It is difficult for nowadays ballet addicts to comprehend that one of the most famous ballets in the world, the themes of which can be heard everywhere, was not accepted and was even considered a failure on its premiere at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow on March 4, 1877. Julius Vaclav Reisinger's initial choreography was revived by another ballet master Marius Petipa, who invented many novelties. This performance, staged at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in St.Petersburg in 1895, after the composer had passed away, has become a ballet classic.
The plot of the ballet is based on several motifs that have been used in the stage works – in the theatre and the opera before. For over a hundred years, the story of Odette, Odile and Siegfried, where the real and the fantasy merge, demands acting skills and the ability to convince the spectators.
It seems that no other artwork in its time, in Soviet culture space has been so widely popularized: it was performed for important state visitors, parts of it were transmitted on TV when high-ranked party officials died.
Lita Beiris danced her first “Swan Lake” with Alexander Rumyancev in March, 1977. At that time it was common practise that both roles of Odette and Odile were danced by the same ballerina. Two different characters that the actress has to portray on one evening, and, according to the famous ballerina Anna Priede, not everyone is capable of doing it. Beiris did it brilliantly, dancing numerous times both in Latvia and and many places abroad. Both critics and the artist herself consider this role to be the most successful one in her career. Lita believes that this role is the struggle “between love and hate, the good and evil.” There is a special story regarding the guest performances in Lyon, France in 1978. Lita's partner Alexander Rumyancev fell a victim to the cruelty of the regime, and to save the production the famous Latvian dancer Maris Liepa arrived from Moscow. Lita's meeting with the master broadened the horizons and interpretations of characters for her. The perfume, Chanel N05, given as a present by the colleague after the show, still remains ballerina's favourite.
The notion “Swan lake” has its history in the visual arts as well: for some artists this name is synonym to the word “ballet”, whereas for others – the possibility to show their own, new story. In the fairytale's final Siegfried and Odette are drowned by waves into the deep of the lake, while the chosen storyline of the paintings in the exhibition allow free interpretation for the spectator.
Guntars Gritāns, art historian
Ballet Giselle, composed by Adolphe Adam (1803 – 1856), was first performed at the Paris Opera on 28 June 1841, and it was a triumph. The public welcomed it with great enthusiasm and the ballet evokes the same emotions till this day.
Heinrich Heine, German Romantic poet in his novel “Florentine Nights” tells of Wilis – spirits of maidens - brides in Slavic folklore. Having died before their marriage, betrayed by their lovers, they fulfil their wedding dances in the realm of afterlife, full of passion that was denied to them in their real wedding. Duke Albrecht has abandoned a peasant girl Giselle, who has joined the Wilis after her death, and now he faces severe punishment, as Wilis take the revenge by dancing the unfaithful men to death. However, Giselle decides to save Albrecht.
French poet Theophile Gautier transformed this story into a libretto, and the choreography was created by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot. The ballet rightly acquired it's place in the “golden” repertoire of each theatre.
Lita Beiris's story about the role of Giselle also has its fascinating history. In 1987 she was excluded from the troupe and upcomming guest performances abroad. It is possible that in the previous foreign performances the ballerina had been too free. In any case, most likely there will be no answer to the questions about this past event. The artist used the time she had at home well and in collaboration with her partner Genady Gorbanov, who was not included in the guest performance troupe either, she prepared a new role – Giselle, that was afterwards referred to as Lita Beiris best role. The critic Eriks Tivums compared the ballerina's performance to the scale of the French tragedy actresses. The dancer's resilience, strength of character and ability to rise above resentment sublimed in a great work of art. Beiris partner in “Giselle”, dancer Aivars Leimanis tells in his memories that it was a duo with a strong personality. Meanwhile her partner Andrejs Rumjancevs recalls that when dancing with Lita, “the process of preparing the roles did not pose difficulties”.
Among the artworks in the exhibition that are devoted to “Giselle” there are works that concern both the theme of the story, some having even been created for the particular occasion, as Alvis Pizelis “Giselle”, and others that relay the contraversy of these two realms – light and dark, love and hate.
Guntars Gritāns, art historian
Although Tchaikovsky was always critical of his music and did not trust his own talent, he considered “The Sleeping Beauty” one of his best works. This is the second of his three ballets. The composer wrote the ballet in 1889, and the premiere performance took place at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg in 1890. Choreographer Marius Petipa's production raised a furore, and since then “The Sleeping Beauty” has seen numerous premieres all over the world and is also included in the principal repertoire in Latvian National Opera and Ballet Theatre. It is one of the cornerstones of classical ballet, and a challenge to every dancer's professionality.
The European folk story, which was made popular by story masters Charles Perrault and Brothers Grimm, tells about Princess Aurora, which has been cursed by the evil fairy Carabosse to die from a prick of a needle. The kind fairies are not able to divert the curse, but they can alter it, allowing the needle to cause her sleep until she is awoken by a prince's kiss.
Lita Beiris was given the role of Aurora in 1980, and this can be justifiably called the turning point in her dancing career. After achievements in competitions in Moscow and Varna, Bulgaria, Beiris secured her positions as prima ballerina at home.
Ballet historian Ija Bite wrote in her review that “the time of Lita Beiris blossoming has begun, she has been noticed and she fascinates both as a dancer and as a charming, wise woman.” Meanwhile, ballet master Aivars Leimanis, commenting this role says that only an extraordinary dancer who has mastered perfect technique can do it. Beiris lived the role of Aurora. Her acting skills were in harmony with ballet technique, and it resulted in a convincing story and performance that was in the dancer's repertoire for many years. One of Beiris' partners in the role of Prince Desire was the outstanding dancer Viesturs Jansons. Another successful partnership was with Andrey Rumyancev. The ballerina herself, speaking on the role remembers the true satisfaction of dancing it with several partners.
The paintings that relay the story of the Sleeping Beauty include various themes. Forest and the sea, an image of a girl and flowers, princesses and princes... Each of us has our own world of fairytales and moments when we want to return into childhood and believe once more that all the fairytales will have happy endings.
Guntars Gritāns, art historian
The French composer Maurice Ravel wrote one of his most famous works, “Bolero” in 1928. Initially the dancer Ida Rubinstein asked Ravel to make an orchestral transcription of some piano pieces by the Spanish composer Isaac Albeniz. However, another author had already acquired the rights to orchestrate them, therefore Ravel wrote a completely new piece, based on the Spanish dance “Bolero”. The composer wrote: “It is a dance with a very moderate and continuously even movement, both due to its melody and to its harmony and rhythm. The element of diversity is added by the orchestral crescendo.”
The composition has seen a multitude of different choreographies over the years. However, many former Soviet people remember best of all the French choreographer Maurice Bejart's production in 1961, in which Maija Plisetskaya eventually danced in 1978.
The performance, staged at the Latvian National Opera and Ballet Theater in the 1980s, sets the story in a pub, where the main characters are a love triangle - a tavern dancer, her lover and a young man that the woman begins an affair with. The dramatic culmination of the story comes when the lover stabs the young man.
The Spaniard, played by Lita Beiris, evoked excitement and praise in the public and media. It seemed that Spanish passion and temperament have been tailor-made for the dancer. The story danced by Lita was in a way a continuation of Carmen, whom the dancer had interpreted and introduced to the public as a free, independent woman. The artist's Spanish spirit and the celebration of life could also be felt in the role of Rosita in the ballet “Don Quixote” by Ludwig Minkus. Ballerina's emotional performance once again shattered the widespread stereotype of “Nordic coolness.”
For many years Beiris' stage partner in “Bolero” was Andrey Rumjancev, and the dancer has said about him that “he was able to load this story with drama and intensity of feelings”.
The paintings in the show that illustrate the music of “Bolero” are about the hot Spanish sun, passionate heart, wild temperament and glamourous outfits. The stately, independent image of a Spanish dancer with a fan in her hand, vivid and bright colours – that is the way the artists, taking part in this exhibition, see the story in their artworks.
Guntars Gritāns, art historian