The ballet season 2010-2011 at La Scala in Milan has opened with ‘Swan Lake’. The company has returned to the Rudolf Nureyev version which it abbandoned ten years ago in favour of the that by Vladimir Burmeister. This version has never been greatly appreciated by the Milanese, partly due to the odd designs by Roberta Guidi di Bagno.
Daniel Barenboim is on the podium. “It is very musical: when I look at the stage I have the impression to see a danced version of the music as I hear it”, said the Maestro. Leonid Sarafanov and Alina Somova from the Mariinsky are the Russian stars dancing in front of his baton.
The choreography sometimes presents a break with tradition. “It’s complicated”, explains Makhar Vaziev, the director of the company at La Scala and ex-director of the Mariinsky, “Even though it’s very much his version, it doesn’t jar, and is very close to what we’re accustomed to. I don’t think there is a version of Swan Lake that I prefer over the others”.
His ballerina Alina Somova however has other ideas, “For me it does jar, but as Nureyev was an exceptional human-being so is his choreography exceptional: it’s very interesting and also very difficult, above all because he has changed some musical accents.”
“With Nureyev it is always complicated,” adds Leonid Sarafanov, “It needs to be got used to and we are here to work for that. It is worth it because you can then see a ballet with new eyes.”
Nueyev himself said of Swan Lake:
For me, Swan Lake is one long daydream on the part of prince Siegfried. Reared on romantic reading, his desire for infinity has been fired and he refuses the reality of the power and the marriage forced on him by his tutor and his mother.
To escape from the dreary destiny that is being prepared for him, he brings the vision of the lake, this “elsewhere” for which he yearns, into his life. An idealized love is born in his mind, along with the prohibition that it represents. (The white swan is the untouchable woman, the black swan the reverse mirror image, just as the evil Rothbart is a corrupt substitute for Wolfgang, the tutor).
And so when the dream fades away, the sanity of the prince does not know how to survive.”
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.