Saint Petersburg CLASSIC BALLET – Swan Lake at Bath Theatre Royal

This production by the Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet company, under the direction of Marina Medvetskaya, opts for the romantic version of Tchaikovsky’s intricate ballet.  In this version the evil sorcerer, Rothbart, is ultimately defeated and true, constant love is triumphant as Odette is released from the curse that has trapped her and her companions in swan form only to be released at nightfall. In the tragic version the lovers die rather than live in servitude to the curse, whilst here the young Prince Siegfried overcomes Rothbart in the final struggle in which love triumphs over evil.

Rothbart, the sorcerer, is played by Dmitry Popov as an out and out grotesque, his black owl costume giving a kind of dark reptilian lustre to his taut, angular movements. (I hope he understood that booing by an English audience is a sign of approval of dastardly baddies)

Plots in some classical ballets are woefully thin. Here for example, there is no reference to why Odette has been placed under a curse or indeed why Rothbart would wish to do such villainy.  However we let that pass, seeking out other pleasures.  In Tchaikovsky’s score of course – criticized early on for being too symphonic – there is one good reason to brave the chill winter evening.  In Natalya Romanova there is another.  Doubling, as is usual, the roles of Odette and her doppelganger, Odille, the Black Swan/princess, her virtuosity allows her to show clearly the differing aspects of the two characters: Odette, melancholic, graceful, poised, submissive; Odille, spirited, flirtatious, manipulative.  In the pas de deux with the accomplished Vadim Lolenko, both dancers bring out the sensitivity of the score, Ms Romanova seemingly filtering the music through her body with a fluidity that seemed to mirror the water that had come to symbolise the prison of her cursed existence.

Whilst the staging seemed a little cramped at times on the theatre Royal stage, the young company seemed at home, displaying with ease a comfortable assurance.  The dance of the cygnets was received with a whoop from the audience; their perfect synchronisation was as of a single being – sisters indeed. Mikhail Bogomazov leapt and bounded with puckish good humour as the Jester, never failing to entertain with his clever characterisation.

A romantic set design and colourful, eye-catching costume add to the high artistic standards of the company, whilst the Hungarian Sinfonietta under Vadim Perevoznikov complete the quality package of this perennial favourite.   ★★★★☆     Graham Wyles      24th January 2017