Deane adds a prologue that sees the young carefree Princess Odette turned into a Swan by the evil sorcerer Rothbart. Though not present in all versions of the ballet, this makes sense in terms of narrative and Deane’s storytelling is impeccably clear throughout.
Peter Farmer’s charming designs fill the eye, be it in the Palace grounds where Prince Siegfried’s birthday is being celebrated in Act I, the cold, moonlit lakeside where he meets and falls in love with the Swan Queen Odette in Act II (pictured top) and where he returns in Act IV hoping to reverse his unwitting Act III betrayal at a ball in a sumptuous Palace hall, where he succumbs to the charms of Odette’s evil double, Odile.
Aitor Arrieta and Emma Hawes in English National Ballet Swan Lake. Photo: Laurent Liotardo
In Act I the court members are dressed in a dusty pastel palette, the peasants in earthy browns, the Queen in a rich ample ivory gown, and the stage is framed by lush greenery and the dark gold of the palace gates.
In Act III the Palace interior is imposing, though too darkly lit (lighting: Howard Harrison) and the costumes become heavier, a rich emerald green for the czardas ensemble, dark blood red for the mazurka.
The lakeside scenes lit by a baleful moon, set against jagged rocks and enveloped in copious amounts of dry ice, make for a suitably magical and melancholy stage for the perfectly drilled swan ensemble.
Artists of English National Ballet in Swan Lake. Photo: Laurent Liotardo
Over a run of 12 performances ENB offers a variety of casts. On press night the lovers were danced by company principals Emma Hawes and Aitor Arrieta.
Tall and willowy, there’s a delicate fragility to Hawes’s Odette. Her sad and gentle Swan Queen is believable, as is her gradual yielding to Siegfried’s ardour, but her Black Swan Odile fails to convey a sense of irresistible seduction and is, therefore, less affecting.
Arrieta is a handsome, neat dancer with a good classical line, light jump and controlled landings. His dancing is, however, inexpressive, so that his lengthy solo that brings Act I to a close, though technically very beautiful, tells us nothing about Siegfried’s character.
Mesmerising was James Streeter’s Rothbart, whose assertive presence and malignant power never overstepped the line into villainous overacting.
The court divertissements were a little hit and miss, but the Neapolitan Dance, a gem of Ashton choreography, was thrillingly interpreted by Adriana Lizardi and Rhys Antoni Yeomans (very much one to watch).
Rhys Antoni Yeomans and Adriana Lizardi in English National Ballet Swan Lake. Photo: Laurent Liotardo
Equally satisfying was the Act I pas de trois danced by Julia Conway, Katja Khaniukova and a very jolly Erik Woolhouse.
Tchaikovsky’s score was played live by the English National Ballet Philharmonic conducted by Daniel Parkinson, whose tempi, it has to be said, were a touch erratic, certainly too fast for Emma Hawes's 32 fouettés in Act III, elsewhere a little too slow.
Age Guidance: 5+
|What||English National Ballet, Swan Lake review|
|Where||London Coliseum, St Martin's Lane, , London , WC2N 4ES | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Charing Cross (underground)|
12 Jan 23 – 22 Jan 23, 19:30 Thu & Sat mats at 14:00. Sun at 14:00 only. Dur.: 2 hours 50 mins inc two intervals
|Price||£45-£95 (+booking fee)|
|Website||Click here to book|