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Monday, August 07, 2006

The Bolshoi Ballet in Swan Lake

On Saturday (Aug 5) went to see the Bolshoi in Swan Lake at Covent Garden. Haven't seen the Bolshoi before. For the last two summers, have taken my mum to see the Kirov. Coincidentally they were also in London at the same time but because they've changed their name to the Maryinsky, I missed the programme announcement. Anyway, we were excited at the prospect of seeing the Bolshoi. Their version of Swan Lake is much acclaimed, and the Russian productions are always special with sumptuous costumes and gorgeous sets and scenery.

Big disappointment!

I've seen many ballets over the years and this one was probably the most boring. The two leads were soloists, not principals, and the young male had no charisma whatsoever. It seemed like the company was going through the motions; there was no passion, no sparkle. The orchestra was too slow. I kept thinking "put some heat under it!" like Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot. Even the costumes and set looked tired. Usually in Swan Lake (we've seen several versions) there's some trickery or devices to make you think you're watching water and swans. There was nothing notable in this version. A tatty curtain with a swan painted on it was lowered every now and then, but that was it.

I looked eagerly in the Sunday Times to see if they'd reviewed the production but they'd reviewed the Bolshoi's new production of The Pharoah's Daughter. Very enthusiastic review and said the Kirov had been outshone. Perhaps they put all their investment into the Pharoah. Swan Lake has been in their repertoire for ever; perhaps they should shelve it for a few years.

Next year we'll be seeing the Maryinsky (hopefully).

The best version of Swan Lake I ever saw was at the Coliseum with Rudolf Nureyev. It was in the early 80s and he'd lost it in terms of his ability to dance, but he was still very commanding and charismatic. Odette/Odile was a Japanese dancer and she was amazing. She actually danced some of the segments that he should have danced. I'll always remember how she fluttered across the lake like a bird.

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