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Subject: "Review: ENB 'Swan Lake'" Archived thread - Read only
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Bruce Madmin

29-10-00, 10:54 PM (GMT)
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"Review: ENB 'Swan Lake'"
   Company: English National Ballet (ENB)
What: Swan Lake

Where: Southampton, Mayflower
When: 21 October 2000

In short...
Different in feel to the in-the-round production on which it is based, this is a most tasteful and straight telling of a classic. Terrific designs and something of a bargain.

Derek Deane (ENB Artistic Director) first created his Swan Lake 3 years ago for the Albert Hall - the first of the ENB in-the-round productions. Like them or not such productions have generally proved popular in the UK and overseas - in Australia they were playing to audiences of up to 10,000. So how would Deane 'descale' his Swan Lake for normal theatres and rather fewer than 120 dancers?

It's pretty much your standard western Swan Lake with the 'unhappy ending'. While swan (Odile) and prince (Siegfried) may both end up dead I have to say that I don't see it as particularly unhappy to be united in eternal love with the partner of your dreams...

If you don't know the plot it's worth reading the synopsis - Swan Lake is not obvious as stories go though Deane does usefully include a prologue showing the kidnapping of (Princess) Odette by the evil Rothbart. This sets the scene much better and I wish more productions would include it. However Swan Lake was the first ballet I ever saw and despite not reading the programme or understanding much of what was really going on, I still came away deliriously happy!

Sets and Costumes
Solid, sumptuous, Gothic designs from the rather good Peter Farmer. But the lighting - Howard Harrison - proved the biggest knockout. The lights were generally kept low and one felt that one was seeing the work by moonlight or candlelight even. Good work.

Pleasantly harmonious and made the better by borrowing some of Frederick Ashton's additions that the current Royal Ballet version (and for who they were first created) no longer uses I think.

Much of the Swan Lake choreography can be viewed as 'in the bag' from productions stretching all the way back to the original and Deane has sensibly decided not to muck about or create lots of new steps - which is not really his thing anyway.

Patrick Armand and Monica Perego were the leads and to be honest I was a little disconcerted on first seeing the casting. The last time I saw Armand he had only recently rejoined the company and seemed to be having a horrid night. I'm sure that my body type would not do much for him and I'm afraid he does not do so much for me - muscles seem to bulge everywhere and interfere with line. That said he looked much better and his pirouettes and jumps were technically very impressive. But I just can't warm to him I'm afraid. Perego I love for her gutsy style, and her Odile was good. But all the qualities that make her Act 3 such a turn-on tend to detract from her Odette where she seems to act her way through the role rather than inhabit it.

A special mention for Simone Clarke and Yat Sen Chang who did the Neapolitan Dance with much verve and wit - the audience know winners when they see them to.

Does it work?
Yes - one of Deane's best productions I think. And one of his last as he leaves the company next year for pastures new. He has done many good things for ENB against a backdrop of very limited money and sniping from commentators (at times) for his popularist ways. I quite like many of the productions but can't help but wish that he had adopted this straighter and slightly less flamboyant style earlier. I'm probably reading too much into it but it almost seems to stand as a statement by Deane of what he might have done had he got the job as Director of the Royal Ballet.

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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Review: ENB 'Swan Lake' Bruce Madmin 29-10-00 1
  RE: Review: ENB 'Swan Lake' Trog Woolley 01-11-00 2
     RE: Review: ENB 'Swan Lake' alison 02-11-00 3
         RE: Review: ENB 'Swan Lake' Helen 17-11-00 4

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Bruce Madmin

29-10-00, 10:56 PM (GMT)
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1. "RE: Review: ENB 'Swan Lake'"
In response to message #0
   Need to link this back to some earlier thoughts from folks...


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Trog Woolley

01-11-00, 01:15 PM (GMT)
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2. "RE: Review: ENB 'Swan Lake'"
In response to message #0
   I saw this production last night (31 Oct) at the Bristol Hippodrome. Pretty naff venue incidently; poor sight lines, very poor access to the loos, poor layout of the bars and the place looks very shabby with lots of peeling paint and holes in the ceiling. Also there is no cctv for late arrivals, and the stage looks very cramped.

As to the production, I pretty much agree with Bruce's review, so I will limit to comments to a few highlights and lowlights. Firstly the lowlights. Count Von Rothbart; he looks far too much like a Klingon. The forehead makeup especially gives this impression. Also I did not like the two skeleton thingies that accompany him during his entrance in act 3. The final scene when Odile and Siegfried wing off in a prop that looks like it was used in the George Pal film "The Time Machine".

During the second act, I found it very difficult to see Odile amongst the swans. Normally she wears a slightly different costume. Also there is a big pause in the choreography during the scene when Siegfried introduces himself to Odile. The distinct lake of movement by the dancers, did not work with the up tempo music.

Now the highlights. The corps; grand sweeping entrances and exits. They didn't look bored, which can happen while they are standing in lines. The costumes and sets look right (with the exception of the Klingon!) The Spanish dance was very well executed. Two different dancers for Odette/Odile; I saw Fernanda Olivera and Simone Clarke. The program book is a joy if a little strange in size. Lots of large photos and biogs of the artists and good information about the production.

Generally a very good production. The audience loved the well known bits (the cygnets, the fouettes and Neopolitan). Well danced by a good cast and well played by the orchestra. Very worth the soaking I got getting back to the car.

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02-11-00, 02:31 PM (GMT)
Click to EMail alison Click to send private message to alison Click to view user profileClick to add this user to your buddy list  
3. "RE: Review: ENB 'Swan Lake'"
In response to message #2
   >During the second act, I found
>it very difficult to see
>Odile amongst the swans.
>Normally she wears a slightly
>different costume. Also there
>is a big pause in
>the choreography during the scene
>when Siegfried introduces himself to

I *think* that's supposed to be the mime scene, isn't it? (and I think I'd rather see the mime done separately than have it incorporated into the choreography as if it's no more than a few ports de bras)

The program
>book is a joy if
>a little strange in size.
> Lots of large photos
>and biogs of the artists
>and good information about the

(Except if you wanted to know who was responsible for the choreography for the various bits). I quite agree about the programme - the size has been irritating me ever since they changed from the standard A4 size. They don't fit well into the bags I usually carry, and I have a whole stack of them lying around at home because they're of such an odd size that I can't file them away in any of my boxes, unlike all my other programmes. It's also particularly annoying when the cast sheet is given on a piece of paper which doesn't actually fit comfortably inside the programme without getting all battered.

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17-11-00, 05:20 PM (GMT)
Click to EMail Helen Click to send private message to Helen Click to view user profileClick to add this user to your buddy list  
4. "RE: Review: ENB 'Swan Lake'"
In response to message #3
   I went to this production yesterday in Liverpool. I saw the same cast as Trog - Oliveira and Simone Clarke, with Bubnov as Siegfried.

It's a fairly straightforward production compared with the RB one, and none the worse for that, with good traditional designs. My only objection was that I found the lighting, which Bruce praises, too dark, especially in Act 3 where Siegfried's solo was almost invisible, since there was not enough contrast between his all-black costume, the dim sets, and a phalanx of navy blue mazurka dancers seated behind him. A pity, because the bits I could see looked good.

Fernanda Oliveira did fairly well as Odette - not the best I've ever seen, but that can hardly be expected at 18 or whatever very young age she is. She certainly enchanted her audience of schoolchildren; there was an audible gasp when she came on, as there was at the beginning of both Act 2 and Act 4 - a bit of dry ice works wonders. (There was also an audible giggle at the Cygnets - I couldn't agree more.)

It was sensible to pair Oliveira with the experienced ex-Bolshoi Bubnov, who was very good indeed, and did a most beautiful end-of-Act-1 solo.

Simone Clarke's Odile had some excellent moments - fouettes a bit haywire, but she's hardly alone in that. I've never seen Odette and Odile danced by different dancers before, but it worked quite well.

Xian Zhang, still a corps dancer, as is Oliveira, was spectacularly quick and neat in Ashton's wonderful Neapolitan dance. Alice Crawford, though very sweet, couldn't quite match him.

Michael Coleman was a splendidly sinister Rothbart. I see Trog's point about the Klingon, but at least he looked frightening, unlike the Kirov one who looked as if he couldn't say boo to a goose, let alone a swan.

The audience of young children was a bit noisy at times, but obviously enjoyed themselves. Never has the orchestra been so wildly applauded, Odile and Rothbart so loudly booed, Odette and Siegfried so rapturously cheered. Well, it's better than double maths, isn't it? All praise to ENB for their education programme.

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