English National Ballet
London, Royal Albert Hall
12 June 2013
Dave Morgan: Gallery of ENB Swan Lake pictures
I’ve been seeing this production since its premiere in 1997 – interestingly back then with Altynai Asylmuratova and Roberto Bolle as the leads. Roberto was just 22 – ahhh. I noted that it had “all the ingredients that might be expected to worry critics and balletomanes..” but concluded “The reality was a fine production, that we found as engaging and valid as any of the normal productions.” And I still feel that way every time I see it – it’s different and it works.
The undoubted star of the show is the 60+ swans, often arranged and moved with military precision in eerie moonlight with a dry ice mist lapping the front row seats. For those in the stalls the individual swans can all be identified and their cleverness in acting as one somehow becomes the greater – you stand to see far more of the meticulous mechanics at the Albert Hall than downstairs in most theatres, and it is a glorious thing. Another glorious thing is the character roles of Rothbart, the Queen and the Tutor – usually immaculately portrayed – in this case by James Streeter, Jane Howarth and Michael Coleman. Rothbart is all snarl and sweeping extended wings but Howarth and Coleman are subtlety personified, a glance, or flicker of an eye telling so much.
In the lead, Tamra Rojo is of course also a consummate actress. Not the tallest thing on stage at all but always the focus of your attention when she is there. If normal dancers give off 100 watts, Tamara delivers 120 watts, in a beautiful fitting too. Her partner, Matthew Golding, (a guest from Dutch National Ballet) is also a thing of beauty and when standing instantly looks like what must be one of the highest-paid male models in the world. And he can seriously move too – his solos in Act 3 really are amazing – high jumps, precision turns, excellent finishing. Thank goodness though – because he can’t act with any conviction at all. You see the cogs turning and after a while you get generic “happy” face male model or generic “pained” face male model. Life is so cruel – so much to offer and yet, for a British audience, so ultimately unrewarding.
Elsewhere ENB’s senior dancers deliver the goodies as lead swans, princesses and the like. Nancy Osbaldeston, with a slightly out-of-sorts Yonah Acosta, danced a fine Neapolitan – one of the few dances that isn’t doubled or quadrupled up. Adela Ramirez, Ksenia Ovsyanick, Crystal Costa and Alison McWhinney all had great shows, appreciated more for being seen closer, as did the students from Tring Park. Derek Deane created a winner that always seems to sell well and which people, including me, don’t grow tired of. But fill your boots this year – next year Romeo and Juliet returns as the ENB/RAH blockbuster – a blockbuster created in 1998 around a 23 year old going places – Tamara Rojo. Be fitting if she brought back the original Romeo too – Roberto Bolle.
The production runs through to Sunday 23 July: www.royalalberthall.com
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