Cincinnati Ballet, Swan Lake, Aronoff Center, Cincinnati, OH February 10-12, 2006
Worry pales Von Rothbart’s fearsome complexion. “The Swan Queen,” he scornfully screeches, “has found true love.” Alighting on a balcony of stone overlooking a vast mountain lake, he puffs his black greenish body against the icy mists of a late fall night and derisively hoots, “what fools these mortals be.”
“Your father was a mortal,” blasts a phantom voice. He flinches. Then spins and boils about looking for the unbidden reminder’s speaker. He is looking for his mother. Unhappily, while palpable she is invisible; nevertheless, Von Rothbart often pictures stuffing her upside down in the lake and at least temporarily muffling her endless hectoring. Alas, poor Von Rothbart! As the unhappy result of Sir Isaac Newton’s goodtime with the Fury Megaera, he is the monstrous off spring of sound reasoning and method mixed with raging and merciless conscience. Full of sound and fury, the semi-divine and owlish bastard Von Rothbart is the Crown Demon of the Literal Minded and The Lord of Rationalization. And as the Lord of Rationalization he easily takes humans, as the Black Swan pas illustrates, where they want to go.
As Von Rothbart in the Cincinnati Ballet meditation on Swan Lake, Anthony Krutzkamp had no equal. Coached by Devon Carney, C B’s Ballet Master and Chief and choreographer/re-stager for Acts II & IV of Swan Lake, Krutzkamp made the danced role of Von Rothbart a complex and (does one dare say) an empathetic character. And, it was this sort of personal investment (one thinks) that also distinguished the Siegfrieds. While, Alexi Tyukov and Krutzkamp each gave enjoyable performances, it was Dimitri Trubchanov, however, that sung rather than danced the role. In fact, Siegfried flowed so effortlessly from Trubchanov’s soul that the anguish he expressed in his Act I solo, the love he felt for Odette, and the grief and guilt he suffered upon recognition of his betrayal of her might even have softened Megaera’s convicting heart.
Till broken by true love’s ban, Odette compelled by monstrous spell must nightly shift from swan to human. And she, the blameless Siren, moves a Prince to pledge his lasting passion; yet in anxious festivity her spoiling dark double spins his fatal perjury. Consistent with other famous trios of ladies, such as the Sirens, Furies, Graces, Weird Sisters, Norns, Rhine Maidens et al, the Cincinnati Ballet counts three Swan Queens: Christi Kapps, Adiarys Almeida, and Janessa Touchet (and as of Sunday, February 12, promoted to principal). And, in the overture to Swan Lake, one finds the musical signature, the distinctive personality of each Swan Queen. One hears in the oboe, for example, the keenness of Kapps, the velvet quality of Touche in the clarinet, and the richness of Almeida in the cellos. Further, each sweetly fit the mocking romantic sentiments sung by the violin in the Black Swan pas with such attractive power that it made Siegfried’s fall oh so easy to follow. Yet, in the coda of the White Swan pas each modulated seamlessly into the exciting brass-like sharpness of the petite allegro and became as bold as brass for the Black Swan’s Olympian fouettes.
While the ‘up-on-oneness’ of Victoria Morgen’s step packed “party scenes” (Acts I & III) picture levity, it was the lighting design by Trad A. Burns that guaranteed, for example, that her choreography’s Baroque arabesques of floor patterns, the arching rhythms of limbs in turning lifts, and the fineness of beating feet kept their lace-like lightness. In a pre-curtain talk Burns noted that his design required 400 instruments and 300 cues- all tied to the music. This sort of synaesthetic intimacy gives a new dimension to the concept of orchestral color. Moreover, this complexity required a stage manager (the person who “calls” the cues) that could read a piano reduction of an orchestral score without getting lost or going crazy. This Swan Lake had such a capable stage manager.
Typical of a Burns design the dancers often glow in a seemingly self-generated light that accentuates their humanity, for the Act I Pas de Trios and the Act III Neapolitan, however, he varied this signature to describe the soloists with an aura of “white” radiant light that accentuated instead their amazingness. Amazing too was the affective weave of light with other elements of the ballet. The use of foot lights, for example, kept the Swan corps’ artful geometries free from their lampshade tutu’s thieving shadows. Yet, Act IV opens in the deepest of shadow. And there, eight swan- maidens as gentle Charons or perhaps as Norns lament Odette’s fate as they weight to carry her to it. With Odette buried in their midst, they vanish leaving Siegfried, like the sorrowing Orpheus, to follow.
In the filmy blue stillness of the mountain lakeside the swan maidens breathlessly unfold and rise through the mist. Fresh snow crystallizes the busy texture of the leafless forest. Whether as stoic humans or indifferent swans, the wild entrance of the dread fraught Odette little disturbs their reflective calm. Nevertheless, the swan-maidens shield their Queen from the whirling wrath of Von Rothbart -who enters on the Act IV storm music. Siegfried’s grand jete upon the stage breaks the storm and drives Von Rothbart away. But, the lover’s reconciliation he will yet wreck with the wedging force of Siegfried’s ill gained pledge. And on the “lake over flows its banks” music, the swan maidens like the great cloud of birds that herald Melvile’s whale return and Von Rothbart, the Crown Demon of the Literal Minded, enters. “Your pledge,” comes the awful reminder. “Stuff it,” asserts Siegfried who then follows Odette into eternity. And the failed Von Rothbart trapped by the now human, self-conscious maidens spins in. In the gently falling (lake effect) snow of the Apotheosis, the standing maidens hail the moon lit image of the re-united Odette and Siegfried. They picture love - the paradigm of the inexplicability of human choosing.