One of the most famous ballets of all time came to Bristol this week as Swan Lake hit the stage at the Hippodrome. Swan Lake was composed by Tchaikovsky in 1876 and was first performed over 100 years ago in Moscow. A Russian ballet through and through, the classic tale has been interpreted and has appeared on many stages throughout the world.
A tale of love, the story centres around Prince Siegfried (Alexei Terentiev) and the beautiful girl cursed to live life as a swan, Odette (Kristina Terentieva). Odette and her friends are under the spell of an evil magician, Baron Von Rothbart who has cursed the girls: by day they must live as swans and only at night can they transform into humans. As the Swan Queen, Odette’s only hope of freeing herself and her friends from the curse is to marry and break the spell.
After coming of age the Prince is told by his overbearing mum that he needs to get a move on and pick a bride but the Prince remains indifferent to the girls presented to him. He sees a flock of swans and decides to go hunting, this is until he stumbles upon Odette in her human form. Transfixed, the pair performs intricate dances before Odette is joined by the rest of her flock who try to ward off the prince, who is still wielding a crossbow. What follows is a lavish ball, a mysterious and beautiful lookalike, entrapment, betrayal and tragedy.
It is fair to say then, that you would expect big things from this famous love story. The story seems surplus to requirements however, as the Swan Queen and her Prince take to the stage. Off stage Terentiev and Terentieva have been married for seven years so perhaps it is this level of comfort and understanding that drives their performances. Terentieva’s performance was remarkable and lit up the stage in her simple yet beautiful costumes, playing both Odette and the evil impostor Odile. Keeping in perfect time with the orchestra, she and the rest of the company we’re overwhelming as swans, performing to the instantly recognisable scores.
Perhaps there is something magical about putting on that iconic swan dress but the scenes down by the misty lake, hidden behind branches and over growth, were by far the most transfixing, with the rest of the story feeling a little like filler as it played out in palatial balls and parties. The darker scene, the stronger the performance and there was also less need for the interjections of clapping from the crowd. This seemed to stall the story in places although the rounds of applause were certainly justifiable.
In a week long celebration of the work of Ellen Kent Ballet, the Hippodrome sees not one but two transfixing ballets performed by the Russian Classical Ballet, Swan Lake and Coppelia, showing until Saturday.
For more information and tickets see www.bristolhippodrome.org.uk