Music: Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky
Choreography: Derek Deane after Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov
Conductor: Gavin Sutherland
Reviewer: John Roberts
Swan Lake is arguably the most instantly recognisable name in the Ballet repertoire, its story is ultimately universal thanks to its themes of love and loss, betrayal and forgiveness, traits and characteristics that everyone can relate so it will always be able to draw in the crowds and it’s no different here as the ENB take home in Liverpool for the week.
What is instantly obvious from the moment you enter the theatre is the size of the English National Ballet Orchestra, this gives Tchaikovsky’s score a beautiful resonance which fills the vast auditorium wonderfully. Under the baton of Gavin Sutherland each movement sounds sublime and really is a treat to listen to and, for this reviewer, is the real highlight of the entire evening.
That’s not to say that there is anything inherently wrong with Derek Deane’s production, but at three hours in length and its overtly traditional approach means that this production becomes a test of endurance, not only for the sheer length of time, but also in keeping track of the storyline. By using every movement of the score, the storyline starts to lose clarity, mainly through superfluous scenes designed to showcase the corps de ballets. These become tiresome especially during the palace scenes and especially during the traditional dances of Act III. However, it’s the beauty of the Swans out on the lake that obviously capture the real magic of the piece.
Peter Farmer’s set of painted backdrops help to create an epic sense of scale to the piece and really fits the Empire stage beautifully, likewise Howard Harrison’s atmospheric lighting design brings an ethereal element to proceedings.
Strong performances come from James Streeter as the evil sorcerer Rothbart, leaping across the stage with pure malevolence and is a delightful foil to the softer, calmer lines of Odette danced with a fragile grace by Jurgita Dronina.
There is plenty to enjoy in this production of Swan Lake, but one can’t help but feel that a little bit of cutting here and there would not only bring more clarity to the telling of the tale but also helps Derek Deane’s production from starting to feel a little overdone and repetitive. You can’t help feeling that in trying to bring a more traditional version of the ballet, the production has unwittingly stifled its creativity.
Runs until Sat 24 November 2018 | Image: ASH