Alice Burns

Swan Lake: A Review

A truly breath-taking rendition of one of the most famous ballets of all time, this production will enchant all theatre-goers, from the seasoned experts to the ballet novices. Expertly conducted by Gavin Sutherland, Tchaikovsky’s compositions are enchantingly brought to life in a spectacular mastery of classical music in this enduring story which finds its protagonists striving for love in a hopelessly unforgiving world. The curtain opens with a dramatic scene in the forest wilderness, where Emma Hawes captivatingly portrays the beautiful princess Odette, who is kidnapped by the evil human-bird hybrid, Rothbart, also brilliantly played by Fabian Reimair. He transforms Odette into a swan, and cast under his spell, she is eternally bid to swim the dark waters of tears which make up his lakeside retreat in the woods. Amidst the visually captivating scenery and beautifully crafted set design courtesy of Peter Farmer, the National ballet dancers each bring an individual sense of energy and passion to their role which translates to pure joy to the watching audience.

Meanwhile, in another realm, Prince Siegfried (brilliantly played by Aitor Arrieta) celebrates his coming of age and amidst the festivities, his mother announces that it is time that the prince should marry. Left to his own thoughts after this news, the Prince wanders down to the forest lakeside. He suddenly comes across a group of beautiful swan maidens, all trapped in Rothbart’s spell including their Queen, Odette, who immediately captivates Siegfried with her grace. In this particular scene, the glittering richness of the costumes provide a splendid contrast to the atmospheric translucence of the stage lighting expertly constructed by Howard Harrison, all enhanced by a plethora of gleaming chandeliers gently illuminating the upper stage. However, it isn’t long before Rothbart returns with all the theatrical drama of thunderous roars and flashes of lightening, tearing Odette from the Prince’s embrace leaving Siegfried desolate by the moonlit lakeside.

Upon his return to court, Siegfried’s mother advises him to choose his wife from a carefully selected group of worthy princesses who have graciously visited the royal court in his honour. These scenes offer a clear sense of every dancer’s exquisite power, the graceful movements and boundless energy in each is genuinely impressive, forming a collective impression of truly immersive art. In spite of his mother’s best efforts, the Prince is hopelessly in love with Odette, and cannot possibly think of marrying anyone else; until the love of his life mysteriously appears amid the royal festivities chaperoned by a suspiciously winged figure. This is in fact Rothbart, bent on revenge, having disguised his evil daughter to fool the young prince into marrying her. Meanwhile, the real Odette had followed Siegfried, and in utter despair, witnesses the charmed prince dance with her imposter and believes herself betrayed.

When Rothbart reveals himself and the Prince realises his mistake, the court descends into chaos, and Siegfried flees to the forest, desperate to find the real Odette. However, Rothbart is never far behind, and when the prince finally finds his love, the forces of innocence and evil collide in a dramatic final battle scene between Rothbart and Siegfried. In a final act of bravery, Odette throws herself into the deepest part of the lake and appears to drown. In his passionate devotion, Siegfried jumps in after her- and with this last act of enduring love, the pair break Rothbart’s terrible spell, defeating the villain and releasing the rest of the maiden swans from the enchantment. The audience see Odette and her prince for the last time in ghostly ethereality, soaring high above the stage, united in their eternal love before the final curtain falls.

A truly visually stunning performance, taking the splendour and grace of the ballet to its highest level: this is one not to miss.

All images courtesy of Laurent Liotardo and ASH. (2018)

Swan Lake is on in Liverpool from 21st to 24th November, before moving to Bristol and London until 13th January 2019. Tickets can be purchased online at or via the box office on 0844 871 7615.

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