★★★| It is a tidal wave of tights, tutus and tiaras in this presentation of one of Tchaikovsky’s most famous ballets, performed in typical traditional style by the St Petersburg Classic Ballet. Telling the story of a Prince who finds his youth slipping away and being pressured into marriage, he meets and falls in love with Odette, Queen of the Swans, who is under a curse from which only true love can free her. But their love is thwarted by the evil Von Rothbart when he tricks the Prince into being betrothed to another. When the Prince realises he has been a victim of such cruel treachery, he battles to save Odette from her curse.
In their second UK tour, Swan Lake proves to be a more entertaining and gentile evening than anticipated, with simple but effective sets, traditional costumes and an instantly recognisable score. The company, on the whole, performed well and the dancers individually were all very talented and quite natural in their performances. There is no denying the technical ability and suppleness of the cast, but when dancing as an ensemble, there were still some flaws in the performance including the odd stumble, the fixed smiles and, on occasions, the unison of the dancers not being as tight and synchronised as one would hope for and anticipate, especially from such a prestigious company
That aside, the vivacious, playful and instantly recognisable score by Tchaikovsky sounded as vibrant as ever, and proved absorbing, especially during the first act. There were times when the ballet sparkled brightly, nowhere more evident than the sight of a sheer volume of swans and signets in the latter portion of the second act, which amounted to a fairly mesmerising vision. The tapestry based static set was functional and some of the costumes were beautifully put together. There was a romantic pas de deux in the latter half of the second act and the soloists portraying the potential suitors displaying their wares at the opening of Act 3 were quite captivating.
For those seeking a traditionally presented ballet, then this version of Swan Lake is a safe bet and a pleasant evening’s entertainment, albeit one which is let down very slightly by a lack of unison within the performance on the odd occasions, which is a shame when compared to the tightly performed routines by other companies.
However, there remain many aspects of the show to enjoy and it is an easy, accessible ballet which is more focussed on dance and performance than detailed narrative.
The production was reviewed at Sheffield Theatres (www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk) who will be premiering a new musical, Everyone’s Talking About Jamie, based on the BBC3 documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16 in February 2017
St Petersburg Classic Ballet is touring the UK, calling at Poole Lighthouse, Truro Hall, Bath Theatre Royal and Aylesbury Waterside between now and the 4th February 2017.