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 Post subject: Swan Lake
PostPosted: Fri Jul 23, 2004 3:04 am 
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<img src="http://www.victorhochhauser.co.uk/Graphics/swans425.jpg" alt="" />

Swan Lake, 22 July 2004
Bolshoi Ballet
Royal Opera House

Last night’s Swan Lake was a rather disappointing evening after the ebullience of Don Quixote. Not the fault of the dancers, I hasten to add, but I just couldn’t get on with Yuri Grigorovich’s production. Originally produced in 1969, the version was considered too dark by the authorities and was banned. In 2001 Grigorovich finally mounted the production he’d originally envisaged with the tragic ending intact. I’m afraid I found it very pedestrian and tired looking. It is indeed a dark production, but I found this less to do with emotional impact and more to do with Simon Virsaladze’s sets, which loomed over the proceedings to too great a degree (though I’m sure they look better on the Bolshoi’s larger stage) and the lighting, which was overly murky in the white acts.

Siegfried’s birthday celebrations were rather muted but with some lovely dancing. Act II introduced the melodramatically named The Evil Genius, who was well danced by Dmitri Belogolovtsev though his black costume against the dark background rendered him invisible too often. I was disappointed in the ‘white acts’ as they were lacking in any kind of poetry, though the Corps of swans were very impressive indeed. The proceedings weren’t helped by a rather plodding rendition of the score. And a sense of excitement and drama was squashed by a couple of abrupt and jarring cuts in the music that completely undermined two of the great moments of the ballet, Odette’s entrance and death. Act III was fine until Odile and The EG’s entrance whereupon there was a rather silly digression with other black swans and some pointless jumping around by The EG before a sudden switch back to the ballroom and the familiar Black Swan routine. Act IV just sort of drifted to the inevitable tragic conclusion. I found this a very dull production that left me completely cold.

The idea behind this Swan Lake is that Acts I and III are the ‘real world’ and the white acts are Siegfried's inner world. As such the ballet is split into two halves, rather than the usual three acts, which I found worked very well in keeping the momentum going. Maybe with a dramatically strong Siegfried this concept would have worked better, but I found Andrei Uvarov, though a lyrical and precise dancer, very wooden when it came to characterisation. Siegfried is a bit of a damp squib of a role anyway, but I found Uvarov’s performance to be lacking in direction and any sense of drama.

He was completely eclipsed by Svetlana Zakharova who was physically extraordinary. Odette is an ideal role for her extreme physique and steely technique, and she used her armoury with jaw dropping results. Her feet are beautiful, her back amazingly pliant and she used her Kirov line to amazing effect. Yes, it was gymnastic, but very beautiful, sculptural gymnastics as she moved smoothly from one remarkable swan pose to another. She didn’t move me at all, and I did wonder how emotionally engaged she was. But, to be fair, the lighting was so dim that it was hard to see any facial expression and this production isn’t set up for dramatic and emotional effect. I very much liked her interpretation of Odile. I found it rather humorous which I thought worked very well indeed in the context of this production. She was one of the most aggressive Odile's I’ve seen, a kind of Dominatrix Swan Maiden, and finally some life was injected into the proceedings as she zipped easily through the technical challenges of the Black Swan pas de deux.

As in Don Quixote, there was some fantastic dancing in the solo roles. I always find jesters tiresome but Gennadi Yanin did turn some technically impressive tricks. The Princesses in Act III – the lovely Maria Allash, Olga Suvorova, Maria Alexandrova, Anastasia Yatsenko and Ekaterina Shipulina – were all great. And the corps, again, were in fine form.

<small>[ 27 July 2004, 06:03 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Swan Lake
PostPosted: Fri Jul 23, 2004 6:07 am 
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Interesting that you mention the tempi Rosie. My impression is that Russian performances tend to take the classics at a more leisurely pace.

However, for the Kirov's production of the 1920's "Les Noces", the conductor seemed to be udertaking an attempt on the land-speed record, which made for exhilerating music and dancers stretched beyond the possible.


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 Post subject: Re: Swan Lake
PostPosted: Fri Jul 23, 2004 8:59 am 
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I am surprised about the dim lighting issue.
Of course the action at the lake side takes place by night but I would have thought getting the proper effect for that would be easier to achieve on the ROH stage than the Bolshoi stage which I have heard is vast. We shall see. Maybe there is a process of 'getting used to the venue' involved?


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 Post subject: Re: Swan Lake
PostPosted: Fri Jul 23, 2004 11:45 pm 
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Swan Lake

By LUKE JENNINGS
The Guardian
July 24, 2004

Svetlana Zakharova has had her ups and downs on the London stage, but in Swan Lake she has always produced grand-scale ballerina performances. She hasn't Yuliana Lopatkina's lunar glamour nor Nadezhda Gracheva's chilly beauty, but she has such extraordinary physical gifts that she seems, at times, quite other-dimensional. And so it was last Thursday, when the Bolshoi performed Yuri Grigorovitch's revised version of the ballet.
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 Post subject: Re: Swan Lake
PostPosted: Fri Jul 23, 2004 11:58 pm 
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Stunning Bolshoi in artistic act of belief

By CLEMENT CRISP
Financial Times
July 24, 2004

The production was decently respectful of Muscovite tradition, but included new choreography as well as psychological themes that were brave for late-Soviet times.
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 Post subject: Re: Swan Lake
PostPosted: Sun Jul 25, 2004 10:15 pm 
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Quote:
ARTS: Bolshoi Ballet/Swan Lake Covent Garden, London

By CLEMENT CRISP
The Financial Times
July 26, 2004

What I don't believe is Grigorovich's truncated ending. ... To achieve this, the score has been nastily truncated, a few curious bars have been tacked on, and we watch a finale that is perfunctory and unconvincing.
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 Post subject: Re: Swan Lake
PostPosted: Mon Jul 26, 2004 9:00 am 
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Location: London UK
Swan Lake
Bolshoi Ballet
Royal Opera House
24th July 2004 Matinee


It is the Kirov ballet that presents probably the most traditional version of “Swan Lake” to be seen anywhere in the world today and perhaps it is for this reason that the Bolshoi Company feels compelled to do something completely different. At the time of the last visit in 1999, the Bolshoi brought with it the oddest version of “Swan Lake” I’ve ever seen, which relegated Odette/Odile to a secondary role and made the ballet centre upon Rothbart, who had become both the father of Prince Siegfried and a rival in his affections for the Swan Queen. It had its moments, but not surprisingly it didn’t last and there was some eager anticipation about what would replace it. Instead of a new production Yuri Grigorovitch gave his aging version of “Swan Lake” a face-lift and it now resumes its place in the repertoire.

In its favour, this has always been a fast moving production, with the Prince enjoying more prominence than is generally seen (he dances the pas de trois for example), but the stumbling block for most of us was Grigorovitch’s decision to have the Act III national dances performed en pointe. This is the single most disquieting aspect of the entire ballet, even more jarring than the odd arrangement of the pas de trois. When the ballet was new Grigorovitch was forced by the Soviet Ministry of Culture to change the ending from tragic to happy to conform to communist mores. Now of course he is at liberty to end his ballet as he chooses, but the new ending of Siegfried alone and bereft didn’t seem to work as well as the defeat of Rothbart and the triumph of the lovers.

The ROH was packed at the matinee I saw and I’m sure no one in the audience was disappointed by the performance that afternoon. The principals were Ekaterina Shipulina and Vladimir Neporozhny, but in this work where the corps de ballet assumes such prominence, I think it is fair to say that the corps became the real stars of the show. They were quite breathtaking in their perfect uniformity. Although this was a matinee there was no feeling of being fobbed off with a second cast as such Bolshoi luminaries as Gennadi Yanin as the jester and Maria Allash as the Hungarian Princess brought real star quality to the supporting roles. For me though, neither principal was ideal: Neporozhny is a pleasant Prince and dances very cleanly, indeed his double tours in Act III were impeccable, but he doesn’t have the dramatic force for this version with it’s new finale of Siegfried left alone onstage inconsolable with grief. As Odette/Odile Shipulina overcomes all the technical obstacles with ease even to the extent of performing supported arabesques that went beyond 180 degrees. Fine if you like that kind of thing, but I would have sacrificed some of these displays of ‘extreme technique’ for a little more feeling in this most soulful of ballets.

<small>[ 11 August 2004, 09:51 AM: Message edited by: Cassandra ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Swan Lake
PostPosted: Tue Jul 27, 2004 10:11 pm 
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Location: Roma , Italy
Swan Lake
Bolshoi Ballet
22. and 24.07.04

I am quite used to Grigorovich's production of Swan Lake. First I saw it in 1980 when he was invited to mount it for the Rome Opera Ballet, then in 1989 during the Bolshoi Ballet's London season, then on video. It is known that he was never happy about the artificial 'happy end' imposed by the old Sowjet regime and so he was always working on the ballet making some slight modifications here and there. The definitive version that we see now was premiered only in 2001.

The present story of this Swan Lake production makes a lot of sense. Prince Siegfried is portrayed as a romantic character who is longing for an ideal love. The Evil Spirit may be seen as a projection of Siegfried's mind, a kind of double that transfers him into an ideal world - the lake. Actually the two of them perform nearly identical steps with the Evil Spirit right behind Siegfried, chasing him like a shadow. At the end Odette dies in the arms of the Evil Spirit and Siegfried is left alone on the stage in despair. Tragic end of a dream? Impossibility of ideal love to come true?

One of the most interesting parts of the choreography are the character dances in the black act that I find generally the dullest part of the work. Here all the princesses have a solo supported by their followers. While the upper part of the body keeps the traditional national character of the dances, the lower uses academic technique on pointe.

I like this psychological version of Swan Lake very much for its symmetry. Split into 2 acts, each in part taking place in reality, in part in imagination. I would only have preferred an updated décor instead of the rather dull historical décor by Virsaladze.
And why does Siegfried wear the same costume for the entire ballet? Can he not afford a black outfit for the black act?

I attended 2 performances and both times I saw Svetlana Zakharova and Andrei Uvarov in the principal roles. What can I say about Zakharova as Odette/Odile that has not been said before? She was born for this role is getting better and better every time I see her in it. Although a Bolshoi principal Uvarov seems to keep a low profile. He is tall and elegant, perfect for the role but sometimes he appears a bit shy and unprecise in executing steps. The rest of the company is absolutely superb.


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 Post subject: Re: Swan Lake
PostPosted: Tue Jul 27, 2004 10:19 pm 
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Whether they realise it or not the Bolshoi do have some lightning problems with their Swan Lake production at the ROH. Although I was standing in the Stalls Circle practically directly opposite the stage the 'vision' of Odette that briefly appears in the ballroom scene was slightly obscured. Later when I ran into a friend of mine who had been sitting in the Grand Tier I learned that she had not been able to see Odette at all.
This must be somehow caused by the way the light plays on the back cloth but I cannot imagine that it should be impossible to solve this somehow.


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 Post subject: Re: Swan Lake
PostPosted: Thu Jul 29, 2004 2:06 am 
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Swan Lake
By Debra Craine for The Times


YURI GRIGOROVICH’s Swan Lake was first seen at the Bolshoi Ballet in 1969, but three years ago he was asked to restage it. According to the choreographer, what we now see is the version he always meant his ballet to be. So we have a tragic ending, Giselle style, in which Siegfried is left alone at dawn, all hope of true love having vanished with his dead inamorata.

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 Post subject: Re: Swan Lake
PostPosted: Tue Aug 03, 2004 12:45 am 
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Swan Lake, Royal Opera House, London

By ZOE ANDERSON
The Independent
August 2, 2004

But Grigorovich is so busy turning Odette into a figment of the prince's unconscious that he fudges the ballet.
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 Post subject: Re: Swan Lake
PostPosted: Thu Aug 05, 2004 7:52 am 
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“Swan Lake” Tuesday, 3rd August, ROH.

The good news is that the Bolshoi dancers are on fine form. The corps de ballet was impeccable and I have rarely seen such well-matched, synchronised and elegant dancing by men. The leads, Anna Antonicheva and Dmitri Gudanov are both fine artists. Gudanov has a beautiful line, an arabesque to die for, controlled spins and his jetées have soft landings. A sequence of tours en l’air in Act III seemed to leave him rather puffed, but other wise it was a delight to see him. However, emotional depth between the leads was limited and Gudanov's role was too underplayed to bring out the sadness of the tragic love story. The Fool gets in the way in Act I, as he always does, but his solo at the start of Act III, on a clear stage for once, showed Denis Medvedev to be a superb acrobatic dancer.

The main problem with the performance, however, was Grigorovitch's production. There is little definition of Siegfried's relationships in Act I; The Evil Genius (Rothbart) lacks gravitas and threat; the sets in Acts II and IV are as grim as I have seen with some ugly painted rocks on the backdrop and little visual interest generally.

Even the usually wonderful ball scene is fatally disturbed by the replacement of the national dances by a series of national-lite solos on pointe for the princesses with six or so dancers behind them. This soon becomes repetitive and I longed for ENB's Neapolitan dance with Yat Sen-Chang. When Odile makes her entrance, she too has a group of black swans dancing in the shadows behind her, which although providing a link with the earlier part of the Act was more of the same.

The other much-discussed change is the revision of the Soviet era happy ending to the most unhappy ending ever, with Odette dead, The Evil Genius triumphant and Siegfried devastated - a metaphor for the desperate circumstances in present day Russia?

At the end, the full house seemed pleased, but not over-excited by the performance.


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