Firstly I would like to say how wonderful it is to have the RB in Australia. Being so isolated it's not often that we get to see the major ballet companies.
I saw two performances of Swan Lake. I was extremely disappointed to miss Tamara Rojo in the first performance due to serious foot injury. Unfortunately Rojo is going to miss the whole Australian tour which is a shame as I was really looking forward to seeing her dance. Instead we had Jamie Tapper and Gael Lambiote as Odette/Odile and Siegfried. Tapper was technically accomplished but I felt that something was lacking in her interpretation. She didn't appear to fill the role of Odette with any real emotion or heart. Lambiote gave a very convincing interpretation of Siegfried. Often Siegfried can seem boring but Lambiote managed to infuse the role with humanity while still maintaining a princely air and you really felt for him throughout the whole ballet. His dancing was also fautless. Tapper's Odile was only marginally better in terms of interpretation although once again her technique was unfaltering. Her double pirouettes a la second in her solo were wonderfully balanced and smooth. Lambiote's solo was amazing, his jumps soared and filled the stage.
I was privileged to Alina Cojocaru make her debut as Odette/Odile partnered by Johan Kobborg. Having read so much about her I wasn't disappointed. Her pdd with Kobborg in Act II was exquisite. It's refreshing to see that at such a young age she can project such emotion and maturity into her dancing. She seems to have thought out the role thoroughly and hasn't copied someone else's interpretation but put her own mark on it. Her Odette wasn't simply a hopeless fluttering maiden. She made you feel that here was a woman who knew her fate and who was wary of putting her trust into Siegfried so completely. You could see it in all the nuances in her dancing, in the carriage of her head and the way her whole body trembled at his touch. Her arms, which are so important in Swan Lake, were fluid and expressive and, something that you don't see often, the movement came from her back so that they weren't just separate disjointed movements. Kobborg of course was every bit as breathtaking as Cojocaru. Their connection and passion was so clear. I loved the little gestures between them, when Cojocaru caressed his face there was such heartache in their eyes. Cojocaru's solo in Act II was a little disappointing as it didn't have the assurance and stability of her pdd, and she tried to hold onto some balances too long, but I think it was mainly nervous wobbles.
Cojocaru's Odile was a dazzling wicked thing, in complete contrast to her Odette. She completely filled the stage with her crisp devastaing Odile and once again her and Kobborg wowed us with their dancing. Her solo had the same problems as in Act II but Kobborg more than made up for it with a technically fautless performance. You really felt his joy and his agony.
It will be interesting to see Cojocaru mature with this role. As a debut it was close to being the best Odette/Odile I have ever seen and I have the feeling it will only get better as she matures. Certainly her and Kobborg were perfectly matched. I can't wait to see them in Giselle.
The dancing of the RB as a whole was slightly disappointing. Maybe I'm being harsh and had set my hopes too high but I expected a better corp than I saw on both nights. The swans were too often out of sync and there were a few dancers who were too keen on doing their own thing with their arms but the cygnets were wonderfully synchronised on both nights. I also greatly enjoyed the Act III dances. They were danced with a lot of passion, especially Belinda Hatley/Justin Meissner and Jane Burn/Ricardo Cervera in the Neapolitan dance. Elizabeth McGorian was also a commanding Queen.
I can't say that I really liked Anthony Dowell's production of Swan Lake. I felt that Act IV's choreography with the corps was disappointing. He seemed to take all the passion out of it and the miming seemed excessive. I also didn't like the music in Act IV. Just after Siegfried finds Odette by the lake the music changes to something that seemed more appropriate for the peasants dancing in Act I. The scene with the drunk tutor in Act I and the two little girls also seemed a bit forced. Von Rothbart's costume in Act II looked a bit clumsy and ridiculous. On the whole I personally prefer the version of Swan Lake by the RB in 1980 (I think) that featured Natalia Markarova and Anthony Dowell.
Sorry for the length but there's a lot to say! I'm eagerly awaiting Giselle tomorrow. Cojocaru/Kobborg will be dancing and then Bussell/Cope in the evening. I'll get back to you on that.