All this is true of the Royal Ballet’s lush production of the best known of all classical ballets, Swan Lake. And it is particularly true when the lead couple, the Swan Princess Odette and her evil double Odile, and Prince Siegfried are dancers of the calibre of principals Marianela Nuñez and Vadim Muntagirov.
As the White Swan Princess Odette, Nuñez is heart-breaking: at first a skittish swan scared by the sudden appearance of the Prince at the lakeside, she slowly morphs into a vulnerable woman, powerful wings become gentle arms, and she infuses her slow turns and weightless lifts with a dream-like quality. Her mime is as clear as the spoken word. She is now swan, now woman, each state leaching into the other to dazzling effect.
Marianela Nuñez’s Odile, though, is something unique. Each great dancer brings something different to dual role of Odette/Odile, but many go for Odile as a sexy temptress. Not so Nuñez. Her Odile is as hard as nails, a dominatrix, totally confident in her power. And, of course, this ballerina has the technique to match, performing all the fireworks choreography of Act III, including the famed 32 fouettés, with ease and thrilling panache.
Talk, lanky, supremely elegant with his long limbs and noble demeanour, Vadim Muntagirov is the perfect embodiment of Prince Siegfried. He doesn’t quite walk, he glides… his arabesques are elastic, his jumps powerful, his landings as silent as a cat’s. And he is a wonderful partner, safe, attentive, self-effacing, showing off his ballerina with charm and generosity.
The current production, masterminded by Liam Scarlett, keeps the main storyline as well as the basic Petipa/Ivanov choreography (and subsequent additions by Frederick Ashton), but Scarlett blended in his own vision, particularly in Acts I and III, where he introduced much new dancing for both soloists and corps.
Von Rothbart now has a dual role: as well as the sorcerer, he is a sinister courtier, scheming to steal the crown for himself. On opening night, Bennet Gartside was a convincingly dark and dastardly Von Rothbart.
Scarlett has given Siegfried two sisters, and enhanced the role of his best friend, Benno. Marcelino Sambé was his usual buoyant self as Benno; first soloists Mayara Magri and Fumi Kaneko, both surely on the fast track to promotion, danced the sisters with charm and assurance. Both will take their turn at Odette/Odile later in the run.
The corps de ballet were immaculate in the white acts.
John Macfarlane's designs are opulent. His baroque palace, all veined marble columns, gilt iron gates, elaborately sculpted throne, blood-red brocade draperies hanging over a curving grand staircase, is richly formal; his lakeside both dreamy and desolate. David Finn’s lighting serves and enhances every scene.
You could, of course, quibble with some aspects of this production, particularly in Act III; but with dancing of this quality it would be churlish to do so.
|What||The Royal Ballet, Swan Lake review|
|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|