Thursday, 17 January 2013
Romance and tragedy unfold in this classic ballet
By Gillian SpickernelIEscaping from the depths of frozen Siberia (-30°C at the time of this review), The Russian State Ballet of Siberia is on its 11th UK tour since 2002. All the way from Krasnoyarsk (judged by Chekhov to be the most beautiful city in Siberia) it brings four major ballets – Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Coppélia and La Fille Mal Gardée – together with 41 dancers and its own 30-piece orchestra.
The prospect of seeing Russian dancers live is always thrilling, but their production of Swan Lake failed to capture the magic we’ve come to expect of Tchaikovsky’s score. Hampered by the cramped space of Watford Colosseum’s stage, the dancers performed competently and enthusiastically, but there were moments of hiatus as we waited for an entrance.
The story of the ballet is known well enough and needs no repetition here. This is the company’s third production of Swan Lake since its formation in 1978, and Artistic Director Sergei Brobov, an ex-Bolshoi principal, has added some of his own choreography to that of Petipa and Ivanov.
Elements have come and gone – the Jester character has been replaced by a friend of Prince Siegfried, Benno von Somerstein, and overall, the evening has been condensed so that the running time was two hours, plus interval.
There was an unusual section in Act One, where Prince Siegfried danced alone on stage with the crowned Rothbart behind, shadowing his movements like an evil bird as if in silent mockery that the young prince would ever reach maturity and inherit his own crown.
Act Two got off to a lively and vibrant start – the brightly lit stage was full of colourful, eyecatching costumes as Prince Siegfried celebrated his 21st birthday party and met a selection of possible brides. There was a spirited Hungarian czardas from pretty girls dressed in bright green; sensuous back bends from a gorgeously costumed Spanish beauty in red and black frills, and sparky, exuberant dancing from the Neapolitan contingent.
As Odette/Odile, Principal Ballerina Maria Kuimova used her expressive long arms and perfect proportions to great effect. Convincing in both roles, her personality came most to the fore as the evil magician’s daughter Odile in the second act. By contrast, Siegfried needed to show more anguish after he realised he’d been deceived by her cunning trickery. It’s a devastating moment.
The orchestra seemed underpowered, without enough depth or richness of sound, but it was wonderful to have live music rather than piped.
At the end, Siegfried threw himself into the watery depths of the lake killing himself and the evil Rothbart. The audience was just reconciling itself to that dramatic conclusion when suddenly Odette reappears, bourréeing across the stage in grief for her beloved prince. It seemed as if another ballet had just begun.
The Russian State Ballet of Siberia is on tour, fi nishing in Edinburgh on 23 March: www.raymondgubbay.co.uk
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