May I take your order?

15 Dec

In honor of MusicMonday (which is technically when I started this entry), I thought I’d do a little detective work with the infamous Black Swan coda.  It has a really messy history, with three different versions at your disposal.  First, you’ve got the original coda from 1877 which was the finale to the Pas de Six.  The original coda is the one Anna Sobeshchanskaya didn’t like and had Léon Minkus write her one, which irked Tchaikovsky, who then wrote one for her, which has now become the coda in the Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux.  Tchaikovsky’s second coda may or may not have been influenced/adapted from that of Minkus, and as far as I know, this coda is actually never used for Swan Lake anymore.  To make matters more fun, the coda that is most used today is from Swan Lake, but was originally from Act I, intended as a Pas de Deux for Two Merry Makers, and then adapted/re-worked/(butchered?) by Ricardo Drigo into the Grand Pas de Deux familiar to most.  It’s a hot mess, and if I ever meet Tchaikovsky in the after life a question relating to the Black Swan pas de deux madness would probably be the first thing I asked him.  Which do you like, Pete?

A lot of ballet companies will mix and match as well, which can probably confuse a lot of people.  A Grand Pas de Deux is generally comprised of four parts, the grand adage, the male variation, the female variation and the coda.  Or if you prefer, the entrée, soup, salad, and dessert.  So I’ve devised a Swan Lake menu for your perusal:

This took way too long to make.

The Pas de Six – Andante con moto, Pas de Six – Moderato are never used (although Kenneth MacMillan reworked the Pas de Six music into a production of Swan Lake for the Royal Ballet, but probably not as a pas de deux ETA: This info came from Wikipedia…credibility?  Mmm…could be questionable.), while the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux: Allegro and Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux: Coda are never used for Black Swan (to the best of my knowledge), despite being highly recommended by the chef.  Most choreographers go with the starred, “most popular dishes” as used originally by Petipa/Ivanov, while others have been a little more adventurous:

Bourmeister (La Scala)

  1. Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux: Moderato – Andante
  2. Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux – Allegro moderato
  3. Pas de Six – Variation: Moderato
  4. Pas de Six: Coda

Grigorovich (Bolshoi)

  1. Tempo di Valse and Andante
  2. Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux – Allegro moderato
  3. Pas de Six – Variation: Moderato
  4. Coda: Molto Allegro Vivace

Nureyev (Vienna State Opera)

  1. Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux: Moderato – Andante
  2. Allegro
  3. Pas de Six – Variation: Moderato
  4. Pas de Six: Coda

As you can see, anyone who doesn’t go with the standard picks whatever the heck they want apparently.  I’m sure they all had their legitimate reasons for their selections (and I don’t question them, mostly because I don’t really care), but unless you know ahead of time, it can be a kind of confusing to go see Swan Lake and expect one thing but then scratch your head when you realize the music is unfamiliar.

I only got interested in this whole mess because I myself got confused when I realized that there were two different codas that are commonly used, neither of them being the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux coda, and was thinking which coda appealed to me the most.  Predictably, the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux is still my favorite of the three, even if I ignore Balanchine’s choreography.  Musically, I think it’s the most exciting, although I was curious as to what a Swan Lake Pas de Deux would look like to it.  As I mentioned earlier I don’t think it has ever been used in a Black Swan pas de deux, and it made me wonder if the 32 fouettés was a part of the choreography as well.  It’s possible that the same place Balanchine put the fouettés in the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux (although he didn’t choreograph 32) is the same place where 32 fouettés could have gone because it’s long enough, but what makes that seem unlikely to me is the fact that in the other codas, the fouettés come pretty early on, while the possible break in the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux which is thirty seconds longer than the other two, is towards the end.  Regardless, my questions ended up being irrelevant because 32 fouettés didn’t enter Swan Lake until the 1895 revival by Petipa/Ivanov, which is post-Sobeshchanskaya, who used the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux version in 1877 (the original Swan Lake, by Julius Reisinger was not a success).  Well, at least I learned something.

Turns out the most popularly known Black Swan coda is my least favorite, as I like the Pas de Six coda much better.  But, to each his/her own, so here are the three codas, so you can decide for yourself.  Although I did say the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux Coda was never used as a Black Swan coda, Nureyev did use it in Act I of his production of Swan Lake, so it has found a way back in (even though the Royal Ballet doesn’t perform this staging anymore.  I believe they’ve since gone to the Petipa/Ivanov).

Marianea Nuñez/Thiago Soares, standard Black Swan coda (beginning at 2:35)

Fonteyn/Nureyev, Pas de Six coda

Nureyev (Act I), Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux coda

To make matters better, I’ve also uploaded all three codas onto SendSpace, in mp3 format for your listening pleasure.

Standard Black Swan Coda

Pas de Six Coda

Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux  Coda

And because good things always come in threes, there is also free sheet music in PDF format available in a solo piano arrangement (full score is available as well, but that helps very few in the population) so now you can make a request to your accompanist to play your favorite coda for class.  The “popular” coda is on pp.61-64, Pas de Six coda on pp.178-180, and the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux coda on pp.248-252.

Swan Lake for Solo Piano (PDF file)

Bon appétit!

PS.  This entry was a pain in the ass to write.

11 Responses to “May I take your order?”

  1. Linda December 15, 2009 at 1:05 am #

    Fantastic post! Would you care to share the references?? I can certainly imagine the work behind the research but it was ace!

    • youdancefunny December 15, 2009 at 1:44 am #

      Thanks! A lot of it came from bits in The Ballet Goer’s Guide (Mary Clarke, Clement Crisp), and then confirming things from looking at the score, videos, and albums.

      A couple of articles from Wikipedia (although it isn’t really an academically sound source) gave me a good start. Maybe I should add a disclaimer because the one bit about MacMillan is one I have not been able to confirm anywhere else. Oops!

  2. Karena December 15, 2009 at 3:28 pm #

    Fun stuff! The differences in libretti from the 1877 production to the 1890 production to the versions done today supposedly based on the 1890 production is another crazy labyrinth… If you’re interested, Cyril W. Beaumont’s book The Ballet Called Swan Lake (New York: Dance Horizons, 1982), and Roland John Wiley’s book Tchaikovsky’s Ballets: Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker (Oxford: Clarendon, 1985) are good resources. (And then there’s the absolutely fabulous, but unpublished, paper that I wrote on the subject…)

    • youdancefunny December 16, 2009 at 7:41 pm #

      Are those books really long?

      Kidding, kidding…

      • Karena December 17, 2009 at 12:10 am #

        Fear not, the Beaumont book is short 🙂

        You’d probably really like the Wiley book–he’s a music scholar and has some great info about the history of the scores, the musical bones of the ballets, and so on. I’ve just read sections of the book, but I actually have it in my “books I might end up reading over winter break” stack…

  3. Anne January 22, 2010 at 6:28 pm #

    I just love comparing different interpretations in the various era’s of classical ballet. Are there any clips from Fonteyn/Soames performances of Swan Lake ?

    Thanks for these,

    • youdancefunny January 23, 2010 at 10:37 am #

      Hi! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

      I haven’t seen any clips of the Black Swan pas de deux, but there is a Siegfried/Odette pas de deux from the first act with Fonteyn/Somes.

      They were so brilliant together…that’s art!


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    […] You Dance Funny on the mess with “Swan Lake’s third act Pas de Deux” […]

  2. Pinning the Sylph « You Dance Funny, So Does Me - October 22, 2010

    […] Bag Ladies requested I do some more “detective work” like I did for the Black Swan grand pas de deux.  If you recall, it was a mess of information on the different variations, where they came from […]

  3. Svansjön Nummer Två « You Dance Funny, So Does Me - November 14, 2010

    […] Pas de Deux).  Then the three maidens dance a coda, again from the supplementary Pas de Deux.  Back when I was researching the Black Swan Grand Pas de Deux, I stated that I hadn’t come across any examples using the female variation and coda from the […]

  4. Swan Lake - February 26, 2011

    […] for  most companies) we recommend this very lengthy Wikipedia article, as well as this interesting article from You Dance Funny that examines all musical possibilities for the Black Swan pas de deux […]

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