BWW Review: SWAN LAKE, Richmond Theatre
Swan Lake was Tchaikovsky's first ballet, but it is arguably his best known and well loved. The bewitching and ultimately tragic story follows Prince Siegfried as meets the beautiful but cursed Odette, condemned by the evil Von Rothbart to be a swan except for a few fleeting hours a day. Only a vow of true love and fidelity will break the spell. The prince pledges his love to Odette, but later is tempted by Odile, the beautiful daughter of Von Rothbart. With the vow of fidelity broken, Siegfried rushes to find Odette dying. In despair he kills himself and the spirit of Odette is freed, so they can be united in death.
The UK is the biggest and most lucrative audience for the privately-run Moscow City Ballet. While it is to be applauded for bringing ballet to parts of the country that would never normally have access to this beautiful art form, its dancers are not always polished and sometimes show the rigors of their gruelling touring schedule on stage.
As they always tour in repertory, they show that they are a versatile ballet company. However, they are not, by any stretch of the imagination, another version of the Bolshoi. Swan Lake is well known for its highly technical and demanding dances, so it was a pleasant surprise to see some well executed dancing and neat forms in the production.
As the same dancer must perform as Odette and Odile, it is essential for the audience to see tangible distinction between the characters. Odette as beguiling, innocent and open, with Odile portraying spiky confidence and teasing cunning. The dancer who takes on this role has beautiful form and elegance, with a long neck and good poise. She creates a good distinction between the roles and is the standout performer in the show.
Her pairing with Talgat Kozhabaev's Prince Siegfried is nicely balanced, although he appears to play much more of a supporting role, rather than shining independently. Their pas de deux at the end of Act 1 is particularly beautiful.
An interesting and colourful addition to the ballet is the role of a court Jester. The dancer adds a touch of comedy and demonstrates strength and accuracy with his jumps, but distracts a little when he dances around and in front of the ensemble.
The ensemble is on good form here, especially in the Dance of the Swans, which demonstrates a lightness and precision. In other parts, there is the odd misstep or lacklustre jump that exposes a lack of polish, but overall the young company shows an energy that was lacking in their recent production of The Nutcracker.
The music is an obvious highlight. The use of a live orchestra is one of the big selling points of the company. The Hungarian Sinfonia manages to squeeze into the front few rows of Richmond Theatre to bring the magic of live music to the production. Conductor Igor Shark makes good use of Tchikovsky's sublime score, but sometimes seems to miss the nuances of the music, particularly the variations in volume.
There is no set to speak of, with the production relying on changes in nicely painted backdrops and lighting. The costumes are simple but very classic, with beautiful costumes for the swans.
This is not a perfect production, but makes for an enjoyable evening, especially if you don't look too closely.
Swan Lake is at Richmond Theatre until 21 January, then touring in repertory.
Photo courtesy of Moscow City Ballet