Review : Swan Lake at Liverpool’s Empire Theatre

THE English National Ballet’s production of Swan Lake came to the Liverpool Empire for a five day spell, showcasing the worlds most famous ballet in a classical repertoire. Swan Lake has some of the most demanding and iconic dancing for the corps de ballet along with incredible male virtuoso dancing.

Prince Siegfried and Swan Queen Odette, the star crossed lovers. Photography by ASH – Courtesy of English National Ballet

Prince Siegfried and Swan Queen Odette, the star crossed lovers.
Pic – English National Ballet

The production was elegantly accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s masterful score, which was performed live by the English National Ballet’s full orchestra, creating a traditional Russian aura. Choreographed by Derek Deane, the ballet closely followed the traditional Russian version, taking inspiration from the original choreographers, Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov.

The narrative also remained close to its original Russian roots, focusing on Prince Siegfried’s star crossed love with the Swan Queen, Odette. Unique to this production is the inclusion of a prologue, which showed Odette being kidnapped by the half-man, half-bird sorcerer Rothbart. Rothbart then placed a spell upon the Princess, condemning her to a life under his spell at the lakeside. This was a teaser for the second act when we were introduced to the Swan Queen herself.

The opening sequences of the ballet set the tone of the story exquisitely but it wasn’t until the third act when I became immersed in the story. After a short break 24 elegant swans appeared from behind the beautifully crafted autumnal backdrop to provide one of the most breathtaking pieces of dance across the ballet world. The enigmatic ending was tragic as always but Derek Deane had imprinted his own unique interpretation onto this ballet throughout, so it was no suprise that his controversial twist caused a few shocked faces during the finale.

The most memorable part of the performance was the interpretation of the dual role, Odette/Odile, by Alina Cojocaru. Exemplifying brilliance, she masterfully portrayed both sides to her contrasting role, the innocent, pure and honest white swan and the evil,manipulative and erotic black swan. She also had great chemistry with her Brazilian counterpart, Alejandro Virelles creating a wonderful juxtaposition between strength and beauty.

Swan Lake is a timeless classic and the English National Ballet’s interpretation is a brilliant homage to its legendary original. The elegance, strength and technique which is on display is a true marvel.  Whether it is your first visit to the ballet or you are a lifelong balletomane, you are guaranteed a wonderful and moving experience.

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