Swan Lake has to be the most famous ballet. Even if you’ve never seen it, you’ll probably be aware of the plot. Boy meets swan, boy loses swan, boy…well, let’s not give away any spoilers. After all, there are two endings. In the west we have a different version to Mother Russia.
So it was good news for local ballet fans that the St Petersburg Classic Ballet performed at the Royal Concert Hall for five nights. Artistic director Marina Medvetskaya formed the troupe in the mid-nineties. The city had plenty of talent to draw upon. It is home to the Kirov Ballet Company, after all, considered by many to be the best in Russia.
And the St Petersburg Classic Ballet’s interpretation of Swan Lake? None of that artsy, reinvented modernism here. Forget about Matthew Bourne and his ‘Lady Gaga’ style choreography. This is classic through and through. Indeed this is Swan Lake as it might have been on its very first premiere. And whereas that opening night back in 1877 was a dismal failure, this is a flawless and polished performance. No special effects or gimmicks, no flashy stage sets. This is strictly ballet. Think of it as a pageant, a tradition, a celebration of the art form. And every step, every leap, every pirouette is executed to perfection. Take the Pas De Quatre, the four ballerinas holding hands as they dance. The synchronicity of four tutus in tandem is delightful.
Three acts unfold the romance between Odette, queen of the swans, and Prince Siegfried. And how Von Rothbart, the evil, owl-like sorcerer, attempts to keep them apart. Natalya Romanova is exemplary as Odette. Vadim Lolenko strikes a pose as the handsome hero. Dmitry Popov played the villain with such panache that he got a few boos at curtain call. This shows how good he is in the role.
And then there is Tchaikovsky’s eternal music. Who couldn’t enjoy this score, one of the most recognisable classical tunes in the world? The orchestra’s tempo sounded ever so slightly on the fast side. Not that this mattered, the heartache in those strings rang out loud and clear.
This production is a faithful enactment of Tchaikovsky’s nineteenth century vision. I think he’d be thrilled.
The St Petersburg Classic Ballet performed Swan Lake at the Royal Concert Hall from Wednesday 15 – Sunday 19 March 2017.
Theatre Royal Concert Hall website