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An evening at the Cutler Majestic and Swan Lake: A Review.
This performance of Swan Lake, the now standard Petipa-Ivanov version, is comprised of two acts and four scenes: the castle scene, where we meet the Prince and his mother along with their various guests; the lake scene where we are introduced to the swans and the Swan Queen, and where the Prince meets Odette; the Great Hall scene in the castle where Rothbart dispatches the Black Swan to win the Prince away from Odette; and lastly back to the lake scene, where the Prince confronts and overcomes the evil Rothbart.
Expectations were high for this production, given that Boston has a respectable Russian and European citizenry, many of whom seemed to be in attendance at this single performance. Judging from the applause and comments heard in the hallways afterward, they weren't disappointed -- and neither was this writer, for the most part.
While there seemed to be some problems with the horn section of the orchestra, for the most part the Sofia Symphony Orchestra performed well and provided us with some rousing moments that added immeasurably to this ballet experience.
The scenery for this production was adequate and colorful, made better by some impressive gowns worn by the Prince's mother, played regally by Evgeniya Rytova. Hers was a non-dancing role, but she and her entourage moved with grace and
were used effectively to balance the necessarily barren stage when there was no dance.
The lighting, too, was adequate but wanting in some parts. Swan Lake is a dramatic piece with beautiful music and elegant dance sequences. It's hard to understand why lighting is so underutilized when it can help achieve such dramatic moods. Having said that there was some pretty impressive lighting used for the Great Hall gathering in Scene III where it was employed effectively to set the mood for the seduction of Prince Siegfried by Odile. Ekaterina Evseeva who danced the roles of Odette and Odile gave a remarkable, even and elegant performance, especially as Odile -- a part I found far more animated and intriguing.
Interestingly, two roles that seemed to have the most impact on the audience were the roles of the court jester, or fool, danced brilliantly by Khasan Usmanov, and the evil Rothbart, played menacingly well by Andrey Shalin. He didn't dance much but had a good stage presence and lent just the right amount of eeriness to make his character threatening.
A technically intricate dance performance by the Three Swans: Olga Egorova, Elena Smoltsova and Renata Petrove brought loud applause and pleased the audience, as did some fancy footwork by the Four Swans: Anna Goldunov, Tatiana Shvetsova, Marina Sinyavina and Sweetlana Chermousova, who also seemed to be audience favorites.
For those who have not seen this ballet, the various parts are introduced in sequences: for example, in the Great Hall scene where the Prince’s mother is introducing him to various courtesans, each group as they are introduced – Spanish dancers, Polish dancers, Neapolitan dancers, take to the stage and performs. Hence, when they are introduced, as with the swans, the Three Swans, the Four Swans etc., they are described by their part, as opposed to names, and there were many.
Indeed, this production was never shy of having a number of performers on stage at once. The chorus, itself, comprised of over twenty dancers, was often present when the Swan Queen and Prince danced. When they danced it was pleasant to watch how they used their hands and feet to convey mood. When they rested on the floor in the classic swan pose, for example, their hands would flutter, like wings; when they moved about stage they moved in unison and formed wedges as you might expect to see birds fly in a flock. And in scenes where the lights lowered and the stage took on an almost aqua-marine glow, the imagery was pure magic and in those moments this Swan Lake soared.
It did appear that Maxim Romanov, who danced the role of the Prince, may have experienced two hard landings where it seemed he lost his footing for a moment. Nonetheless, he danced the role well and with ample expression to communicate what his feelings were at any given moment. If anything, he may have played his role too sweetly for a prince in search of a Princess. In the final confrontation with Rothbart, for example, I had hoped to see more anger, or perhaps more determination to win Odette back. Having said that, I openly admit to having far too little knowledge of the details of this genre to know whether that observation is helpful.
Even with these minor drawbacks this production managed to make its own special magic and hold the audience’s attention throughout, sufficient to seduce me to want to see more.
The Russian National Ballet Theatre came to Boston to say "hello" and show its stuff; it did that and won over a lot of hearts Friday evening, in a touching and heartfelt performance that played to the magic of the wonderful music, the allure of the mystical setting, and the dreamy world of the Swan Queen and a good-hearted Prince determined to win her freedom, and set her free from the evil spell of the cunning Rothbart. Well done!
Conducted by Sergy Londrashev; Directors: Vladimir Moiseev, Evgeny Amosov, Elvira Wood.