Sunday, November 15, 2015

Swan Lake (Ballet) [1877]

Oh yeah, Tchaikovsky! We've been on kind of a ballet jones for mysterious reasons. ;)
Mostly because we watched Romeo and Juliet by Prokofiev, and saw the link to a production of Swan Lake. I liked the music, but I couldn't remember if I'd ever watched it all the way through!
So we watched it. By the way, this mysterious 'we' refers to me and my sister.

One of the things I liked about Romeo and Juliet was that not too much time was spent on dances that did nothing for the plot. There were a few, like at the ball, or in the town square, but most of the time, the plot was very well paced. While I really enjoyed Swan Lake, I have to say that dang. About three quarters of it was just people dancing around and not doing much for the plot.
But hey! This is ballet, and when you go to see a ballet, you want... well, ballet. I'm not a huge dance person myself, so maybe that explains why I got a bit bored during the loooooooooooong stretches that were random dances.

My other issue with this otherwise totally awesome and heartbreaking ballet is pretty minor, but still. So we all know the famous Waltz, right? Well, I was expecting it to play during the ball where Odile is magically disguised as Odette! The Waltz is an amazing piece of music. It's romantic and elegant, but there are moments of great tension and even distress too. So fitting for a scene in which the prince thinks he's confessing his love to his princess, but is actually being tricked! So that's where I thought it was used.
Turns out, it's actually used in Act 1, at Prince Siegfried's birthday party. A scene that isn't really that tense or romantic or any of that juicy stuff. But like I said, that's probably just me. :)

So anyway, the plot is simple. On the night of his birthday, Prince Siegfried is out hunting in the forest and comes across a beautiful swan, who turns into a mournful young woman. This woman is Princess Odette, who was turned into a swan, along with all her friends, by a wicked sorcerer named Rothbart. The only way for the curse to be broken is for her true love to confess their love to her. Of course, she and Siegfried fall in love, and he invites her to a grand ball to celebrate their love. At his ball, he'll ask her to marry him. Rothbart gets wind of this (because he has the lake bugged?) and uses magic to disguise his daughter Odile as Odette. At the ball, Siegfried confesses his love to Odile, and realizes his mistake when it's too late. He rushes to the lake, where he and Odette dance for the last time. Things end with Odette drowning herself in the lake, and Siegfried joining her in death- since I guess sacrificing their lives together is the only way to free the rest of the swans from the curse. Or just because everything must end in suicide with ballet.

So I guess I can see why they had to pad it out with a LOT of dances, but I like it. It's a simple, but heart-wrendingly tragic story.

And the music. Holy Shnikes the music! I mentioned the awesome Waltz, but there's also the lively Coda (to which Odile does her famous spin-ny thing!), the Dance of the Little Swans, and my personal favorite- the music that plays over the finale!

The Verdict: A
Romeo and Juliet is still my favorite ballet, but this one is a very close second! The plot may be simple and stretched out with additional dances, but it packs a hefty emotional punch. The music is amazing, and takes a pretty good story and makes it a magnificent story.

Here are some of my favorite dances and songs. :)

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