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Vienna Opera Ballet's Swan Lake


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#1 nysusan

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Posted 16 March 2007 - 08:43 AM

I recently took a business trip to Vienna and managed to catch a performance of Swan Lake by the Vienna State Opera Ballet while I was there. I haven’t seen much written about them, so I really didn’t know what to expect in terms of their level of dancing or quality of the production.

For starters, the Staatsoper is gorgeous – what a beautiful venue. Pale cream boxes edged in gold trim, with dark red seats – it’s a stately, elegant house which seems to sell out every performance months in advance.

Their Swan Lake is the Nureyev staging, which isn’t my favorite but I liked this version better than the one on the old Nureyev/Fonteyn video. I didn’t love the costumes or scenery – the costumes were kind of a pastel blue & green - they weren’t offensive but the costumes and sets were both somewhat nondescript. None of it was really evocative of a specific time or place other than “long ago & far away”.

I was happy to find the dancing was at a very high level. With the exception of the principals none of the soloists really jumped out at me but they were all good and the corps especially showed a high degree of uniformity in the lakeside scenes. The “little swans” and “big swans” were very well done.

Instead of a first act pas de trois this version has a pas de cinq which includes Sigfreid. It doesn’t use the usual pas de trois music, there were some variations I wasn’t familiar with mixed in with the Tchaikovsky pas de deux music. I really love the traditional pas de trois (a la Kirov) so I was kind of disappointed but it was a nice surprise to hear the familiar Tchai pas music actually used in Swan Lake.

The principals were Olga Yesina and Vladimir Shisov, 2 young former Kirov dancers. It was a real treat to see them. He is tall, dark and handsome with a beautifully sculpted yet solid body, she a tall, thin very pretty blond. I was immediately struck by his elegant line and solid partnering but his technique didn’t look particularly impressive in the first 2 acts. I blame that on the Nureyev choreography because he really came into his own in the third act with beautiful high perfectly landed tours and soaring jetes. I also liked Yesina’s Odile better than her Odette. She was truly great in the black Swan pdd - her technique sparkled and I liked the way she presented the character. Lately a lot of the Odiles I’ve seen almost go ballistic with Sigfried, and I find such a drastic personality change counterproductive. Yesina was perfect, she sharpened her movements and changed her attack & phrasing a bit but aside from that she was the same girl, she simply dazzled the prince with her dancing. She started and ended her fouettes with triples, with 30 fast, clean singles in between. I’m no expert on the actual steps but I’ve seen quite a few Swan Lakes over the past few years and her fouettes were the prettiest I can remember – the gesturing leg rotated smoothly and in time with the music, and her foot clearly articulated each pass around the knee. Her foot was always right at the knee, too – no slipping down to the calf as the fouettes went on, no traveling and no finishing out of control. She finished that last triple on point and facing the audience before placing her foot down. Her balances in the coda were also stunning – the most impressive I’ve seen since Cynthia Gregory.

Her white acts were also very good technically, but she just didn't move me. Her Odette was majestic with long lines and great purity of style despite very high extensions. Perhaps that's because no matter how high her leg stretched those long legs always described a very harmonious line without any displacement of her torso and there were no ugly distorted positions as often happens with 180 degree extensions. Although she painted a gorgeous picture it was a static one -her dancing didn't flow and she didn't really put a personal stamp on the role. She was a bland, one note Odette- sad, very sad and regal but other than that her interpretation wasn't very well defined either in terms of her characterization or her phrasing. I would call it a very good performance but not a great one and not an emotionally engaging one - a performance to admire but not to love.

But that's just me, I was there with some colleagues who had limited previous exposure to ballet and they both loved it, as did the rest of the house!

#2 Ostrich

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Posted 16 March 2007 - 09:44 AM

I also liked Yesina’s Odile better than her Odette. She was truly great in the black Swan pdd - her technique sparkled and I liked the way she presented the character. Lately a lot of the Odiles I’ve seen almost go ballistic with Sigfried, and I find such a drastic personality change counterproductive.


My point exactly!

Very interesting to hear about the Vienna Opera Ballet. I would have had a chance to see one of their ballerinas guesting with South African Ballet Theatre a year back(I forget who it was), but I decided to miss it, having, like nysusan, no very high expectations of the standard of their dancing. Now I'm sorry I missed it.

#3 Dale

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Posted 16 March 2007 - 04:43 PM

Thank you for the review. I admired Olga Yesina as Lilac Fairy in a Kirov tour. Her performances made me want to see more. I was sorry to see her go, but glad to read that she's performing lead roles in Vienna.


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