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Category: ballets to ponder

Swan Lake / Swan Lake Suite – Tchaikovsky

1024px-Swan_Lake_prodution_2008_at_the_Royal_Swedish_Opera

    from a 2008 production of Swan Lake at the Royal Swedish Opera


        _________________________

 


did you know that the girl in Swan Lake

is called Odette, my mom asked when I

told her I’d been looking it up, my mom’s

name is Odette

 

I’m the one who told you, I said, and

incidentally, I continued, she’s not a 

girl, she’s a swan, which left my mom, 

of course, flummoxed, indeed mum

 

a day later, we watched it 

 

there she is, I pointed out, when Odette

made her appearance, fluttering in on

tiptoes from the wings, every single 

inch a swan

 

as was equally the prince, in this

magnificent production of the Kirov, 

every single inch a prince

 

watch

 

 

here’s the Swan Lake Suite“, however

 

how is it different

 

listen

 

 

R ! chard

 

psst: if you said the Suite is a collection

         of miscellaneous excerpts from

         the ballet strung together but with 

         instruments only, no sets, no 

         costumes, no dancers, you’re right, 

         the Suite can give you a taste of 

         the complete work, though it 

         stands magnificently enough, 

         thank you very much, on its own 

 

         enjoy

the Nutcracker Suite – Tchaikovsky

vzevolozhsky's_costume_sketch_for_nutcracker

 original costume sketch for “The Nutcracker” (1892)

 

       Ivan Vsevolozhsky

 

              __________

 

 

it didn’t take me long, after wondering 

about precedents for Debussy’s nursery

piece, Children’s Corner, to ferret out 

Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, a work

with a similar theme, childhood 

fantasies

 

but the Nutcracker Suite

 

         l. Miniature Overture

        ll. Danses caractéristiques

                a. Marche

                b. Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies

                c. Russian Dance

                d. Arabian Dance

                e. Chinese Dance

                f. Reed Flutes

       lll. Waltz of the Flowers

 

is not to be confused with the complete 

balletfrom which it had been excerpted 

to great acclaim before the ballet itself 

was presented, but to much less 

enthusiasm, until George Balanchine 

revived it in the 1960s

 

note that Tchaikovsky’s Suite, in 1892, 

contains still the traditional elements 

of the suite – see above – a prelude, or 

overture, followed by a series of 

dances, only a few years before 

Debussy’s Children’s Corner, 1908, 

redefined the form, made the 

movements indiscriminate, not 

confined to dance rhythms

 

note also that Tchaikovsky sounds 

a lot more like the Strausses, father

and son, Romantics both, than he 

does like Debussy, an Impressionist,

a generation later only

here’s the orchestral Nutcracker Suite,

a suite, in other words, is not limited

to one instrument

 

here’s a riveting version of it for two 

pianos, not to be missed 

 

R ! chard

“The Afternoon of a Faun” – Vaslav Nijinsky‏

800px-Bakst_Nizhinsky

                           Program for L’après-midi d’un faune”  (1912)

                                                       Léon Bakst
 
                                                          _______
 
 
though the reference to Pan is not direct
in the title of Nijinsky‘s choreographic 
rendition of Debussy‘s 1894 symphonic
classic, itself a musical transposition
of Stéphane Mallarmé‘s 1876 poem, 
L’après-midi d’un faune“, or, in English, 
connections are unmistakably implicit, 
not only in the story which is told, but 
also in the elements of the dance, which 
borrows heavily from Grecian urns, their 
static, angular poses
 
also Mallarmé makes specific allusions to
Syrinx herself, among other nymphs, in his 
seminal work, not to mention to the deity’s
eponymous flute
 
the only change to the original production 
dancers, here, Rudolf Nureyev performs 
with the Joffrey Ballet, where Vaslav
Nijinskythe choreographer himself, 
danced with Sergei Diaghilev‘s Ballets
Russes in the show that made history, 
the sets and costumes by Léon Bakst 
remain also unchanged, this is what the 
audience saw May 12, 1912, at the very  
 
the piece shocked even irreverent Paris,
of course, for its overt and unapologetic
eroticism, it‘ll probably even shock you, 
still
 
I thought, this is what happened to Berlin 
after the First World War, a reconstructed
chthonic* resurgence at the death of an 
old order, the Age of Aquarius after the 
nuclear scare, “Hair
 
famously, Auguste Rodin loved it
 
 
Richard
 
chthonic: of what makes you snort, grunt,
   instinctive forces, the ones which make  
   a young man’s fancy turn to, well, love 
 
   or worse