Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Swan Lake

Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky
Swan Lake is a ballet composed by Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky in 1875-1876. Despite its initial failure, it is now the most popular ballet of all time. It did not become that popular until Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov choreographed Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece, in the early 1900’s, after the composer early death. I always sustain that when Tchaikovsky composed the Swan Lake, he was touched by the hand of God.

The Swan Lake is what kindled my love of classical music, specially ballet. Listening to it is sheer rupture. Great music and especially melodies, one after another. I believe I listened to Swan Lake, for the first time, when I was 10 and I never stopped; I'm 72. I must have listened to it at least 250 times and I never get tired of it.

It is a ballet in four acts with a prelude. The following is a sypnosis:

Night. A palace terrace by a lake.
As his coming of age approaches, Prince Siegfried feels the heavy responsibilities of his rank. He grieves, too, recalling the funeral of his royal father that so overwhelmed him as a young boy.
Next day. The palace gardens.
Marius Petipa
Amidst the busy preparations for the Prince’s birthday, his young friends, fellow officers, and ladies of the court, seek to distract him from his melancholy. His widowed mother the Queen arrives with the Chancellor, who has effectively ruled the kingdom since the King’s death. Four foreign princesses are presented by their ambassadors as potential fiancées for the Prince, but he seeks diversion in drinking toasts and dancing. As evening falls, he feels the familiar lure of the lake, with its promise of comfort in solitude.
That night. The lake.
Siegfried is transfixed by the appearance of a swan, which changes before his eyes into the Princess Odette. She and her maidens are prisoners of the sorcerer von Rothbart, and condemned to be swans for all but a few hours of each night. Only a vow of true love and fidelity can break the spell. Entranced himself, Siegfried gradually woos Odette, and promises her his love: Odette gives him her heart, although she fears the elemental powers of the malevolent magician.
The next night. The palace ballroom.
Fonteyn & Nureyev in "Swan Lake"
A great ball is in progress, and this evening a distracted Prince is expected to choose a future consort to reign with him. None are aware of his secret love for Odette. The festivities are interrupted by the arrival of von Rothbart and his retinue, which includes his daughter Odile. Strangely resembling Odette, the seductive beauty captivates Siegfried, who allows himself to fall under her spell, and to break the vow of fidelity. As von Rothbart triumphs, Siegfried runs from the palace in despair.
 That night. The lake.
Yulia Makhalina as "Odette" in Swan Lake
The swan maidens, now spellbound forever, have gathered to protect Odette. Desolate, the Prince begs her forgiveness, which she bestows, knowing that they must part. In desperation he drowns himself, but as von Rothbart gathers his body from the lake, the soul of Odette is released. Although she will remain a swan, she is free of von Rothbart forever.

Needless to say that Swan Lake is my favorite ballet. I have watched it over 50 times in person and over the Internet. I have listened to the music score over 100 times in my lifetime. I have never gotten tired of it. My favorite dancing duo is Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev. They are considered the best duo of all time. The following link is to this duo performing the Pas de Duex from Le Corsaire: You will not see the "Pyrotechnics" from both until the last two minutes.

Nadia Muzyca as "Odile" & Juan Pablo Ledo as "Prince Sigfried" in Swan Lake from the Colon Theater

The following links are to:

Margot Fonteyn (Odette/Odile) and Rudolf Nureyev (Prince Sigfried) in Swan Lake with the Royal Ballet in Vienna
Yulia Makhalina as Odette/Odile with the Kirov Ballet
Svetlana Zakharova as Odette/Odile - Swan Lake/ Act II - with the Bolshoi Ballet
Nadia Muzyca as Odette/Odile with the Colon Theater in Buenos Aires

I was very surprised how good the Swan Lake production from the Colon Theater was. Nadia Muzyca is a top notch ballerina. However, Juan Pablo Ledo (Prince Sigfried) is second tier, in my opinion. If I did not say the above, most people won't be able to tell the difference.

Svetlana Zakharova as "Odile" in Swan Lake

Monday, May 18, 2020

Classical Ballet

"Two Dancers Entering the Stage" by Edgar Degas

"Odette" in Swan Lake
I am a devotee of classical music especially classical ballet. Ballet originated in the Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th century. Noblemen and women were treated to lavish events, especially wedding celebrations, where dancing and music created an elaborate spectacle. Dancing masters taught the steps to the nobility, and the court participated in the performances. In the 16th century, Catherine de Medici — an Italian noblewoman, wife of King Henry II of France and a great patron of the arts — began to fund ballet in the French court. Her elaborate festivals encouraged the growth of ballet de cour, a program that included  dance, decor, costume, song, music and poetry. A century later, King Louis XIV helped to popularize and standardize the art form. A passionate dancer, he performed many roles himself, including that of the Sun King in Ballet de la nuit. His love of ballet fostered its elevation from a past time for amateurs to an endeavor requiring professional training.

By 1661, a dance academy had opened in Paris, and in 1681 ballet moved from the courts to the stage. The French operaLe Triomphe de l’Amour incorporated ballet elements, creating a long-standing opera-ballet tradition in France. By the mid-1700s French ballet master Jean Georges Noverre rebelled against the artifice of opera-ballet, believing that ballet could stand on its own as an art form. His notions — that ballet should contain expressive, dramatic movement that should reveal the relationships between characters — introduced the ballet d’action, a dramatic style of ballet that conveys a narrative. Noverre’s work is considered the precursor to the narrative ballets of the 19th century.
Svetlana Zakharova
After the Romantic ballet era, the next major development in ballet occurred in Russia. Russia had a long folk-dance tradition and in the 18th century, landowners had maintained serf dance companies. Dancing was also regularly taught in the military academies. 
The students at the Imperial Russian Ballet schools in St Petersburg and Moscow and the dancers of the Maryinsky (Kirov) Ballet and Bolshoi Ballet were highly privileged and regarded as members of the royal household.

The three greatest dancers in classical ballet history are considered to be Ana Pavlova (Russian,) Margot Fonteyn (English - Royal Ballet,) and Rudolf Nureyev (Russian.) One of the main reasons Nureyev defected from the then Soviet Union (Kirov Ballet) was to dance with Fonteyn; they are considered the greatest duo in history. They are also my all time favorites- a picture of perfection. Today, the ballerinas Yulia Makhalina (Kirov) and also Svetlana Zakharova (Bolshoi) have everything going for themselves. They are not only extremely talented - they can do anything with their feet, arms, and jumps, they are also beautiful. 

Marius Petipa
Marius Petipa

Classical ballet developed in the late 19th century when Marius Petipa was ballet master in St Petersburg. Classical ballet is a mixture of the French style of Romantic ballet, the techniques developed in Italy in the late 19th century, and Russian teaching. When most people talk about ballet they think of Petipa’s ballets, Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty.

Yulia Makhalina
Petipa’s ballets were meticulously planned and he gave detailed descriptions to both dancers and composers. He worked closely with Tchaikovsky to create the music for Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker. Petipa would specify exactly how many bars of music he needed for each section of the dance. Much ballet music was tuneful, simple and often repetitive.

Today, Swan Lake is one of the most famous and popular of all ballets, yet the first version in Moscow in 1877 flopped.  Now, Tchaikovsky’s familiar music is one reason for the ballet’s enduring popularity. Most versions today are based on the St Petersburg 1894 production, choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, which is regarded as the greatest ballet of all time.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires

The present day Teatro Colon opened its doors, in 1908, with a stunning performance of Aida. Since it opened over 100 years ago, the Colon is celebrated for its countless world-class operas, ballets, and classical music. (Teatro Colon Official Website / Many Live Performances / The Swan Lake  /Artists that Performed in Colon)

The Colon occupies an entire city block. It is seven stories high and five stories down. The theater is rated as one of the best opera houses in the world for acoustics and overall comes in third after La Scala in Milan and Teatro San Carlo in Naples, according to National Geographic.

For a theater of these characteristics acoustic quality is an important virtue. The quality of the acoustic in the Colon Theater is owed to the technical knowledge applied in a form of a horseshoe.  As it causes reflection of sound it becomes an echo chamber. Additionally, the architectural properties of the room and the quality of the materials - the distribution of the wood, the tapestries, the curtains, and the carpets - maintain in equilibrium that contributes to the favorably acoustic conditioning. Pavarotti famously commented that the acoustics are so perfect here that it made him nervous to perform because any mistake was amplified.

The classical music pit has room for 120 musicians. The stage is slightly slanted to show better viewing and has a revolving disk to allow for slick changes. There are roughly 2,500 seats and has a capacity of 3,000 including those standing.

The Colon has specialized production workshops that are able to prepare all the necessary elements for staging a show, meaning that the majority of the curtains, stage designs, and customs are made in the same building.

In 1989, the Colon Theater was declared a "Historic National Monument" and between the years 2006 and 2010 the building underwent a renovation. Initially it was planned as an 18-month, $100 million renovation with 500 workers. It became a 3-year $400 million affair with 1,500 workers including 130 architects and engineers. In all 60,000 square meters (645,835 sq. ft) underwent updating, both inside and out.

The roof was replaced, a new air-conditioning system was installed, and a state-of-the-art computerized fire prevention sprinkler system - the biggest enemy of any theater is fire. The famous baccarat crystal chandelier was no longer being able to be lowered for cleaning. A new system was installed to allow to lower the 5-ton glittering chandelier. Furthermore, an infinite amount of tasks were done, too numerous to enumerate.  

Paloma Herrera in "Giselle" at the Colon

Complete Ballet Performances at the Colon:

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Probable Scenario for the Upcoming Presidential Elections.

I'm afraid that we are heading into a probable constitutional crisis if Joe Biden defeats Donald Trump in the upcoming Presidential elections, on November 2020. I believe that Trump would declare the elections null and void because he will assert that he was cheated out of his second term. He will state, in no uncertain terms, that he will not leave the White House come January 2021.

President Trump exhibits the traits of a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD.”) In his mind, the only reason he would have lost his bid for re-election is because the Democrats would have committed fraud. Therefore, he would use the White House as his bunker. In my opinion, President Trump would call on his supporters to come and help him in his hour of need.

Hundreds if not thousands of his supporters would descend on Washington DC, fully armed, to defend their President. In addition, as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Trump would issue an order to have the US Armed Forces to come in his defense by surrounding the White House with all available weapons not only to protect him but also his supporters.

President Trump will have no qualms in using his "personal" Attorney General, William (Dr. Faustus) Barr, to launch investigations of alleged widespread fraud to justify his claims that the elections were stolen from him.  

The White House is a fortress. President Truman rebuilt everything except for the façade. It is built like a high rise building with a steel frame and bullet proof windows. A tank or artillery round or rounds cannot penetrate the walls or windows.

In addition to the famous situation room, there is an underground bunker that is atomic bomb proof with food and water to last for over a year for him, his cabinet, and staff. This is where Vice-President Cheney and the White House Staff spent their day during the 9-11 terrorist attack. The commercial airliner that was brought down in Pennsylvania, by the passengers, was destined for the White House. If he hunkers down there, it is almost impossible to bring him out. In addition, he can communicate with the outside world, specially his followers.

Will the Chief-of-Staff of the armed forces obey Trump’s orders? I really do not know. We would be trans-versing a new territory. Come January 20th, when Joe Biden would be our new President, would he give the order to physically remove Trump from the White House and arrest Trump’s armed followers that are surrounding the White House? If so, who will carry out such an order and how? How will the Secret Service act or react? Will Donald Trump tell his followers to take up arms to defend his Presidency unleashing a massive revolt or civil war? I have no doubt that Donald Trump would do that! I hate to be an alarmist, but I see no other outcome from a person with such a severe NPD. We are facing the biggest threat to our democracy in the history of our country!

Only time will tell. The only thing I pray for is for me to be utterly wrong with my prediction!