Swan Lake at the Albert Hall - Saturday night.
Well, after fortuitously finding a taxi we made it to our Grand Tier box by
the skin of our teeth and just had time to check the cast list. Lisa Pavane
had replaced Margaret Illman to dance with Thomas Edur.
Swan Lake has never been a favourite of mine - I don't quite know why, but
I far prefer Beauty and Nutcracker (probably something to do with the music).
However, we were both looking forward to this performance, and as the lights
dimmed and the (amplified - an irritation to both of us) orchestra started I
decided that perhaps I'd underestimated the score in the past.
Act 1 was definitely a success (despite at least one male member of the
corps who looked as though he'd never really learnt the waltz properly and
was too worried about getting through it to point his toes or remember his
turnout). Thomas Edur strode about looking glamorous (or constipated, as
today's TELEGRAPH puts it...) throughout and the acrobats were spectacular.
Although much has been written on these pages about the tedium of the
drunken tutor, a little more of the comedy by-play wouldn't have gone amiss
here - blink and you'd have missed it. The young dancer in this short scene
was quite good, but I have no idea who she was..... a common problem in this
huge production. The Pas de Neuf was superb (particularly Yat Sen Chang) -
unfortunately I failed to identify all the women, so I'm not able to single
any of them out. They all danced beautifully, but there was one who
particularly impressed me. By the end of the act I was thinking that we were
in for a really good evening.
The Act 2 lighting showed up the poor air quality - I hope there were no
asthmatics in the audience. I've seen more menacing Rothbarts, but the
general effect wan't bad, and the trapdoor was a good touch. I was overall
disappointed with this act, though - the swans looked a bit leaden-footed
(and given Mr. Deane's recent outburst I was surprised at how well-nourished
some of them seemed to be!) The swans' entrances were poor, I thought - they
just didn't move elegantly enough. They were also missing a cygnet. The
birdwatching bins also showed up the costumes rather (a bit tacky close up).
One BIG disappointment for me was in the vamping between violin solos in the
pas de deux - I've always loved those shuffling backwards hops in arabesque,
but they were altered for this production, possiby because they just looked
too lumbering in this setting. OK, now I've torn the swans to bits, I WILL
say that they were VERY well drilled - the usual problems with placing the
corps on stage didn't happen and all the patterns really worked well. I
suspect Mr. Deane has been down at Pirbright taking instruction from the
Drill Sergeant - there were a couple of manoeuvres that were very reminiscent
of the Trooping of the Colour.
I'm sorry to say that Lisa Pavane was one of the reasons for my disappointment
in this act. Somehow she didn't say "Odette" to me - although her swan-ness
was superb (more bird than woman a lot of the time), the persona she put across
was more Myrthe than Odette. She conveyed tiredness and worriedness rather
than otherworldliness (and her makeup made her look just like Elizabeth
Counsell, who has done a very good line in stressed worried sitcom leads!).
Ms Pavane's feet and legs spoiled her line rather for my taste - in this ballet
more than most, "Darcey" feet and legs are a real advantage. Although she
danced well, and is clearly totally on top of the role, the pas de deux (which
IS a favourite of mine) just wasn't breathtakingly lovely as it should have
Not much to say about Mr. Edur at this point - he mostly stands behind his
swan queen in this act! He does that very decoratively, though. His act 1
allegro was lovely, and he is a good partner. However, I've got used to the
Irek school of interpretation now, and Edur was a little (!) more reserved
OK. On to Act 3. This act really worked well. (However, didn't they take
the Mazurka straight from Sleeping Beauty? Or is it just that all Tchaik.
ballets sound the same after a bit?). The Czardas was nicely danced, and
Simone Clarke and Yat Sen Chang were super in the Neapolitan dance. Lisa
Pavane was much more at home as Odile than Odette - her interpretation worked
better in this act. This pas de deux was very good indeed, beautifully
executed. I wasn't sure if her drifting fouettes were deliberate (her "front"
moved round the hall a little) but she put in her full quota of just over 32
(she got a bit ahead of the music and had to do a few doubles). Edur's allegro
was great - I'd love to see him do some Ashton or MacMillan to put his technique
into context. I can't remember if it was here, but there was a fluffed lift
at the end of one of the pdds. I think it was this one. He went as if to lift
her and then didn't. Oh well, better not to risk it if you think you're
going to lose it. The only problem really with this act was that the swan
vision fluttering in the background was a totally different shape from Ms
Pavane - which didn't help the illusion.
And finally.....Act 4. This white act went much better than Act 2 - the
corps had had a bit of a rest during Act 3 I suppose! The patterns of
shifting swans were very effective, and Lisa Pavane's interpretation began to
come together a bit more. However, I found the tug of war between Siegfried
and Rothbart a bit silly, and the final minutes of the act were unsatisfying.
There didn't seem to be much rapport between Pavane and Edur - I wasn't
dramatically convinced that this really was the undying love that would save
the swan maidens.
Having just re-read this, I seem to have been VERY negative. It was an
extremely enjoyable evening, and the production was well worth seeing - I just
couldn't really engage with it for some reason (the other half agreed that
the production didn't set the world alight, and he's a big Swan Lake fan - he
was put off by the poor acoustics more than anything else). The experience of ballet in
the round is definitely different - we both agreed that the proscenium arch
setup seems to elicit a different response somehow. I will try and see the
company in their Christmas season to see what they can do with Onegin - there's
certainly a lot to admire technically and artistically.