swan head

swan in the mist

Swan Lake

Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Hippodrome

*****

ASK almost anyone to name a ballet and the chances are they will say Swan Lake, one of the best loved and most performed ballets in the world and when you see Peter Wright’s stunning production from Birmingham Royal Ballet it is easy to see why.

This is classical ballet at its finest with Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s melodic and dramatic symphonic score, an imposing sumptuous setting and costummomotoes from Philip Prowse, exquisitely lit by Peter Teigen, and dancing to die for from the large cast.

And it was not always the big solos that caught the eye; one particular highlight was the dance of the cygnets in act II when Laura Day, Karla Doorbar, Reina Fuchigami and Emily Smith were so much in unison you suspected they even all blinked and breathed at the same time.

This was a performance when BRB really did have its mojo working, with, in this case, the Mo being Momoko Hirata and the Jo, Joseph Caley. 

Momoko Hirata, back after a spell with Barcelona Ballet

Japanese born Momoko who first joined BRB in 2003 has returned after a spell with Barcelona Ballet and is a superb addition to the company. The diminutive dancer has precise, dainty, quick feet and like all the best performers, makes everything look so easy and effortless. She is just a delight to watch as Odette, the princess turned into a swan by an evil magician, and Odile, the black swan, the magician’s daughter.

Caley, with his boyish charm, still looks as if he has found the secret of eternal youth – or entered into a pact with the dark side of course – but is becoming a very fine dancer indeed. He has always shown he has the technique but now he is adding stagecraft and instead of showing us what he can do, he now just does it and makes it all seem so natural, relaxed and effortless. With Momoko he also shows that he can also be a perfect partner in the several pas de deux they dance in what was a very mature and commanding performance as the doomed Prince Siegfried.

The Prince’s friend Benno is danced by Mathias Dingman who is helping Siegfried find a bride although whether the blood royal should be looking among the courtesans Arancha Baselga and Ruth Brill, a creditable late replacement for illness, might be open to question by his mother, the Queen Mother, danced by Ana Albutashvili.

There were fine solo contributions from Delia Mathews, Yvette Knight and Angela Paul as the Hungarian, Polish and Italian Princesses and from Samara Downs and Delia Mathews, again, as the two swan maidens.

With the goodies out of the way we are left with the baddy of the whole thing in Baron von Rothbart danced with sinister malice by the imposing Russian Valentin Olvyannikov.

But if Swan Lake is about anything it is about the swans and the opening of act IV is one of the most beautiful and atmospheric of any theatrical production anywhere. A deep sea of mist cloaks the entire stage and slowly out of it emerge the shapes of 18 swans as the mist flows like an ethereal waterfall into the orchestra pit below.

It probably means the Royal Ballet Sinfonia are left shivering and playing by touch and prayer for the next few minutes, but hey, that’s show business.

The Sinfonia, under conductor Dominc Grier, always add another dimension to BRB performances, stars in their own right from the melancholy opening oboe solo through the beautiful violin solo, presumably from leader Robert Gibbs for the equally beautiful Siegfried and Odette pas de deux in Act II and the triumphal, if somewhat tragic, soaring finale.

Birmingham is lucky to not only have its own ballet company but one that is of genuine world class. Swan Lake is one of the world’s favourite ballets and BRB’s version is one of the finest productions around. It is a treat for ballet lovers but, if you have never seen a classical ballet before, this is your chance to see one of the best. To Tuesday, 6 October.

Roger Clarke

29-09-15 

BRB

And from the other side of the lake . . .

*****

 ANYONE seeking an example of excellence in the city of Birmingham need look no further than the Hippodrome this week.

The superb Birmingham Royal Ballet are staging their version of the classical ballet Swan Lake with a quality and spectacle that is simply awesome.

If you had never seen a ballet in your life you couldn’t help being impressed by this one, performed to Tchaikovsky’s legendary score, beautifullY played by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, conducted by Paul Murphy.

The gripping love story, scarred by tragedy, features Tyrone Singleton and Celine Gittens in the lead roles of Prince Siegfried and Odette/Odile, and their dancing is breathtaking at times.

Following the death of his father, Prince Siegfried is set to become King, but must choose a bride from three glamorous princesses, However, he has already fallen in love with Odette whom he met at a moonlit lake, only to find she is under a spell cast by the evil Baron von Rothbart (Jonathan Payn). Odette and her companions have been transformed into swans and only return to human form between midnight and dawn.

True love can end the enchantment, but the baron has another trick up his sleeve that could keep the couple apart.

The ballroom scenes in act 3 are absolutely stunning…wonderful sets, fantastic costumes and spellbinding dancing from members of the ensemble andeligible princesses from foreign lands….Elisha Willis (Hungarian), Samara Downs (Polish) and Miki Mizutani (Italian).

Eye-catching performances, too, from Arancha Baselga, Karla Doorbar, Miki Mizutani and Emily Smith (the cygnets), and William Bracewell (Benno).

Memorable choreography by Marius Petipa, Lev Ivanov and Peter Wright complete a great team effort.

Swan Lake, directed by David Bintley, glides on to 06.10.15 

Paul Marston

28-10-15 

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