Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Swan Lake at the ABT

(photo courtesy of American Ballet Theater)

Composer: Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky
Choreography: Kevin McKenzie after Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov
Conductor: David LaMarche

Odette/Odile: Polina Semionova
Prince Siegfried: David Hallberg
Benno - Sacha Radetsky
von Rothbart - Roman Zhurbin (Acts 2 and 4), Alexandre Hammoudi (Act 3)

The last time I saw Swan Lake was Nina Ananiashvili's farewell with Angel Corella (Siegfried) and Marcelo Gomes (von Rothbart) in 2009. I was looking forward to last night's American Ballet Theater performance which featured two dancers that I haven't seen before: Polina Semionova and David Hallberg.

Semionova and Hallberg are visually stunning together - both are tall, long limbed, and technically flawless with gorgeous extensions and arched feet that project across the Met's auditorium. Hallberg's buoyant jumps and wide eyed look made his character seem like an impressionable and easily manipulated prince. His presence is rather weightless and otherworldly (partly because of his pallor and slight frame) - he seemed as though he was more at home in the lake of tears rather than the palace.

Semionova's Odette was absolutely captivating. Her fluttering arms and arching back in Act 2 were full of vulnerability and aching longing. Her Odile was equally brilliant with superb balances - I think she did all 32 fouettes to the rapture of the audience. Her characterization was one of hauteur rather than calculating seduction. The only thing that was disconcerting was her fixed smile - there wasn't much nuance to her facial expression apart from a few side glances.

Hammoudi was a princely von Rothbart but lacked the menacing charisma of Marcelo Gomes, who pretty much owns that role. Radetsky was a pleasing contrast to Hallberg. He has an amiable stage presence as well as solid technique.

McKenzie's production, after all these years, still seems to end abruptly. Nevertheless, there are few things in life that are as wondrous as Swan Lake, especially when it's as well performed as last night's production. Hallberg and Semionova will reprise their roles on Friday. I'm so tempted to see them again.

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