Choreography and Costume Design: David Nixon OBE
Music Director: Jonathan Lo
Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Leeds’ Grand Theatre joyously opens its doors for Northern Ballet’s magical masterpiece Swan Lake. And the event did not disappoint at all, in fact it exceeded all expectations, electrifying and dynamic throughout.
Right from the outset Dave Gillan’s sumptuous set designs convey so much depth of meaning. Initially this depicts the lakeside of protagonist Anthony’s family estate in New England, during the early years of the 20th century. Gillan’s design is matched in its excellence by Peter Mumford’s lighting which sets the first scene in the middle of the night.
Anthony and his brother Steven have sneaked out to go swimming in the nearby lake. But when Anthony goes missing Steven, who had had second thoughts about the swim, dives in to rescue him and is never seen again. Anthony’s mother can never forgive her son for the incident, and it plays on Anthony’s mind too. We flash forward to 1912 and even then she is moved to tears during a lakeside picnic: the memory just won’t go away. When Anthony’s friend Simon leaves him alone with the much-admired Olidia, she shatters their platonic friendship by declaring her love for him. But Anthony is not ready for this and they part awkwardly. Simon returns and it is here that Northern Ballet’s narrative take on the piece adds an extra depth and meaning.
When left alone Anthony gazes into the lake’s water and we see the first appearance of Odette, then many other swan-like creatures. Here David Nixon’s choreography and costumes really hit a high mark in an extraordinary set piece that astounds and entrances. The magical symbolism at work here is truly profound and matched idyllically by Tchaikovsky’s sensational and touchingly familiar score. The music is under Jonathan Lo’s masterful control with the Northern Ballet Sinfonia in fine form. From here on there is a transformation in Anthony’s behaviour, now noticed by Simon as Anthony climbs out of the lake.
Act Two contains an exquisite pas de deux between Anthony and Odilia, the latter swan-like in her lovely virginal white gown, with both dancers (Joseph Taylor and Abigail Prudames) showing great warmth and tenderness in their roles. But things do not work out well in Act Three as Anthony frantically paints lakeside pictures (evocatively mimed) and on the verge of insanity. No spoilers on the denouement but suffice to say we are swept into the other-worldy mystical realm of Odette.
Joseph Taylor really gets inside his Anthony, equally at home with romantic movement and psychotic gestures. Abigail Prudames as both Odette and Odilia has an exquisite beauty in her presentation and really glorifies the sublimity of her role as Odette, while Lorenzo Tressello as Simon has panache and style, aided by Nixon’s fabulous costume.
This is ballet at the top of its game and sees Northern Ballet as a jewel in Leeds’ cultural crown and a great way for the Grand to come out of lockdown.
Runs until 26th June 2021