I am going to stick my rather unswan like neck out and say this is one of the most enjoyable performances of the often presented ballet that I have had the vast pleasure to watch. Why do people love ballet and Swan Lake in particular? This is why.
That was clearly a shared sentiment judging by the cheers from the Wales Millennium Centre audience which included some lucky people for whom this was their first Swan Lake. Lucky, because I cannot find fault in any aspect, any element, any performer, in fact, anything, about this production and performance.
Well might the audience have gasped at moments of utter beauty and even this old cynic had a tear in his eye as those haunting notes sounded the heartbreaking conclusion.
With the orchestra thrilling us with Tchaikovsky’s perfect ballet score, containing some of the most exquisite romantic music there is, through the full gamut of rapturous and charming melodies, swirling themes and, of course, the perfect soundscapes for the dancers to inhabit. And what attention-holding dancers, from Delia Mathews refined, gaspingly graceful, rich in character and expressive Odette/Odile, so gloriously matched by Brandon Lawrence’s gravity-defying, clean-lined, powerful Siegfried. Our doomed lovers are technically crisp, displaying an effortless athleticism melded with perfect artistry. Not a step of their solos or duets can be missed, such is the way we are bewitched by their magic. No need for a spell from the evil Baron von Rothbart, danced with a lovely menace by Yasou Atsuji, to transfix us like those poor swans.
The production from Peter Wright and Galina Samsova is understandably much praised and enjoyed by audiences with its visual appeal, placing the story in a medieval court filled with rich costume and courtly splendour, and lack of gimmick or clutter that can poison the passion and kill this rather odd love story as surely as a bolt from Siegfried’s crossbow.
The story races along with the charming set pieces, from the would-be brides, and their entourages as they court the prince and all the while we have the sprightly and witty sprightly Benno, frequently baffled by the strange goings, danced by Tzu-Chao Chou, to the “white scenes” where the swan maidens perform with snow flake perfection.
It might not try to say anything particularly new, dabble in any psychoanalysis of the protagonist prince, or drag us kicking and screaming into new imaginations. But it is all the strong and satisfying for being a glorious spectacle of dance.
The Royal Ballet Sinfonia, conducted by Koen Kessels, completed the lithe evening of sublime dance.
Birmingham Royal Ballet
Wales Millennium Centre