Swan Lake, English National Ballet at Bristol Hippodrome

IVAN Gil Ortega and Irena Pasaric who restaged this classic ballet obviously believed in the old saying that “if it ain’t broke, don’t mend it”.

Picking up from Derek Deane and Frederick Ashton’s choreography, which in turn owed a great deal to Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov’s original concept in 1877, Ortega and Pasaric lovingly crafted a production of a work that has retained its popularity with ballet fans for over a century and a quarter. This was a production which would have found favour with the composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, who, after the first production had received a lukewarm reception, described the decor and costumes as being poverty stricken, and questioned the quality of the dancers and orchestra.

No such accusations could be levelled at this production, stylishly if not lavishly designed by Peter Farmer with beautifully costumes ranging from Rothbart’s outrageously flamboyant winged creation to courtiers and visitors from other countries all expertly lit by Howard Harrison adding to the visual impact. A fine full corps de ballet in top form and an orchestra under the quietly enthusiastic baton of Gavin Sutherland playing Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score in a manner that would have made the evening a pleasure to listen to even without the input from the dancers.

While Erina Takahashi was not fully convincing as the wicked temptress Black Swan Odile, the delicacy and control of her movement and vulnerability of character when dancing the White Swan Odette made you want to rush on stage and protect her from the evil Rothbart. It was no surprise that Francesco Gabriele Frola’s Prince  Siegfried fell immediately under her spell and was prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for her love. As a romantic partnership they blended together to create a series of delightful heart warming pictures.

They also created ideal targets for Junor Souza’s full blooded Rothbart ­­– even this restrained ballet audience could not resist a few boos when he arrived for his well earned bow. Beautifully costumed and aided no end by an orchestra equally at home in the quite passionate passages as they were producing big bold sounds, the princesses, specialist dancers, Spanish, czardas, Neapolitan, mazurka, and perfectly-in-unison scene-stealing cygnets all added to a production that offered a great deal more than just the dramatic story of the tragic love between Odette and Siegfried.


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