New Swan Lake Is A Masterclass In Swan-Upmanship

St Petersburg Ballet’s Swan Lake, London Coliseum ★★★☆☆

By Johnny Fox Last edited 49 months ago

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New Swan Lake Is A Masterclass In Swan-Upmanship St Petersburg Ballet’s Swan Lake, London Coliseum 3
Photo: Vladimir Zenzinov

There is undoubtedly a thrill in seeing a huge and highly professional ballet company perform one of the classic masterworks in one of the city’s most beautiful theatres. If you have an impressionable young dancer in the family, as a first ballet this Swan Lake could be life-changing.

Prima ballerina assoluta Irina Kolesnikova is clearly a force to be reckoned with, both because she has been the mainstay of this company for nearly twenty years, and because Swan Lake is all about the line and the arms, and there are few ballerinas with such technique and control. Her precision is exemplary whether in the elegance of the pas de deux, or the ferocity of thirty-two consecutive fouettés.

Photo: Vladimir Zenzinov

The scenery and the costumes are either ‘classic’ or ‘old-fashioned’ depending on your viewpoint, but some of the Cossack tunics and bizarre head-dresses do seem to get in the way of the corps de ballet’s opportunity for expression especially in the Czardas and Mazurkas of the third act, although the cygnets are genuinely swan-like and there are twenty four of them.

As Siegfried, Bolshoi principal Denis Rodkin is every inch the languid, handsome prince — again, technically excellent and his strength is impressive, but his perfectly bouncing hair should have its own credit in the programme and his performance is under-emotional: it’s hard to believe he is in love with Kolesnikova. There’s far more exuberance and engagement in Sergei Fedorkov's wonderful and athletic Jester.

Photo: Vladimir Zenzinov

Nothing is stinted — it’s a huge cast, there are genuine international stars, and the fifty-strong Orchestra of English National Opera give Tchaikovsky’s endlessly rich score their very best.

If you’re hoping for a classic ‘Dying Swan’, though, prepare for disappointment — this version defies the trajectory of the music and has a happy ending.

St Petersburg Ballet’s Swan Lake, London Coliseum, St Martin’s Lane, WC2. Tickets £20-£95, until 2 September 2018.

Last Updated 24 August 2018