Swan Lake (Graeme Murphy)

September 23, 2011 at 10:18 pm | Posted in Ballet Review, DVD Review | Leave a comment
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Warning: Plot elements revealed.

I found this DVD in the library the other day, got it out and took it home. To my surprise it was a very different take on Swan Lake. For a while it looked there would be no swans at all!

Graeme Murphy has done away with the whole birthday and forrest plot devices, and jumps straight to the wedding of Odette and Prince Siegfried – yes wedding. There is no Odile, her role is effectively taken by a reformatted Rothbart – now a baroness! The wedding feast starting off well, but Siegfried encounters the Baroness, a former lover, now married with children, and their feelings for each other are revived – most unfortunate. From then on, to misquote a personality from the last century, “there were three in the marriage.”

Watching this version of Swan Lake it is impossible not to draw comparisons with the situation that Charles, Diana, and Carmilla found themselves in last century.

Murphy’s choreography is excellent and in places very innovative: the pirouettes and fouettes used in the original to denote joy and happiness, at the engagement party, are repurposed to denote confusion and dismay at the wedding. What Odette does with her weeding dress train is very well thought out and executed. Swans do eventually appear, but in a dream / fantasy sequence. For traditionalist, the cygnets are there !

The dancing is all classical technique and many of the dance sequences in the original are there – just in a different order to fit into the ‘new’ story. Murphy has firmly put the story in a modern setting. But without loosing the essential tragedy of the original, nor loosing the uplifting power of Tchaikovsky’s music.

The costumes are rich and complement the choreography.

Madeleine Eastoe, as Odette; Danielle Rowe, as Baroness von Rothbart; and Robert Curran, as Prince Siegfried all give superb performances – both from a dance perspective and an acting perspective. The choreography calls on Curran to do some very innovative lifts and holds.

The DVD, produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, is from a life performance by the Australian Ballet in 2008 at the Sydney Opera House.

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