Swan Lake - Mar 18th, 2014
Wiener Staatsballet: Swan Lake (March 18th 2014)
The second Show of the Season
What to expect? Nureyev’s 1964 Version of Lake is not one of my favorites… even though it was modified in 1984 into a new Version for the Paris Opera, it was never changed for the State Opera in Vienna, the very city in which it had its world premiere in 1964 (with Fonteyn and Nureyev getting a record of 89 curtain calls).
Tradition plays a big role in this country even when it is questionable and prevents improvements…
In 1964, having danced already in different versions of “Lake” (including Royal Ballet’s , masterly done by Ashton) Nureyev decided to move the main focus of the story from the Swan(s) to Siegfried. Also a very questionable decision…
To my opinion, Nureyev’s ego was so big that he committed the mistake of turning a “woman’s ballet” into one in which the danseur is the center of attractions… a very egocentric reaction.
For instance, one of the most beautiful and lyrical moments in ballet history is the very end of the 2nd act-pas de deux (in which Odette slowly turns one pirouette, makes a developè, turns then twopirouettes to make another developè and finish her 3 or 4 turns, falling to the side into the arms of Siegfried - take a look at the programme's cover, it's there - and then “falls” into an arabesque penché in which her hand falls slowly at the very last note of music). But this does not exist for Nureyev… He simply moved the limelight away from the ballerina in one of her most significative moments and made Siegfried perform a short solo instead – to some other music! Ghastly!
Nureyev's use of music is also very questionable – we are not accustomed to it especially in the Black Swan’s pas de deux. I have read once that this was supposedly so in the original score by Tchaikovsky. But I could never found real evidence of that…
It is definitely interesting to compare yesterday’s performance with the 1966 video… How technique and physical ideals have changed… strange: I don’t remember Fonteyn doing the 32 Fouettés EVER in the third act – I believe she never could do them… I’ll have to watch that video again
Yesterday the curtain went up and nothing really happened. Not at first. Even if the stage was full of people. The same way it would later happen during the Opening of the third act. There was some walking around but no acting, no energy, no feeling. As in many parts of the show yesterday, it seemed to take quite a long time before dancers could “enter” their roles, “warm-up” inside them. But there were exceptions.
One of the greatest exceptions of the above mentioned phenomenon is Vladimir Shishov. Really feeling “at home” within Siegfried’s soul, he showed us that this is HIS role. No question about it.
A grown-up man performing a grown-up man. In complete command of the character, Mr. Shishov showed to us how right he is for this role. Without any phoney sentimentality or pretense he didn’t limit the character. Much on the contrary: in certain moments (known to me from the 1966 film that was made in Vienna) even Nureyev exaggerates in his right to be a central figure. He is simply too often on stage (in comparison to other versions). Mr. Shishov’s more human incarnation of the Siegfried-persona turns him into a more believable character.
One of the fine things about this role is also his very supportive ways concerning Odette/Odille. The Danseur has also to be a great partner and Mr. Shishov is definitely one (and of course exactly the same way like he is a "danseur noble")!
Just the kind of dancer that leaves us calm and relaxed while he is partnering because we know that the ballerina is in very good hands.
After some months of sick leave Liudmila Konovalova (Elle est mignon!!!!) had to jump into yesterday’s performance because Olga Esina unfortunately hurt herself during the premiere on the 16th: after not having seen her on stage for a long while I felt unease during her first moments as Odette.
Wasn’t she, Odette, supposed to feel afraid during her first meeting with Siegfried?
She wasn’t so… but I had just forgotten that Miss Kononalova is NOT the fearful type of dancer. Her interpretation was cleverly adapted by her to her own personality without losing any of its assets.
During the second act I felt that she sometimes hurried a bit, that she was a bit ahead of the music and that small nuances of the role were not being completely used to the end. This feeling passed with time… perhaps it was due to some nervousness after being for so long away from the stage. But fact is that she gave us a marvelous portrayal of Odette and especially Odille. The audience was static.
At the End of the performance Miss Kononalova and Mr. Shishov received a long, standing ovation.
Very well-deserved indeed.
The Corps de Ballet disappointed me a bit during the second act. Especially during the crucial long parts in which the dancers have to stay still, not looking stiff, for a long time one could see that there is still a lot of work to be done: different head positions, arms that were too much high bent. But most of all I missed the lack of discipline during those long moments: many dancers were following the principals with their eyes and some even with their heads. This should have been noticed during rehearsals, but… were there enough rehearsals?
Paying long attention to lovely Swan, Miss Flavia Soares, I caught myself wishing that there would be more discipline, like hers. She shows insight, beauty in her performance... but of course she is much more experienced than some of the teen-agers that are having their first season with the ballet. Experience cannot be replaced.
Siegfried’s “friends” Ioanna Avraam, Kiyoka Hashimoto, Greig Matthews and Dumitru Taran were the next thing closer to perfection - Synchrony, clean techniques, joy, personality, interpretation. Dancers that entered the stage and had no need to warm-up into their characters! Beautiful!
The little swans (even if for some there should be a "pas de chat urgent rehearsal") brought down the house: Maria Alati, Ioanna Avraam, Rui Tamai and lovely Eszter Ledán performed beautifully. Miss Ledán’s stage presence with her charm and lovely looks that are combined with a strong technique becomes clearer every day. She was also a delight as one of the noble young ladies that are presented to the prince: contrary to others she never left her role, even during the long “waiting” while The Black Swan and the Prince are performing.
The big Swans were beautifully performed, especially by Prisca Zeisel, a talented and very versatile young Ballerina who not only represents all the sweetness of a swan but also gave to the audience a very spirited performance as the Spanish Dancer (bellow) on Act III.
The Hungarian dance was a delight – like a firework. But what else could you expect from the lively combination between Alice Firenze and Mihail Sosnovschi? (above) Both remind me somehow of tigers ... feline, strong, elegant… One can feel the joy and fun that both are having while performing. But wasn’t Callas, with all her strength, also called “La Tigresa”?
Oh, by the way; there is another expression that was once said by Fred Astaire about Cyd Charisse that would apply very well to Miss Firenze and Mr. Sosnovschi: beautiful dynamite!
The polish dance was masterly performed by athletic Alexis Forabosco , using his legs to the very best even though the choreography is a bit boring – but definitely not so tedious like the Neapolitan dance.
But what could one expect? The music belongs to the more tediously uninteresting pieces that Tchaikovsky ever composed! And so is the choreography: not worth mentioning.
Costumes by Luisa Spinatelli have not caused such an impact on me. In fact I think that the tutus in the second act could have been a bit fuller – and the tops more harmonically cut. Also Odette’s Headdress left much to be desired – it simply did not “caress” enough Miss Konovalova’s face.
Except perhaps for The Queen Mother’s (lovely Dagmar Kronberger) exquisite headdresses on both the 1st and the 3rd Acts.
Rotbart’s (Eno Peci) costume that was so often mentioned was OK (but the headdress made him look more like a cock). Unfortunately Rotbart’s performance is resumed to a bit more than running around in a sort of frenzy… but let us be honest: would Nureyev create rivalry for himself on stage? He was much more preoccupied in creating his Siegfried than choreographing many parts and other roles of “Swan Lake”…
Resuming last evening: it was a very rewarding experience… experiencing so many talents that at the same time made me try to analyze more and more the complexity if this work and Nureyev’s motives.
But there was one most disturbing fact that was quite clear to me: Dancers are looking tired… and it is still too early in the Season for that. What is happening? Olga Esina injured herself, Davide Dato broke his foot... This is something to think about...
P.S. all pictures except Miss Soares' taken from the Wiener Staatsballet's programme.
Miss Soares' picture with the kind permission of Mr.Thomas Schulz. Thank you!
P.S.2 and just now, kindly sent by Davide Dato, this lovely picture. When Mr. Shishov went on his knees to give Miss Konovalova these flowers, the audience went mad!!!!!!!