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To celebrate the fifth production of "Swan lake" at the Estonian National Ballet, a special reunion of previous and current dancers took place:
Swans and princes met again
November 11 was an exciting day for the Estonian National Opera – the theatre invited to its Winter Garden all the stars who have danced the role of Prince Siegfried and Odette/Ottilie through many years and different versions of “Swan Lake”.
“Swan Lake” has been the most popular ballet in “Estonia” – 700 performances of 5 productions. All these stagings have been designed by Eldor Renter, who is also the designer of the new version. “Estonia’s” first Odette Erika Määrits (82), who danced in Rahel Olbrei’s staging in 1940, could unfortunately not come to the meeting. Altogether met 8 swans (Liia Leetmaa, Helmi Puur, Tiiu Randviir, Larissa Kaur, Tatjana Maiste (Laid), Olga ####, Kaie Kõrb, Marina Chirkova) and 6 princes (Ago-Endrik Kerge, Aleksandr Basihhin, Viesturs Jansons, Viktor Fedortshenko, Tiit Härm, Vladimir Arhangelski). Every legendary swan and prince had a story to tell and they all agreed that “Swan Lake” has had a significant place in their life. The ballet stars gave their signatures on 2 pairs of ballet shoes – one pair to be taken to the theatre and music museum and the other one to be sold in connection with the 100 – years anniversary of the Estonian National Opera in 2006.
Premiére of the latest version of “Swan Lake” will be on 28 and 30 November 2002.By the words of the choreographer and producer Tiit Härm the “Swan Lake” is joined into an enjoyable piece by Tchaikovsky’s ingenious music, poetic story, versatility of dance rhythms and characters. Tiit Härm has based his new version of “Swan Lake” on Lev Ivanov’s original choreogrpahy that has been followed for almost a century creating a new dimension of a classical fairy tale: swan lake is the world of Prince’s imagination, a place easy to flee to from real life to seek for happiness and love, but hard to find one’s way back from.
Estonian National Opera
Here is a some background information:
The history of the ballet “Swan Lake” in “Estonia”
By Lea Tormis
“Swan Lake” has been performed on the ballet stages of the world for more than 100 years. The genius of Tchaikovsky embedded a timeless emotional-psychological charge into the music that has reached a popularity of almost too-frequent performance. The forever-human qualities of love and death, good and evil, loyality and betrayal, dreams and reality, fairy tale and psychological reality intertwine in the “Swan Lake”.
Each new staging of this ballet in its own way reflects the spirit of the age. This is so even when attempt towards so-called canonical choreography is been made (the Marius Petipa & Lev Ivanov staging of 1895 is what people usually have in mind, the debut of 1897 has been forgotten). Indeed, most of the interpretations of the “Swan Lake” either try to stay true to the “academic” version or attempt to push further, to argue with the original.
“Swan Lake” made its debut in “Estonia” relatively late, in 1940, when the steady dance group, put together by Rahel Olbrei in 1926, had the experience of full ballet performances. Olbre, who was familiar with the traditional versions of the ballet, preferred to create her own new choreography for the “Swan Lake”. Her aim was to express the “drama/theatrical performance in the form of dance”. She has commented in her memoirs (1968) that “if it's a narrative ballet, make the action (pas d’action) clear enough for the viewers as not to require any libretto’s. This approach has parallels with the design of the Russian “Swan Lake” stagings (Gorski, Vaganova) of the 1920s-1930s; as well as with the more general new-realistic stage art tendencies of the period.
The famous director Andres Särev wrote a new version of the libretto on the request of Olbrei. According to this version two different dancers perform the roles of the peasant girl Odette and Ottilie, the daughter of duke Redbeard. Despite the fairy tale-like atmosphere, a logical progression of the events has been the goal. For example, a fancy dress ball takes place in act III – this is the reason why prince Siegfried mistakes Ottlie for his loved-one Odette. The divertissiment of different character dances finds a content-derived justification in act III. Olbrei interpreted the pathetic holiness of the finale as an ode to the victory of love over evil; a victory paid for by the life of Odette. The ballet master could not develop a more classical dance symphony due to the restraints of the troupe size and technical level. However, according to her own words, she intently excluded the more elaborate dance sequences because she “wanted to find movements that would somehow correspond to the majestic grace of a swimming swan.”
The dramatically overwhelming performances of the main dancers (Odette – Klaudia Sutt Maldutis, Ottlie – Erika Määrits, The Prince – Artur Koit) contributed to the completeness
and emotional impact of the staging. The “Swan Lake” continued to be played during the war.
New dancers came along; of these, Veera Leever (Eskola) danced the role of Ottlie also in the next new staging in 1948.
R.Olbrei and K.Maldutis went to exile, the building of “Estonia” was destroyed in the March bombings of 1944 (restored in 1947); the dance troupe had lost members. Nevertheless, the “Swan Lake” returned. The version of Anna Ekston was in many respects similar to that of Olbrei, continuing the dance drama tradition. Erika Määrits and Valentina Vassiljeva shared the role of Odette (the lyrical gift of the latter had no space to develop because of the political repressions). Next to Veera Leever the role of Ottlie was danced by Liia Vink (Leetmaa), who was a pre-war Brussels ballet contest laureate and had studied in the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre school. She, as a representative of a classical school of ballet, has contributed to the succession of many Swans in “Estonia”.
The Choreography School (currently the Tallinn Ballet School) started by Anna Ekström in 1946, established regular dance teaching in Estonia. Although the Soviet unification policy, the preference of one direction in art, badly injured the tradition of and training in other dance styles, it nevertheless ensured one an access to the gold funds of classical ballet. The same internal conflict is manifest in the conversion of “Estonia” from a collective of different stage genres into a music theatre in 1949. The pressure- and rearrangement politics of Stalin had thus annihilated the strongest acting troupe in Estonia. Although the music plays thus received more space in the recently reopened building, it nevertheless made them more poore. The story “Swan Lake” reflects the development of dance theatre generally in the conditions that prevailed.
In such turbulent times it was the decision of the quest stage director Vladimir Burmeister to bring his staging of the “Swan Lake” into “Estonia”, that proved crucial. A first generation of ballet dancers had finished our ballet school a year ago, in 1953. Helmi Puur, the school-mate of the young professionals, had studied in the famous Vaganov School in Leningrad. The new level of the performers made possible more demanding choreography. The interpretation of Vladimir Burmeister argued with the rutinized academic version, although it did not fully severe all connections with tradition. This was a ballet master who also preferred content logic, and attention to the beginning partiture of Tchaikovsky.
In his home theatre in Moscow Burmeister had preserved the famous swan act II of L.Ivanov
in his staging. To Tallinn he brought the new version of the act (Burmeister choreography has recently been re-staged in France and in Finland, proving its timelessness.)
For the sake of Estonian ballet it was important that the new staging fit into the psychologically motivated, dramatically/dynamically developing stage character dance tradition “Estonia” had cultivated thus far. The richer dance varieties made the Burmeister version a natural link on the way to acquire the polyphonic dance symphony of the Ivanov Petipa version in the future.
The unforgettably beautiful debut of Helmi Puur in the twin role of Odette/Ottilie created a legend spanning generations. Her partner was the first ballet prince of Estonia, Artur Koit – thus, a lively relationship between tradition and evolution was born. In the same staging the young Tiiu Randviir began to develop her Swan character.
First, she was more close to the powerful-mystical Ottilie, who in the Burmeister version belonged to the notorious company of the demonic Rothbart; became infused into the diabolic dance vortex designed to mislead the Prince in act III.
The Burmeister “Swan Lake” continued to be danced for a dozen years, giving opportunities to new Princes like Verner Loo, Ago-Endrik Kerge, straight out of the ballet school.
In the 1960s the ballet troupe of “Estonia” was finally composed mainly of professionally educated dancers. Crises had been induced by the continuous traffic of ballet masters, rather than by the dancers. Well-educated new ballet masters (Mai Murdmaa, Enn Suve)
brought new vitality into the theatre: the repertoire became more diverse, the dance language more modern, the choreography more plastically-symbolically metaphorical.
Stagings were dance-dominated, free of the age-old pantomime and divertissiments (“The magic Tangerine”, “The Lost Son”, “Carmen” etc.). This was the period when canonical staging with dance symphonism made its debut in Estonia and diversified ballet repertoire.
Bolshoi Theatre redaction is brought to “Estonia” with a sense of style by S. Ivanova. The timeless values of classical pieces were contemporized by the personal charm of the performers and their sense of the age; as well as by the young intensity of Eri Klas in charge of the orchestra.
The fully ripe mastery of Tiiu Randviir in the role of both the White and Black Swan is especially memorable. Hers is an expression of the constant human urge towards harmony and sense of completeness; of the fight with oneself, and the shadowy side of the world. New Swans will appear, for example, the more pastel-like Tamara Soone, and those who will dance the Swan in the future stagings.
It is characteristic of the “Swan Lake” tradition in “Estonia” that the same dancers connect different stagings, yet new performers always appear and bring along their personal perceptions. The most important partner of Randviir is the Price of Jüri Lassi. This staging is played for more than 10 years; of the new Princes Tiit Härm is the most notable.
Possibly because of the near-perfect partnership of Tiit Härm and the young Kaie Kõrb, the next “Swan Lake” lives the longest life so far – 20 years. The (slightly eclectic) new version of the academic Petipa-Ivanov choreography, staged by the legendary ballet Prince K. Sergejev. Kaie Kõrb, the student of the previous Swan T. Randviir, became equally impressive as both, the elegic-lyrical Odette and the powerfully shining Ottilie. Altogether 9 Swans and 12 Princes, from Tatjana Laid to Inge Arro to the youngest, Maria Chirkova, have participated in this staging. Several of them now teach the new generations; others, like Age Oks, Jane Raidma, Toomas Edur, Stanislav Jermakov, and others dance on the ballet theatres around the world.
The main dancers of the “Swan Lake” of “Estonia” (H.Puur, T. Randviir, K. Kõrb, T.Härm, and others) have performed the roles of Odette/Ottilie and Prince Siegfried at foreign theatres before, as have Russian, Finnish, Italian, Latvian artists (including such top artists as C.Bessy and A. Labis from France, N. Dolgushin from Russia, E.Evdokimova from the USA) participated in the stagings of the “Swan Lake” in “Estonia”. It has been said that “Hamlet” is the homeland of actors: “Swan Lake” is the homeland of dancers. A combination of fairy tale and truth, ancient, yet novel.
<small>[ 11-28-2002, 19:54: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>