Review: Swan Lake at The Lowry is “elegant, enchanting and captivating”

The Birmingham Royal Ballet is bringing the romantic and elegant Swan Lake to the Salford stage this month.

One of the most famous and world-renowned ballets, Swan Lake, is the tragic love story between Prince Siegfried, and Odette, a beautiful woman under a spell which turns her into a swan from dawn to dusk.

Can Siegfried break the spell and be with his true love? Find out in this exquisite production of a much-loved classic.

Before the curtain raises, the orchestra begins to play music by Tchaikovsky, which the Royal Ballet Sinfonia play expertly throughout, guided by their guest conductor Daniel Parkinson and leader Robert Gibbs.

The music that plays through all four acts accompanies the dancers beautifully. The music alone sets the mood and tells the story, as the curtain slowly raises, the slow marching beat follows the sombre dancers in black along the stage.

Act one introduces Prince Siegfried; Mathias Dingman, and his friend Benno, Enrique Bejatano Vidal. Following his father’s death, the prince must now be married and crowned king.

However, the Prince is only young and wishes to enjoy his life drinking and dancing. Benno has arranged a party for his royal pal, with merry upbeat music playing, the two of them, surrounded by friends and courtesans, begin to let loose and enjoy their evening, starting with Mathias’s first solo dance of the show.

The first scene is set in the castle, with large gothic stone structures on the edges of the stage, with the open space in between becoming the ballroom floor. The period costumes of the dancers surrounding the floor are very regal and show their status, without being too flashy or reading as costumes. The whole ensemble joins in the first dance scene, as the prince is given a Crossbow as a gift, and he and his friends decide to extend the evening’s festivities with a hunt.

After a short break, act two begins by the lakeside in the moonlight. The stage has transformed, with the large stone pillars transforming into trees, and the large windows that were at the back of the castle are gone, to reveal a lake.

The lighting throughout this act is phenomenal. Lighting director Peter Tegan and adapted by Johnny Westall-Eyre, make this scene look monochromatic. This act is where the audience is introduced to the swans, and Odette, Momoko Hirata. The stark white spotlights and white costumes make the whole scene feel cold, and the dark background against the ballerinas’ ivory soft tulle skirts perfectly summarises their plight.

They are beautiful but trapped in a dark world. Baron von Rothbart, played by Jonathan Payn, captures the stage and waits for his enchanted victims; he has put a princess into an enchantment where she is a swan by day. While always beautiful, Odette can only be her true self, a beautiful princess, from midnight to dawn. When it is dark and cold by the lake, this is when she feels free. She is spotted by Siegfried, who is aiming his weapon at the Baron. The three of them become embroiled in a fight, however, Siegfried has to leave, leaving behind the woman he has fallen for after watching her dance.

The choreography by Lev Ivanov, Marius Petipa and Peter Wright is exquisite.

From the fun upbeat dance scenes at the start of the show to the lines the dancers make when the swans are all on the lake, each step is perfectly timed and flows fluidly throughout each act. Act three begins back at the castle, with three princesses from various royal households showcasing their traditional dances in an attempt to win over the Prince.

While some of these would not be classical ballet, the choreographers mix the styles perfectly. The flamenco dance had the audience transfixed, with two couples dancing together and dancing with tambourines, adding to the building orchestral music coming from the pit below the stage. After each princess had danced, Odette seemingly returned with her magical captor. She performs for the prince’s family, and when he joins her on the ballroom floor, both dancers seem to almost melt into each other.

Each move is perfectly timed, and the effortless lifts they perform make Momoko seem weightless. However, appearing in the window of the castle, lighting up the back of the stage is the real Odette. Which the prince vows to find.

The final act begins with the curtains raising to reveal a smoke-filled stage, the smoke pours down into the orchestra pit, and the swans begin to emerge, as if by magic. This dramatic entrance is followed by another elegant group dance by the cygnets. Siegfried is on his way to find Odette and ask for her hand in marriage, however, the Baron has other ideas.

The stage lights flash and the music builds to set a dark and stormy atmosphere for the final scenes of the ballet. The two young lovers are met with a terrible fate, after realising the spell can no longer be broken, they know what they need to do to be together. This heartbreaking end sees Benno returning with his friend’s body to a crowd of forlorn-looking cygnets. The whole show is a perfect rendition of a timeless classic, each dancer on stage performed elegantly and beautifully. The music is captivating and truly sets each scene.

The Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake will be at the Lowry until Saturday the 4th of March.

Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Royal Ballet Sinfonia would like to remember Richard Friedman (1955-2023) Former Co-Leader of the Sinfonia who sadly passed away on the 8th of February 2023.



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