2003 -- Covent Garden, London
I finally got to see the Kirov
in “Swan Lake” on Thursday and after seeing the advance casting, I decided
to go to the Friday performance as well as I had heard great things about
For me the Kirov “Swan Lake” is now the definitive version of this ballet.
A highly conventional production that tells the familiar story in a straightforward
manner with relatively unembellished choreography, it is streets ahead
of its competitors. The entire company performs this work almost by instinct
with the honours being shared between the perfect symmetrical lines of
Swan Maidens and the thrilling sweep of the company’s superlative character
dancers. These should be the perfect setting for the principals to give
performances of the very highest calibre, but sadly I looked for outstanding
performances in vain.
All goes well, all goes very well in fact, until the second act when it
becomes apparent that current Kirov thinking on how the pas de deux, that
crucial heart of the entire ballet, should be danced is very much at odds
with Tchaikovsky’s music. Clearly the emphasis is not so much on legato
as on slow motion and although the tempo is not as excruciatingly drawn
out as when Makarova danced the role, the precedent had been set and was
slavishly followed by the two dancers I saw. Both Sologub (Thursday) and
Pavlenko (Friday) adhere to a near funereal pace at the same time dipping
their torsos almost to the floor in penchee arabesque the better to display
their hyper-extensions. As they are turned (one should say manipulated)
by their partners, the ugliness of this practice becomes apparent and
any lingering beauty in this pas de deux is killed stone dead.
The third act also begins impressively with the national dancers on top
form, but again the pas de deux gave cause for concern – no longer an
act of seduction but instead a show of empty virtuosity, except in Sologub’s
case where her fouettes badly let her down, travelling all over the stage.
Neither dancer seemed especially blessed with musicality either, though
to be fair the erratic tempi from the pit didn’t help matters and it is
a matter of concern that no natural successor to the late Victor Fedotov
has been found.
Pavlenko has a good regal bearing and with experience may still make something
of the role. Her line is good and she interacts well with her prince.
Sologub seems less naturally gifted. She started well but seemed rather
overwhelmed by the role, again more experience may make a difference in
the future. The two Princes fared better, though Andrian Fadeyev’s (Thursday)
boy-next-door approach looks too modern, rather as if he has taken our
own royal princes as his role models. On Friday however, Igor Kolb, in
my opinion the company’s finest classicist, took on the role as the Prince
and was near to perfection. If he made a lonely figure in the crowd at
the beginning of the first act, he became the loneliest man in the world
by the end of it; so complete is his alienation from the rest of the court.
When he first encounters Odette he is totally transformed. Odette is the
purpose in life he was seeking and love takes him over completely. In
the third act his deception by Odile is something that at first he barely
comprehends, but with the realization that he has betrayed Odette he rushes
from the stage with an audible scream of anguish. Tremendous stuff!
All in all, these were outstanding performances let down by the current
stylistic notions that increasingly seem to hold sway at the Kirov with
an emphasis on often exaggerated technique at the expense of artistry,
a worrying trend that I hope will soon be recognized as the artistic dead
end it most certainly is.
Edited by Jeff.
Please join the discussion
in our forum.