Saturday, June 07, 2008

American Ballet Theater – Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, May 31, 2008.

Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center – Orchestra BB118 ($79).

Conductor – David LaMarche; Odette-Odile – Veronika Part, Prince Siegfried – David Hallberg, von Rothbart – Vitali Krauchenka and Marcelo Gomes.

Story. Prince Siegfried is given a crossbow on his birthday. He retreats to the lake and sees the swan Odette who is under von Rothbart's spell. She is destined to turn back into a swan every night unless she finds true love. Evening comes, von Rothbart returns and Odette disappears. That evening, the Queen throws a party for Siegfried, after several young ladies are introduced, von Rothbart shows up with Odile. Siegfried falls in love with Odile, and Odette weeping is noticed by Siegfried who races to the lake to catch up with her. Odette says she must kill herself or she will forever remain a swan, and the two lovers do so by throwing themselves into the lake. They are seen united in life after death.

I have to say this is a much more enjoyable ballet than Le Corsaire. Of course, Swan Lake is a well-know ballet, and the music is often played on a stand-alone basis. Many of the tunes are well known and lovely; some violin solos are just exquisite pieces. I was a bit surprised that the story doesn't hang together as well as I thought it would, though. And how does a swan kill itself? In this story she jumps into a lake. Siegfried's jump is very impressive though, I hope whatever is catching him off stage is very sturdy.

Being ballet, there are still puzzling elements to the work. I can understand why von Rothbart has to be played by two different artists, the transition from the devil to the human may just be too quick to pull off. Odette and Odile are played by the same person. That confuses me. Other than to show off the skills of the ballerina, there is no conceivable reason why this is so. They are not related (other than both names begin with “O”), one is a person turned into a swan, the other is a devil's daughter who can take on human form. One wears white, the other wears black. And each would be an important role by itself.

There are some nice numbers, such as the pas de deux of Odette and the prince. And Odile gets to do the most impressive dance where I counted 29 spins. The many other swans (are they also under the spell?) are nice. Again ABT disappoints somewhat with imprecision.

The orchestra had a somewhat limited dynamic range. The violin solos were botched somewhat, the soloist seemed to have problems with intonation. And one of the dancers fell as she was about to exit the stage – must have hurt.

Overall though, the nice music, graceful movements, athletic feats, beautiful costumes, and some staging effects add up to a very enjoyable performance.

The New York Times review of this run is of a different dancer, who did 32 of these “foutte turns”. Perhaps I did Ms. Part injustice by miscounting?

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