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Review: ENB’s Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall

Published 13 June 2010

Do you remember the smoke machines at school discos?  Well I bet you never saw a strapping half-man half-bird with massive wings emerge from the middle of the smoke in your school hall! If not, this is just one of the visual treats to behold at the English National Ballet’s production of Swan Lake, which was greeted by rapturous audience applause on opening night.

Derek Deane’s production of Swan Lake, dubbed the world’s most popular ballet after more than 125 years, is still showing at the Royal Albert Hall this month, and is not to be missed. This ‘in-the-round’ production sees the entire middle section of the Royal Albert Hall transformed into a large circular stage, so close to some audience members you’ll feel tempted to run on and throw some shapes yourself. I wouldn’t recommend it – although the impossible ease with which the dancers perform may have you thinking ‘I could do that’, the years of training and experience are visible in every movement.

The English National ballet’s production of Swan Lake in-the-round was created in 1997 by the Company’s former Director, Derek Deane, with the aim of creating more intimacy between the audience and performers, as well as drawing a wider audience. Its scale and magnificence has since wowed audiences in the UK, Australia and Hong Kong, and the production has been seen by an impressive 400,000 people. This defies the critic’s initial reservations about the in-the-round style, who argued that classical ballet was supposed to be viewed from the ‘front of the picture‘. With this month’s performance heralding Swan Lake’s 6th season at the Royal Albert Hall, audiences’ support for the lavish production has by far outweighed the most dubious critics.

Why not let yourself be the judge – Derek Deane’s lavish production is a visual feast of jugglers, acrobats, and seemingly endless rows of 56 ballerinas as the swan maidens in white tutus – which is double the normal number. The circular stage is transformed into a stunning moonlit lake, with the help of intelligent lighting and dry ice machines, for a perfect backdrop to the romantic story.

The fantastic Principals include the English National Ballet’s Russian born Vadim Muntagirov in the challenging role of Prince Siegfried, whose technical abilities include his fantastic jump and strong turns. This role is an impressive debut for the 20 year-old who only joined the English National Ballet from the Royal Ballet School last year.

Polina Semionova was replaced on opening night by The English National Ballet’s Prima ballerina, Czech born Daria Klimentova, in the role of as Odette/ Odile, whose elegant, fluid and poetic performance reflected her refined technique and acting ability.

Hungarian Tamas Solymosi turns in a charismatic performance as the menacing magician Rothbart, whose stage presence and strength captivate the audience throughout.

The sweeping orchestra of the English National Ballet play Tchaikovsky’s memorable score with magnificent power and dexterity, under Musical Director Gavin Sunderland, and you’ll find yourself recognising several ‘famous bits’ including the ‘dance of the little swans’.

This magnificent staging of Swan Lake is sure to inspire many more audiences and first-time visitors to classical ballet, and this appeal is an important part of the English National Ballet’s policy: to attract and entertain as wide an audience as possible.

This production will have you swooning, gasping and applauding in delight as you are drawn into the ethereal world of Swan Lake, and may even have you dusting off your dance shoes!

Venue address: Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, London SW7 2AP (location map)
Box office telephone: 020 7838 3100
RAH Online ticket booking website: tickets.royalalberthall.com
Ticket prices: £19.50 – £55

Dates & Times of Performances:
9 – 18 June – 7.30pm
12, 13, 19 June – 2.30pm
16 June – 2pm (Schools Matinee)

  • Roger Aspden

    We paid for front row seats & went to Swan Lake on Saturday. The show was as good as last years.
    However it was ruined for us as we sat in seats a meter behind two of the cast sat on stools on the stage. This made it impossible to see much of the performance. We have pointed this out to the ENB but their attitude is pretty much ‘tough luck’ we probably will not support them again.

    Your top picture shows exactly what we mean, we sat behind the stools you can see in the bottom right corner. I know that others complained at the time, but it seems that the performance is more important than those who go to see it.