Ian Waller enjoy’s the Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet’s production of Swan Lake at the Theatre Royal Bath, which runs until 25 January
Swan Lake, surely the most well-known of all of the great classical ballets, is back at the The Theatre Royal in Bath, and it’s a real treat for ballet-lovers of all ages. Telling the story of Prince Siegfried’s love for the beautiful Odette, who has by day has been transformed into a swan by the evil magician Rothbart, this production by the Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet is full of wonderful skills and occasional surprises, with a central performance of rare beauty and grace.
Perhaps the biggest surprise, for me at least, was the introduction of a character I’d not seen in other productions of Swan Lake, the Jester, a role portrayed with magnificent athleticism by Mikhail Bogomazov, displaying hugely impressive jumps right from the start. With his wonderfully expressive face and perfect control of the stage, his character brings a number of carefully timed comic interludes to the plot and is a clever and welcome addition.
From our wonderful vantage points in the stalls of the Theatre Royal, the St Petersburg Ballet appear an impressively young troupe, and perhaps this explains why on occasions the core skills don’t quite shine through, with some of the dancers more angular movements failing to capture the grace of the choreography. Similarly Siegfried appeared a young dancer performing within himself, clearly full of potential but, perhaps put off by an unfortunate slip early in the evening, and therefore lacking the grand expression and emotions that this most romantic of lead roles offers.
But then there’s Natalya Romanova in the twin roles of Odette and Odile, an absolute star with a performance that is impossible to take your eyes from. Graceful and with a fairytale beauty, she moves with such delicate skill that she brings the stage to life with her every entrance, while her pas de deux with Siegfried clearly brings out the best in the young male lead, showing his clear potential. Throughout she also has the confidence to add those crucial nods and, as Odile, mischievous smiles to the audience that show she is so at home with the roles. And yes, of course those 32 fouettes were there, performed, as expected, beautifully.
It was also wonderful to see so many children in the audience, and what an ideal production to introduce them to the ballet. While the costumes and sets were quite stunning, Dmitry Popov bought a wonderfully evil pantomime villain style to his role as Rothbart – I couldn’t help thinking of the Robert Helpmann’s performance as the Child Catcher from the film of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – while the music itself is of course among the most recognisable ballet scores in history.
Overall this is a wonderfully enjoyable production of perhaps the world’s best known ballet with a central performance that makes it a must-see, whatever your age.