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 Post subject: It Isn't Easy Being Siegfried....
PostPosted: Sat Nov 16, 2002 10:16 pm 
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Picking up from a critique by MeHunt in the Bolshoi thread:

Quote:
....his portrayal of the prince as a feckless and perhaps a little dimwitted and depressed youth is not altogether out of keeping with the story that Yuri Grigorovich has assembled for us. Grigorovich’s Siegfried is a Germanic hero, like the Wagnerian Siegfried, albeit a little less bloodthirsty, and about as much in control of his own fate as that Siegfried. Anyone stuck with a character like that, (even the traditional Siegfried is somewhat unfathomable) would have trouble finding a believable interpretation.
Is Siegfried the most difficult of the classical princes to portray? to truly get the audience to believe in?

In Giselle, Albrecht (by contrast) is quite a meaty role. The Prince in Sleeping Beauty is guided by the Lilac Fairy - he simply kisses a beautiful sleeping princess and the rest is happily-ever-after. Solor is given no choice, he can't disobey the Rajah. James is chasing rainbows otherwise known as La Sylphide, and gets his come uppance - that too, has a moral and some emotional layering.

But Siegfried....he is fooled by a woman who bears no likeness at all to his newly found love Odette (a swan, no less) except for an occasionally undulating arm. He's obviously bored by his life, even six pretty women auditioning for 'wife' don't tempt him. No obvious male mentor around except a fool.

What could a dancer do to keep the audience interested in this character? If this was your role....


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 Post subject: Re: It Isn't Easy Being Siegfried....
PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2002 10:41 pm 
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Speaking from a man's perspective, I think that it is pretty believable that we will fool ourselves into believing in the Odiles of the world. ( Think the Carmen Factor! ).
In a way, the character of Siegfried is that of a puppy - loves to play, loves to hunt, falls for one bone, but his attention quickly gets drawn to another, pretty bone. ( I am using the analogy of a puppy to give Siegfried at least a chance to be a sympathetic character ).


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 Post subject: Re: It Isn't Easy Being Siegfried....
PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2002 10:59 pm 
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Well, that is an interesting take on it, Matthew. Siegfried is a sympathic character. In most characterizations the audience realizes he is being duped and so doesn't blame him. (His IQ may be in question, but not his motives.)

But what if he was played as if he was simply going from flame to flame? Would that work?


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 Post subject: Re: It Isn't Easy Being Siegfried....
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2002 6:15 am 
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It's how I always percieved Romeo. I had always felt that Juliet was the truly strong character in R&J. Romeo always came across a little fickle.


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 Post subject: Re: It Isn't Easy Being Siegfried....
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2002 12:36 pm 
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I agree, poor Siegfried is a sympathetic figure. But I also recall George Zoritch (from the old Marquis de Cuevas company) saying that one of the major problems these days with modern Siegfrieds is that danseurs forget that they are supposed be playing prince, that they have to be noble... as well as duped. I , myself am not sure how I feel about that, although I agree that as a "cavalier" role, he probably ought to have a certain amount of regal-ness.

For characters like Romeo, many dancers play him very naturally as a young boy, but it's not always an approach that works for Sieg.


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 Post subject: Re: It Isn't Easy Being Siegfried....
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2002 2:00 pm 
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I'm reminded of what the great music satirist and comedienne Anna Russell used to say about Wagner's Siegfied, "Very handsome, very brave, very strong, very stupid!" :)

_________________
Dean Speer
ballet@u.washington.edu


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 Post subject: Re: It Isn't Easy Being Siegfried....
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2002 7:43 pm 
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"Speaking from a man's perspective, I think that it is pretty believable that we will fool ourselves into believing in the Odiles of the world."

Wow, Matthew, you said it. Oh, those Odiles...

But I've always thought of Siegfried as a sympathetic (though frustratingly dumb) character. Compared to Albrecht, who's a playboy, the Sieg is an innocent.

<small>[ 11-19-2002, 20:46: Message edited by: Liscarkat ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: It Isn't Easy Being Siegfried....
PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2002 1:48 am 
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It might be interesting to read some of dance critic and historian Cyril Beaumont's comments. For reference, Beaumont wrote a book in 1952 entirely devoted to the ballet entitled "The Ballet Called Swan Lake":
Quote:
One interpreter of the role of Siegfried has designated it a prince of cardboard, a character which cannot be infused with warm life. It is true that the part can be, and generally is, presented purely as cavalier role, apart from his pas seul in the ballroom scene; but I venture to maintain that the Prince can be made to live. Actually, Siegfried moves in two worlds, the realistic world of the court, his own everyday existence, which is depicted in Scenes one and three, and the world of fantasy, dominated by enchanted swan maidens, which is presented in scenes two and four.

Few interpreters of Siegfried attempt to suggest these two contrasting spheres. One would expect Siegfried to adopt a formal demeanour in his own world, as though he were discharging an irksome duty imposed upon him by virtue of his birth and position, for which he assumes an appropriate mask of princely dignity and graciousness, a position which paradoxically enough, he is the center of all eyes, yet feels strangely alone, as though surrounded by an invisible barrier.

At the lakeside, in the friendly surroundings of the lush glades and leafy trees, untrammelled by court ceremonial, he has a new sense of freedom and for a brief period can be himself and live his own life. Here, then, one would expect Siegfried to exhibit a natural manner.
I think probably a number of Siegfrieds have read Beaumont because I've now seen interpretations that suggest pretty much what he outlines (Tsiskaridze's was one of them recently and Dowell for instance) but I think the idea that maybe this swan setting being one of the few places where he can be "natural" is an interesting idea, and adds an aspect of credibility to his attraction to a swan woman....


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 Post subject: Re: It Isn't Easy Being Siegfried....
PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2002 2:29 am 
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There was a similar book called "The Ballet Called Giselle" from the same period, also by Beaumont, I think.


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 Post subject: Re: It Isn't Easy Being Siegfried....
PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2002 7:05 am 
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I've never thought of Siegfried as particularly dim-witted, rather I've thought of the ability of Odile to fool him as a sort of testament to Rothbart's magic powers. And after all, it wouldn't be that strange for a girl to come to a party in a different-colored dress!


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 Post subject: Re: It Isn't Easy Being Siegfried....
PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2002 7:52 am 
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Posts: 185
Location: France
If you go to http://www.josecarlosmartinez.com , and click in the "roles" section, then in "Swan Lake" you will find an explanation by José Martinez about the way he tried to portray Siegfried. What I find particularly interesting is the fact that there have been unsuccessful interpretations : he wanted to show something, and the public understood something else...
This reminds us that even when you are an étoile you are first a dancer, you try and it doesn't always work...

By the way, there are also great pictures on this website (some of which reminded me of the "grand jeté" topic - here is a man who can achieve a full split, and my, is it beautiful !).


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 Post subject: Re: It Isn't Easy Being Siegfried....
PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2002 12:39 pm 
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Liscarkat, yes, I think both books are now available, although they were out of print for many years. What is a pity is that they don't republish his "Complete Book of Ballet," which has information on a lot of older works.

I think you're right, librarian. Perhaps we are a little hard on Siegfried. Although really, shouldn't he remember that Odette told him she wouldn't be able to come to the ball until after midnight, that she's still be a swan at that time of the evening? I guess he was really dazzled by Odile's appearance.

Thanks so much for the site, AlinWood! I thought this comment was interesting:
Quote:
I tried to stay close to what a bored Prince could be like nowadays. I had a lot of bad reactions to that, some thought I had stage fright, some that I was sulking, once I was even asked if I was mad at being notified of the casting too late !
I'd love to see Martinez sometime in Swan Lake. I've only seen photos of him, but he looks like a lovely elegant danseur. I do like the thought of an etoile having the opportunity to "try out" different approaches. It's nice to know that he takes those kinds of risks,and isn't afraid to completely reassess a role.

I haven't been able to watch the videos though...must be missing some plug-in or other...that's killing me!


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 Post subject: Re: It Isn't Easy Being Siegfried....
PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2002 4:04 pm 
Maybe our Young Prince needs a good healthy stint in HRH His Daddy's Marine Corps...with a flinty-eyed top sergeant and a little extra KP to give him time to think it over...


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 Post subject: Re: It Isn't Easy Being Siegfried....
PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2002 7:22 pm 
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Posts: 131
Location: Southwick, MA, USA
The Ballet Called Giselle last saw print in 1993, and if one searches Amazon.com one will find a copy of it. The Ballet Called Swan Lake, on the other hand, will be harder to find. A look at an out of print list periodically published by Dance Mart, Box 994, Teaneck, NJ, 07666, may be helpful. (I paid $50 for a hardbound copy of A Ballet Called Swan Lake a few years ago.)

If one thinks of Swan Lake in allegorical rather than realistic terms than the 'believability' of Siegfried might become less problematic. For example, if one thinks of the human relationship to the supernatural represented in Swan Lake in terms of how Mozart's Don Giovanni (or in Melville's Moby Dick for that matter) represents that same relationship, then one sees in Siegfried a bleak vision of the Human condition. Both the opera and the ballet rhetorically show that the human condition is one defined by powerlessness. That is in the face of Evil, Fate, Death, whatever, that humans are, without divine intervention, incapable of effecting, countering, or even understanding the designs or decrees of Evil, Fate, Death, etc. Siegfried if he were Ahab might very well ask Odette because she is a connection to divinity, "Hast seen white whale?" In other words, what in the face of death is the meaning of life? He doesn't because he is human - i.e. driven and limited by desire- hence connected to us all. Siefried in all of his faults is us. How does one square this bleakness with the optimistic Romantic ending of Swan Lake we typically encounter? That is that the lovers find fulfillment or eternal orgasm in death. One would say that that this kind of ending is not an answer; it merely ends the story rather than confronts the issue, it is an evasion. Perhaps, evasion is the best way to answer the question.

<small>[ 11-28-2002, 20:24: Message edited by: S. E. Arnold ]</small>


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