Quite good, but the way the expanded supporting roles were handled bothered me
Swan Lake is a masterpiece of the ballet genre, the story is timeless and Tchaikovsky's music is so amazing I can't get enough of it. All of the Swan Lakes on DVD have been worth watching at least, and this Berlin production while not the best of them is no exception to that. There are things that I didn't care for. The Queen, Benno and Rothbart all have roles that are significantly expanded, and none were handled entirely convincingly. I actually loved how charismatic and dangerous he is and his Czardas are beautifully done, but the whole him and the Queen scheming to constrict her son for me distorted his character and the story. The Queen has a gorgeous, if slightly too long, adagio, and is danced with poise and authority by Bettina Thiel. The incest angle however is unsubtle, and her role in the ending only succeeds in descending into melodramatic farce. Benno's didn't work at all, considering how crucial he is to the most plot-heavy production of Swan Lake on DVD that is a major problem. Jens Weber dances nicely if with a rough-around-the-edges technique, but his whole gay infatuation didn't go anywhere and just trivialised everything.
However, while in the 19th century the setting is traditional and has a cold beauty of great purity, with flowing costumes and evocative settings. The video directing and sound are very good, as is the picture quality. The orchestral playing is stylish, powerful and affecting, the score is one of the most beautiful but emotionally complex ballet scores there is around and the orchestra do perfect justice to it and give a real sense of love. Daniel Barenboim's tempos may be slow sometimes, but still keeps everything moving with clarity and vibrancy. The choreography is impeccable and looks very graceful, and the dancers as well as being in perfect sync with the music make it seem easy when it isn't. The Corps De Ballet are very elegant and remarkably well-together in choreography that would have been very obvious if any mistake was made. Steffi Scherzer is outstanding and very emotive, both as the remote yet innocent Odette and the conniving yet seductive Odile. Oliver Matz is a handsome and strong partner as Siegfried with powerful jumps and beautifully placed arms and legs.
All in all, some of the additions were potentially interesting but bothersome but the dancing and orchestral playing help to make the production worth watching. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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