Saturday night’s “Swan Lake” performance with Semionova and Gomes was stupendous--definitely one of the best that I’ve seen in my brief ballet-watching history, but I can’t say it’s the very best. In fact, I can’t name the single best SL performance I’ve ever seen, but there are Acts or aspects of several different performances that I consider the best I’ve ever seen.
From this performance, I can say that Marcelo’s Siegfried was without a question, the most inspired, most passionate, most amazing Siegfried I have ever seen. Before the performance began, I knew that Marcelo would do everything in his power to make Polina’s Odette/Odile debut at ABT the best it could be, that he would be the most selfless and supportive of partners, but I was not expecting him to go crazy like he did!
In Act I, his jumps were so airy, his landings were so soft, and he used his upper body so gorgeously. I almost felt like he was saying, “Ok, I might not have David’s beautiful lines, but just look how beautifully, how musically I move!”
And Marcelo’s acting was top-notch, as always. Thanks to his performance, it was the first time all week that I felt like the Queen Mother and Wolfgang were actually meaningful presences in his life. He gave the Queen Mother a look of such adoration when presented with the crossbow, and when he turned to Wolfgang for advice later in the scene, it felt like they were having a conversation.
Then, in the beginning of Act II, he made me see Siegfried catch sight of Odette. This moment was lost on me with the other Siegfrieds, but Marcelo pointed out something in the sky, went around the stage following its path, and saw it land somewhere beyond the wings. Excitedly, he reached for his crossbow and prepared to shoot, but then he realized, “What’s this?! Something’s not right!” and ran off the stage. “AHA, so THIS is what this scene is supposed to be about!” I thought.
And then, at the end of Act III/beginning of Act IV, Marcelo’s Siegfried was simply wild. After discovering his mistake, he pounded on the doors with such force I thought they might actually fall down, and when he came on the stage at the beginning of Act IV, he collapsed from the weight of his grief.
On another dancer, or in a different performance, these actions may have seemed way too over-the-top, but with Marcelo, it looked just right, because you could just see how inspired he was by Semionova. I have always thought Marcelo to be unrivaled as a partner and an actor, but up to now, I had never considered him to be one of those show-stopping virtuosos the way, say, Simkin or Carreno (with his pirouettes) or Corella can be. But his variations in Act III blew me away! Semionova held her ridiculously long arabesque balance in the black swan pas de deux, and Marcelo answered with some extra-long balances of his own.
And my goodness! I was not expecting to see Carreno-style multi-revolution pirouettes with the leg fully extended! To me, it felt like Gomes was so amped up by the performance that he was really going for it, taking risks, almost making it up as he went along. It was like his performance as Albrecht earlier in the season when he was so impassioned that he threw back his head after he landed his moves. Simply mesmerizing! Bravo!
That brings me now to Semionova…
There is only one word why ABT should continue to invite guest stars..............POLINA!!! i hope permanently.
Totally agree with this! (Though I’m saying this while considering Bolle and Vishneva to already be part of the company.
Without a doubt, the best Odette/Odile I saw all week (I missed Veronika’s performance)—and like abatt, I would gladly see her again in anything.
To me, she is a natural fit for Odette/Odile the same way that Cojocaru is a natural fit for Giselle—I never felt she was acting; everything felt “just right.” Of all the ballerinas I’ve seen, I definitely would call her my ideal Odette/Odile (but I admit that I’ve never seen Veronika Part nor any of the Mariinsky ballerinas).
That being said, I’d be lying if I said her performance was the very best I’ve seen. In contrast to FauxPas, I actually preferred her Odette to her Odile. As her NYTimes interview suggested, Polina seems to be more of an understated performer from the little I’ve seen of her—she’s as passionate and expressive and heartbreaking as one would want, but without going crazy.
As a result, I was a bit surprised when she kept her Odette variations on the safe side, but it seemed in-keeping with her characterization. There were no quad pirouettes like Gillian in Odette’s solo, and no lightning fast entrechats and passé-releve (like Vishenva) in the coda. Hers was a classy, not showy, Odette, and I was okay with that. (And let me not forget that she actually did the battements before the developpe! Hooray!)
However, I did find myself wishing her Odile was a little more over-the-top. She was seductive and malevolent, without being harsh or bitchy, and she and Marcelo definitely had some red-hot chemistry. But I found myself missing Vishneva’s no-holds-barred, irresistible vamp last year with Hallberg.
It’s very funny. If you asked me which ballerinas I think are best-suited for “Swan Lake,” Vishneva would not be on that list, and if you asked me which are Vishneva’s best roles, Odette-Odile would probably not be one of them. And yet, she has given me the best Act II and Act IIIs I’ve ever seen (in separate performances). From the moment she burst through the doors with those blazing eyes and her ruby-red lips as Odile, I thought, “Oh sh*t! Here we go! Poor Siegfried doesn’t stand a chance!” She didn’t just seduce Hallberg’s Siegfried, she completely enslaved him—by the end, he was practically groveling at her feet. And I liked this power dynamic a lot because it mirrored Odette’s own enslavement—in the prologue, Von Rothbart seduced and captured her, and now in Act III, we have Siegfried trapped under Odile’s spell.
And during the black swan pas de deux, Vishneva’s dancing was almost indescribable. A great technician will make even the hardest moves LOOK easy, but there was something about the absolute surety, the complete lack of wobbles or hesitation in the penchee arabesques, that made me think, “Oh my god, it IS easy for her.”
While Semionova’s reserve seemed appropriate as Odette, I did wish she was a little crazier and faster in her pique turns in the circle around the stage in Act III. And I have to admit, her fouettes were a bit of a letdown after seeing Gillian’s on Tuesday and Thursday—although her turns were nicely centered filled with multiple revolutions, they were not super-quick like Gillian’s, so there were many skipped beats. Still, these are minor quibbles.
Similarly, the white swan pas de deux with Polina and Marcelo was superb, wonderful, gorgeous—but for me, it came in a close second to Diana and Marcelo’s performance two years ago. To this day, I can still clearly remember that unbelievably slow tempo, those almost-everlasting backbends, and the utterly rapt and pin-drop silent audience (I still heard coughing on Saturday night). Of course, Diana and Marcelo had the benefit of dancing together many times before, so they could take risks that Polina and Marcelo did not. But the superficial side of me will also admit that the height difference (or lack thereof) detracted ever-so-slightly from Polina and Marcelo’s performance; it just looks better to me when the ballerina is not so much taller than the danseur on pointe.
Anyway, these are self-indulgent criticisms for a performance that truly was magnificent. I feel lucky to have been able to see it. Bravo, bravo, bravo!
If I had to give you my dream casting for next year, though, I’d like to finally see Semionova and Hallberg together in “Swan Lake.” And having never seen Veronika’s Odette/Odile, I would love to see her paired with Bolle. And finally, Vishneva and Gomes. I don’t know if anyone will ever match their 2009 white swan p.d.d. for me, but I’d like to see them try again!
Two final shout-outs:
Stella was a stand-out in the Act I pas de trois. She seemed so on-fire that I couldn’t help but think, “is this her making her case for a promotion to principal?”
And finally, how nice to see Renata Pavam as a cygnette. I was also impressed to see Skylar Brandt as one of the cygnettes—isn’t she only an apprentice?!
Phew, can’t believe the season is almost over!