I went with friends Wednesday night to the Bolshoi production of Swan Lake. I should have read more about the current state of the Bolshoi before I went or maybe just stayed home. The Playbill credits Yuri Grigorovich with Libretto and Choreographic version. Put bluntly he has re-written in drama and dance a classic.
I believe we need modern classics. I applaud John Adams in opera and I like the new choreographers. In fact, even Balanchine can be viewed as a new classic. But this Bolshoi production cannot honestly be labeled Swan Lake. Perhaps it could be called Grigorovich’s Swan Lake if plagiarism and theft are legitimate in ballet. More appropriately it should be titled Political Correctness and the Evil Genius.
Grigorovich has transformed a 19th Century classic into a politically correct, storyless, political statement, where females now dance male roles, and in the end — why didn’t I see it coming — evil triumphs over good.
Rothbart is no longer Rothbart, he is the evil genius. He no longer seduces and enslaves the women, he exercises evil mind control. Siegfriend is no longer given a crossbow for his birthday, but a tankard of (?funny juice?) and he falls asleep to gain his transport into the kingdom of the swans. No swan transforms into a woman to save lives and thus is destroyed one of the greatest balletic moments for all ballerinas — no transformation to create the breathtaking and awe inspiring ports de bras exit of the swan. In the second act, women dance male roles; fair maidens are so sexually neutral that you don’t notice Odile merely walks on the stage. No need for a dramatic entrance if you are the only act in town! And Siegfried fell for her, even though she fell out of her feuilletes. (In a production so disrespectful, maybe that, too, was deliberate.)
When I wrote all of my complaints to my good friend, John Tessitore, to save him from the temptation ever to waste $150 a ticket on today’s version of the Bolshoi, he wrote back: “It is of course a disappointment to hear that a production from the world’s once greatest ballet company could be anything less than spectacular. …it seems obvious to me that this Grigorovich production is the latest in what I find a silly trend to rewrite and in effect completely reverse the plots of fairy tales, which … most recently continued with the Disney film Maleficent. … I don’t find these re-workings to be particularly clever or interesting. …The good news is that all fads fade away.”
There actually was an author, Musäus, who wrote the fairy tale, ca. 1784. If someone changes the ending of Every Soul Is Free 230 years from now, I assure you I will come back, mount my own posse, and hunt him down.