Ask any theatre-goer about their favourite ballet and you won’t be surprised to find Swan Lake ranked within their top favourites. The classic ballet composed by one of Russia’s most important composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (also the composer of other classic ballets, Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty) tells of the tragic story of Odette, a princess cursed to be a swan by an evil sorcerer.
Deemed by ballerinas and performers to be the most technically and emotionally challenging ballet piece to pull off, Swan Lake is often held as the standard of classical ballets since its premiere back in 1877. The four-part Act, Swan Lake is performed by 55-member St Petersburg Ballet Theatre in Singapore’s Sands Theatre, Marina Bay Sands over eight shows from May 28 to June 1. It will also be the company’s first time performing in Singapore.
The performance opens with the people’s cheery birthday celebration in honour of Prince Siegfried. The celebration was interrupted by Queen mother who informs the young prince to choose his bride at the royal ball the next day. Siegfried goes hunting for swans to let off some steam when he finds one who transforms into the beautiful Odette. The young prince learns of the story of Odette and her companions who were cursed by sorcerer Von Rothbart to turn into swans by day, and reverting to their original forms only by night at the enchanted lake.
The spell can only be broken by a man who’s pure in heart (never loved another before) and pledges to love her forever. The prince sets up to win his maiden’s love and break the curse but his plan was cut short by Von Rothbart. The sorcerer later transforms his daughter, Odile to resemble the appearance of Odette, successfully tricking the prince to believe and profess his love to the imposter. While the original ending has that, the lovers will perish and carry on their love into the heavens, there has been alternate (good) endings performed by different ballet companies.
The star of the show was no doubt prima ballerina Irina Kolesnikova who performed the dual role of Odelle and Odile. It’s easy to understand why the 35-year-old ballerina is the face of the ballet company. A class above the rest, Kolesnikova carried the gentle presence of Odelle through her delicate footwork and perfect routine execution only made possible with years of training and experience. Kolesnikova turns into the seductress Odile in Act IV where her 32-fouette and triple pirouette (I lost count) enchanted possibly every single audience in the theatre (and took my breath away).
The other ballerina that caught my attention was unfortunately not Prince Siegfried but the evil Von Rothbart performed by Iurii Baryishnikov. His powerful ballet leaps and Grand Jetes, and soulful performance made the villain a worthy adversary in Swan Lake.
But was Kolvesnikova enough? Because of its technicality, putting up a classical ballet is always tricky business, let alone this century-old classic. But sadly, the corps de ballet of St Petersburg Ballet Theatre did not seem ready to take on this ballet classic. The ballet was laden with less than perfect coordination and execution by the other ballerinas, which served to be an irritable distraction (to me).
That said, admiring (or criticising in this case) a ballet may be easy, but putting together a ballet of such historical and cultural significance is no walk in the park, especially for the world’s only independent ballet company which does not rely on any government and private funding. I would only hope that the company’s dancers will tighten their coordination and execution in due time for the rest of their world tour, for nothing less than perfect is acceptable for a ballet like Swan Lake. One swan isn’t enough. RW
MasterCard Theatres, MBS
Opens from 28 May to 1 June 2015
Ticket Pricing: $55 – $175
Web Link: Swan Lake