This was an evening which rewarded not for the reason I had hoped but instead by virtue of surprise.
First, hopes: Natalia Osipova seems to be ballerina of the moment: talked about, surrounded by weight of expectation, making good on the claims that she is emerging as a dancer of the highest order.
Tonight she wasn’t for me, quite of that highest order. In terms of acting, seen through binoculars, her expressive face embodied all of Odette’s necessary emotional repertoire and yet without binoculars, this didn’t quite seem to carry to the Amphitheatre, where I was sitting. Perhaps her interpretation was too finely grained? Marianela Núñez‘s Swan Princess was imperious, commanding, convincingly chimeric – human, yet supernatural. Osipova’s was by contrast tinted towards entirely supernatural – an apparition almost – through and through. Shades of her Giselle, here. I was quite enchanted by Núñez and less so by Osipova. I had expected her portrayal to be seminal, just by virtue of her background and training – which it wasn’t. Which just goes to show that sometimes where a dancer has been matters less than where they find themselves. What they are finding comfortable may not be what one expects.
What Osipova does seem to find comfortable are roles where she can take risks with choreography, where steps allow a lassitude of interpretation. Her recent Tatiana in Onegin carried a thrill of risk, coupled with a depth of characterisation and expression which was extraordinary. Odette isn’t allowed this same depth of overt expression, her lyricism is of a different hue, and one wonders if Osipova is as happy shading in that hue, fleshing the lines and steps, as she is with Tatiana, or Manon. Swan Lake does not seem to permit such interpretive dissent, which Miss Osipova may perhaps find a hinderance.
To be sure, there were moments of lyricism which gave one pause and threatened to take the breath away: her appearance in Act II contained moments beautifully in synchronisation with the music, her body alive with it almost, but this didn’t seem to last. Those moments were there, but not as much as with Núñez, whose dancing seemed enchainment not of steps but of freely given artistry itself.
Granted, I had reservations about Núñez body type (and hope to be forgiven for something as facile) and here I had hoped Osipova would have suited the role better. To my eye, she does. She doesn’t have a “Balanchine body” (happily so). Her form itself looks quite fragile. Yet dancing is more than just shapes, line, and “to the eye”. Something is still amiss in her Odette. It may be that she was having a bit of an “off night”. It wasn’t for lack of trying: mime and acting was handled with commitment and to re-iterate, this was not substandard dancing, just not as good as I had hoped. I don’t deny she was “feeling it” only to say that she didn’t carry off showing us that she felt it.
Thus, expectation as Odette unfulfilled.As Odile however, fully fulfilled. Though she seemed to not work as well with Gary Avis (here excellent as always) – his whispered suggestions and cajoling seeming not to register as they had done with Núñez’s Odile – in her seduction of Matthew Golding’s Siegfried she excelled. The travelling pirouettes which she traverses from up to downstage in the grand pas de deux earned applause just in themselves, this before her thirty-two fouetté turns even had started! These same begun with what looked like a chain of about ten doubles, the rest singles. The man next to me said “wow!” as did his wife. I said “wow!” and certainly Siegfried said the same. The house went crazy. Here was the risk in which where she thrives. One could see the intent to amaze when she begun the turns. (After-all, what is life without risk? A popular quote goes “life begins at the end of your comfort zone”. More accurately this might be rendered “a well-remembered life” because risk entails reward. With Osipova’s risks, come great rewards.
More reward, and here the surprise mentioned above, from Matthew Golding’s Siegfried.
It seems his partnership with Osipova is yielding rich rewards for them both. My thoughts on their barnstorming Onegin are recorded on this blog. The partnership is a success: both seem to work off one another, and seem to enjoy skirting the edges of that same risk as mentioned above. From this comfort one hopes to find a comfort of exploring, and the fruits of artistic intimacy. When dancing with Odile, Golding had some really good facial expressions, perhaps un-acted. He really seemed to say “OH YEAH!” at times, to be dancing with her. And who wouldn’t?
Similarly he was convincingly enraptured by Odette, even if some of us were not, quite! His expressions when embracing each were excellent. Seen alone, this Siegfried was youthful and exuberant, Golding finding a depth of intensity and ardency which was lovely to watch. Here was poise, conviction and great diminution of space – or rather, command of the stage. His ending interjection into (if I recall rightly) the corps de ballet’s Waltz was scintillating, as was his solo in Act 3. He marries athletic ability with a sleek line and real panache. Very enjoyable to watch.
Orchestrally, the band seemed stronger than last time – with the exception of a few trumpet wobbles, which seems to be happening with regularity.
Waltzes and Polonaises all passed with vim, solo violin for Odette’s solo noticeably fine. The corps de ballet seemed more precise this time around too, precision en masse. Once more, baby swans were excellent. The Big Swans were outstanding, as was their sisters consolation of Odette: a sequence beautifully delivered.
Mention must go too, to James Hay, who gave us a delightful solo in Act I Pas de Trois full of graceful turns and brio. Again, very enjoyable to watch. All in all, another 8/10, Golding rising above and beyond – not an easy task given the role. I am next watching this on March 17th with this same pairing, in-house for the cinema broadcast. I wonder how it will be! Addenum, without fitting place: Elizabeth McGorian‘s Princess (Siegfried’s Mother) has amazing fingers, and a little better than Rosato, seemed to actually indicate a ring on a finger, rather than an order to check the time. She looks good in gloves.