Swan is reborn in all her beauty: Swan Lake at the Royal Opera House
Swan Lake performed by the Royal Ballet at Royal Opera House, London
FLIGHT OF ARTISTRY: Natalia Osipova as Odette
For dance critics and ballet fans, the inescapable nature of Swan Lake is an occupational hazard. There are too many mediocre performances of this box-office cert, and one can weary of its charms.
But that’s not the case with the Royal Ballet’s revival of Anthony Dowell’s 1987 production, with its gorgeously gilded Art Nouveau sets by Yolanda Sonnabend. Here all seems new-minted and exciting.
Much credit should go to Boris Gruzin, who conducts a magnificent account of Tchaikovsky’s thunderous score. Gary Avis is splendidly melodramatic as the demonic Rothbart, and rising star Dawid Trzensimiech shines in the Act 1 pas de trois.
Claire Calvert and Helen Crawford catch the eye as the two leading swans, and the corps de ballet are in fine fettle too.
But what makes this Swan Lake unforgettable are Natalia Osipova as Odette and Odile, and Carlos Acosta as the hapless Prince Siegfried.
Currently a guest of the Royal Ballet, Osipova comes from the heart of the Russian tradition. Her physique and technique are breathtaking. She has a gloriously supple back and long willowy arms, and a strength and precision in her legs that allows her to tackle Odile’s celebrated party trick of turning 32 fouettés as if it were child’s play.
More important, she is a wonderfully musical and sensitive artist, who controls her speed and phrasing to make every movement richly expressive. Only in her mid-20s, she is slightly more convincing as man-eating Odile than fragile Odette. But at the climax she brings emotional grandeur to the way she forgives Siegfried and faces death.
Acosta is every inch her equal, and dances with a ravishing smoothness and softness of line. Jumping with the grace of a big cat, he partners Osipova with the perfect manners of a true gentleman. This pair infuse Swan Lake with fresh life.