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BWW Review: The Australian Ballet Brings Stephen Baynes' SWAN LAKE Back To The Sydney Stage To Enchant Audiences With The Tragic Romance

Friday 1st April 2016, 7:30pm, Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House

Blending traditional and new choreography, Stephen Baynes' interpretation of SWAN LAKE is beautiful and poignant. This classic tale, presented to Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's romantic score, is whimsical, heartbreaking, and elegant and suitable for all ages.

Based on the Russian folk tales, SWAN LAKE follows the love story of Prince Siegfried who wants to follow his heart rather than the responsibilities of his station. The heir to a kingdom that has been without a king since his father's death when he was a child, his mother, the Queen and the Lord Chancellor, who have been caring for the kingdom till the Prince comes of age, Prince Siegfried is now being pressured to choose a bride. In avoiding selecting from the foreign Princesses presented to him, he seeks solitude in the peace of the nearby lake and comes upon the swan which transforms into Princess Odette, trapped by the evil Baron von Rothbart. Whilst he falls in love with the cursed Princess, the only way to have her released from the Baron's spell is through a vow of true love and fidelity but the Baron has ways to ensure that despite the Princes' best intentions, he will fail Odette.

Costume and Set designer Hugh Coleman has created a fairytale world drawn from the images of Russia and Eastern Europe. As the Prince remembers the tragic passing of the King, Coleman splits the stage show a young Prince watching as his father's body is taken away on a funerary boat, drawn from Norse tradition. As the story moves to the 'present', Coleman lightens the mood to springtime with pastel brocades and embroidery adorning folk style dresses of the Noble women and the servants. The soft femininity is countered by the velvets and military coats of the Prince, his best friend and the Officers of the Court. The Prince's pure and bright world is contrasted with the deep exotic tones and stylings of Baron von Rothbart's entourage including the Russian Princess, Cossacks, and Spanish ladies. Coleman's set is complemented by Domenico Bartolo's projections that bring the swan to life with stunning imagery, allowing the work to span across traditional design to modern effects.

As the cursed Princess Odette, Amber Scott is divine as she captures the grace and intricacies of the Swan like characteristics that have infiltrated the Princess' mannerisms. As standard for this work, Scott also dances the role of Odile, Baron von Rothbart's daughter, used to lure the Prince into breaking his promise to Odette. Scott has beautiful grace and conveys the love and despair of the young woman destined to remain a swan forever and her seemingly unending fouette turns in Act IV are incredible to witness.

As the pained Prince Siegfried, Adam Bull shows the restraint and gravitas of a Prince being prepared to take over his Kingdom. In addition to Baynes' expressive ballet, Bull ensures that the audience understands Prince Siegfried's reluctance to choose a bride through the expressions and gestures to the dismissed candidates and his friends and family. The little looks he gives the Queen and the Lord Chancellor at the Great Ball when he reluctantly dances to please them, but only enough to stop them pushing him to entertain the guests.

Baynes has balanced new choreography with traditional choreography for Act II's Swan and Cygnet dances and Odile's Black Swan Pas de deux. This inclusion of Kirov's version as a basis for the work ensures that fans of the work will not be disappointed as iconic ballets have been recreated. He captures the passion and emotions that Prince Siegfried and Princess Odette go through. He has given the supporting roles a depth to their characters so the audience feels sympathy for the rejected Foreign Princesses that the Prince turns away and sees the parallels between the Queen and the Lord Chanellor's control over the Princes' life and the darker control that Baron von Rothbart exerts over Odette and his own daughter Odile.

The Australian Ballet's production of Stephen Baynes' SWAN LAKE is a breathtaking work of grace and is wonderfully accompanied by the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra under the baton of Andrew Mogrelia. The combination gives a textured, heart wrenching tale of ill fated love that is easy to follow and a pleasure to watch for all ages. Given the simplicity of the story, and the storytelling utilised in the dance and music, SWAN LAKE is a perfect piece for people not as familiar with ballet as well as the aficionados.


The Australian Ballet

Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House
1 April - 20 April 2016

Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
26 May - 31 May 2016

State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne
7 June - 18 June 2016

(Photos: Supplied)

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