Sunday, 23 April 2017

Pär Isberg's The Dream of Swan Lake

Royal Swedish Opera House, Stockholm
Photo David Murley
© 2017 David Murley: all rights reserved
Reproduced with kind permission of the copyright owner

David Murley

Royal Swedish Ballet, The Dream of Swan Lake, 8 April 2017, Matinee, Royal Swedish Opera House

Due to the unfortunate events on Friday the 7 April 2017 in Stockholm city centre, the premiere of The Royal Swedish Ballet’s The Dream of Swan Lake (Kungliga Baletten Drömmen om Svansjön) by Pär Isberg was delayed. Instead, the production was premiered at the Saturday matinee on the 8 April 2017 with a cast change – the intended premiere cast. The performance was dedicated to the victims of Friday’s events.
Stage Royal Swedish Opera Houses
Photo David Murley
(c) 2017 David Murley: all rights reserved
Reproduction licensed by David Murley

Not only was I watching a premiere by the Royal Swedish Ballet, but it was also the first time I had seen the company live. Colleagues of mine, whom I respect greatly, have been company members there at different points over the years. In fact, one colleague of mine left the company just last season. Now, I was sat in the breathtaking Swedish Royal Opera House in Stockholm at a point in time during my maiden voyage to the city surrounded by unforgettable events.

Isberg’s The Dream of Swan Lake is evidently a take on the original Swan Lake. The score had been cut and pasted and this initially disorientated me. However, I was receptive and listened and the results were positive and pleasing to the senses. The chopping and changing of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece elegantly encased Isberg’s creation. Parts of the score that were intended as an overture or an opening were now featured in Isberg’s choreography.   The results of quite exciting and captivating.

The shift in score also entails a re-visioning and restaging of the ballet. The Dream of Swan Lake still parallels the traditional tale of Sigfried and Odette/Odile and the manipulative malice of Rothbart. The ballet is set in modern times within a company setting and first takes place in the studio. Fred, the choreographer, (Calum Lowden) holds company auditions and promotes his coveted protégé (Desislava Soteva) to the role
Dream of Swan Lake Running Times
Photo David Murley
(c) 2017 David Murley: all rights reserved
Reproduction licensed by the copyright owner
of Odette/Odile. Fred then demotes his rival (performed by Vahe Martirosyan) to dancing the role of Rothbart. The dynamic cleverly sets up an undeniable tension which is woven throughout the fabric of Isberg’s vision.

A welcomed flavour to Isberg’s staging was the re-introduction of the once forgotten Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux. In Isberg’s creation, the pas de deux is gorgeously danced by Sarah-Jane Brodbeck and Vahe Martirosyan. The style is less classical and more neo-classical in the pas de deux. This proves desirable. Brodbeck brought refinement and effortless power to the pairing while Martiriosyan, staying true to his character delivered toxicity and exactitude. The pas de deux gelled into the production and glimmered like a jewel amongst the other technical treats that were offered that day.

The corps de ballet were well drilled and a pleasure to watch as they adorned, decorated and graced the stage. The dancers also brought to life Jérôme Kaplan’s costume designs. The designs were very vibrant, elegant and eye-catching. The technical prowess of the corps de ballet was rival to that of the principals. It was exciting to watch, and evidently shows the strength and standard of the Royal Swedish Ballet as a company – very much a positive.

Company member, Jenny Nilson, performed the cameo role of the company director. Nilson’s class, undeniable stage presence and glamour were every inch the company director. She appeared youthful yet seasoned and knowledgeable. Nilson danced not only en pointe but also in heeled shoes and owned every costume she wore in her role as company director.  With commanding poise not far off the Queen Mother in the original, Nilson brought a gracious climax to Isberg’s Act III.
The final scene of Isberg’s ballet was personally my favourite – a peek into the backstage/after show world so few get to witness. The techies in their blacks striking costumes and scenery and the dancers scattering about casually disrobing themselves removing their headdresses and hair grips while chatting and wandering back to their dressing rooms. In the background upstage left, Fred and his protégé creating their own scene paralleling Petipa’s original. Beautiful and fulfilling.

Isberg’s The Dream of Swan Lake performs throughout the remainder of April, and also during the months of May and June 2017. Definitely worth seeing.

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