The buzz of anticipation in the theatre wasn’t matched by the Mariinsky Ballet’s performance at Turin’s Teatro Regio. Maybe the company decided not to field its top players because it was the ‘pensioners’ matinée’ but, for the Mariinsky, this Swan Lake was under par.
The first technical feats in the company’s production are presented by the Jester, and Ramanbek Beishenaliev went off axis on almost every tour en l’air. He was also unbelievably cutesy, though that’s a matter of taste. He certainly has some fine aspects to his dancing and his circus-act was warmly received by the Turinese public.
There was a substitution for the pas de trois with the incredibly tall Yaroslav Pushkov dancing the male role. He is an elegant dancer but was scholastic in his execution. One of his partners was Camilla Mazzi, a young dancer from Turin who trained at the Bolshoi and now dances in the Mariinsky corps de ballet. Brava! However, she wasn’t up to dancing the role (always in reference to the ‘Mariinsky Standard’) and unfortunately she had the excellent Shamala Guseinova dancing alongside her who, with her high elevation and all-round sureness, certainly did conform to the Mariinsky Standard.
Character Artist Soslan Kulaev phoned in his performance as Siegfried’s tutor and his ‘comic’ acting was embarrassingly rooted in a tradition that even my Russian friends find puzzling.
Galina Solovieva’s costumes for the court scenes are effective, though scatter spraying almost every costume with Swarovski crystals wasn’t perhaps the best idea in a medieval context.
All changed for the second act. It was as if Rothbart had enchanted swans and audience alike. Those Mariinsky lines are like no others — both the lines of the dancers’ bodies, and the lines the girls create together on stage. The willowy curves of their legs produce a perfect optical illusion. The female corps is so uniform that there are no small swans and big swans, just smaller swans and bigger swans; when they are in line there is a minimal difference in their height. They move like seaweed undulating in an ocean current, individual strands ebbing and flowing as one. Sublime.
Olesya Novikova was Odette-Odile and what a splendid dancer she is. She may not be an ideal white swan as she lacks fragility and pathos, and not even an ideal black swan as she is never convincingly fiery or flirty, but she is a gorgeous music box ballerina and true in every step. Her stage persona is more suited to sweet and sunny heroines, so Aurora fits her better than a swan queen.
Novikova’s partner was Philipp Stepin, who is always clean and graceful, and with impressive jumps. He doesn’t have a noble, princely air, but he makes a pleasing Siegfried nevertheless.
Roman Malyshev should be singled out from the first-rate third-act character-dance dancers. In the Hungarian Dance he showed a feisty temperament and danced with a crisp dynamic.
The Mariinsky production of Swan Lake has Rothbart defeated when Siegfried breaks his wing, which in practice means that his shaggy sleeve is torn off leaving Siegfried with a black piece of cloth in his hand which he holds like a tea towel while Rothbart writhes on the ground. It is an insignificant and a poor way to overcome the powers of an evil sorcerer.
* Other casts featured Oksana Skorik, Anastasia Kolegova and Ekaterina Kondaurova as Odette-Odile; with Xander Parish, Yevgeny Ivanchenko and Timur Askerov as Siegfried.