Or perhaps it's the spell cast over the stage by first cast ballerina, Uliana Lopatkina. Lopatkina is, beyond argument, both singular and sublime. Her exaggeratedly pliant limbs and grandly attenuated adagio are unmatched by any dancer on the planet. To many, her interpretation of Odette, a princess locked inside an enchanted tower, remains definitive.
In fact, it was the swans themselves that made the opening night a largely enjoyable one. In the second half of Act 1 – Act 2 in most British versions – Sergeyev’s formations for them at times look oddly jumbled and asymmetrical, at least on the Covent Garden stage. (Do they work better on the steep rake of the Mariinsky theatre? Perhaps.) But it all relaxes beautifully in Act 3, and the corps throughout are so serenely in synch, and so proudly and uniformly display the traditional Mariinsky virtues of noble line and lyrical grace, that they still make a lustrous counterpoint for the lovers and a hypnotic vision in their own right.
The Evening Standard
The Mariinsky Ballet first danced in London in 1961, the year Rudolf Nureyev defected from what was then known as the Kirov Ballet. He electrified the dance world, and the Mariinsky went on to transform attitudes to ballet. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of that visit, the company has a six-programme, three-week season beginning with its happy ending version of Swan Lake. As is always the case with the Mariinsky, we judge it more harshly that lesser troupes, and, in truth, aspects of its traditional Swan Lake look quaint, with some of the acting mannered next to the naturalistic mime we're used to in London.