Over the years Swan Lake has inspired many remakes. However, when the Royal Ballet decided to commission a new production to replace its decades-old, and not universally loved, staging, they entrusted the job to the company's young resident choreographer, Liam Scarlett.
Scarlett's competence is not in question: on its premiere two years ago his Swan Lake met with general acclaim. However, Scarlett is now at the centre of allegations of serious sexual misconduct in his dealings with students at the Royal Ballet School, and has been suspended by the company since last September pending an inquiry conducted by an independent organisation.
The inquiry is still ongoing.
Since The Times broke the story on 30 January, companies as far away as Queensland, Australia and San Francisco, USA, have announced that they were withdrawing Scarlett ballets scheduled to be performed soon.
And the Royal Ballet has been under pressure to follow suit; but a company spokesperson has now confirmed that the ballet's scheduled sold-out run, due to start at the beginning of March and stay in repertoire for over two months, will go ahead. The ROH will be be hoping that the merits of the work will trump the threatened scandal.
And there is no doubt that Scarlett's Swan Lake is a most satisfying spectacle.
Liam Scarlett approached Swan Lake with a mixture of reverence for its history and a fresh eye. He kept the main storyline as well as the basic Petipa/Ivanov choreography (and subsequent additions by Frederick Ashton), but added a few touches of his own.
Whereas in standard productions we meet Odette already in her swan form, Scarlett introduced a prologue, where, by sleight of hand and a trick of lighting, we see the transformation of the young human princess into a swan.
Von Rothbart now has a dual role: as well as the sorcerer, he is a sinister courtier, scheming to steal the crown for himself. This gives the character a lot more depth and complexity, providing a meaty acting opportunity for the Royal Ballet’s roster of character actors.
And Scarlett has given Siegfried two sisters, as well as enhancing the role of his best friend, Benno, thus creating more dancing opportunities for the Royal Ballet’s wonderful soloists.
John Macfarlane's new designs are breathtakingly sumptuous. His palace, all veined marble columns, iron gates, velvet and brocade, is richly formal; his lakeside suitably dreamy and magical. David Finn’s lighting serves and enhances every scene.
Over a longish run the Royal Ballet has scheduled a rich variety of principal casts; but whichever Odette/Odile and Siegfried you see, the Royal’s dazzling corps will always weave its magic in the superlative white Acts.
You can go behind the scenes and learn more about this production in the RB's Insights: Swan Lake on 13 February. Details here
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|What||The Royal Ballet, Swan Lake, Royal Opera House|
|Where||Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
05 Mar 20 – 16 May 20, 19:30:00 Some early evening starts; mat starting times vary (see website) Dur.: 3 hours inc 2 intervals
|Website||Click here to book|