September 20th, 2011

Schroeder/Grade Wedding

Saturday, September 17th, we were pleased to help celebrate the wedding of our niece, my sister's daughter, Robin Schroeder, to Kurt Grade. The wedding was held at the Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in Mequon, Wisconsin, which was a very nice venue.

Robin had particularly asked her Aunt Georgie to do the wedding cake, and the two of them collaborated on the design. The result was a beautiful three-tiered cake with white frosting, layers edged in black ribbon, and an elaborate design picked out by hand in black frosting on the sides of the layers. The cake was finished with real red rose blossoms, and was the subject of general admiration. (Making cake and frosting, then assembling the cake, frosting the layers, and doing the decorations took Georgie the best part of three days--.)

The cake colors reflected the wedding theme, which struck me as a bit Goth for an eleven AM wedding, but worked nicely. The bride wore a simple white strapless gown with empire waist, subtle beading, and short train. She did without a veil, instead having her hair done in a lovely basket-weave braid pattern ornamented with small white jewels. The brides attendants wore black, cocktail-length strapless sheath dresses, and the men wore black suits, red shirts, and silver ties, the groom being distinguished by wearing a silver shirt.

Live music by a small ensemble began and ended the ceremony. Rev. Phillip Hillenbrand performed the service in a light and informal but dignified manner, which we appreciated.

The reception followed the service in the church hall, and was very nicely catered with a variety of hot and cold snacks. I ended up doing the cake cutting (Georgie does not cut her cakes--) and did a workmanlike, if not especially neat job of it.

All my siblings and spouses and most of their children were able to attend, so that was good. I was sad that neither my father, who has passed on, nor my mother, who cannot travel, were able to be there, although my brother Mike took video which Mama might be able to view. We were, however, able to meet my first grand-niece, Alice Teresa Schroeder (my nephew Edward's daughter), for the first time, she being all of not-quite three weeks old. So life goes on.

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The Bolshoi in HD: Swan Lake

I suspect if you asked the average person to name a ballet, "Swan Lake" is probably the answer you would get: after all, just about every one has seen soem bit of it, or a parody thereof (the Muppets' "Swine Lake", or "The Trocks" doing the "Dance of the Cygnets" come to mind--). The white swan costume with the fluttering tutu has become the iconic image of the ballerina.

Given that, it's kind of surprising that the ballet had a troubled history--the world premier in Moscow in 1877 was a flop, and the ballet was out of the repetiore until substantially revised and revived by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov in St. Petersburg in 1895 for the Mariinsky Ballet. It is this version that is the core of most modern productions, although there are many different versions and different endings extant.

The version presented by the Bolshoi Ballet is based onthe work of Petipa, Ivanov, and Alexander Gorsky, as revived and added to by Yuri Grigorovich, and gave a very clean and classical statement of the story.

In scene one, we are in the hall of a great castle, celebrating the knighting of the scion of the house, Prince Sigfreid (Ruslan Skvortsov). The Prince is not pleased to be informed by his mother that his next duty is to contract a marriage. Instead his is filled with ideals of pure love.

Enter Rothbart (Nikolay Tsiskaridze) a.k.a. The Evil Genius, meaning, in this case, the evil spirit of the place. Unpercieved by the Prince, Rothbart leads his footsteps to the Lake of the Swans, where Sigfreid sees and falls in love with the beautiful Swan Princess, Odette (Mariya Aleksandrova). If Seigfried can reamin true to his troth, Odette will be freed from the enchantment that requires her to be a swan by day, and a woman only at night.

Back at the castle, the Prince's mother has laid on a grand ball and invited the princesses of neigboring nations to attend in hopes Siegfreid will find one of them acceptable. Rothbart enters, accompanied by his daughter, Odile, whom he has enchanted to be the image of Odette. (As with most modern productions Odette and Odile were danced by the same dancer, Aleksandrova.)Failing to see through the glamour, Seigfried announces that he will marry Odile, and no other. However, the spell is broken when the company sees the vision of a white swan frantically beating her wings against the high window of the hall. Realizing he has been tricked into betraying Odette, Siegfreid rushes out.

At the lake of the swans, Seigfried begs Odette to forgive him. She is willing, but they are foiled by the fell power of Rothbart's curse. The Enchanter raises a storm that tears the couple apart and bears Odette away to her fate of being a swan forever, with Seigfreid left alone on the verge of the lake.

Whereas "Don Quixote" as a ballet is all about speed and flash in the dance, and "Coppelia" much concerned with character and storytelling, "Swan Lake" exists to be an expression of grace, beauty, and the subtle use of strength in the dance. Mariya Aleksandrova was splendid as Odette/Odile, having all those qualities in abundance. Her serene and soulful expression was perfect as Odette, with just the hint of an I-know-a-secret smile as Odile.

Skvortsov as Siegfreid likewise danced with grace and power, but was somewhat overshadowed not only by Odette, but also by Rothbart. This version gives the "evil genius" an expanded dance role, which Tsiskaridze worked to its fullest. Most of the time 'unseen' by the Prince, Rothbart hovers around him, sometimes leading, sometimes following, and making it clear he is pulling the Prince's strings. Rothbart was given a rather outre costume that reminded me of a pantomime Demon King, but it worked well for the role, underscoring Rothbart's inhumanity. Among the supporting cast, I must also mention Vyacheslav Lopatin, who danced the role of The Fool. This role has some very bravura dancing, and Lopatin was excellent.

Although this production was not perfect--on the big screen the occasional misstep is easy to see--it would be hard to imagine a better. As with all the Bolshoi productions we have seen, the corps and featured dancers were all drilled to the highest standard, with, as Georgie noted, as sharp a four cygnets as we have seen. We will be looking forward to a future season of ballet in HD.

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