPosted: Sat Aug 03, 2002 6:49 pm 
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If any of you owners of the Plisetskaya/Fadeyechev 'Swan Lake' don't mind, would you check out the end of the Black Swan Pas de Deux - adagio section and tell me if there is a close up of her head while she does multiple pirouettes? <P>I used to own a video of Plisetskaya in Black Swan,and her red feathers bouncing up and down during the pirouettes use to crack me up.<P>If this is the one I will have to purchase it.


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 Post subject: Re: Swan Lake on video
PostPosted: Sat Aug 03, 2002 7:45 pm 
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I just pulled out my Plisetskaya/Fadeyechev video and watched the part you asked about. That's so funny -- I've watched it so many times and never noticed it before. Every time Plisetskaya spots, the plumes, which are standing up, sort of flop down to the side.<P>Aside from that, I still think Plisetskaya's Odile is the best I've ever seen. And the costumes for everyone in the third act are just beautiful.<P>Today I watched parts of the Makarova/Dowell and Makhalina/Zaklinski performances of <I>Swan Lake</I> today, and my opinions of the relative merits of the two productions remains the same. But I realized that the excruciatingly slow adagio of the Act 2 pas de deux was not in the Royal Ballet production (although I think it, too, was too slow) -- it was in the <I>Kirov Ballet in London</I> performance.<p>[This message has been edited by djb (edited August 03, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: Swan Lake on video
PostPosted: Sun Aug 04, 2002 4:14 am 
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Thanks djb, I need to purchase that version again. Between her vamp looks at him and those feathers I have had some entertaining moments. She was also a lot heavier in those days.<P>Don't you love Makarova's balance near the end of the Black Swan adagio? I find her Odile to be the best dramatically. Her technique is not so bad either.


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 Post subject: Re: Swan Lake on video
PostPosted: Sun Aug 04, 2002 12:55 pm 
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Matthew Bourne has some interesting things to say about which version of the score, and what tempi to use in the interview book by Alastair Macaulay, <I>Matthew Bourne and his Adventures in Motion Pictures</I>. Here are some excerpts:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><BR><I>AM: ... A few of your choreographic motifs and patterns are adapted from Ivanov's choreography in the 1895 version, and in general you use the 1895 ordering of the score.</I><P>MB: Actually, there were plenty of factors we had to reconceive from scratch. I talked about tempi quite a lot with David (Lloyd-Jones, conductor of the orchestra Bourne used, as well as a Tchaikovsky expert), about the tempo of virtually every item in Swan Lake. He said that a lot of the score had been slowed down far too much in modern times. ... The most interesting point was the pas de deux in Act Two, which he felt had been played slower and slower over the decades. We found a recording on Naxos, which played it rather fast, particularly the middle section. To begin with, it was a shock to hear it that way; but, after listening to it a couple of times, he said, 'Actually, this really is how it should be. This is how it's written and how it was intended.' The central section in particular, he said, was really quite lilty. Playful, even. Those aren't words people apply to any part of that pas de deux in the traditional Swan Lake, are they? But David drew us into hearing those qualities in the score. He said there's variety within that adagio that we should address. So that's how we choreographed it, with that central section as a jumpy section of movement.<P>...<P>There were a lot of other changes of tempo to which he drew our attention and which shaped our idea of the show. So it was good to feel that we were doing something that was even more authentic musically than the traditional ballet.<P><I>AM: Was it Lloyd-Jones who helped you solve the ending of the pas de deux? The 1877 version ends -- very surprisingly -- with a brisk allegro passage, which very few twentieth-century versions employ; Balanchine's one-act Swan Lake is one of those few. The 1895 version, arranged by Drigo, ends it on a beautifully prolonged diminuendo, and that version, as choreographed by Ivanov, is the ending we usually hear and see in the theatre.</I><P>MB: We did try the allegro ending in rehearsals; but whenever we got to that point, the music just made everyone laugh. The 1895 version wasn't on any recording -- and that, too, just felt alien to me. So we ended up with the more straightforward diminuendo ending, which Tchaikovsky himself had written. It's from his 'Swan Lake Suite'. I liked its simplicity.<P><I>AM: And the fact that he used that version in his Suite suggests that he himself had come to the conclusion that it would be a better ending to the pas de deux that (sic) the original 1877 allegro.<P>Another departure you make from the 1877 score is in the order of musical items. Tchaikovsky ordered the dances in 1877, after the entrance of the swans and the scene with the Prince and the huntsmen as (i) tempo di valse (the waltz for all the corps de ballet of swans) (ii) moderato assai-molto piu mosso (the solo dance for the Swan Queen) (iii) tempo di valse (a return to the waltz music, but now for the big swans) (iv) allegro moderato (the dance for the cygnets) (v) pas d'action (andante-andante non troppo-allegro) (the music for the pas de deux or -- in dance terms -- adagio for the Swan Queen and the Prince, often known as the White Swan adagio) (vi) tempo di valse (another return to the swan waltz material) (vii) coda (allegro vivace) (for all the swans).<P>However, in 1895 Ivanov and Drigo re-ordered these numbers as (i) (v) (iv) (vi) (ii) (vii) (sic: (iii) is omitted in the book). Your ordering is something along these lines, except that you put the solo dance for the Swan (ii) directly after the cygnets (iv) and before (vi), the dance for the big cygnets.</I><P>MB: The 1877 score uses that waltz music once too often, wonderful thought it is; and it builds up to the pas de deux as an expressive climax, whereas in the theatre there's more contrast and sense of development if you let the other dances seem to develop from what the pas de deux has established.<BR><HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>--Andre<BR><p>[This message has been edited by Andre Yew (edited August 04, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: Swan Lake on video
PostPosted: Sun Aug 04, 2002 2:29 pm 
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Very interesting, Andre Yew, thank you.<P>It seems to me that if one slows down the music for the pas de deux to accomodate the taste of a particular dancer, it distorts how it music fits in with the rest of the ACT II music, which is whatI think your quotes above are saying.<P>I have often found it quite jarring to hear the music for the dance of the little cygnets, as compared with the super slow playing of the music for the pas de deux. When played too slowly, it sounds more like a 'dying'than a falling 'in love.' <P>When I listen to the music of Swan Lake, and not watching the dance, just listening to the music...it has so much more life to it. And each component fits in smoothly as part of the whole.


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 Post subject: Re: Swan Lake on video
PostPosted: Sun Aug 04, 2002 3:01 pm 
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Glebb, no, I didn't love Makarava's balance near the end of the adagio. I don't like to see a dancer start a balance with a see-saw, even if it results in an eventual long balance. I'd rather see a short preparation and a balance that hits a still position immediately, even if it's not a long balance.<P>Makarova has never moved me in dramatic roles. I haven't seen her as Giselle, though, which many people seem to thing is her best role. The performance I saw her in that I liked the best was <I>Other Dances</I> by Robbins.<P>The highlight of this Royal Ballet Makarova/Dowell tape for me is definitely Dowell's dancing.<p>[This message has been edited by djb (edited August 04, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: Swan Lake on video
PostPosted: Sun Aug 04, 2002 3:12 pm 
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Interesting. Well Makarova's dancing certainly influenced a whole generation of dancers.<P>To me what sets her apart from most of the ballerinas spoken of in this thread dancing the role of Odette/Odile is her use of turn out.<P>In regard to the balance, I know it isn't perfect. Makarova's technique was never perfect. But I don't think I have seen that long a balance from anyone else other than Veronica Tennant in 'Sleeping Beauty', live at the MET. I forgive the wobble. Image<p>[This message has been edited by Glebb (edited August 04, 2002).]


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