Ballet must have a tragic finale
Conversation with Irek Mukhamedov
Trubadur: Many people consider Swan Lake to be a museum of the classical ballet, others see it as a masterpiece which is still alive. What is Swan Lake for you?
Irek Mukhamedov: In my opinion, Swan Lake first of all means Tchaikovsky. I think that although many ballets can be called museum pieces, one cannot say the same Swan Lake. There is so much life in this music, so much drama that to put it on the shelve and never to come back to it means not only to condemn to death a part of the heritage of one nation but of the whole world as well. If I have a possibility to make Swan Lake, and if such a possibility has been created for me here – I have accepted the invitation with great zeal.
You have said in one interview that you like dramatic ballets …
Yes, blood and death on the stage [laughter].
That is why I would like to ask you, which finale have you chosen for your Swan Lake? This ballet may have either a happy or a tragic ending
Until very recently, in, let’s call it, the socialistic part of the world, it was not possible to perform Swan Lake with the tragic finale. Only the happy ending was to be shown. But when you listen to the music it says everything, it gives you clues. The music is full of drama and that is why the finale has to be tragic.
Did you follow the tradition of Gorski who added the show-piece part of the jester in his productions?
I did not introduce the part of the jester because it does not fit the total idea of the Warsaw production. The action of the ballet is to take place in the first years of the 20th century before the Russian revolution. That is why we can introduced to the royal court fiancées from different kingdoms: Spanish one from the kingdom of Spain, Hungarian, Polish, Russian. If the action took place in the period after the revolution there would be no Russian princess of course.
How much will this version of Swan Lake have of the choreography of Petipa and Ivanow, and how much of Mukhamedov?
It is hard to say how much of my contribution is in it. Second act is based on the choreography of Ivanow. It simply could not be changed. This is not about showing how clever I am and how I can rework such masterpiece. It would be like re-painting Leonardo da Vinci or Rublov. This would mean a destruction of a certain heritage.
The period in which our ballet takes place has obviously caused some changes in the remaining acts. For instance, relations between the Prince and the Queen Mother are different. That is why there are a little different dances, different mime scenes. But perhaps I will not reveal everything to let the audience discover some things, to make them willing to come [laughter]. Act IV has also had to be re-made a little
My idea was to show that it is a drama from the beginning till the very end. This is not a love story, this is not a fairy tale about love. This may happen to every young boy or girl. We see a swan on the stage, but in real life it can be everything. Many things had to be changed, new sets and costumes had to be designed in order to show that this is a tragic story. All this is enough to change the ballet beyond recognition .
The Warsaw Grand Theatre has the largest stage in the world. Does it influence your work?
This is wonderful, the larger the stage the better! And stage large enough can always be furnished, diminished, while a small stage cannot be enlarged… That is why it is great to have a big stage with which you can do a lot.
Could you say something about working with our dancers?
Working with Warsaw dancers was a pleasure. They were very careful, they always tried to do what I wanted to see on the stage. Thanks to that attitude I had a possibility to see what was good and what was wrong, what to add and what to remove. In the rehearsal room I am not and I never want to be a despot. I try to create a proper atmosphere for work and I try not to forget that dancers, including me, have their own lives outside the theatre, they might have problems that sometimes disturb their. It is normal.
Katarzyna K. Gardzina