Swan Lake is one of the greatest of the ballet genre, the story is timeless and the ballet is a musical masterpiece. All the Swan Lake productions are worth seeing at least once(though my feelings were mixed on the 2007 and 2009 productions), but two especially are must owns, one's the Natalia Makarova/Anthony Dowell Royal Ballet performance and the other is this(with its only criticism being that some of the Corps De Ballet are a little ragged).
The production is good visually, the Gothic décor actually does give off a lot of atmosphere as does the expressive lighting while the Renaissance costumes are opulent and the Swans costumes harmonise well against the backgrounds. Very similar actually to those of the enchanting 1977 American Ballet Theatre production with Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryschnikov. The choreography is lovingly traditional and elegant in its simplicity, it also displays a lot of intimate emotion and sharp characterisation.
Musically, it's exquisite with every single bit of power and nuance from the orchestra evident, shown through a wide range of tone colour and dynamic range. The conducting is authoritative and sympathetic. The dancing is impeccable apart from as mentioned the occasional ragged ensemble. Ian Nagy is a charismatic and handsome Siegfried, giving the character a fully-fleshed character journey from youth to man. His dancing shows lots of graceful movement, powerful jumps and a controlled technique and his chemistry with Makarova is pure ballet magic, seen in the truly emotional Pas De Deux.
Makarova is just stunning here, even more heartfelt than in the later performance with Royal Ballet. Like in her ABT Giselle performance the entire performance has lots of grace and careful detail; quoting what I said in my review for that production her "her arms are beautifully elongated, her foot placement enviously supple and her pirouettes and leg movements like she's floating on air". With all that still, she does not in any way forget to perform, never making the mistake of being so careful to get the technique right that she becomes detached. Despite Odette being a somewhat remote character, Makarova is incredibly affecting and haunting in the role. Her Odile in contrast is effectively cunning and seductive, but it is with Odette where she shines more.
Overall, wonderful performance and a definite must-own if you can find the VHS. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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