Swan Lake – Takada, Muntagirov, Marriott, Gruzin – April 2nd 2015

This was a “Lake” I was looking forward to seeing, not least for the prodigious (ever growing) talents of Vadim Muntagirov, but also for the fact that it would be my last viewing of the Royal Ballet’s venerable production.

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Vadim Muntagriov in flight (in the Nutcracker!) (c) Martin Bell photography

Muntagirov made a fine Prince. Sweet lyricism pours from each movement, his youth lending believability to the role – perhaps a little too much, for if last week’s Bastille Siegfried was morose, Muntagirov’s is of a sunnier disposition, because Mr Muntagirov himself seems to be that way anyway.

His phrasing is unhurried, illustrative and well fitted to the score. When married to his manifest technical gifts: magic. Perhaps he was not the best acted Siegfried this run (here I think Golding might have the edge) but he was definitely one of the most affecting. Compared with the other dancers, Muntagirov’s Act III solo was a more refined and classical treatment. Purity is his metier. Imbued with less bravado than Golding and forgoing McRae’s focus on athleticism (each man picking their strengths and sticking to it) this Siegfried let the steps speak for themselves. Perfect landings, strong arabesques – poise, and unaffected beauty. In Act I the absence of a variation means Siegfried’s only moment is to join the corps for the Waltz at the end. Muntagrov did splendid justice to Bintley’s choreography. There was unhurried, affable ease, singing lines. In a word, elegance. After his sensational Des Grieux, his doomed Lensky, I am I confess, now a paid up lifetime member of his fanclub.

On strength of last night, I would need a little more convincing to join Akane Takada’s though.

Which I agree with. Her Odette was a believable creation, all traits well satisfied, fragility, need and appeal all well shown. I wondered though if her stumble at seeing Siegfried was perhaps a little too real; either she genuinely stumbled (unlikely) or it was a novel take on the moment, but it did seem briefly a little inelegant.

Anyone doing “corrections” in the wings would probably have spotted a few other wobbles, a less than secure exit from the travelling pique turns in Odile’s solo variation was one thing I noticed, and apparently she missed a fouette or two but I never count and don’t care much to. Odile could do twenty and done right, I’d be happy. These are busy dancers and I can excuse a lot: these are all humans (or, part swan?) and nowhere does this show better than on stage. An audience increases scrutiny, scrutiny should bring expectation of high quality, but perhaps sometimes we expect a little too much? I was happy with what she gave us.

Akane Takada

Akane Takada (copyright The Royal Opera House)

Takada delivered more than a few moments which I enjoyed. As examples: at the beginning of Act II’s pdd where Odette has hidden herself to the ground, and in the few moments before Siegfried arrives, she settled down, and then seemed to settle again, a small quiver (characterisation, or geting comfortable?) whatever it was, a good moment, spontaneous and real. Her Odile was sly and minxy, her rapid fire steps at the end of seduction sequence fun to watch, and her échappés on pointe all glamour and “peacocking”. Definitely a “look at me” gal. Her Odile’s phrasing seemed quite snappy, distinctively kinetic which was a take on the steps I hadn’t seen this run. Those same fouettes tracked centreline and downstage to the front, as opposed to e.g. Osipova, who was content to keep hers in the back of the stage. So too her slow pirouettes taken on her entrance variation before the mime began were lovely to see.

As partners, sweet ardency, and the beginnings of a tender chemistry. This tendrese didn’t quite find full measure of tragedy on the ending of the ballet though: the deaths felt a bit rushed or under-rehearsed, and the fight scene with Rothbart felt a smidge slow. Other dancers I have seen take the leap-to-death have run front and centre stage so as to get the focus and spotlight, before running to their death from “the cliffs”. Muntagirov and Takada either found themselves a bit lost in the middle of the stage, or had rehearsed it that way, so some focus was lost. A small matter.

I was sad to see that James Hay was out of the Neapolitan, but Tristan Dyer did a great job, and I love his shape in jumps. Crisp articulation in his movement it seemed to me. Well done, Mr Dyer. Alastair Marriott gave us a Rothbart who was a little subdued in moments compared to others in this run, but:

– a great moment.

So too it was a pleasure to watch Melissa Hamilton as one of the Two Swans. One can see how seriously she inhabits the role and it carries through to her dancing.

I gather this was the ballet in what was judged to be its purest state when it was created in 1987. I will miss it on strength of that. I may do a “Likes/Dislikes” kind of summary post about the run.

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