The story is well-known: the Swan Princess Odile, bewitched by the evil Von Rothbart is almost rescued by the love of Prince Siegfried; but he’s fooled by Von Rothbart’s daughter Odile into betraying her. The lovers are to be reunited only in death.
Out with the old: Derek Deane's Swan Lake
Derek Deane’s 1997 production of Swan Lake went for the spectacular: with a corps de ballet of sixty swans and expanded set pieces for an audience on three sides, the production filled the Royal Albert Hall night after night converting new audiences to the joys and wonders of ballet.
It was one of the reasons why Derek Deane was hailed by some as the ‘saviour’ of English National Ballet after a prolonged period of serious financial difficulties.
What Swan Lake lost in intimacy it gained in spectacle, though that trade off was not to the taste of some of the purists.
Swan Lake ballet: Royal Albert Hall
Drilled to the point of perfection under Tamara Rojo’s directorship and Deane's own rather military style, the swan dancers of the corps de ballet are the making of this production. Some critics compared the geometric patterns of the spinning white tutus at the Albert Hall to Busby Berkeley musical numbers - the choreographer was renowned for his kaleidoscopic dance arrangements.
The ENB’s corps de ballet, so sublime in the white Acts (II and IV) are equally at ease with the more energetic and characterful variations of Acts I and III. Look out, for example, for a particularly vivacious Neapolitan Dance in Act III.
And, of course, the company’s principals rise to the challenge. Tamara Rojo, combining performing with the company’s directorship will dance Odette/Odile partnered by Isaac Hernández. Other stand out pairings include the recently promoted principal Laurretta Summerscales opposite Constantine Allen, guest artist from Stuttgart Ballet, and the lovely Alina Cojocaru partnered by the rubber-limbed Cuban Osiel Gouneo, who won wide acclaim as swashbuckling Conrad in ENB's Le Corsaire this year.
The set brings us a misty background of cut outs from a story book rather than any specific time or place. Designer Peter Farmer paints muted, glistening colours with an atmospheric dose of dry ice. The crisp white tutus of the swans are the costume highlight, and show off their unison to great effect, while huge, bat-like wings make a particularly sinister Von Rothbart.
There are many ways to see Swan Lake these days, but Deane’s vision, with a splash of modernity and enough tradition to carry the legend, has earned its place on the list of the most effective.
|What||Swan Lake, English National Ballet at Royal Albert Hall|
|Where||Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, London, SW7 2AP | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Charing Cross (underground)|
01 Jun 16 – 12 Jun 16, At 14:30 on the 4th, 5th, 9th, 11th and 12th June
|Website||Click here to book via Culture Whisper and See Tickets|