Archives de Tag: Petipa

Zurich, The Nutcracker : Princess

« Vous me faîtes danser, très cher! ». Dessin « Lesperluette »

Nussknacker und Mausekönig, Tchaikovsky-Spuck, Ballett Zurich, December 26, 2018.

In his Nussknacker und Mausekönig for Ballett Zürich, Christian Spuck demonstrates how deeply he understands your greatest regret about having had to grow up: not that ability to consume enormous amounts of candied nuts without getting sick, but your having lost that once unforced openness to magical thinking. It’s been too long since that time when you knew how to look beyond the obvious, when wonder seemed natural and “sliding doors” normal, when your dolls were not “toys” but snarky and sassy and opinionated and utterly real living beings.

Spuck also demonstrates how well he understands our second greatest regret about having had to grow up: realizing that now it’s your turn to take the kids to see The Nutcracker. Most versions of this holiday staple have this in common: cloying sweetness and one hell of a loose and dramatically limp plot. Act 1: girl gets a toy on Christmas Eve, duh, big surprise. People in ill-fitting mouse costumes try to launch a rebellion that gets squashed in three minutes and twenty seconds flat [if you listen to the version by Fedoseyev and the USSR Radio-TV Symphony Orchestra]. Unh-huh. It snows. Well, that can happen in December. Act Two: she dreams of random dances that have something to do with sugar or flowers. Like, wow. Why did anyone think this drivel would ever be of interest to children? When I was small, I came out of this – my first ballet — sorely offended by this insult to my intelligence…and to my imagination.

Spuck’s exhilarating rethinking of this old chestnut returns to the original story by E.T.A. Hoffmann in order to scrape off thick layers of saccharine thinking. Newly told, a real narrative takes us back to a surreal and fantastical realm that is both familiar yet often unsettling and keeps you guessing right up to the end.

But first I must confess that the desire to see one of the Paris Opera Ballet’s many talented dancers “on leave” this season originally inspired my pilgrimage to Zurich. Eléonore Guérineau is alive and well and lived it up as Princess Pirlipat. She has taken to Spuck’s style like a duck to water [or, given the nuts, like a squirrel to a tree]. Her fairy-tale princess read as if her Lise from the Palais Garnier had spent the interim closely observing the velvety perversity of cats rather than the scratchy innocence of chickens. – The way Guérineau adjusted the bow of her dress differently each time added layer upon layer to her character, including a soupçon of Bette Davis’s Baby Jane, totally in keeping with Hoffmann’s sense of how the beautiful and the bizarre intersect. Our Parisian ballerina’s chiseled lines and plush push remain intact, and the two kids in front of me immediately got that she was Marie’s sassier alter-ego (and were disappointed every time she left the stage).

Pirlipat? Are you confused? Good!

Ballett Zürich – Nussknacker und Mausekönig – La princesse Pirlipat(Eléonore Guérineau), sa cour et le roi des souris.
© Gregory Batardon

A central part of the original story was lost when Alexandre Dumas [he of The Three Musketeers] translated – and severely bowdlerized — Hoffmann’s tale into French. As Petipa and Tchaikovsky used Dumas’s version, one can begin to understand why the classic scenario falls so flat and leaves so much dramatic potential just beyond reach. Just why is Marie so obsessed with this really ugly toy? Just because she is a nice, kind-hearted girl en route motherhood? Bo-ring. You see, in the original tale Marie already knows that the wooden toy is not an ersatz baby.

The missing link of most Nutcrackers resides within a tale within the tale, one that Drosselmeier dangles before Marie across three bedtimes, “The Tale of Princess Pirlipat.” As brought to the stage by Spuck, this Princess is Aurora as spoiled 13-year-old Valley Girl. Already grossed-out by four over-eager and foppish suitors who chase her around with their lips puckered and going “mwah-mwah,” Pirlipat’s troubles only worsen when her father takes out a mouse. The Mouse Queen’s curse turns the girl into a nutcrackeress rabidly hungry for nuts, not roses. [As the queen, Elizabeth Wisenberg offers a pitch-perfect distillation of what is so scary about Carabosse] A handsome surfer dude/nerd prince [Alexander Jones, geeky, tender, masterful, as you desire] comes to Pirlipat’s rescue, only to be slimed in turn. Not passive at all, Marie will plunge this parallel universe in a quest to save him.

Ballett Zürich – Nussknacker und Mausekönig – La reine des souris (ici Melissa Ligurgo)
© Gregory Batardon

Everything in Nussknacker und Mausekönig has been has been reexamined and reconsidered by Christian Spuck. The score – jumbled up and judiciously reassigned – emerges completely refreshed and unpredictable: when was the last time you did NOT cringe at what was going on to the music for the “Chinese” dance? More than that (and many times more), Spuck will address the fact that many people can’t get enough of Tchaikovsky’s celesta&harp-driven “Sugarplum” variation [One minute 48 seconds, if you go by Fedoseyev]. Here, before we even get to the overture – placed way further down the line and, oh heaven, that music will be danced to for once — the action starts when a lonely automaton with a bad case of dropsy plays the Sugarplum theme on an…accordion. The same melody will return to haunt the action intermittently, refracted into a leitmotif, rather than sticking out as a sole “number.” By thoughtfully reassigning other parts of the score, the ballet loses some of what now seems offensive: grandma and grandpa use their canes for a slightly-off vaudeville number to the music of Marie’s solo, which makes them seem jaunty and spry rather than creaky old fools [the determined yet airborne Mélanie Borel and Filipe Portugal manage to suggest a whole lifetime in the theater. This sly duo would deserve to have their story told in a ballet all to themselves]; the “Arabian/Coffee” music is scooped up by a whirling Sugarplum fairy replete with tempting cupcake-dotted tutu [Elena Vostrotina, a tad ill at ease] ; instead of that embarrassing Turk with moustache and scimitar you get a horde of mice with whiskers all a-quiver…I think I’ve already blabbed too much. The whole evening feels like munching through a box of Cracker Jacks. Each caramelized kernel tastes so good you lose sight of hunting for the “surprise.”

Spuck takes infinite care to adapt the movement to each specific type of doll or creature. Indeed, at first only Marie (a.k.a. Clara in some versions) could be said to be the one person who dances…normally [the radiant and silken Meiri Maeda, whose face and body act without calling attention to the fact that she is acting]. Mechanical ones, in the vein of Hoffmann’s Olympia or Coppelia, use the beloved straight leg with flexed foot walk and stiff bust that follows, complete with those elbows bent up like pitchforks. That is, until Marie assumes they are real and the sharp edges soften. Raggedy dolls – such as the sarcastic and powder-wigged Columbine (Yen Han, as sly and ironic as the M.C. in Cabaret, but infinitely more elegant) – flop to the ground and then get swept up, crisply bent in two. Fritz’s army of timid tin soldiers wobble dangerously (and hilariously) as if fresh from the forge. Wheels of all varieties will be worn to shape and typify certain characters. (Sorry, I’m not going to spoil any more of these delightful surprises).

Ballett Zürich – Nussknacker und Mausekönig – Clowns (Ina Callejas, Daniel Muligan et Yen Han)
© Gregory Batardon

And Zurich’s Drosselmeier ain’t no harmlessly doting godfather. He is a moody and masterful manipulator. In Hoffmann’s tale, his hold over Marie stems from sitting rather eerily on the edge of her bed every night and enthralling her with fantastical bedtime stories until she can no longer tell the real from the unreal. To translate this, the set design involves a tiny stage within a stage on the stage where all – even Marie’s parents – fall under his spell. His costume evokes some of the more lunatic figures in children’s literature: Willy Wonka, The Mad Hatter, The Cat in the Hat. And so will his movement. Have you ever watched marionettists at work? Their bodies dart and swoop and wiggle without pause. Their fingers are the scariest: flickering as rapidly as bats’ tongues. And Drosselmeier’s fingers are all over the place. As they delicately creep all over the feisty Marie, children and adults alike will judge him in their own ways. He swoops, he scuttles, he drops into second plié and sways it, his legs shoot out in high dévelopé kicks and flash-fast raccourcis. When the “Rat” theme devolves to not only Jan Casier’s hypnotic Drosselmeier but also to the coven of his twitchy doubles, the musical switch makes perfect sense.

 

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The cozy auditorium of the Zurich opera house resembles a neo-Rococo jewel box. Spuck’s sparkling and multi-faceted Nutcracker nestles perfectly inside it.

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Don Quichotte 2017-2018 : le Temps du Bilan

Sept représentations, six couples, cinq Kitris, quatre Basilios, une nomination pour une série qui, sans approcher les affres de la dernière reprise de 2012, a quand même été riche en changements de distribution. La directrice de la Danse avait clamé qu’elle voulait restaurer la hiérarchie en ne donnant des rôles d’étoiles qu’aux étoiles. À l’arrivée, ce sont des sujets, Paul Marque, titularisé aux côtés de Dorothée Gilbert, et Pablo Legasa qui ont endossé la casaque de Basilio au détriment de premiers danseurs qui s’étaient déjà essayé, souvent avec succès, à cette partition.

 

Nos Kitris et Basilii… Grand accessit (médaille d’or non décernée)

Au final, les Balletotos ont pu se montrer satisfaits de leurs distributions sans pour autant jamais sortir absolument comblés. La distribution Ould Braham-Paquette, vue (le 13/12) comme un tour de chauffe par Cléopold, ne triomphe pas de la production peu inspirée qui a remplacé l’originale de Nicholas Georgiadis. Fenella (le 14) a « bien aimé, apprécié, fait ohhh et ri en compagnie [du couple Pagliero et Heymann] » mais le damoiseau reste pour elle caractérisé par ses développés tandis que la demoiselle l’est par ses raccourcis. Pour James, le compte n’y est pas (le 22) lorsque Léonore Baulac « à qui l’éventail n’est pas organique » danse avec Germain Louvet « un poil trop élégant pour faire un barbier crédible ». S’il se laisse emporter sur les ailes de la danse par Dorothée Gilbert (le 27), il ne fait que passer sur les raccords de peinture de son partenaire pourtant bien dans le ton, Paul Marque, « ni le technicien du siècle, ni le partenaire idéal ». Les soirées du 30 décembre et du 3 janvier auraient dû mettre tout le monde d’accord puisque le ballet réunissait Myriam Ould-Braham et Mathias Heymann. L’impression est pourtant mitigée. Enfin, Cléopold, qui ferme le ban est impressionné par la prestation de Valentine Colasante (le 5/01), nommée au titre suprême ce soir là, et heureux de quitter Karl Paquette sur une note positive, mais garde néanmoins la tête froide…

Valentine Colasante nommée étoile de l’Opéra de Paris dans le rôle de Kitri (5 janvier)

Les grands rôles solistes. Pas qu’une question d’étiquette

Se prenant sans doute pour Rudolf Noureev, amoureux des plateaux riches, la directrice de la Danse a distribué des étoiles dans les seconds rôles, une obligation de service qu’elle s’est bien gardée d’honorer durant sa propre carrière d’étoile. N’est pas Noureev qui veut…

Le résultat est mitigé, surtout en ce qui concerne Cupidon, rôle-variation charmant mais mineur gratifié cette saison de la présence de deux étoiles phares de la compagnie : Cléopold comme James trouvent que Mesdemoiselles Gilbert et Ould-Braham avaient mieux à faire que de s’y montrer. Ce sont plutôt les sujets qui ont marqué. Lydie Vareilhes séduirait vraiment Cléopold s’il ne la trouvait un peu grande à côté de la Kitri-Dulcinée d’Ould Braham (le 30). James estime pour sa part que bien que « fine », elle est utilisée à contre-emploi (le 3/01), n’étant pas assez androgyne. Mais Fenella aime la façon dont son visage prend la lumière et la renvoie « plus chaleureuse ». Séverine Westermann ravit enfin Cléopold par le petit son cristallin de sa danse (le 5/01).

Le bilan des Reines des Dryades n’est d’ailleurs guère plus reluisant. À part Fenella qui salue la crémeuse exécution d’Amandine Albisson, « naturelle, aisée et silencieuse », les autres souveraines ont toutes quelque chose qui cloche. Cléopold trouve qu’Alice Renavand fouette trop brusquement (le 13/12) et qu’Hannah O’Neill (le 5/01) développe sans grâce (« Une dryade sur ressorts » assène-t-il. Une impression que ne partage pas forcément James). Sae Eun Park, fait quant à elle l’unanimité : elle « dépouille le rôle de reine des dryades de tout son moelleux » dit James. « Si Sae Eun Park ne portait pas des chaussures de claquettes pour sa reine des Dryades, elle n’a aucune excuse pour avoir été si bruyante » martèle Fenella. Cléopold note enfin que « toute la distance entre Park (amusicale et sans accents) et Ould-Braham est déjà visible dans les arabesques de la scène d’entrée : Ould-Braham suspend, Park fixe ». Voilà qui est dit…

 

Seconds couteaux : fortunes diverses

Danseuses de rue, Toréadors et autres Gitans. La grande révélation de cette reprise aura été l’étoilée de la fin de série, Valentine Colasante. James salue sa prestation en danseuse aux couteaux du 22 décembre et Fenella note le 30 que son haut du corps s’est ouvert et que sa ligne de cou s’est allongée. Cléopold ne déteste pas Hannah O’Neill dans ce même rôle en dépit de sa malencontreuse perruque. Héloïse Bourdon aura plus séduit ce dernier (le 5/01) que James (le 27/12) qui trouve l’hispanité de la demoiselle trop forcée. Florent Magnenet et Arthus Raveau convainquent nos rédacteurs en Espada. Audric Bézard, pourtant bien dans le ton de son personnage, reste un peu en mode mineur du point de vue technique. En chef des gitans, Paul Marque ne séduit pas du tout Cléopold ni Fenella (les 13, 14 et 30 décembre). Son fouet comme sa danse ne claquent pas assez à leur goût. Cléopold n’ a eu le sentiment de voir la scène gitane que lorsque l’homme au fouet était incarné par Sébastien Bertaud (le 5 janvier. Il était temps !).

Duos des petites amies. Associer deux danseuses qui doivent exécuter des pas presque identiques à l’unisson ou en canon tout en ayant une personnalité clairement identifiable n’est pas chose facile. Et ce n’est pas nécessairement en allant chercher en haut de l’échelle de la compagnie qu’on atteint la parousie des sens. Fenella s’interroge sur la pertinence de l’association récurrente d’Hannah O’Neill et Sae Eun Park, « qui n’ont rien en commun à part d’être assez grandes, d’avoir les cheveux noirs et de ne pas avoir été produites par l’École de danse de l’Opéra ». Heureusement, le duo formé par Charline Giezendanner et Séverine Westermann (vu trois fois par Cléopold !) a répondu à toutes les exigences requises.

Pour la demoiselle d’honneur, Valentine Colasante et Héloïse Bourdon font briller chacune à leur manière une variation à base de grands jetés qui pâtit toujours de sa place dans le ballet. « Pauvre Giezendanner, toujours demoiselle d’honneur, jamais la mariée ! Arabesque ciselée, ballon facile et des épaulements toujours divinement placés » se lamente Fenella… La jeune Naïs Duboscq enfin montre elle aussi de jolies qualités de ballon dans cette variation même si l’ensemble s’avère encore un peu vert.

Les Dons, quand même !

On les oublie souvent dans un ballet qui au fur et à mesure de ses versions successives a poussé le personnage éponyme sur le côté. Grande redresseuse des torts de l’Histoire, Fenella tenait à laisser quelques mots sur eux.

« Yann Chailloux (14 décembre), fait du Don un grand perché amoureux de ses bouquins. Il accompagnait cette interprétation d’un vrai sens du minutage burlesque : il était a mi-chemin entre Docteur Coppelius et un Buster Keaton devenu arthritique.

Le Don d’Alexis Renaud (30 décembre) s’était infusé dans la musique. Il semblait d’ailleurs le chef d’orchestre de sa propre destinée et la façon dont ses doigts parcouraient ses livres pendant le prologue pouvaient justement faire penser au musicien qui déchiffre sa partition. Il a su faire parler la musique de Minkus. »

Au soir du 5 janvier, Cléopold quant à lui trouve une  poignante élégance à Julien Meyzindi, Don Q-danseur ne tenant plus que par un fil –sa discipline corporelle- à la vie.

Alexis Renaud (et Myriam Ould-Braham)

Le corps de ballet, enfin…

Interrogé sur la question, James retient surtout les pêcheurs du premier acte : « Ils ont été d’un stylé presque trop joli pendant toute la série. C’est le corps de ballet comme je l’aime ! ». Cléopold, de son côté, ne veut se souvenir que du trio et du quatuor de Dryades menés chacun par Charline Giezendanner (trio avec Caroline Robert et Lydie Vareilhes) et Héloïse Bourdon (quatuor avec Sabrina Mallem, Laurence Laffon et Roxane Stojanov). Les lignes, le travail de présentation du bas de jambe, tout en ce soir du 5 janvier rendait la scène de dryades digne des plus grands moments de l’Opéra. On en aurait presque oublié l’exécution cotonneuse de la musique de Minkus par l’orchestre de l’Opéra dirigé par Valery Ovsyanikov.

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Don Quichotte : Unfaithfully yours

Nureyev’s Don Quichotte at the Bastille Opera, December 14th, 2017

Even though I had heard rumors, actually seeing the two exchange conniving glances made me instantly go all soap opera: “My God, Mathias really IS cheating on Myriam with Ludmila! Where’s my damn phone? Brenda won’t believe this!”

But seriously, the alchemy of partnering is so elusive and that of casting here so labyrinthine that it’s been a very long time since the Paris Opera Ballet has let a couple blossom undisturbed. Each time I find out that my cast for a ticket bought blind would pair Mathias Heymann with Myriam Ould-Braham, I let out a little whoop. The way they fit together in every sense makes me hope they – and some others – will bring back the glory days when one said: “Thesmarnard” or “Loudilegris.”

(P.S. The POB has just got to do something about their arrogant assumption that when you buy tickets you’re just buying into a brand name. No company does this anymore, and the POB itself didn’t used to. During one run a while back, I wound up with all of one cast’s performances…and no tickets for the other four casts. Exchanging tickets with friends this time around resulted in a similar lulu).

« She’s as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile. »*

Our rival Kitri, Ludmila Pagliero, is not the kind of woman to sweep up a floor with her fan. She prefers to float above it and play with her phrasing, full of infectious good cheer. Like the rest of the cast, she elegantly avoided any florid “hispanic” flourishes. However, if controlling your fan is considered something Spanish, Pagliero nailed it, as she nailed every other technical challenge with the same unassuming grace and aplomb. She took the fan as extension of her body to the point of — during the coda of the final pas de deux — doing the fouettés with one: opening it as if it were the most natural thing to do during the doubles, shutting it down with equal ease for the singles.

« No caparisons, miss, if you please. Caparisons don’t become a young woman.”*

So, to get back to the affair, I liked/appreciated/oohed and laughed along with this couple throughout the entire evening. They were superb in their slapstick. Heymann channeled Charlie Chaplin at all the right moments with gorgeously flexed feet; Pagliero’s unerring precision – a key to comedy – made the house guffaw. As when she danced Paquita, she just has a way of making small gestures read all the way up to the top of the house.

But, even if I grinned throughout, I didn’t fall in love. Why? Is it simply that their proportions don’t reflect each other in the da Vinci way as Heymann’s limbs and timing almost eerily echo Ould-Braham’s? There is no question that Heymann-Pagliero were a couple in their own way. But no elusive mystery here, no catch-me-if-you-can. Heymann and Ould-Braham push the air away with their développés; and Pagliero is all about a teasingly lush raccourci. She’s more Michelangelo, as it were. But sometimes an outie and an innie can indeed work together. These two gave us the pleasure of watching a lovely and healthy adult relationship (the way she just abruptly, albeit super sensuously, plopped down on the big scarf on the floor in Act II and he equally abruptly, albeit super sensuously, fell upon her confirmed the  manner in which they had been dancing/interacting with each other so far. These kids had been sleeping together for a good while now, grinning while taking turns stealing the covers).

“There’s a little intricate hussy for you!*

From Mrs. Malaprop’s lips to your ears.
Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s “The Rivals,” 1775.

 

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Swan Lake: Get Your Story Here. A plot summary.

cygne-rougeThe basic story is so ridiculous even Freud would break out in giggles. A mama’s boy falls for a female impersonator really into feathers who goes by the moniker #QueenOfTheSwans. He digs her divine Virgin in White get-up but can’t stop making googly eyes at a sexy fashionista in black who turns out to be her -get this – Evil Twin. Then there’s the problem of their pimp. Since our hero has also demonstrated from the outset that he’s a limp noodle when it comes to standing up to father figures, he’ll…oh never mind. I mean, would you keep a straight face if late one night a middle-aged guy suddenly jumped out of the bushes, ripped open his Bat-cape, and exposed you to…his sequined green bodysuit?
But every time I’m actually experiencing Swan Lake, my snarkiness about the plot just evaporates. This ballet – like the best of operas — simply lets you cry in the dark over how you yourself, younger and softer and in better shape, had once been a fool for love.
What’s really weird, though, is that most people with bucket-lists think that if you’ve seen one Swan Lake you’ve seen ‘em all. Wrong. So if you don’t go see Rudolf Nureyev’s 1984 version for the Paris Opera Ballet, still fresh and juicy after all these years, you will miss out on something big: a dramatically coherent and passionately danced dreamscape. This production, for once, succeeds in forcing the tired threads of the generic story into real narrative. To boot, it gives the male dancers of the corps – sans les plumes de ma tante — as much to do as the female ones.
Many, many, versions of this ballet exist. All of the steps of the first one from 1877, created in tandem with Tchaikovsky’s music and famed as a colossal flop, seem to have been lost. Every production we see today claims to be « after the original » 1895 version as devised by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov for the Maryinsky Theater. Yet we probably should consider 1895’s as lost, too. Ballet, by definition, just keeps evolving.
Just imagine: not that long ago, the Prince only mimed and his bestie, Benno, did all the complicated partnering stuff. An annoying court jester still scampers about in some productions, boring everyone on either side of the footlights. Just imagine: in some productions, this big tearjerker comes to a happy end. Some constants: almost all the steps in Act II and Odile’s extended series of fouettés (where the ballerina whirls like an unstoppable top) in Act III. Imagine the challenge each leading ballerina faces: she must convince you that you must have seen two completely different leading ladies – one fragile and tender, the other violent and bad. But in some earlier versions, you did indeed see two different leading ladies…

Le Lac des Cygnes, Moscou, 1877. Une évocation du décor du 2e acte partiellement corhoborée par les sources journalistiques

Le Lac des Cygnes, Moscou, 1877. Une évocation du décor du 2e acte partiellement corroborée par les sources journalistiques

PROLOGUE (OVERTURE)
Prince Siegfried has a nightmare where he looks on helplessly as a beautiful princess falls into the clutches of a half-human bird of prey. Before his eyes, the evil succubus transforms her into a swan and carries her off into thin air.

ACT ONE: THE CASTLE
It is the prince’s birthday. A crowd of young people, Siegfried’s friends, burst into the room, along with the prince’s Tutor Wolfgang (who bears a striking resemblance to the monster in Siegfried’s dream). Siegfried, aroused from his slumber, somewhat half-heartedly joins in their revels. He’s a melancholy prince, a dreamer.
The revel is interrupted by trumpet fanfare and the Queen Mother makes her entrance. She has come to congratulate her son upon his coming-of-age, but also to remind him of normal stuff. Her birthday gifts comprise a crown (do your duty) and a crossbow (shooting could provide some pleasure perhaps in the Freudian sense). As she points to her ring finger, the Queen Mother make it clear to the prince that both objects mean it’s time he took a wife (duty and/or pleasure?). At the ball in his honor tomorrow night, he will have to choose a bride. Eew! Her son goes limp at the mere thought.
Once they are sure that momma has gone back upstairs, Siegfried’s friends try to cheer him up: two girls and a boy perform a virtuosic pas de trois. Then the Tutor tells all the girls to fluff off. He gives the prince a dance lesson that involves a strong undercurrent of aggression: it looks like a power struggle rather than an initiation to the idea of the birds and the bees. The chorus boys break into one more rousing group dance-off, full of exhilaratingly complicated combinations, as they take leave.
The prince dances a sad solo while the Tutor glares at him. He has zero right to disapprove, for he’s not the prince’s father nor even his step-father. After once more bringing the prince to his knees, this oddly dominant employee suggests Siegfried go shoot his crossbow. In most productions, the Tutor is just a fat patsy who has nothing to do with evil. I happen to appreciate how, by sneakily combining our doubts about two characters, Nureyev’s production will soon merge both the Oedipal complex and Hamlet’s troubled relationship with male authority figures into one Really Big Bird.

We hear the “Swan theme.” The stage empties.

... et la "Danse des coupes", préfiguration de la vision des cygnes.

… et la « Danse des coupes », préfiguration de la vision des cygnes.

WITHOUT A PAUSE

ACT TWO BEGINS: NIGHT AT THE LAKE. ODDLY, IT FEELS AS IF WE HAVEN’T LEFT THE CASTLE, JUST GONE INTO ANOTHER ROOM…

Le corps de ballet aux saluts de la soirée du 8 avril 2015.

Le corps de ballet aux saluts de la soirée du 8 avril 2015.

We see that creepy bird of prey again, rushing across the stage. But is it the wicked magician von Rothbart or…the Evil Twin of the Tutor? Siegfried enters, and takes aim at something white and feathery rustling in the bushes. To his astonishment, out leaps the most beautiful creature he has even seen in his life: the princess he had already discovered in his dream. But she moves in a strange fashion, like a bird. Terrified, she begs him not to shoot. But Siegfried cannot resist the urge to grab her and to ask: “who are you? Um, what are you?”
“You see this lake? It is filled with my mother’s tears, for I,” she mimes, “am Odette, once a human princess, now queen of the swans. That evil sorcerer cast a spell on us, condemning us to be swans by day but we return to almost-human form at night. The spell will only be broken when a prince swears his undying love for me and never breaks that vow.” They are interrupted, first by von Rothbart, then by the arrival of the swan maidens (a corps de ballet of thirty-two).
Surrounded by the swan maidens, Siegfried and Odette express their growing understanding of each other in a tender pas de deux, which is followed by a series of dances by the other swans. Siegfried swears he will never look at another woman. But as dawn approaches he watches helplessly as von Rothbart turns Odette back into a bird. Siegfried doesn’t know it, but the strength of his vow is about to be put to the test.

INTERMISSION

ACT THREE: THE NEXT EVENING, IN THE CASTLE’S GRAND BALLROOM
Lac détailIt’s time for the Prince’s birthday party. Guests who seem to have been called forth from the Habsburg empire – Hungary, Spain, Naples, Poland — perform provincial dances in his and our honor.
Six eligible princesses waltz about, and the Queen Mother forces Siegfried to dance with all of them. Siegfried is polite but cold: the princesses all look alike to him, and not one is his Odette. Tension increases when the prince tells his mother he doesn’t even like, let alone want, any of these dumb girls. Suddenly two uninvited guests burst into the ballroom. It’s the Tutor (or is it von Rothbart?) and a beautiful young woman, It’s Odette!
But something is odd: she’s dressed in black and much coyer and sexier than the demure and frightened creature he’d embraced last night. As they dance the famous Black Swan Pas de Deux, the fascinated prince finds himself increasingly blinded by lust. Convinced she is his Odette, simply a lot more macha today, he asks for her hand in marriage and, at the Tutor/von Rothbart’s insistence, swears undying love. [A salute with fore and middle finger raised]. At that moment, all hell breaks loose: the Black Swan bursts out laughing and points to another bird who’d been desperately beating at the window panes. “There’s your Odette, doofus!” The Black Swan is actually Odile, her evil twin! The foolish prince falls in a faint, realizing he has completely screwed things up.

PAUSE (DON’T LEAVE YOUR SEATS!)

ACT FOUR: BACK AT THE LAKE. OR STILL INSIDE THE PRINCE’S MIND?
Siegfried finds himself back at the lake, surrounded by the melancholy swan maidens. He rushes off to find Odette. She rushes in. Frantic and distraught, Odette believes that, if she wants to liberate her fellow swans, she now has no other option but to kill herself.
The swans try to comfort their queen, while the triumphant von Rothbart unleashes a storm. Odette tries to fly from him to die but our gloating villain grabs at her with his claws.
The prince finally finds Odette, barely alive. Her wings – like her heart – are broken. Nevertheless, she forgives him and they dance together one last time, their movements illustrating how lovers cling to each other even as fate and magic try to pull them apart.
In 1877, the pair just ended up drowned. What a bummer.
In 1895, choosing to jump into the lake and drown together as martyrs meant the two would be carried up to the heavens as befits a final orchestral apotheosis.
In 1933, the evil magician killed Odette. Poor prince got left with little to do. Another bummer.
In the USSR, 1945, the hero ripped off von Rothbart’s wig and the gals all dropped their feathers. Liberation narratives befitted those times, we must assume.
Tonight?
Odette looks on helplessly as Siegfried tries to do battle with the sadist that is von Rothbart. As in the “lessons” with the Tutor in the first act, the prince is brought to his knees. Is this for real? Has all of this been a dream? Do nightmares return? Bummer.

Le Lac des Cygnes. L'acte 3 et sa tempête...

Le Lac des Cygnes. L’acte final et sa tempête…

Commentaires fermés sur Swan Lake: Get Your Story Here. A plot summary.

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