Programme booklet »Schwanensee«

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swan lake

The Vienna State Ballet is part of the Vienna State Opera and Vienna Volksoper

swan lake Ballet in four Acts Op. 20

Music Pyotr I. Tchaikovsky Choreography & Direction Rudolf Nureyev after Marius Petipa & Lev Ivanov Musical Direction Paul Connelly Stage & Costume Design Luisa Spinatelli Staging Lukas Gaudernak Jean Christophe Lesage Alice Necsea


Masayu Kimoto (Prince Siegfried), Liudmila Konovalova (Odette), Ladies Ensemble

Ladies Ensemble

Liudmila Konovalova (Odette), Masayu Kimoto (Prince Siegfried), Ladies Ensemble

about today’s performance


Fairy tales have a special attraction. This may be due to their ambivalent worlds of images, which – mostly illusionistic – always open up to the imagination of the reader or viewer. Fairy tales are magical preforms of reason. They do not duplicate life, but represent values, longings and desires. They are often about people living in quiet desperation, showing their helplessness, emptiness or loneliness. Their hero sets out from this world in the hope of finding a better one. But with every fairy tale, the ghosts and demons, the fears and nightmares also return and teach us: there is no such thing as a completely sheltered home – no inner room that is protected from being grabbed. Fairy tales are arsenals of the imagination. Located between the realms of the everyday and the utterly inaccessible, they allow us to have a seemingly paradoxical experience: to take in the absolute unknown within the world of this world. Like many artists in the age of romanticism, Pyotr I. Tchaikovsky was attracted to fairy-tale materials and not only used it as the basis for his three major ballet scores Swan Lake (1877), The Sleeping Beauty (1890) and The Nutcracker (1892), but also composed an Undine opera (which he himself destroyed before publication) and Vakula the Smith, which he reworked into The Slippers. Already in 1870, he was commissioned by the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow to write the music for a Cendrillon ballet. It is not known why he did not compose it. A little later, however, he engaged with the genre in a children’s



ballet that he wrote in the summer of 1871 in Kamenka, Ukraine, for the children of his sister Alexandra Davydova. The exact character of this ballet is not known, but its title was The Lake of Swans and its score – according to his nephew Yuri Davidov – already included the yearning theme that Tchaikovsky later made the defining leitmotif of his Swan Lake ballet. This score, Tchaikovsky did not compose with the ambitions of a ballet reformer. He respected the conventions at that time, but knew how to feed them with all the means of music-dramatic and symphonic composition and a refined art of orchestration, so that he succeeded in creating a music that motivates situations with theatrical sense in a way never before heard in the ballet world and shows the characters as real people through psychological spotlighting. The colourful, lively, but also elegantly sophisticated dances of the two festive acts, always characterized by the waltz beat, are contrasted with the poetic-lyrical, but also darkly dramatic worlds of the Actes blancs. Tchaikovsky was able to give the divertissements dramaturgical reasons beyond their entertainment character. The subject of metamorphosis, which determines the plot of Swan Lake – Siegfried is on the threshold of adulthood, people become swans or owls, real everyday worlds change into imaginary ones –, also characterizes the composition, which constantly changes its colours. This even extends to the work with leitmotifs that know how to adapt precisely to situations or moods. A central role is played by the so-called “Swan Lake Theme”, which draws Siegfried into the world of the forest. Its structure is equal to Richard Wagner’s intricate leitmotifs, for it knows how to express all the facets that open up in the encounter between Siegfried and Odette: an undefined, burning longing, but also certainty of love, a sensitive approach to each other, but also self-confidence. It can lament or warn, be heightened into the passionate or distorted into the grotesque, it can triumph or resign – and in all of this it also contains the knowledge that it is time that creates the disappointments. With its characteristic fall of a quint, from which an ascending sequence of notes returns to the initial tone, its beginning corresponds to the motif of “the forbidden question” in Wagner’s Lohengrin – that musical code for the incompatibility of wonder and deficient reality, but also for the knowledge that the dream can enter into life, but life cannot enter into the dream. Of Tchaikovsky’s ballets, the story of Siegfried and Odette is the darkest, and – even more than the fairy tales of The Nutcracker or The Sleeping Beauty – it is full of messages that can be re-read again and again. This is how every era creates its own interpretation. The production that Marius Petipa staged with Lev Ivanov in St. Petersburg in 1895 has retained its validity and fascination to this day. With his choreography of the White Acts, Ivanov invented the formal language and visual aesthetics that established “the myth of Swan Lake”. Almost 70 years later, in a completely changed world, Rudolf Nureyev took up Petipa’s and Ivanov’s threads, which had already been spun in different nuances in the 20th century in both the East and the West. With the premiere of his Viennese Swan Lake in 1964, he presented a compaction of Russian movement material into the highest virtuosity and directed the focus on the individualist Siegfried. His choreography is still a signature work of the Vienna State Ballet up to today and finds its interpretation through ever new generation of dancers. 9



Act 1 Prince Siegfried celebrates his coming of age with a big party under the supervision of his tutor. Introduced by the court master, the guests present themselves. As a sign of manhood, he receives a crossbow from his mother, the queen. Tomorrow he is to choose a bride. Left alone, he is overcome by dark premonitions. A flock of white swans passes by. Siegfried decides to go hunting.

Act 2 The magician Rothbart settles on the shore of a forest lake in the guise of a bird of prey. As the lord of this realm, he rules over young girls whom he has enchanted into swans. Only between midnight and dawn are they allowed to take on their human form. Odette is their queen. Siegfried has entered deeper and deeper into the forest while hunting. Arriving at the lake, he sees Odette and falls in love with the mysterious woman. In the magic of the dances of Odette’s companions, love turns into passion. Odette reveals her fate to the prince: only a man who loves her unconditionally and faithfully can redeem her. Siegfried vows to be that man. Day dawns. Rothbart stops Siegfried from following the swans.



Act 3 The day of the bridal search has come. Siegfried’s mother has arranged a splendid feast and invited six noblewomen to introduce themselves to Siegfried. But none of them is able to touch his heart. Suddenly a woman dressed in black enters accompanied by a proud nobleman. It is the magician Rothbart with his daughter Odile. Siegfried is confused. He thinks he recognises in the stranger, who resembles a black swan, his beloved Odette. Guests from Spain, Naples, Poland and Hungary perform dances from their home countries. Finally, Siegfried asks Odile to dance with him. Stunned by her magic, he announces to his mother’s satisfaction that he has chosen his bride. Rothbart and Odile disappear triumphantly. Siegfried must realise that he has been deceived and has betrayed his love. He rushes to the swan lake to find Odette.

Act 4 The white swans dance their melancholy round. They try in vain to comfort Odette. Siegfried comes breathlessly to the shore. Although Odette knows that she must give up all hope of redemption, she forgives him. To complete his revenge Rothbart makes the lake burst its banks. The swans disappear. In despair Siegfried dies in the floods. 11



“Swan Lake is the dream of the ideal woman, an escape from reality, an attempt to imbue the ideal with reality, an attempt that leads in the end to catastrophe.”

Zitat Nurejew folgt

Rudolf Nureyev

rudolf nureyev: vienna knew how to use his genius JOHN PERCIVAL

In the summer of 1958, Russian ballet schools brought forth a wealth of talent the likes of which had never before been seen. Rudolf Nureyev and Yuri Soloviev in Leningrad and Vladimir Vassiliev in Moscow all graduated from ballet school at the same time. The following year not only did all three give their first performances abroad at the World Festival of Youth and Students in Vienna but were also amongst the winners of this competition. (What a pity that Nureyev never found out that the jurors had given him half a point more than the other two contestants!) And this was not only the start of three glamorous international careers, but also the beginning of Nureyev’s connection with Vienna. The city not only provided him with some of the highlights of his career, but also gave him a new citizenship after years of statelessness.



Initially, it was Nureyev’s virtuosity that amazed audiences, especially the Le Corsaire pas de deux, which for many years was virtually his trademark. We still have vivid memories, not only of the height of his flying jumps, with which he seemed to cut the air, but also of the flowing smoothness of the waltz steps in the middle section, the run, swift as an arrow, with which he shot onto the stage at the beginning of the solo, the subservience with which he knelt at the feet of the ballerina and threw himself on the floor before her at the end. He was always at pains to unearth the uniqueness of every dance – that which epitomizes the style and essence of a piece. In view of his analytical approach, we should not be surprised that he turned more and more to choreography – to complement, rather than replace his other activities. Even as a student, he was convinced that he would one day produce a ballet – which was why he once even annotated Michel Fokine’s entire Chopiniana. However, when one of his fellow students stole his notes (he found the last page hanging in the toilet!), he realized that he did not even need them; his phenomenal memory alone sufficed. After just a few months in the West, he produced a version of the Nutcracker pas de deux for Rosella Hightower and himself. This was soon to be followed by dances from Don Quixote and Raymonda for performances which he made with Erik Bruhn and Sonia Arova. Initially it was unlikely that anyone realized quite how much that was intrinsically his own went into his productions of the classics. His first major production was The Kingdom of the Shades from La Bayadère, in 1963 for the Royal Ballet Covent Garden, largely using Petipa’s choreography. However, he replaced one corps passage by another which he considered more interesting, and at the suggestion of Sir Frederick Ashton he conceived new groupings for the finale. These and other minor productions were trivial compared to the task that he set himself the following summer: that of producing his own versions of two great classical ballets within the space of just four months. Firstly, on 10 July 1964, Raymonda with the touring company of the Royal Ballet for the Spoleto Festival, then, on 15 October 1964, his version of Swan Lake at the Vienna State Opera. In both instances, he took Petipa’s choreography as his starting point – and for Swan Lake he also used Ivanov’s notation. As in all his subsequent productions of classical ballets, he insisted on keeping Petipa’s basic structures because, as he told me “they are so logical that you simply cannot dispense with them”. However, he also wanted to adapt the works, since he was convinced that this was absolutely essential in order to present them from a specific point of view. Besides, he was of the opinion that “Petipa has created virtually nothing for the male dancer”, which is why he always wanted to expand the male roles so as to give himself and the others more dancing. It is remarkable to note the self-confidence with which Nureyev, initially inexperienced as a choreographer, went about staging these two major productions within such a short space of time: both had just four weeks of preparation in the studio, and two weeks of rehearsals in order to “polish” them. The astonishing thing about Raymonda is that he had never danced the leading role himself, though he had already done the pas de quatre for four dancers (which, incidentally, was one of the few dances which Petipa created for male dancers). The production was only a limited success, not least because the stage designer employed by the 15


Spoleto Festival chose to ignore Nureyev’s wishes, creating an entirely abstract stage design that did not go with the action on the stage. Nureyev repeatedly revised this ballet over the course of the years, eventually creating a final version which served for the triumphal start of his term as director of the ballet of the Paris Opera. The first staging of Swan Lake was an entirely different matter. Nureyev had already danced the leading role in five different productions: the first with the Kirov Ballet, then two different productions with the Royal Ballet Covent Garden and another with the touring company of the Royal Ballet, as well as John Cranko’s extremely distinct version of this ballet. Furthermore, he had also inserted new dances into two productions by the Royal Ballet, most notably a melancholy solo for Prince Siegfried to the andante sostenuto from the pas de trois in the first act. He therefore had sufficient opportunity to see what went with this ballet, and what did not, and to imagine how he would do it. For several months he discussed the project with Nicholas Georgiadis, the stage designer of his choice, before he even started working on it. Nureyev’s basic idea for Swan Lake was that Siegfried should be the central character of the work, and Odette/Odile (representing contrasting aspects of the ballerina’s role) merely a part of his experience. This did not leave the ballerina with less to do, but it shifted the focus to the plot because it was now seen from a single point of view. The other major alteration which both Cranko and Nureyev made independently of one another was the fact that – because Siegfried deceives Odette when he mistakes Odile for her – there could be no happy ending. Under no circumstances can Odette be brought back to life again, as in so many Soviet productions, not even in the usual traditional interpretation of a reunification in another world after death. Though Nureyev retained Ivanov’s choreography for the second act (albeit with a few additions and clever adaptations), everything else was new, including the dances for Siegfried and his friends in the first act. He was only briefly taken aback by the fact that there were a number of dancers in the company who were remarkable more for their age than for their ability. With his sharp eye for talent, he very soon singled out those who would develop quickly under his guidance and encouragement. And for the premiere he would, after all, be partnered by Dame Margot Fonteyn: the unique relationship between the two of them was already legendary. Another exceptional partnership began with this version of Swan Lake: that between Nureyev and his stage designer Nicholas Georgiadis. This was also to prove a long-standing and rewarding relationship. The new approach taken by Georgiadis enabled the choreographer, as the painter wrote, “to break away from superficial, painted, romantic stage designs” and see the dancers against a more compact background that would make them appear to be projected more towards the audience. This production was so successful that twenty years later, whilst Nureyev was already working on a radical new interpretation of Swan Lake at the Paris Opera, it was still in the repertoire of the Vienna State Opera. During this time, Vienna had enjoyed an enduring and prolific alliance with Nureyev both as a dancer and as a choreographer. Two of his most remarkable productions were performed here in 1966: with its complex use of metaphors that were “linked by a logic that is more poetic than narrative”



(according to Nureyev’s programme notes), Tancredi had only four performances. For the choreographer, its importance as Nureyev’s first totally original new ballet was that it convinced him he was “in possession of a vocabulary that would enable me to express myself through movement”. Even stronger evidence of this can be found in his Don Quixote, performed for the first time in Vienna and adaptations of which were developed both here and by other companies. Although this version was based on the traditional ballet as it had originally been danced in Leningrad, thanks to Nureyev’s modifications, additions and constant honing, it became one of the most entertaining ballet comedies of all time. One can also see his own role in it as a self-portrait: a young man in possession of nothing other than his impertinence sidelines others who started out with much greater advantages. The Vienna State Opera commissioned Rudi van Dantzig with a ballet for Nureyev: Ulysses, with Nureyev in the title role, was premiered in 1979. Later Nureyev’s Sleeping Beauty and Raymonda were also produced, and Nureyev was repeatedly invited to dance in various ballets, one of which was his first Apollo – a role he had long wanted to dance. This long-standing association had a twofold advantage for Vienna. Firstly, because any company able to benefit from Nureyev’s attention to detail in the studio and his encouraging example on the stage must inevitably raise its own standard. And, secondly, because audiences had an opportunity to see the greatest dancer of his time not only in a few pieces de resistance, but also in a wide range of roles, many of which he only ever danced here. Together with London, New York, Paris and St. Petersburg (in his youth), Vienna was one of the cities that was not only acutely aware of his genius, but also utilized it intensively. However, the benefits were mutual. After he lost his Soviet citizenship, for many years Nureyev was obliged to move about with temporary travel documents – a distinct disadvantage for someone who travelled all over the world due to his job. Being granted Austrian citizenship was therefore a great boon to him. And it was here too that he was able to indulge his great love of music (his closest friends included the family of a member of the Vienna Philharmonic), and Vienna was also the city in which he was able to prepare for a new career as a conductor. His early death may have forestalled a development that was potentially both important and significant: where could it have been better nurtured than in the city that had become so significant for his career.



Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev (1964)


“The prince is a mortal who follows his fate, and Nureyev makes him a legitimate character: he makes him the central character of his production, giving him the stature of the tragic hero with the theatrically opulent setting for his demise. Enthralled by the futile dream of absolute love, the Prince forfeits every chance of real happiness and becomes the master of his own fate.”

the dream of the ideal woman


Although the St. Petersburg Swan Lake created by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov in 1895 had provided the basis for the versions that Rudolf Nureyev became acquainted with at the beginning of his career, these versions differed significantly in terms of performance style. For example, the Leningrad Kirov Ballet’s 1950 production incorporated changes to conform to the Soviet concept of art, whereas the London Royal Ballet’s productions were based on a version true to the original created by a ballet director who had emigrated to the West from St. Petersburg in the 1930s. It is to Nureyev’s lasting credit as a producer of the classics that he blended different perceptions of the classics and enriched them with new dramatic concepts. All earlier presentations of the work had been centered on the ballerina; for the charismatic dancer Nureyev, it was only natural to make the male lead the principal



character in his Swan Lake created for Vienna. Dame Margot Fonteyn recollects: “Classical ballets were considered to be pieces for ballerinas – with a prince participating in a secondary role. That did not suit Rudolf. He felt that the prince was just as important as the ballerina. And so he set about making sure that this would be the case.” Of Swan Lake, Nureyev said more precisely: “I believe that the central character of the ballet is the prince, not the swan. The swan is nothing more than his reflection. Swan Lake is a story from the Romantic period. It is the dream of the ideal woman, an escape from reality, an attempt to imbue the ideal with reality, an attempt that leads in the end to catastrophe.” In order to realize his concept, Nureyev made radical changes to the traditional versions, however without touching the basic structure of the work. For example, he added a solo for the Prince in Act 1, did away with traditional choreographic climaxes such as the pas de trois in Act 1 and the pas de deux for Odile and Siegfried in Act 3, replacing these numbers with a pas de cinq, in which the Prince is one of the dancers, and a new pas de deux. He also eliminated the role of Benno, which had become traditional in English productions, and that of the Jester, which is fairly significant in Soviet productions. He revised the choreography of the waltz and polonaise in Act 1 and the character dances in Act 3. The coda of the pas d’action danced by Siegfried in Act 2 was completely new, as was the choreography for the entire 4th Act, in which Nureyev cut the numbers added in 1895, replacing them with music from the original score. In a departure from Soviet performance traditions but in keeping with Tchaikovsky’s intentions, Nureyev created a tragic ending for the ballet. Rudolf Nureyev won over Viennese audiences at the premiere of his Swan Lake on 15 October 1964, rekindling an enthusiasm for the ballet that Vienna had not seen since the era of the Romantic ballet of the 19th century. Nureyev danced the role of Prince Siegfried with the Vienna State Opera Ballet no fewer than 51 times, for the last time in 1988 on the occasion of his 50th birthday. He also adjusted his production from time to time, restoring Odette’s mimic narrative, for instance, and varying the choreography of the coda of the Pas d’action in Act 2. He also reverted to the traditional choreography for the pas de deux in Act 3 instead of the new version. Richard Nowotny’s 1996 revival was based on the choreographic notations of this witness to the original production. One significant change related to the visual setting: in view of the fact that the original stage design by Nicholas Georgiadis was no longer available, Jordi Roig was entrusted with the task of designing new scenery and costumes. Thus Nureyev’s Vienna Swan Lake was performed with a new look, like the earlier versions for Paris (1984) and Milan (1990), which were danced with stage designs by Ezio Frigerio and costumes by Franca Squarciapino. Nureyev was also able to realize his original intention of joining the first two acts seamlessly together. The Vienna State Opera Ballet danced Nureyev’s Swan Lake 206 times between 1964 and 2009, thus making this one of the biggest successes in the history of the company. For the premiere of the revival of Nureyev’s Vienna Swan Lake presented by Manuel Legris in March 2014, Luisa Spinatelli created a new stage design inspired by the fantasy world of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. 21


Designs by Luisa Spinatelli


“To complete the legends of mermaids and elves, I have to mention the swan maidens. The legend here is very vague and shrouded in an overly mysterious darkness. Are they water spirits? Are they air spirits? Are they sorceresses? Sometimes they come flying down from the skies as swans, shed their white feathers like a robe, become beautiful maidens and bathe in still waters. If some curious fellow surprises them there, they quickly jump out of the water, quickly wrap themselves in their feathers and then take to the air again as swans. The old Danish songs often speak of such feathers, but in a dark and highly disconcerting way.

Here we find traces of the oldest magical being. Here are sounds of Nordic paganism which, like half-forgotten dreams, find a marvellous resonance in our memory. I cannot but share an old song in which not only the feather skin is spoken of, but also the night ravens, which form a side piece to the swan maidens. This song is as gruesome, as horrible, as gloomy as a Scandinavian night, and yet a love glows in it that has no equal in wild sweetness and burning intimacy, a love that, blazing ever more violently, finally shoots up like a northern light and floods the whole sky with its passionate rays.”

dark secrets of the lake ELISABETH SURIZ

Swan Lake is probably the most popular of all classical ballets, and one might assume that we know everything there is to know about its origins. However, there are some details that remain a mystery to this day. Was the story based on a literary work, as was the case with so many works from this era? Several works are possible sources and were probably used in part. Tchaikovsky himself is said to have insisted on a German fairy tale. In that eventuality, The Stolen Veil by Johann Karl August Musäus would be a possible choice, but so would Alexander Pushkin’s Tale of Tsar Saltan with his swan princess, other Russian folk tales, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Grimm’s fairy tales, de la Motte Fouqué’s Undine, indeed even the influence of Wagner’s Ring should be considered. It is very clear that the librettists drew from a number of themes that were common in the ballets of the day: the young man (often a prince) seeking his true love; she often appears in the form of a fantasy creature (sylph, wili, undine). Another popular theme is the girl persecuted by her evil stepmother (like Odette, who in the first version was hidden by her grandfather at the bottom of the lake as her stepmother flew across it in the form of an owl). These stories often included a talisman, the loss of which could mean danger or even death for the hero, or a broken or forgotten vow, or an evil spirit that takes on the shape of something else.



But who was the librettist who blended all these themes into Swan Lake? The fact is that we do not know exactly. Today we generally see Begichev and Geltser named as librettists, but the appearance of their names on the posters is a relatively recent development; furthermore, it is not at all certain that they can rightfully be called the authors of the libretto. The name of the librettist is listed neither on the poster for the first Moscow production nor on that for the first St. Petersburg production. It also does not appear in the yearbooks of the Imperial Theatres for the years between 1890 and 1913, nor in the programmes for the productions mounted in the 1920s and 1930s. The programmes for the Bolshoi Theatre for example do not list the names Begichev and Geltser until 1954. However, Boris Asafyev had named them as librettists twenty years earlier, as Yuri Bakhrushin did in the 1940s and, in even more detail, Yuri Slonimsky in his book about Tchaikovsky’s ballets in the 1950s. How did they come up with this information? As director of the Moscow Imperial Theatres, Vladimir Begichev had commissioned the composition from Tchaikovsky. He himself was known as an author of light plays, vaudevilles and operettas. His name is mentioned in the memoirs of Nikolai Kashkin as the probable librettist of Swan Lake and in Modest Tchaikovsky’s biography of Tchaikovsky. We also read in various memoirs that the libretto and staging of Swan Lake were the subject of heated discussions at the salon of Maria Shilovskaya. Shilovskaya, a former singer and passionate music lover, was Begichev’s wife. The claim made by Vassily Geltser, a dancer and mimic at the Bolshoi Theatre, that he had helped with the libretto, is very shaky. Modest Tchaikovsky wrote in a letter to the critic Hermann Laroche that the theatre management was in possession of a copy of the libretto that bore the handwritten note “property of Geltser”. Modern-day researchers, such as Russian ballet historian Alexander Demidov and American musicologist Roland John Wiley, believe that several people could have worked on the libretto with Begichev: Tchaikovsky himself, who composed a children’s ballet entitled The Lake of Swans for a performance on his sister’s estate; Wentsel Reisinger, the choreographer; Karl Valts, head machinist at the Bolshoi Theatre and a frequent guest at Shilovskaya’s salon, who in addition had already written libretti for several of Reisinger’s ballets; and Konstantin Shilovsky, son of Maria Shilovskaya, author, painter, sculptor and amateur actor, who had also previously written a ballet libretto and later on helped Tchaikovsky write the libretto for Eugene Onegin. What most probably happened is that they all contributed to the libretto of Swan Lake – that it was as it were a cooperative venture. The premiere of Swan Lake took place on 20 February (4 March) 1877 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Ballet audiences were somewhat surprised that the widely celebrated and popular prima ballerina Anna Sobeshchanskaya was not selected to dance in the premiere, but the less popular – and also less talented – Polina Karpakova. Those who wrote memoirs cite a scandal as the reason: Sobeshchanskaya’s young husband, the dancer Victor Stanislav Gillert, is said to have sold jewels that she had received from a previous suitor. That may have been the reason why, although he danced the major role of Prince Siegfried, Gillert was not listed as one of the principals, but only for the dances in the individual acts. 27


And so Karpakova danced Odette. But who danced Odile? On the poster for the world premiere in 1877 there are three stars instead of names. I cannot agree with Yuri Bakhrushin and Vera Krassovskaya who thought that the ballerina dancing Odile was so unimportant that her name was not mentioned; after all, even the ballet students who took part in the performance were mentioned by name. On the other hand, Karpakova’s name is also listed for the various dances in Act 3, even as the soloist in the Russian Dance. It is not in Odette’s character to appear in the ball scene! For this reason I believe, as do others such as Yuri Slonimsky and Alexander Demidov, that one ballerina danced both roles in the first version of Swan Lake, as was also the case in later productions. Wentsel Reisinger, who was then head choreographer at the Bolshoi Theatre, created the choreography for the first production of Swan Lake. From 1842 to 1852 he was a dancer in his hometown of Prague, from 1860 to 1864 he worked there as a choreographer, a position he also held in Leipzig from 1866 to 1874. In 1871 he had produced The Crystal Slipper (Cinderella) in Moscow, with libretto by Karl Valts and music by Wilhelm Karl Muhldorfer. As head of the Moscow Bolshoi Ballet from 1873 to 1878, he produced several ballets, usually together with Karl Valts (libretto) and music by violinist and conductor Yuli Gerber. He had a particular flair for the ballet feerie genre, and his Cinderella, on which he collaborated with the brilliant scenic artist Valts, had so many spectacular scenes that the critics barely noticed Cinderella herself, describing her role as “small and thankless”. Swan Lake was however not conceived as a ballet feerie, as we can see from the relatively low production costs, which were half as high as was customary with Reisinger’s feerie ballets. Critics described the costumes for Swan Lake as pitiful and the sets for the ball scene as sparse. The only spectacular stage effects were steam in Act 2 to represent the mist hanging over the lake; in Act 4 the branches, which, broken by the storm, fell into the lake, which flooded its banks; and after Siegfried and Odette have drowned the reappearance of the sun, represented with the help of electric light. Valts wrote in his memoirs that Tchaikovsky was very taken with this scene. Other than that, the composer was not very happy with his first ballet and considered it to be a mediocre work compared to Delibes’ Sylvia. We know very little about Reisinger’s choreography, since none of the critics wrote a description of it. Both the Teatralnaja Gasjeta and the Russkije Wjedomosti claim that the character dances were better than all the other dances, and the Russkije Wjedomosti also mentions the swans’ “gymnastic jumps around the stage”, but it is hard to know what was meant by that. Based on a sketch and a photo of Sobeshchanskaya, who danced the lead role for the first time in the fourth performance, we can see that the swans had wings, but we do not know whether they removed them when they were transformed into girls. Critic Hermann Laroche also wrote that the dances were “boring and banal”. But we should not assign all the blame for the failure of Swan Lake to the choreographers alone. A number of factors were decisive. One of them may have been disappointment with the casting of the lead role. Another was probably the music, which was very different from the music typically used for ballets. Not just the average ballet au-



dience member, but Reisinger too had difficulties with it that he could never quite overcome; the same applied to conductor Stepan Ryabov and the orchestra. And finally the ridiculously small amount that was spent on the production surely contributed to its failure, if one can indeed call it a failure. And there I have my doubts. Today of course, now that we have realized that Swan Lake is a masterpiece, we believe that the first production must have been a triumph and led to the ballet having a firm place in the repertoire for years. Well, that was not the case, but all in all Swan Lake fared no worse than any other ballet of the day. Between February 1877 and January 1879 it was performed 27 times, with a further 12 performances after its revival in 1880 and in 1882 by Joseph Hansen, with a few modifications. 39 performances is not that bad. And the same applies to revenues. Although the performances – other than the premiere – were almost never sold out, revenues were entirely typical for the day. It is only a pity that the St. Petersburg company at that time showed no interest in Swan Lake. Since Marius Petipa had created La Bayadère with the magnificent white “shades” scene that same year, one might have expected a more successful production of Swan Lake as well. It was not until 1895, two years after Tchaikovsky’s death, that a production was created that did justice to his music.

“The white swan is enraptured from the colourful world of everyday life. Silently – strangely far from the words that create bonds and obligations – it glides over the mysterious depths of water. Its noble form sets it apart from the banal and the ordinary ... It is ideally suited to symbolise a part of us that is only pure potency – a blank, empty page – far removed from any materialisation and the binding message that creates history.” PETER SCHELLENBAUM-SCHEEL


spiritual condition in white GUNHILD OBERZAUCHER-SCHÜLLER

There did not appear to be much that was different about this new St. Petersburg production of Swan Lake in 1895. Not the music: Tchaikovsky had composed it not quite twenty years earlier for another city (Moscow), for another choreographer (Wentsel Reisinger). Now a few numbers had simply been expanded. Not the subject matter: it was taken from a German collection of fairy tales written down towards the end of the 18th century. Now the dramatic emphases had been modified. Not the dance resources: in Moscow twenty years earlier the dancers had been perhaps technically more advanced but had danced similarly. Now an effort had been made to achieve a better balance among the dancers. And yet: suddenly it had all come together to create a magic whole – storyline, music, choreography. The “new” Swan Lake brought to the stage of St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre by two ballet masters, Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, became the “real” Swan Lake, in other words the work that is now synonymous with an entire art form. The auspices for the work’s success were by no means particularly favourable; quite the contrary. To start with, the event was to mark a sad occasion: Tchaikovsky had died in late 1893, and now it was up to the Imperial Theatres to honour the greatest Russian composer with a memorial performance. We no longer know who gave the instruction that Swan Lake should finally be produced at the Mariinsky Theatre. Was it the director of the Imperial Theatres, Ivan Vsevolozhsky? Or did the order come from higher yet? Why Swan Lake, Marius Petipa, ballet master at the Mariinsky Theatre, might have asked himself, why a ballet that was not even in the theatre’s repertoire? Why would a performance of The Sleeping Beauty or The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky’s “St. Petersburg ballets” not suffice? Illness! – old Petipa may have thought – I shall be ill! Fifty years in the service of this theatre, half a century of work by a Frenchman for the



court of the tsar. And how many ballets had been created over this period? Was it seventy-five, one ballet for each year of his life? Tradition has it that the old ballet master had feigned illness, although he did not feel ill and in fact was at the peak of his creative powers. His assistant, the second ballet master at the theatre, Lev Ivanov should choreograph the desired scene from Swan Lake. Ivanov had already tried his hand at this scene once, at the tsar’s private theatre. Now he should take care of the memorial event! Ivanov’s realization of the Swan Lake scene for this memorial performance on 17 February (1 March) 1894 left a lasting impression. The decision was made that the other acts should soon be added to Ivanov’s scene. Now Petipa was also involved, and once again things looked bad. Double authorship was not unusual for ballets at the time, but in this case the choreography should be as uniform as possible. Negotiations started, with two sides emerging: on one side Petipa and his musical advisor Riccardo Drigo, the conductor and composer, on the other the more powerful party: Modest Tchaikovsky, the composer’s brother and executor, and Ivan Vsevolozhsky himself. Petipa immediately realized that the drama of the original staging/music concept was imbalanced. What he needed to do now was convince Modest Tchaikovsky that the musical structure could be improved. The experienced Drigo helped out by finding suitable material in Tchaikovsky’s piano compositions; small compositions that he had intended to orchestrate. They would establish a balance between the acts. In addition, the ballerina had her own requests, that much they knew already. The death of the tsar and the mourning period necessitated provided time for reflection. Finally Modest Tchaikovsky had recorded the changes he wanted in the libretto, helped by Vsevolozhsky. Compared to the original Moscow libretto, Siegfried was now far more melancholy. Furthermore, the reasons for Odette’s bewitchment had been altered and the conditions that would release her from the spell changed. Only the man who, falling in love for the first time himself, would swear to be faithful to Odette and be prepared to give his life for her would be able to release her from the curse. An important dramatic change was the inclusion of the act of deception to which the prince falls prey. Siegfried does in fact believe that the beautiful Odile is his beloved standing before him; in all innocence he incurs guilt. Then he is resolved to die for his error, also to release Odette from the power of evil and break the spell. Siegfried and Odette are then united in death, Rothbart collapses, dead. The magician too was to appear in different guises: as a human, but also as an evil bird. Finally rehearsals could start. The St. Petersburg Swan Lake was performed on 15 (27) January 1895. According to Vsevolozhsky, the “grand ballet” was now divided into three acts and four scenes (Act 1 consisted of two scenes). Pierina Legnani, the ballet ensemble’s (Italian) prima ballerina, performed the dual role of Odette/Odile, Pavel Gerdt danced Prince Siegfried. The prince had a companion, Benno, and he fulfilled an additional partner task. What was it that now gave the ballet its magical overall effect? The changes to the music or improvements to the dramatic flow? The balance between the acts? Petipa’s society scenes, or Ivanov’s white (swan) scenes? The emotional expression and bravura of Legnani, or the beauty and harmony of the lines of the corps de ballet? 31


Danced soulscapes in music The St. Petersburg Swan Lake proved to be a masterpiece and was soon also considered a milestone in all ballet literature. Even though the magical power of this creation can only be captured in poetic terms, its brilliance can nevertheless be analysed. A decisive factor in the outstanding position Swan Lake has gained in ballet history is that the subject matter presented perfectly matches the ballet resources available; furthermore, these resources add dimensions to the subject that go beyond the literature and music on which it is based, and furthermore cannot be conveyed by other forms of art. In other words: the atmosphere of the ballet, especially the “white acts”, can only be conveyed in the language of dance, supported by the music. As previously mentioned, the subject matter was by no means new. Basically it was the same as that for such ballets as La Sylphide and Giselle. In its fouract structure, Swan Lake also modified the Romantic model of juxtaposing the real and unreal world. Threatened by a magical power, the individual striving for an ideal (Siegfried) cannot avoid his fate and fails. In Swan Lake too, this ideal is not a person but a creature that moves to and fro between two worlds, the real and the unreal, that comes from the non-rational world and returns there. For this reason too it cannot be reached. As uncomplicated as it may be to name the themes taken up in Swan Lake, it is equally easy to analyse the choreographic and compositional structure of the St. Petersburg production. The magical enchantment of the swan scenes is based on the predominance of white, which contrasts with the colours of the society scenes. How this predominance came about and its effect can easily be explained: although the subdivided character of the ballet that is split into short numbers is preserved both in the choreographic and the compositional structure, these numbers now appear in a broader integration – naturally also due to the symphonic nature of Tchaikovsky’s music. This greater degree of integration arises because colours and the language of character dance are absent in the swan scenes due to the nature of the story. The entirely classical vocabulary of the swans in these scenes has a unifying effect. United by synchronization, identical movements and the same colour, the dancers communicate an atmosphere: this atmosphere – danced spiritual conditions in white – that the corps de ballet is now able to convey becomes the essence of Swan Lake. Seen in this way, the corps de ballet is the ballet’s protagonist, as well as accompaniment and partner to the lovers. In St. Petersburg in the late Nineties, people probably refrained from such considerations, preferring to allow the ballet – the subject matter, the classical dance and the music – to have their effect. People sensed the uniqueness and felt the danced soulscapes that opened up in Tchaikovsky’s musical spaces.




“In his choreography, Lev Ivanov succeeded in creating the image of a swan: The dancer balances on one tip, the other leg is raised, the body seems ready for flight. The arms, which are spread out on both sides, move like wings. And she is already a bird! The head is tilted forward and swings gently from shoulder to shoulder, constantly changing the silhouette and imitating a typical movement of swans. In addition to these two movements of the upper body – the motif of ‘preparing for flight’ and the motif of ‘mourning’ – there is an arabesque that evokes the gliding of the swan on the water.”


I heard the sweet voice of the swans. At the parting of night and day, Gurgling on the wings of travelling. Pouring forth their strength on high. I quickly stood me, nor made I move, A look which I gave from me forth Who should be guiding in front? The queen of luck, the white swan.


Liudmila Konovalova (Odette)

Olga Esina (Odette), Jakob Feyferlik (Prince Siegfried)


Daniel Vizcayo, Anita Manolova (Napolitan Dance), Ensemble

Olga Esina (Odile), Jakob Feyferlik (Prince Siegfried)

Eno Peci (Sorcerer von Rothbart), Olga Esina (Odette), Jakob Feyferlik (Prince Siegfried)

PAUL CONNELLY – Musical Direction Paul Connelly, trained at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, gained his first professional experience as an assistant at the opera houses in Boston, Santa Fe and San Francisco and made his debut at the age of twenty-four as conductor of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess at the Houston Grand Opera. In San Francisco, he was Music Director of the Affiliate Artists Programme for Opera and awarded an Exxon/Arts Endowment Conducting Fellowship. At the invitation of Baryshnikov, he joined the American Ballet Theatre as Principal Conductor, where he had the opportunity to work with choreographers such as Balanchine, MacMillan, Robbins, Tharp and Tudor. At the same time, he was invited as a guest conductor with the New York City Ballet, Nureyev and Friends, and as Music Director of Baryshnikov and Co. He was also appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the National Ballet of Canada and worked on film and television productions including Baryshnikov’s Don Quixote with the ABT, Live from Lincoln Center and the series Dance in America. His major opera productions during this period included Britten’s Death in Venice, Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. In 1991 Paul Connelly made his debut at the Vienna State Opera with a ballet gala, followed by Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and has maintained an intensive association with the opera house ever since. Engagements throughout Europe followed, including the Staatsoper Unter den Linden and the Deutsche Oper Berlin, as well as the Ballet de l’Opéra de Paris, where several productions were filmed under his baton, including Giselle, Neumeier’s Sylvia, Balanchine’s Jewels and a programme of works by Petit. Further appearances have taken him to the Opéra de Nice, Opéra National de Bordeaux, Budapest State Opera, Den Norske Opera Oslo, Zurich Opera House, the Royal Ballet London, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Het Nationale Ballet Amsterdam, Tokyo Ballet, Finnish National Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Korean National Ballet, the Danish Radio Orchestra, Orchestre Colonne in Paris and the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, where, at the invitation of Riccardo Muti, he conducted, among others, Rossini’s Il turco in Italia, Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Don Giovanni as well as film productions of Giselle, Notre-Dame de Paris and most recently Ratmansky’s Coppélia. Connelly’s DVD recordings include Bigonzetti’s Caravaggio with the Berlin State Ballet, Nureyev’s The Nutcracker with the Vienna State Ballet and Spuck’s Nutcracker and Mouse King with the Zurich Ballet. At the Vienna State Opera, he recently conducted The Nutcracker, Don Quixote, Romeo and Juliet, The Sleeping Beauty, La Fille mal gardée, Giselle and Jewels.



RUDOLF NUREYEV – Choreography & Direction Rudolf Nureyev was born on 14 March, according to other sources on 17 March 1938 near Irkutsk on a train of the Trans-Siberian Railway. He received his first ballet training in Ufa, and from 1955 to 1958 at the Leningrad Vaganova Institute with Alexander Pushkin, among others. His first engagement as a soloist with the Kirov Ballet made him almost overnight one of the most famous dancers in the Soviet Union. In 1959 he performed for the first time in the West at the World Youth Festival in Vienna. During a guest performance in Paris in 1961, he decided to escape from the Soviet Union. After first dancing with the International Ballet of the Marquis de Cuevas in 1961/62, his career as one of the most fascinating stars in the world of dance led him to all famous classical ballet companies. But he also worked with modern dance artists, as his performances with the companies of Martha Graham and Paul Taylor show. In addition to the Royal Ballet London, Rudolf Nureyev had a close relationship with the Vienna State Opera Ballet. From 1964 to 1988 he danced 22 roles in a total of 167 performances with the company at the Vienna State Opera, the Volksoper and at international guest performances. With his touring ensemble Nureyev & Friends he also created his own programs at irregular intervals. As a choreographer, Nureyev was able to present himself with his own work as well as with adaptations of the famous story ballets. In 1964, his Swan Lake after Petipa and Ivanov celebrated its premiere at the Vienna State Opera, followed by the two other major Tchaikovsky scores The Sleeping Beauty for the Scala di Milano and The Nutcracker for the Royal Swedish Ballet. Compositions by Tchaikovsky were also the basis of the ballets Manfred and The Tempest created on works by Lord Byron and Shake­speare. For Washington Square based on the novel by Henry James, Nure­yev chose music by Charles Ives after he had already been inspired by the music of a contemporary composer for Tancredi at the Vienna State Opera with Hans Werner Henze’s score of the same name. In addition, Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella were also reinterpreted by Nureyev. Today, his Vienna Swan Lake is part of the repertoire of many renowned companies, as well as Nureyev’s two other Tchaikovsky classics, his version of Alexander Glazunov’s Raymonda and his Don Quixote, which he also created for Vienna. From 1983 to 1989, Nureyev was director of the ballet of the Paris Opera. He worked as an actor in the field of musical (The King and I, 1989) and film (Valentino, 1977). On 6 January 1993, Nureyev died of AIDS in Levallois Perret nearby Paris. At his request, his capital formed the basis of the Nureyev Foundation. The merits he had earned in Vienna led to his Austrian citizenship in 1982. The Vienna State Opera appointed him an honorary member in 1988. Since 1999 there has been a Rudolf Nureyev Promenade in Vienna. 45


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Swan Lake Rudolf Nureyev after Marius Petipa & Lev Ivanov Season 2023/24 2nd updated Edition PUBLISHER Vienna State Opera GmbH, Opernring 2, 1010 Vienna General Director: Dr. Bogdan Roščić Financial Director: Dr. Petra Bohuslav Director & Chief Choreographer Vienna State Ballet: Martin Schläpfer Managing Director Vienna State Ballet: Mag. Simone Wohinz Editorial Team: Mag. Anne do Paco, Nastasja Fischer, MA Design & Concept: Fons Hickmann M23, Berlin Layout & Type Setting: Miwa Meusburger Producer: Print Alliance HAV Produktions GmbH, Bad Vöslau

p. 12: Rudolf Nureyev quoted after Alfred Oberzaucher: Dreaming of the ideal woman. p. 21 in this programme booklet / pp. 24: Heinrich Heine: Elementargeister. Sämtliche Werke, Vol. 9 (Düsseldorf Edition), ed. by Manfred Windfuhr. Hamburg 1987 / p. 29: Peter SchellenbaumScheel: Schwanensee und Schwanenmythos. In: Schwa­ nensee. Programme booklet Bayerische Staatsoper, season 1983/84 / p. 33: Yuri Slonimsky quoted after: Le Lac de Cygnes. Programme booklet Ballet de l’Opéra de Paris, season 2015/16 / p. 34: Carmina Gadelica. Hymns and Incantations. Collected from oral tradition in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and translated into English by Alexander Carmichael. Vol. 2. London 1928.

SHEET MUSIC MATERIAL Alkor-Edition Kassel GmbH

PHOTO CREDITS Cover: Intricacy © Rosa Forrer (with kind permission of the photographer) Scene photos: pp. 2/3, 6/7, 35, 40 © Ashley Taylor (photographed during a rehearsal on 4 March 2022, which had to take place partly with face mask due to corona) / pp. 4/5, 36–39, 41 – 43 © Ashley Taylor (photographed in the 2017/18 & 2018/19 seasons) / p. 13: Linda Maybarduk: The Dancer Who Flew. A Memoir of Rudolf Nureyev. Toronto 1999 / p. 18 © Foto Fayer, Vienna / pp. 22/23 © Luisa Spinatelli / p. 44: © Attila Nagy / p. 71: © Helmut Koller/Bundestheater Holding GmbH.

TEXT REFERENCES About Today’s Performance is a for this programme booklet adapted and revised excerpt from Anne do Paço: Aus den Arsenalen der Fantasie. In: Schwanensee. Programme booklet of the Ballett am Rhein Düsseldorf Duisburg’s 2017/18 season (English translation by the author). The plot (revised version for this programme booklet, English translation: Dr. Herbert Kolmer), the texts by John Percival, Alfred Oberzaucher, Dr. Elisabeth Suriz, Dr. Gunhild Oberzaucher-Schüller and the quotation by Eva Selzer (English translations: Andrew Smith) are reprints from the programme booklet Swan Lake of the Vienna State Opera Ballet’s 1996/97 season. Reprints only with the permission of the Vienna State Ballet/Dramaturgy.

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