Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Director: Konstantin Tachkin
Reviewer: Scott Matthewman
If one were on the hunt for something original in a production of Swan Lake, St Petersburg Ballet Theatre’s production, newly arrived in the London Coliseum, is not the place to look. This is as solidly traditional as they come.
The original plans for Odette, the princess condemned to life as a swan by the evil sorcerer Rothbart, was that she should represent the embodiment of feminine grace. St Petersburg’s production emphasises that role by revelling in the grace and poise of all the ballerinas, seemingly caring far less for their male counterparts.
As Prince Siegfried, Denis Rodkin is hampered by a role which, while being disinterested by the potential brides he is presented with at court, also seems similarly unimpressed by his first encounter with the Swan Maidens. As the ballet progresses, so too does the sophistication of the choreography he is afforded, only really coming alive once he meets Rothbart’s daughter Odile, who he believes to be Odette in disguise.
But the somewhat lackadaisical attitude towards male choreography extends to the corps de ballet, too. It is especially noticeable in some of the shuffling gaits on display during Act II’s interpretation of national dances.
Pretty much the only male who impresses throughout is Sergei Fedorkov’s spritely court jester, who enlivens the royal dance sequences with a sense of mischief matched only by his technical accomplishment. His presence brings a much-needed sense of personality to a production which otherwise focuses on tradition – although glimmers from Inna Svechnikova’s queen suggest a streak of humour in her, too: her eye rolls as Siegfried cannot disguise his displeasure at the young maidens being presented with suggests that she, too, finds the process untenable but just manages to hide it better.
In truth, though, all these characters are sideshow barkers for the main act: the swan corps de ballet and the Swan Princess herself, Odette. Here is where the company’s traditionalist approach works best: filling the Colisuem’s expansive stage with swans and cygnets dancing in unison, from which emerges Irina Kolesnikova’s Odette. Her presence elevates proceedings substantially, especially once she assumes the mantle of the duplicitous Odile.
And once Kolesnikova resumes her white form as the swan princess, for whom Siegfried’s betrayal with Odile may have condemned her to an eternity as a swan, she as Rodkin finally connect in a way that is truly satisfying. Not even a rather underwhelming confrontation with Dmitriy Akulinin’s Rothbart can dent the conclusion to this moderately satisfying, if highly traditional, offering.
Runs until 2 September 2018 | Image: Vladimir Zenzinov