The Shanghai Ballet gave two performances last week at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre of a new production of "Swan Lake" which was premiered during the Shanghai International Ballet Competition last August. This Chinese production was supervised by Derek Deane, the former artistic director of the English National Ballet.
Hong Kong audiences had already seen Deane's arena version of "Swan Lake" which ENB performed at the Hong Kong Convention Centre in 1999. Deane last year did another version of "Swan Lake" for ENB which is not in the round. I saw it once last January at the London Coliseum led by Thomas Edur and Agnes Oaks. It is this more recent and more satisfying production that the Chinese company acquired. Peter Farmer's beautiful sets and costumes have been faithfully reproduced.
The choreography mainly follows the Royal Ballet's previous production based on Nicholas Sergeyev's notations. Deane has also included two gems by Ashton, namely his virtuosic Neapolitan dance in Act 3 originally created for Wayne Sleep, and also his pas de quatre in Act 3 which here replaces the pas de trois in Act 1. I don't understand however why the traditonal pas de trois hasn't been retained. Prince Siegfried has a solo at the end of Act 1 choreographed by Deane, which is inferior to Rudolf Nureyev's choreography in the Paris Opera Ballet's production.
Deane has added a prologue showing Odette's transformation into a swan. The last act's choreography is entirely Deane's, while it would have been preferable if he could have used Ashton's choreography which is more poetic, or even better Lev Ivanov's authentic choreography in Dowell's production for the Royal Ballet.
Overall this Shanghai production is superior to the Hong Kong Ballet's production by Stephen Jefferies which was revived in September. It is more coherent both in terms of drama and the choreography.
Furthermore, the dancers of this Chinese company have a better schooling, and the corps de ballet has a stylistic uniformity missing from the Hong Kong company. The Swan Queen on the night I saw was danced by Fan Xiao-feng, who has a long line. Fan is temperamentally more suited to Odette than Odile. Her technique is quite dazzling; she threw in some double fouettes in the coda of the Black Swan pas de deux.
Her Prince was Sun Shenyi, who strongly partnered her. In his variation in Act 3, Sun finished all his three double tours en l'air in a fifth position, which was impressive. The Shanghai Symphony Orchestra provided good accompaniment.