Swan Lake: A Review
Having never attended a Ballet before, I was keen to witness for myself the energy and splendour associated with the world of classical production, and it’s safe to say that I wasn’t disappointed. For the Empire theatre itself, which was built in 1925 to replace the 1866 original, it has the largest two-tier auditorium in Britain- and every seat was filled.
Presented by Raymond Gubbay, the Russian State Ballet of Siberia are currently part-way through their 2018 UK tour; and with only a single showing of Swan Lake during the Liverpool stint of the tour, we were lucky to get tickets in the theatre packed with eager spectators. With music by Tchaikovsky (who also composed music for The Nutcracker) performed by a relatively small orchestral accompaniment of just 29 players, the production was certainly a smaller-scale production of the original ensemble. Nevertheless, the production itself was a spectacle to watch. The control and strength of the dancers seemed effortless in both their individual pieces as well as their group performances, coming together in a visually breath-taking symmetry of energy and passion.
The story itself follows the courtly life of Prince Siegfried who is pushed by the Queen to find a suitable wife, going along with the monotony of royal matchmaking procedure, meeting worthy princesses from around the globe. In his despair, he finds solace in the quiet tranquillity of the lake where he finds a group of swans, who are in fact women, trapped in feathers by Rothbart’s evil curse. The prince falls for Odette, one of the swan-women and after much trickery from the evil sorcerer, the pair are forbidden to be together in the mortal world. Therefore, the pair choose to be eternally united in death, breaking Rothbart’s evil curse and setting the other swans free.
The set itself was minimal, bar the flowing draperies which mimicked the ripples of the lake’s water which made for an effective composition together with the projected scenery, allowing for the dancers themselves to take centre stage. Not forgetting the costumes, with the striking monochrome of the black and white swans, glimmering under the spotlight with every pirouette.
On behalf of the Empire, a clever use of lighting drew in the eye of the audience in a central focal point for each respective dancer. This illuminated spotlights on stage whilst plunging others into an abyss of darkness, reflecting the dramatic interactions of the dancers in this classical star-crossed tragedy.
A stunning display of sheer human strength, talent and elegance makes this production one of the highlights of the arts calendar in 2018, reminding us all of both the passion and vulnerability of human beauty and the turmoil of love.