Swan Lake at Birmingham Hippodrome Review

Swan Lake at Birmingham Hippodrome Review


Posted 2023-02-16 by Alison in Birmingham follow

Wed 15 Feb 2023 - Sat 25 Feb 2023

Tchaikovsky's epic love story Swan Lake is back in Birmingham with a character-driven production under the watchful eye of renowned Carlos Acosta.

The famed Cuban dancer and now Birmingham Royal Ballet(BRB) director is all about the detail and that continues in this timeless classic. Bringing back Sir Peter Wright and Galina Samsova's decadent production, Swan Lake is on at Birmingham Hippodrome until February 25, where I caught it on opening night(February 15).

Acclaimed Polina Semionova, classed as one of the greatest ballerinas of a generation, will perform as the guest lead this week. The Berlin State Ballet dancer stars in this Swan Lake on Friday and Saturday (February 17 and 18).

From curtain up, the lavish set entices you into a medieval world of castle banquets and foggy woods where graceful swans transform into women at the stroke of midnight. It's decadent grandeur at its best that BRB knows only too well and is seen so often in their productions like The Nutcracker and Beauty and the Beast.

While Swan Lake is slow to get going, the first act introduces moody Prince Siegfried as his companions try to cheer him up following his dad's death and his mum forcing him to get married. Cesar Morales, pictured above, is a somewhat mature Prince, who huffs, puffs and scowls, adding plenty of depth to his character.

But it's the glorious sound of Tchaikovsky's instantly recognisable Swan Theme when the pace and storyline step up a gear. Moving on to the mysterious, dark woods we find Princess Odette, exquisitely performed by talented Miki Mizutani.

The princess has been wickedly cursed by Baron von Rothbart to spend her days as a swan with her maidens and only return to human form under the hours of darkness. The graceful choreography of Odette, her Swan Maidens(Lucy Waine and Yijing Zhang) and the many Cygnets makes for dreamy scenes as their arms move uncannily like swans.

Mizutani, pictured below, is only just getting going as her standout scenes come as the 'Black Swan' Odile in Act Three when she revels in the wilder choreography.

Spinning through 32 fouette turns, her dancing is impeccable, yet there doesn't seem to be much chemistry between her and Morales. They both are very efficient but there is no frisson between the leads to add that extra spark.

That is a minor detail amidst the overall effect of this production alongside the divine Tchaikovsky soundtrack performed live by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia. Gathering momentum through the final acts, there are memorable effects, like when the Cygnets emerge out of the mist and the reflection of wronged Odette appears in the gothic castle's window.

There's plenty of joy found in elaborate routines away from the two leads too, especially at the ball. This is when those extra characterisations come to the fore; women vying for the Prince's hand sneer at each other before performing the most delightful Neopolitan, Spanish and Polish dances. While the wicked Baron's motley crew of gate-crashing guests steal the show with black lips and attitude that reminded me of RuPaul's Drag Race.

Birmingham Royal Ballet's Swan Lake is very much a traditional take on this timeless classic but this felt refreshed and bolder. It has an opulence and beauty that makes it simply mesmerising.

2 hours and 50 minutes with two intervals.

74732 - 2023-02-16 09:03:49


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