Swan Lake is a staple of ballet company repertoires across the world but never seems to lose its appeal. The Royal Ballet open their 2012 season â€“ the first under Kevin Oâ€™Hareâ€™s artistic direction â€“ with the opulently-staged Anthony Dowell production.
On the surface, the story is one of swan maidens, an evil magician and a foolish prince. But at its essence, the themes of challenging expectations, misplaced affection and triumphant love are more relevant to modern audiences. This, combined with timelessly beautiful choreography and Tchaikovskyâ€™s exquisite score, make it no wonder the ballet is such a classic.
The Royal Ballet have seven different casts taking the lead roles, with world-renowned dancers Natalia Osipova and Carlos Acosta causing greatest stir amongst ballet fans. Sarah Lamb and Rupert Pennefather, as Odette/Odile and Prince Siegfried respectively, are technically-adept but donâ€™t have the chemistry or sparkle to make for a really compelling performance.
However, Swan Lake rises or falls on the strength of its cast as a whole, and pleasingly the Royal Balletâ€™s lower-ranked dancers are in fine form. A few soloists shine particularly; Francesca Hayward and James Hay jump with effortless grace and dynamism in the Act I pas de trois, and Emma Maguire and Liam Scarlett make a playful Neapolitan couple. But it is the talented and well-rehearsed corps de ballet who carry the work, and weâ€™ve rarely seen an elegant mass of swans look better.
Swan Lake is in rep at the Royal Opera House until November 24. Advanced tickets are sold out but 67 seats are available on the day of the performance to personal callers at the ROH box office. Click here for more information.
Sarah Lamb as Odette / photo by Bill Cooper, courtesy of ROH