Monday, 23 March 2015

The Royal Ballet's Swan Lake - that's more like it

Huddersfield Odeon

I have not been too kind about HDTV transmissions of the Royal Ballet's performances from Covent Garden ("¡Por favor! Don Quixote streamed to Huddersfield" 13 Oct 2013, Good Quality Hamburger at the Very Least - Giselle streamed from Covent Garden 27 Jan 2014" and "Manon Encore at the Huddersfield Odeon" 20 Oct 2014) though I recanted slightly over The Winter's Tale ("The Winter's Tale - Time to eat my Hat" 29 April 2014). In general I have much preferred Pathe-Live's transmissions from Moscow. But yesterday I watched the recording of the Royal Ballet's Swan Lake which was broadcast on 17 March 2015 and it was all right. More than all right. It was good,

The performance itself must have been wonderful. I saw Golding and Osipova in Onegin last month and was bowled over by them. Avis, another favourite, danced Rothbart magnificently. The sets and costumes were sumptuous. The music is majestic. Although I had to miss the last season in order to have the time and money to see Northern Ballet's Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights and the Sapphire gala, I am familiar with this production and enjoy it very much. It is in fact my favourite Swan Lake though I have yet to see more than extracts from van Dantzig's.

However, it was the recording that I want to commend today. I like to think that those responsible for the HDTV transmissions have been listening to moans from people like me or at least looked at the Bolshoi transmissions and learned from them. I thoroughly enjoyed the interviews with Anthony Dowell, Jonathan Cope and Cynthia Harvey. I now know why Swan Lake is set in 19th century Russia rather than medieval Germany despite the Teutonic names of the main characters. According to Dowell that was the suggestion of the designer, Yolanda Sonnabend, who was inspired by Fabergé. Dowell spoke warmly about his conversations with Sonnabend though he thought things might have been taken a little too far when an egg appeared in her studio one day.

In the past I have criticized Bussell as a presenter but her contribution yesterday was valuable.  She spoke about her coaching by Fonteyn. Fonteyn had told her always to remember than she was a woman and not a swan. Bussell referred to Acts II and III as "white" and "black" Acts referring to the colours of the ballerina's tutu - terminology I had never heard before - and she said that she like other ballerinas had never been entirely satisfied with her performance as Odette and Odile in the same performance. One was always stronger than the other.

I also enjoyed the clip of the rehearsals and coaching in the second interval. I recognized the studio in which Cope trained Golding. Sibley and Crisp had spoken there last year (see "Le jour de gloire est arrive - Dame Antoinette Sibley with Clement Crisp at the Royal Ballet School" 3 Feb 2014). So although I must have seen many performances of Swan Lake in my lifetime I learned something new yesterday.

Something of the magic of last Tuesday's performance filtered through to the audience of the Huddersfield Odeon yesterday. Everyone laughed when Osipova picked up the toy swan during her curtain call. Finally, I felt a twinge of pride when the credits mentioned additional choreography by David Bintley for Bintley was a local man. I wonder how many members of the audience picked up on that.

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