In a brave casting move, Makhar Vaziev, director of La Scala’s ballet company, has given new-boy Claudio Coviello the opening night of Swan Lake with Natalia Osipova.
21-year-old Claudio Coviello, who stepped in at the last minute to replace Ivan Vasiliev in March, and was named primo ballerino (principal) just two months ago, will be dancing three performances with the Russian superstar from mid-July.
Osipova arrives in Milan this weekend for two weeks of rehearsal as she will be dancing Rudolf Nureyev’s version of Swan Lake for the first time. Again Maina Gielgud, who prepared her for Nureyev’s version of Don Quixote when Osipova made her début with the company in 2010, will be putting her through her paces. It was later the same year, in 2010, that the theatre brought back Nureyev’s Swan Lake which had been ditched a decade earlier for the much debated, and generally hated, version by Bournmeister.
Nureyev’s Swan Lake for Milan was the last of three versions he created over the years, the previous two being in Vienna in 1964, and Paris in 1984. The Milan production débuted in 1990 with Isabel Seabra and Charles Jude, and Nureyev as Rothbart. As in Paris, the sets and costumes for Milan were designed by his longtime Italian collaborators Ezio Frigerio and Franca Squarciapino.
When Nureyev arrived to dance the Prince at the Royal Ballet in 1963, he famously added in two solos that he had created, instantly redressing the balance between the male and female protagonists. The male solo at the end of the first act is a danced soliloquy full of introspective tension. It is extraordinarily complex and difficult to pull off, but when it’s done well it can bring the house down. Coviello has many famous names to live up to here including an exquisite Anthony Dowell, a noble Erik Bruhn, and the young Rudi himself. The Black Swan pas de deux becomes a pas de trois in this version as Rothbart joins in the fun (greatly helping to explain the story) and at La Scala Osipova and Coviello will be joined by the charismatic Mick Zeni.
For me, Swan Lake is one long daydream on the part of prince Siegfried. Reared on romantic reading, his desire for infinity has been fired and he refuses the reality of the power and the marriage forced on him by his tutor and his mother. To escape from the dreary destiny that is being prepared for him, he brings the vision of the lake, this “elsewhere” for which he yearns, into his life. An idealized love is born in his mind, along with the prohibition that it represents. And so when the dream fades away, the sanity of the prince does not know how to survive.
Below, Natalia Osipova in her début with the La Scala Ballet as Kitri: