Last week, the English National Ballet (ENB) brought its national tour of Swan Lake to Liverpool’s Empire Theatre. The ENB Philharmonic Orchestra, under conductor Gavin Sutherland, struck up Tchaikovsky’s renowned, glorious score as the Empire’s full auditorium waited in anticipation for the ballet to commence. Swan Lake is one of the most famous and beloved productions in the classical ballet repertoire, and the audience, made up of both first time ballet goers and aficionados of all ages, came to see Derek Dean’s production.
The sumptuous sets designed by Peter Farmer make this production a visual feast. The great hall of the palace looks resplendent with its flickering chandeliers and medieval arches and columns, providing an intimate and warm atmosphere. In complete contrast is the other-worldly atmosphere of the lakeside, bathed in a cold moonlight with its rolling mists; a fitting setting for the Corps de Ballet of swans, impressive in their number, synchronicity and precision.
The main cast for this performance includes James Streeter, reprising his role of Rothbart, the evil sorcerer. Streeter is totally convincing, exuding supernatural malevolence as half man, half bird as he swoops and swirls around the stage. Isaac Hernández as Prince Siegfried, a moody and somewhat immature youth, dances assuredly and with great athleticism, effectively showcasing his female lead, Odette/Odile, danced by Jurgita Dronina, debuting in the role for the ENB.
Dronina has all the lyricism and charm required for the dual role, exhibiting both vulnerability in her interpretation of Odette, the Swan Princess, and mesmerising poise and fluidity as the calculating Odile, Rothbart’s daughter. Michael Coleman as Siegfried’s Tutor displays tender concern for his charge and lightens the mood with great comedic artistry. Jane Howarth as the Queen, Prince Siegfried’s mother, provides a regal and commanding presence to the performance.
For those who may be unfamiliar with the plot of Swan Lake, Princess Odette is kidnapped by the evil sorcerer Rothbart and turned into a Swan Princess. Prince Siegfried meets her and the other swan captives at the lakeside whilst out hunting and falls in love with her. A jealous Rothbart attends the Prince’s birthday party with his daughter Odile disguised to look like Odette, and Siegfried mistakenly professes his undying love for her, breaking his promise to Odette.
Odette appears, distraught at Siegfried breaking his pledge to her and she flees to the Lakeside. Prince Siegfried follows as he begs for her forgiveness, which she eventually grants. Rothbart reappears to remind Siegfried of his promise to his daughter; a fight ensues. Odette cannot continue, she throws herself into the Lake and drowns, with Siegfried following her. The power of their love destroys the sorcerer. The ballet concludes with Odette and Siegfried rising up from the lake, united forever in eternity.
The curtain falls and the performance culminates in a standing ovation for the whole company who showed great commitment, warmth and depth of virtuosity.
The production moves to Bristol 27th Nov- 1st Dec and then on to the London Coliseum 3rd Jan – 13th Jan 2019.
Featured image credit: ASH