Swan Lake, with Nuñez and Soares, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, March 2011

Swan Lake shows Tchaikovsky at his very best, and although this is a perennial favourite, I find the production slightly unsatisfactory. More on that later, but the dancing was wonderful. Marianela Nuñez was lovely as the white swan, and seductively assured as the black swan in Act III. Thiago Soares was excellent as Prince Siegfried, showing suitable aloofness from Elizabeth McGorian as his mother, and fine technique in both his solos and in his pas-de-deux work with Nunez.

Marianela Nuñez as Odette

Most of the solo roles were also brilliantly performed. Akane Takada, Hikaru Kobayashi and Ludovic Ondiviela danced with great verve in the pas-de-trois of Act I — both girls danced beautifully, and Ondiviela was outstanding — and Iohna Loots, Emma Maguire, Romany Pajdak and Sabina Westcombe as the cygnets in Act II were right on the music and wonderfully in sync with one another. Emma Maguire and James Hay were terrific in the Neapolitan Dance of Act III, and all the character dances were extremely well performed. The only solo role I found disappointing was Christopher Saunders as Von Rothbart. He failed to exhibit a spirit of evil possessiveness in the white acts, and lacked the necessary menace in Act III, seeming more like an avuncular figure — albeit with a spooky hairstyle — taking his niece to a party.

The corps de ballet was superb, but the music was not quite as exciting as it ought to be. The first few bars were dull and it never really came alive. Boris Gruzin does a reliable job with the orchestra, but he took the solos for Nuñez rather too slowly, and some of the music for the corps sounded a bit rumpty-tum. Certainly there were stronger moments too, but on balance there was a lack of tension.

Nuñez and Soares in Act III

As for the production itself, improvements could very easily be made by getting rid of the supers in Act III. Their movements are entirely at odds with those for the rest of the company, and when the man in pink holds his white-gloved palms out, as if he might start directing traffic, he looks like something from another planet. They are at best an irrelevance, and I find them an annoying distraction. In Act III I’d be relieved to see some of the side sets eliminated because they take away from the space for dancing, and in Act IV I’d be glad to see some of Ashton’s choreography put back in again.

But, as I say, the dancing was superb, and the auditorium was full to the gills — performances of this run continue until April 8 — for more details click here, and for my review of another performance, with Rojo and Acosta, click here.

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