Swan Lake - revisited: February 11th, 2019 (Vienna State Ballet)
You decide, on quite a short notice, to watch a performance without realizing that once more you were going to visit a whole new world – one that only existed within those three hours.
I once read in an old issue of „Dancing Times“: „There is no task less rewarding than trying to put on paper the action of a ballet and an account of the accompanying music“ (Mary Clarke, 1971).
This is precisely what I sometimes feel – but why are we tempted to put all we have witnessed down on paper? Why do we want to somehow „keep“ what we have seen? A sense of preservation regarding what we have experienced? Why not just stand up, like all the others and just feel happy that one had the chance to watch another performance and now just go for a drink and not think about what one has experienced? No go…
After this special evening I once more caught myself „observing“ people while they were leaving the Opera: casual „Opera-goers“, Tourists, some few „balletomanes“, some people connected to an association, that focuses more on social activities than on promoting the understanding of Ballet, a fan that waits after every single performance to collect autographs from dancers from which she has anyways thousand of autographs (These „Eve Harringtons“ - watch the film „All about Eve“ to understand that – these frightening lonely creatures that have no home to go to, no one to spend the evening with. And once more I caught myself thinking about the number of programmes owned by this particular woman. I always think about that. What does she do with them? Does she own a bookshelf in which she keeps all her autographed programmes and watches them every day? Such a poor little creature that makes me sad. Does she not realize how the dancers laugh about her?) And so many people, every kind of ... also the ones that start promoting future Ballet's director Martin Schläpfer sharing and sharing videos on Facebook (instead of being creative and producing „content“ of their own). Exactly like someone said: „It is never too early to kiss someone's boots“ (not to use a vulgar expression which would be quite adequate but would not fit into this page's context)
Do these people really understand what they are watching and talking about? One of these days I had the chance to sit, during a performance, behind a „lady“ that insists on being a ballet „connoisseur“. I could observe her quite well. Her reactions were simple and down-to-earth like those of the „masses“: applause to pirouettes, manèges and to everything that I personally call „circus“ and that has nothing to do with art.
But enough of „observations“ and back to this special evening.
But why a special evening? Because every evening (and every dancer in the company) is special. Never ever this combination of talents shall be repeated – in the same way, and even if the same cast was once more assembled, the same stamina, at the same time! People forget that this „moment“ is unique and that it cannot ever be repeated in the same way.
Most of all I simply loved the way a story was told on stage. I love stories, especially when they are well told.
I shall not go on details about a ballet which I have already reviewed many times. I shall only repeat one single thing for all that do not understand much about the dance vocabulary: Nureyev's version is – like most of his ballets – too much preoccupied with the performance of the male element (sorry but the piece is still called „Swan Lake“ not „Prince's Lake“) and with extremely intricate combinations for the corps de ballet, which are extremely „ungrateful“ (very difficult but without that „certain effect“ which they should have on audiences!). It also excludes the (beautiful and extremely expressive) end of the pas de deux in the second act and uses unusual music to the Black Swan pas de deux. I know that many will criticize me once more for saying this but I still „stick to“ the ROH's and ABT's versions I have grown up with.
A special note to Miss Alice Firenze's performance. Not only did she „lead“ the „little“ Swans but she made it possible for the audience (and for me, by the way, after a long time) to SEE a little bird in action. A moment to be treasured.
Miss Firenze also gave a lovely performance, as one of the Prince’s companions, with Adele Fiocchi and Dumitru Taran. Special attention should be payed to the height issue. Mr. Szabó Richard did not really fit into this group. Again a question of wrong casting.
Many incidents happened (perhaps due to a lack of rehearsals?) not only during the „Hungarian Dance“ but also to the soloists. But, who cares? It is human to make mistakes. A performance full of life culminating with Miss Marie Breuilles' smile during the Hungarian Dance (in fact it was more like a laugh, I must say. Contagious!)
Eno Peci, brilliant as always in his Rotbart!
Even though he did not give one of his best performances so far, Jakob Feyferlik was promoted to the principal status. An intelligent dancer who, I am sure, will understand the responsibility of such a title. Attitude congratulates.
But talking about promotions... Olga Esina gave us once more what I call as „Swan quality“.
A rare quality that has more and more disappeared during the last decades. We will not go into detail about her performance here. There may be others who pay much more attention to certain technical issues but there are few nowadays, worldwide, that have this rare quality. And this is just one of her many qualities.
To my way of thinking, and to make a long story short, I truly believe that Miss Esina should be rewarded with the title Prima ballerina assoluta. A thought… that, I know, is shared by many others.