Swan Lake, English National Ballet, ENB, London Coliseum, January 2015Posted on 9 January 2015
Peter Farmer’s wonderful designs for ENB’s Swan Lake, beautifully lit by Howard Harrison, suggest a world of mystery behind the real world of courtly conformity, all brought to life by Tchaikovsky’s music under the excellent baton of Gavin Sutherland.
The dancers respond magnificently, and the Company’s ensemble work is showing glorious precision. The swans of Acts II and IV exhibited an exciting nervous serenity, and the cygnets (Crystal Costa, Senri Kou, Katja Khaniukova and Anjuli Hudson) were a study in perfection.
This production cleverly gives the back-story during the musical introduction when we see Von Rothbart capture the princess and magically transform her into a swan. As the lighting cleverly dims he vanishes to make way for Act I, where the joyful musicality of the dancers contrasts well with the pensive mood of the prince, urged to choose a bride by his elegantly powerful mother (Jane Howarth). The pas-de-trois was sheer delight: Cesar Corrales, Alison McWhinney and Laurretta Summerscales (first night), Anjuli Hudson (second night), and I love the choreography for the polonaise, danced as a pas-de-douze.
When the joy of dance reappears in Act III the character work was terrific. I particularly liked Begoña Cao’s allure in the Spanish, and in the Neapolitan no company could do better than Crystal Costa with Fernando Bufalá (first night) and Anton Lukovkin (second night), their energy and precision shining with southern sunlight.
By contrast, Von Rothbart’s darkness came though in spades with James Streeter’s wind-like menace in the white acts. As Swan Queen, the company fielded two extraordinary ballerinas on the first and second nights: Alina Cojocaru partnered by Ivan Vasiliev, and artistic director Tamara Rojo partnered by Alban Lendorf. Ms Cojocaru’s gloriously nuanced performance of Odette/Odile showed real frissons of excitement towards the dramatic Prince Siegfried of Ivan Vasiliev, and their rip-roaring solos in the Black Swan pas-de-deux of Act III brought cheers from the audience. Her sophistication as Odile made him appear as a man harrowed by a nightmare at the end of Act III — an electrifying moment.
The excellence of the first night’s main partnership seemed unmatchable, yet Ms Rojo produced a performance that built up intensity as the Black Swan in Act III rendering Lendorf utterly smitten. The brilliance of her minx-like Odile carried a darkly ethereal quality that gave her the ability to stop time itself as she held an arabesque en pointe, and her fouettés en tournant were interspersed not just with doubles but the occasional triple. This black magic carried through into Act IV when as the Swan Queen she held the prince captive with her gaze.
If you can get tickets for either Cojocaru or Rojo, do not hesitate, but it is the Company itself that carries these performances and they are at the top of their game.
Performances with various casts continue until January 18 — for details click here.