St Petersburg Ballet’s Swan Lake: where love conquers all
It’s entertaining and entrancing. The St Petersburg Ballet Theatre’s opening performance of Swan Lake feels impossibly intimate.
Kolesnikova’s Odette is divine with her artistry and grace. The strength of Volchkov’s passionate Prince Siegfried is complemented with Kolesnikova’s supple beauty; her arms perfectly portraying her swan’s vulnerability. It is clear Kolesnikova has performed this role many times before as her transformation between ‘shy Odette’ and the confidently seductive Odile is magical. While the humble Odette bares her soul to her love, Odile is viciously flirtatious with the Prince and the audience alike. These contradictions in character work to convince us—along with Prince Siegfried—to love them both, until the final heartbreaking realisation of betrayal. Throughout this performance, Kolesnikova’s ability to transmit genuine expression is a joy to behold.
The soloists and Corps de Ballet flow beautifully together with seamless transitions. Every dancer’s characterisation of their individual roles serves to fully engage and entertain the audience. What is truly fascinating is the detailed choreography, which embraces symmetry and geometric patterns as the white flurry of dancers flutter the stage in the search for love and freedom. Ferdekov’s Jester’s athleticism and joy radiate to the audience only to be dampened by his evident foreboding of events to unfold in act two.
The grandeur and rich tapestry of the palace scenes are intricately juxtaposed with the simple staging of the dancers at the lake. Spectacular palatial textures, colours and costuming are embodied in the complexity of the regal choreography.
This extravaganza of celebration foreshadows the fall of the Prince. The choreography builds in tension along with Tchaikovsky’s familiar score. An entrancing crescendo occurs as we watch Odile’s entrapment of Siegfried. Meanwhile, the audience is drawn to silently beg him to recognise the despair of his beautiful and entrancing Odette. Clever use of staging and choreography increase the momentum of the performance, leading the dancers and the audience to the inevitable final acceptance of Odile and the subsequent heartbreak of the Prince and his true love, Odette.
The only recommendation to make this production flawless would be to have an accompaniment by a full orchestra, which is a difficult achievement for an international touring production. However, with or without live instrumentals, I gave in to the raw emotion and gently shed tears.
Simple and romantic, the lake scenes are an absolute stand out. Nikolai Shlein’s use of lighting creates shade and shadow; the soft and almost-surreal backdrop allows us to feel the dancers’ emotion while marvelling at their technique. Odette is beautifully complemented by the cohesion of the corps, painting picturesque memories which will stay with us forever.