Swan Lake, Royal Opera House | Review

Swan Lake
Royal Opera House
Reviewed on Thursday 5th March 2020 by Olivia Mitchell 

Liam Scarlett's Swan Lake is impressively grand, impeccably danced and a joy to experience. From a dark, misty lakeside to a glittering palace, this is a ballet that balances storytelling and spectacle perfectly. The entire company dance exquisitely, with Marianela Nuñez and Vadim Muntagirov completely shining in the lead roles.

With John Macfarlane's lush designs, this is a highly confident production which keeps pace throughout and allows the dancing to shine. Based in the 1890s the sets and costumes are sumptuous and evocative. Even the park outside the palace gates feels magical. The more abstract lake is ragged and bleak but provides a perfect, (almost) blank canvas to showcase the many swans. The palace is astounding, with a sweeping staircase, marble walls, golden decoration and a crimson curtain. It's a gasp worthy set that really does stun. Macfarlane's costumes are structured but wonderfully airy. The white tutu's of the swans are delicate and almost snow-like as they pepper the stage. Alongside them, David Finn's lighting keeps everything gleaming and makes sure not a step is missed by the enraptured audience.

Scarlett has kept Petipa and Ivanov's original choreography as well as seamlessly adding his own sequences. The new Act One Waltz is divine, with Marcelino Sambé's Benno bringing excellent lighthearted and sprightly moments. Act Three features a series of national dances, with Itziar Mendizabal's sultry Spanish princess really shining. The newly updated Neapolitan Dance feels modern and uplifting thanks to the addition of tambourines which are deftly used.

The Act Four pas de deux is one of the most magical ballet moments I have ever witnessed. The gentleness with which Siegfried and Odette interact is mesmirising and crushing to watch; and the almost broken choreography from Odette is immensely effective and makes the lack of reunion at the end even more devastating.

Nuñez's dancing is as floaty and measured as you could dream of. The control with which every step is taken is a testament to the hours of work which have clearly been put into perfecting her craft. Extremely evident in the seemingly endless series of fouettés which really astound. Even in the seductive Black Swan moments, there is a delicacy to her dancing which draws you in and manages to make the vast Opera House feel intimate. Muntagirov is the prince of dreams as he combines romance and aristocratic grace. His elevations and soft as anything landings are magnificent to watch and his entire performance is a treat.

This is a hugely moving production which must be the definitive version of Swan Lake. The stellar cast and orchestra under the baton of Koen Kessels provide treats for all the senses and a truly magical night out. Everything really is beautiful at the ballet.

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