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  • Writer's pictureFrances

Swan Lake - The Russian State Ballet and Orchestra of Siberia

The Russian State Ballet of Siberia retells the tragic tale of Prince Siegfried, a magician and Princess Odette, with the Bridgewater Hall playing host to this stripped back production directed by Sergei Brobov. In a tale that is ultimately about innocence, passion and plotting, the cast spotlight a romance that has captured the attention of hard-core ballet fans since 1877.

Accompanied by the Orchestra of the Russian State Ballet, the show embraces a limited number of props and special effects. Whittling the production down to focus on the dancer’s connections, hypnotic movements and detailed choreography by Marius Petipa, Lev Ivanov and Alexander Gorsky.

The twelve-piece orchestra pushes the narratives intensity and energy, with familiar classics such as Dance of the Little Swans impactfully performed alongside its prima ballerina.

Based on a German fairy-tale, we follow Prince Siegfried as he falls in love with Princess Odette. Odette explains that she is under the spell of Von Rothbart, spending her days as a swan and her evenings in human form. The next day during a celebration for Siegfried in which he is presented with potential princess’s he is spellbound by Von Rothbart’s daughter, Odile, who appears to him as Odette. While he proposes to the imposter, Odette watches from the window but is spotted as she runs away. After Siegfried chases after her and fights for his true love, the Prince is defeated by Rothbart and engulfed by the lake, leaving his love cursed forever.

The Russian State Ballet of Siberia has hardened this classic and deliver an elegant but unusual ending to the tale. The Bridgewater Halls false proscenium houses a production that switches between three projected images that appear to have been lifted from the British game show Knightmare (1987). The set has limited movement as it maintains focus on the story, and apart from the lake sequences, in which the river moves alongside the herd of swans, it is stilted in its framing.

The show builds from the traditional costumes and its powerful orchestra, however, after setting the scene in Act 1, it takes a minute to become absorbed in the dreamlike world that inhabits the story. Fancy footwork aside, the production only offers three projected landscapes and the first of which is dramatically inept. The presence of the prima ballerina is haunting but to build to her sequences takes a lot of patience. The dual role of Odette / Odile is clearly challenging, and its ensemble swans are technically gifted and thrilling to watch.

Tchaikovsky’s will always resonate with its audience so if you have never seen a production of Swan Lake, its fantastic score is enough to move you through. The Russian State Ballet of Siberia brings a strong company that focuses on the craft. But based on its entirety, two of the acts take far too long to find the right tone and reach their dramatic peak. Technicality alone was not always enough to carry a scene that lasted over 20 minutes, but this was mostly due to the lack of theatrics.

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