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Bolshoi Ballet

'Swan Lake'

Symmetry and psychology

by Patrizia Vallone

July 22-24, 2004
The Royal Opera House, London

I am quite used to Grigorovich's production of "Swan Lake". First I saw it in 1980 when he was invited to mount it for the Rome Opera Ballet, then in 1989 during the Bolshoi Ballet's London season, then on video. It is known that he was never happy about the artificial 'happy end' imposed by the old Soviet regime and so he was always working on the ballet, making some slight modifications here and there. The definitive version that we see now was premiered only in 2001.

The present story of this production makes a lot of sense. Prince Siegfried is portrayed as a romantic character who is longing for an ideal love. The Evil Spirit may be seen as a projection of Siegfried's mind, a kind of double that transfers him into an ideal world - the lake. Actually the two of them perform nearly identical steps with the Evil Spirit right behind Siegfried, chasing him like a shadow. At the end Odette dies in the arms of the Evil Spirit and Siegfried is left alone on the stage in despair. Tragic end of a dream? Impossibility of ideal love to come true?

One of the most interesting parts of the choreography are the character dances that I find are generally the dullest part of the work. Here all the princesses have a solo supported by their followers. While the upper part of the body keeps the traditional national character of the dances, the lower uses academic technique on pointe.

I like this psychological version of "Swan Lake" very much for its symmetry. Split into 2 acts, each in part taking place in reality and in part in the imagination. I would only have preferred an updated décor instead of the rather dull historical décor by Virsaladze.

And why does Siegfried wear the same costume for the entire ballet? Can he not afford a black outfit for the black act?

I attended 2 performances and both times I saw Svetlana Zakharova and Andrei Uvarov in the principal roles. What can I say about Zakharova as Odette/Odile that has not been said before? She was born for this role is getting better and better every time I see her in it. Although a Bolshoi principal Uvarov seems to keep a low profile. He is tall and elegant, perfect for the role but sometimes he appears a bit shy and unprecise in executing steps. The rest of the company is absolutely superb.

Edited by Jeff.

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