Swan Lake, Royal Opera House, London

They need to spread their wings

Zoë Anderson
Wednesday 27 July 2011 00:00
Comments

It's 50 years since the Mariinsky Ballet, then known as the Kirov Ballet, danced its first, triumphant London season. So much has changed since 1961. The St Petersburg company has weathered the end of the Soviet Union and opened itself up to foreign choreography, with important acquisitions in this anniversary season.

It opened this visit with a Swan Lake of few surprises. There's no question that this is one of the world's major ballet companies, led by one of its biggest stars. It's a solid, confident performance, rather than a dazzling one.

Uliana Lopatkina is the Mariinsky's reigning ballerina. She's best known for the classical repertory, sticking to the refinement of roles such as Swan Lake. On opening night, she danced a simpler, clearer Swan Queen, dropping the exaggerated mannerisms that had distorted her performance. Her limbs still unfold with smooth authority, but with a lot less art nouveau twisting. She even responds to her partner, the warmly attentive Daniil Korsuntsev.

As the betrayed heroine Odette, she dances with mournful softness, her phrasing long and steady. As Odette's wicked double, the black swan Odile, she spins with fierce accuracy. In one whirling sequence, there's a burnished precision to the way she flings up one curved wrist.

She's still a stylised, remote presence. This is not a dramatic Swan Lake; the company dance with calm refinement, not urgency. There's a lovely spring to the corps de ballet's detailed footwork, with buoyant little jumps – yet they've been grander in the sweeping lines of swans. The national dances lacked gusto.

Konstantin Sergeyev's 1950 production is clear and uncluttered. Igor Ivanov's picture-book designs establish a fairytale world, from vistas of lake and castle to the ornately carved ceilings inside the palace.

A traditional Soviet version, it adds a happy ending – strongly danced by Lopatkina and Korsuntsev – and a Jester. Alexei Nedviga has fun with this normally charmless role, with a mock-modest demeanour. Happily, the Mariinsky has brought its own orchestra, playing sumptuously under conductor Boris Gruzin.

For excitement, the week's wonder was Ivan Vasiliev's guest appearance with English National Ballet over the weekend. The Bolshoi superstar danced Roland Petit's Jeune Homme et la Mort with wild energy. He reaches out to Jiz Zhang's death figure with craving need, melting at her frosty touch.

In rep to 8 August (020 7304 4000)

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in