swan lake head

Swan Lake

Malvern Theatres


When a Prince falls in love with a swan, you know things will not end well. Swan Lake was Tchaikovsy’s first ballet score, begun in summer 1871 to entertain his nieces

 The music was adapted and lengthened four years later when Moscow’s Imperial Theatre commissioned a full-length ballet, which has now been reinterpreted and performed on stages worldwide for almost 140 years.

This is an ambitious tour, which sees The Russian State Ballet of Siberia performing runs of five ballets in various towns and cities across the country. In each new venue, as well as Swan Lake they perform The Snow Maiden, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle and The Nutcracker – a most admirable feat.

 With artistic direction from Sergei Bobrov and choreography by Bobrov as well as Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov , there is no doubt as to the talent and dedication of everyone involved with this production.

However, I do wonder whether touring with so many ballets at one time isn’t stretching the performers a little too far. Dancers already double as more than a single character in one show, so the dances they need to master to be involved in several shows must make for an incredibly gruelling workload.

It is hard to fault the dancers in Swan Lake, and Maria Smirnova-Nesvitskaya’s sets and costumes were beautiful, but for me there seemed to be something lacking from the production – that extra spark, the joy that was evident in the production of The Nutcracker I saw recently by The Royal Ballet.

I realise that the moods of the two stories are very different, but unfortunately I just did not feel any great sense of emotion during Swan Lake, nor any passion between Prince Siegfried (Yury Kudryavtsev) and Odette (Ekaterina Bulgutova), which surely needs to be convincing enough that the audienTchaikovskyce understands why he is prepared to sacrifice his life for her.

It was striking how few smiles there were in the whole of Act 1, even though the first scene depicted the prince’s birthday celebrations. Only Benno (Georgiy Bolsnovskiy) stood out as appearing to be genuinely enjoying himself.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

The action then takes us to the lake, but oddly the castle backdrop is in place throughout the park and some lake scenes, so the setting is rather confusing. The lake backdrop when it appears is lovely though, and the swans are at times mesmerising to watch, although still unsmiling. Dances between Odette and the prince I found less compelling, and I was often more focused on the wonderful harp playing than the dancers.

 I know the pair were supposed to appear torn because of their situation, but I found Odette’s sorrowful expression and the prince’s concerned demeanour too constant and unfaltering. Surely they would have some moments of joy at their newly discovered love?

Fortunately The Russian State Ballet of Siberia Orchestra, conducted by Alexander Yudasin, added some sparkle where for me it seemed to be lacking on stage.

After the break, it seemed as though the dancers had been reminded to smile, and the Hungarian, Russian, Spanish, Italian and Polish dances in honour of the prince at The Grand Ball added lightness and colour.

The Russian and Spanish dances were especially fun and brought some much needed happiness into the production, and Alyona Churilova as the Spanish maiden would have made for a far more exciting bride for the prince.

When the evil Odile appears at the ball, distinguishable to us (but not the prince) by her black costume and her grin, the prince is captivated and his fate is sealed. The final scene returns to the lake, where the prince battles with the ever looming raven. For anyone who doesn’t know how the ballet ends, I shall leave it there, but must add that if I hadn’t read the programme I would still be unsure myself.

An astounding effort then, with much talent. The strength and grace of these dancers should not be underestimated. Overall though, the cast didn’t seem to spark off one another so although each individual performance was to be lauded, for me this production lacked the depth and emotion that I would hope for in a ballet at this level.

The Russian State Ballet of Siberia are at Malvern until February 13th and will then be touring Britain throughout the spring.

Amy Rainbow


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