I will hold my hands up and admit that I have never been to the ballet before. In fact, the closest I have come to watching ballet in any form is watching Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. With that in mind, I was rather excited to attend my first actual ballet, especially as it was the Russian State Ballet of Siberia, no less. As the theatre filled, I took in the tightly-packed orchestra waiting expectantly below the front of the stage. It has been so long since I had the pleasure of listening to a live orchestra, so when the house lights finally dimmed, I was ready to be entranced.
Even before the curtain rose, I had goosebumps. The rich sounds of Tchaikovsky’s score came to life immediately, and I knew we were in safe hands with Conductor Anatoliy Cherpunoy. As the curtain lifted,it is difficult to describe my childlike wonder at the bright, beautiful vision before me. It’s one thing to read a synopsis of a ballet (which I did prior to the show), or even to see televised snippets of the art form, but to have it there, live, in front of you, is something indescribably special.
While I may have little knowledge of the discipline and technicalities of ballet, it was clear to me that the Russian State Ballet of Siberia are experts at their trade. With breathtaking poise and spirit, Prince Siegfried’s 21st birthday celebrations unfolded. Siegfried himself (Marcello Pelizzoni) stood out, not just in his towering stature but also in his powerful yet seemingly effortless movements. Indeed, the entire corps de ballet were magnificent, the stage filled with so much elegant activity that I found it difficult to decide where to focus my attention; such was my desire to take it all in. I’m glad that I did that quick ‘plot synopsis’ search before attending the performance, because while it would have been just as spectacular had I gone in blind to the story, even the tiniest fragment of knowledge made it all the more powerful for me.
The set was simple yet effective: large backdrops artistically depicting the ballroom, castle and of course, the lake, with occasional animations cleverly sweeping across to pick important plot points, for example, the Prince’s first sighting of the swans.
The same primo ballerina traditionally plays the role of Odette/Odile, and this production stuck to that tradition. A beautifully restrained, disciplined performance by Elena Svinko embodied the initial fear and timidity of Odette, while her characterisation of Odile’s Black Swan was intense and exhilarating, her freedom of movement starkly contrasting Odette’s imprisonment. I can understand why the ballet world is so enamoured with the role(s) and the desire to play it.