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Jul 182013
 

Gramilano 7170279 500x375 Natalia Osipova and Claudio Coviello début in Nureyevs Swan LakePrince Siegfried sleeps on his throne and in his dream he sees the evil Roth­bart car­ry­ing off a white swan into the sky. This is how Rudolf Nureyev’s ver­sion of Swan Lake begins, and ends. The bal­let seen as a Freu­dian night­mare, the young prince who finds escape in his head instead of tak­ing up the reins of power and choos­ing a bride.

Clau­dio Cov­i­ello, who has only just been appoin­ted prin­cipal at La Scala, was déb­ut­ing in the role of Siegfried. His phys­ical pro­por­tions sug­gest a Romeo, and Siegfried doesn’t instantly come to mind. Com­pany dir­ector Makhar Vaziev obvi­ously saw past that, and in a bold cast­ing move placed the young Cov­i­ello with one of ballet’s bright­est stars, Nat­alia Osipova. Gamble, or cal­cu­lated move, it worked. This is a prince who wants to remain a boy, he refuses to grow up, invent­ing in his mind a swan to be infatu­ated with, instead of a real woman… or man. Cer­tainly auto­bi­o­graph­ical ele­ments abound in Nureyev’s vis­ion of the story.

Cov­i­ello seems just that, a rather shy boy who is embar­rassed, rather than bored, when dan­cing with his pro­spect­ive brides. A boy who is instantly anim­ated when a cross-bow is placed in his hands: he wants to play, not have sex. This makes the manip­u­la­tion by Roth­bart and the black swan, Odile, even more cruel. He is an inno­cent and needs the pro­tec­tion of his tutor Wolfgang, though in his dreams it is pre­cisely this father fig­ure who becomes the sin­is­ter Roth­bart. When the cold­ness and force­ful­ness of Siegfried’s mother is added into the equa­tion, the Freu­dian view of the bal­let is complete.

In the Prince’s aim­less little solo, a sort of ram­bling mono­logue as he muses on the mean­ing of life, Cov­i­ello tackles the tricky cho­reo­graphy with ease. Dur­ing a couple of other moments in the even­ing he showed a lack of exper­i­ence rather than a lack of tech­nique, and he is plainly more secure when he has steps to execute and doesn’t have to just ‘act’. But Clau­dio Cov­i­ello is cer­tainly a name to watch out for.

Osipova, how­ever, now has to prove at every per­form­ance that she can live up to the hype. She can. She did.

The pyro­tech­nics of her Odile were to be expec­ted, and the 32 fou­ettés inter­spersed with double and triple turns, arms closed in front of her like an ice-skater giv­ing her jaw-dropping speed, let the audi­ence gasp and cry “brava!” A bizarre little head­piece made her look a little like Cat­wo­man, but as the cho­reo­graphic move­ments recall more a black cat than a black swan, it wasn’t entirely out of place.

But the Odette! She obvi­ously doesn’t pos­sess the lines of Svet­lana Zakhar­ova, but how soft, how touch­ing, how intense. The sup­ple­ness of her cambre lets her melt into her prince’s arms, and dur­ing one tender moment, when he prof­fers a hand, she looks briefly into his eyes before tak­ing it, as though say­ing “so you’re not going to hurt me?” Osipova’s  actions are not obvi­ous, it is very much a per­sonal inter­pret­a­tion, and although she gives us all the swan ges­tures we’re used to, she still man­ages to sur­prise and delight. Her last moments on the stage, back centre before being whisked off into the night sky, are tra­gic as she help­lessly watches Roth­bart mal­treat­ing Siegfried. Yet here she has not a step of dance, though her body dances all the same through subtle move­ments that mira­cu­lously fill the large La Scala auditorium.

Another dan­cer worthy of men­tion is the con­vin­cingly nasty and tech­nic­ally able Mick Zeni as Roth­bart. The move­ment of his cloaks is mas­ter­ful, never just flap­ping for effect, and he fills the stage like an omin­ous shadow. He has a strong phys­ical pres­ence, and flashes sear­ing glances that are power­ful and well-judged.

Unfor­tu­nately, in some other areas there are weak­nesses. The pas de trois, which should bring the house down, got a polite applause; the queen let her cloak get the bet­ter of her; the char­ac­ter dances in the ball scene lack clar­ity and spark; some­times the ports de bras of the swans are a little ran­dom. Many of these fail­ings are linked toe the fact that this com­pany gets little oppor­tun­ity to dance on stage, hav­ing few per­form­ances each sea­son in com­par­ison to other major com­pan­ies. Next year should give them a boost, as the num­ber of bal­lets has been upped to cover the short­age of the more expens­ive opera per­form­ances. There are so many good dan­cers in the com­pany, and Vaziev has cre­ated a far more har­mo­ni­ous corps than there used to be in Milan, so the poten­tial is there. Gen­er­ally dur­ing the white acts the girls were very good, the six­teen boys who dance the Polon­aise at the end of the first act (thus giv­ing the girls time to get their white tutus on, enabling the first two acts to be joined) handled the com­plex­it­ies of Nureyev’s intric­ate moves with flair, and the four cygnets were nicely together.

Paul Con­nelly con­duc­ted excel­lently, as usual, but the orches­tra soun­ded at times like a town band. Why do they play so well for opera and often so arbit­rar­ily for the bal­let? Maina Giel­gud, who has scru­pu­lously revived the pro­duc­tion, has rein­stated the col­lapse of the Prince at the end of the third act: after hav­ing seen the vis­ion of the white swan, and real­ising the con­sequences, he drops to the ground and we find him dream­ing on the same spot at the begin­ning of the last act. This greatly helps con­tinue Nureyev’s nar­rat­ive, yet had curi­ously been lost when the ver­sion was remoun­ted in 2010 after its dec­ade in the wil­der­ness. This is a pro­duc­tion I love, though the essen­tial­ness of Ezio Frigerio’s set (sin­gu­lar!), pre­sum­ably rep­res­ent­ing the prison in which Siegfried feels trapped, gets a little wear­ing, though it func­tions well as a back­drop to set of Franca Squarciapino’s sump­tu­ous cos­tumes. Nureyev’s cho­reo­graphy is fas­cin­at­ing, dif­fi­cult, express­ive and fun.

The even­ing burnt on a slow fuse, catch­ing alight with Siegfried’s act one solo, explod­ing in the third act, and then glow­ing hyp­not­ic­ally until the final curtain.

Gramilano 7170321 700x289 Natalia Osipova and Claudio Coviello début in Nureyevs Swan Lake

  2 Responses to “Natalia Osipova and Claudio Coviello début in Nureyev’s Swan Lake”

  1. I saw the first night! They were won­der­ful. Nat­alia is so good in everything she does, and I was sur­prised by how fine Clau­dio Cov­i­ello is. Brava La Scala!

  2. I could not agree more!
    I had the same feel­ing about Osipova’s “cat­tish” black swan, but Odette was aston­ish­ing and you could not tell it bet­ter. Thanks for your review, it’s reas­sur­ing to know that I had your same impres­sions.
    I just appre­ci­ated the corps de bal­let per­haps a little more than you: I remem­ber them in the 80’s and the level now is so much higher in second act! I only miss Vescovo and Dorella in the Danza Napo­letana. Soloists of that age were fantastic !!

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