Christmas would not be the same in Cardiff without the ballets at St David’s Hall and over the years we have seen a host of companies largely from Russia, although with the awful invasion of Ukraine that is probably not possible.
As the Russian State Ballet of Siberia had to cut short their season at St David’s Hall with the ridiculous Christmas Eve 2021 Covid-19 entertainment shutdown, that company’s scheduled performances of Swan Lake did not take place.
This year the Russians have made way for the Bulgarians, as the Varna International Ballet started a huge UK touring debut with three ballets, including Swan Lake, in Cardiff.
I did not see the Russians’ Nutcracker last year nor the Bulgarians’ this year, so cannot comment. However, in January I caught up with the Russians’ resumed tour to see Swan Lake in Oxford. I can now only assume that the promoters of both the Russians and the Bulgarians, maximise resources as unless I am very much mistaken it is this the same set and costumes, here under the artistic direction of Daniela Dimova.
Fortunately, this Swan Lake is quite wonderfully performed, and the well-attended matinee audience clearly enjoyed the artistry from some very fine male and female principals along with a large corps de ballet. The story is told very clearly within a simple but effective set that, thanks to backdrops and some nifty video effects, transforms from palace to lakeside. The costumes were opulent, the divertissements of the bridal fair not hindered by any silly wokeness of racial/ national characteristics, and most importantly skilfully danced.
The only element of the storytelling that may have been a little unclear was the ending with a blue net dragged across the set presumably being a wave that drowned both the prince Siegfried and the wicked Carabosse, as the finale scene is Odette still as a white swan.
This was a charming and elegantly danced Swan Lake, rich in talent and sophistication, that will delight audiences across the UK tour.
Varna Ballet holds a respected competition every other year, and having been formed in 1947, it is currently celebrating its 75th anniversary. I might just book a flight for the competiton when it resumes.
Always heartbreakingly beautiful, Tchaikovsky score was conducted by a deceptively young-looking Peter Tuleshkhov, leading the company’s orchestra. I had a tear in my eye by the interval.
Until New Year’s Eve.