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English National Ballet Swan Lake Autumn/Winter 2022/2023


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I was at a performance of ENB Swan Lake last night as it starts its autumn tour of Swan Lake in Liverpool (Empire Theatre). The second evening after opening night. Fernanda Oliveira and Ken Saruhashi were the leads. It's the first return of ENB to theatres in North England since the pandemic and I think the last time they were here was Nutctracker in 2019. I've lost track over the pandemic but this might be their first touring location since the pandemic hit us? I've loved seeing ENB in Manchester and Liverpool over the years and was so good to see them again. I think the last time I saw them live was Swan Lake at the Liverpool Empire in late 2018. 

 

It was a really fine performance which was extremely satisfying. I had not seen Oliveira dance before and she embodied Odile/Odette so classically, brilliantly and convincingly. Such elegance in all her movement. I particularly enjoyed her Black Swan solo variation which she made simultaneously elegant and bravura. I am really glad to have seen her dance. And the elegance and grace of Saruhashi is so well matched to Oliveira. The Swan ensemble in this production has such exquisite quality and synchronisation, which I remembered striking me in 2018, and struck me again last night, they move with speed, grace, and accuracy, as one intense force of nature. One other highlight which struck me was the vivacity of Haruhi Otani in the Act I Pas De Trois. 

 

I'm starting to notch up quite a few Swan Lakes over the years and if I am honest it does get harder to recapture that first fresh impact/wonder/thrall that I first experienced. And also if I am honest when I saw both ENB and Birmingham Royal Ballet announcing Swan lake for their touring 2022/2023 to Manchester/Liverpool I was a little disappointed and a feeling of "not Swan Lake again". But I do know very well, especially since the pandemic, how luck we really are to have the chance to see it. I have to keep reminding myself of the joy/privilege of being able to go to a fabulous live ballet in an evening in a great city. It does feel like there's been a lot of complacent return to normality and a forgetting the long dark months of the pandemic, endlessly waiting for things to improve. And the masterpiece of Swan Lake and ENB's production which has such intense layers of spectacle to it from the gothic Act III, to the ethereal white acts, the glowing peasant scenes of Act I, and through it all the quality of dancing from ENB. I may well go and see another performance in Manchester next week. 

 

Look forward to hearing other peoples thoughts who have been to see this. 

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I was at the Empire yesterday afternoon to see Lorenzo Trossello (ex-NB favourite) debut as Siegfried with the ever glorious Shiori Kase as his Odette/Odile.

 

The ENB production is handsome and traditional, although it seems strange to me that there is no Benno.  Instead Benno is replaced in Act 1 by a tutor.

 

Well Shiori and Lorenzo more than matched my expectations.  I loved the degree of contrast Shiori achieved between her Odette and Odile, one all melting and tragic and the other diamond hard and manipulative.  Lorenzo danced beautifully and acted with feeling.

 

It's always good to see Jane Howarth still performing with the company - she was a soloist and one of my favourite dancers when I first started watching ballet.

 

Of course, the orchestra sounded amazing under the baton of Gavin Sutherland.

 

So it was a wonderful afternoon!

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Thanks Alison and Janet, and just wanted to agree with Janet about seeing Jane Howarth. Although i've never seen her dance solo roles, she's a very fine and powerful character actor, and was a splendid Queen on the evening I went. 

On the point about not hearing about outside-London performances. No media reviews have appeared on ENB Swan Lake at Liverpool yet. I would normally expect something about the opening night. Disappointing. 

 

And also edited to add there was a decent attendance on the night I went. In honesty, not really packed,  but the front and rear circle was well occupied.  and rapturous reception when the curtain came down. 

 

Edited by northstar
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The stalls was jam packed yesterday afternoon.  I don't know about the circle though.

 

The Empire has one of the largest seat capacities outside London at around 2300.  My late friend told me that before the Empire was saved in favour of the Royal Court (now also saved) in the early 1980s ballet companies tended to go to the Royal Court which I think was around 1500 seats.

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So wonderful to read reviews of ENB performances in other cities/regions other than London! Thank you northstar, for starting this thread. Great to read Janet & northstar’s reviews of two different shows and casts.

 

Am also pleased to hear that Jane Haworth didn’t retire totally and has come back to play Siegfried’s mother (she did it at the very last ENB Swan Lake I saw too- Jurgita Dronina and Isaac Hernandez dancing the leads at the Coliseum in January 2019.)

 

Probably as a result of “imprinting” by watching the 1977 Norman Morrice and Frederick Ashton production with Makarova and Dowell (on tv and video  in the 80s, sadly never got to see it live as Dowell’s production replaced it) over and over again 😁, I’m more used to a Swan Lake with no Benno (and definitely no jester!) but with the tutor.  Looking forward to seeing this in January and would love to read more reviews from members who have seen it/will see it in Liverpool and Manchester. 

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I saw the opening night, from the Circle (which was half full) and the Thursday matinee, from the front stalls.

 

I booked the opening night partly to see Frola again, after his wonderful performance in the Bournonville at the Nureyev programme. I was particularly impressed by his dancing in Act 3, fast, light, splendid jumps. His Odette-Odile was Erina Takahashi, still dancing immaculately, until the fouettés, which started very well until she fell off- but bravely restarted! Her classical technique is, despite that, as strong as ever, controlled, lyrical.  Her Act 4 was the most moving. That performance  had quite senior dancers, unlisted, in the Waltz. The Neapolitan dance was splendidly done with real verve by Haruhi Otani and Rhys Antoni Yeomans. The Act 1 pas de trois was well danced by Emily Suzuki, Katja Khaniukova and Aitor Arrieta (same cast the next day, apart from Erik Woolhouse instead of Arrieta) but one of the dancers who impressed me most was Precious Adams as a Lead swan and a princess, her epaulement and lyricism captured the eye.

 

The matinee was special, as Jan says, for the dancing of Shiori Kase. Even as a student her lyricism was exceptional and her musicality and control, with turns lingering, beautifully articulated, and expressing her emotional response, made her Odette moving, and deeply tragic in the final act. She sparkled in the Black act, all technical challenges conquered. Lorenzo Trossello coped well, mostly, in his debut both in the role and with the company.

 

In both performances Rothbart was James Streeter, conducting and controlling the bevy of swans with his huge wings. And in addition to Jane Haworth, that other stalwart, Michael Coleman, was the tutor and the master of ceremonies in both performances. What a treasure he has been to British ballet!- from Jeremy Fisher in Tales from Beatrix Potter, to Colas, to Elite Syncopations and Robbins in the past to character parts now.  At 82 his sense of theatre and comic timing still add to the audience's enjoyment.

 

One, minor, criticism of the production is the important sightings of Odette in Act 3. From the Circle I could see them fine but had to look for them when sat in the stalls as dancers were standing in front of her. It reminded me of the premiere of Makarova's production of Swan Lake for LFB in Bradford (yes, in the days when they really were a touring company). Odette's pleading was filmed, with Makarova, no less, performing it, but was scarcely visible. (But at least she was in the theatre, as was Ashton, as some of his choreography was included).

 

The least appealing aspect to the performances was the audience. In the Circle I was surrounded by people swigging wine, talking, being allowed in late during the performance or later getting up, checking their mobiles. In the stalls the young woman next to me texted almost throughout the performance yet ostentatiously stood up to applaud at the end.

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4 hours ago, Jan McNulty said:

The stalls was jam packed yesterday afternoon.  I don't know about the circle though.

I was in the circle for the matinée yesterday and having seen the crush of people waiting to get into the stalls assumed it would be busy upstairs too. There were a healthy enough number up there but I'd say it was probably only 40-50% full. Having said that though the Empire is a huge theatre and the circle is particularly massive, so it wasn't too bad for a matinée.

 

I too enjoyed the production though I found the sets a little bit 'beige'! I was racking my brains to try and remember where I'd come across Lorenzo Trossello so thanks for reminding me. At times he felt a bit tentative in his solos but his partnering of the wonderful Shiori Kase was exemplary and all in all it was an auspicious debut. Apart from that I was very taken with Emily Suzuki, Francesca Velicu and Erik Woolhouse in the Act 1 pas de trois and also loved Francesca in the Ashton Neapolitan Dance in Act 3.

 

Best thing about the Empire is of course the two minute walk to the entrance to the Wirral Line for the train home!

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On Friday evening I was back at the Empire for round 2 of Swan Lake.

 

This evening the leading roles were taken by Erina Takahashi and Francesco Gabriele Frola.  Individually they were both superb but I did find them a little lacking in chemistry together.

 

James Streeter was an excellent Rothbart at both the performances I saw - Craig Revel Horwood would have been very impressed with the capeology on display and I did find that he was obviously controlling the swans.  A very powerful performance.

 

Another delight of this production is, of course, the opportunity to see the Ashton Neapolitan.  The 2 performances I saw were scintillating - Francesca Velicu & Matthew Astley on Thursday afternoon and Haruhi Omani & Rhys Antoni Yeomans on Friday evening.

 

The swans were very synchronised in both performances I saw, all credit to them.

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2 hours ago, northstar said:

 Did anyone see Sat Eve with Natascha Mair leading? I've been intrigued by this new recruit to ENB, but decided not to go on Sat for various reasons. 

I found her dancing very disappointing at the Nureyev Gala - in spite of being partnered by wonderful Muntagirov.

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On 02/10/2022 at 20:15, northstar said:

Thanks Janet and ChrisG and SheilaC for the reviews of other performances. Did anyone see Sat Eve with Natascha Mair leading? I've been intrigued by this new recruit to ENB, but decided not to go on Sat for various reasons. 

I saw Natascha Mair in the Le Corsaire pas de trois (ENB’s version is for 3 characters) and Black Swan pas de deux in their Solstice programme in 2021, and at the Nureyev gala in the Sleeping Beauty Act 3 pas de deux. Prior to these I had seen her in the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra’s iconic New Year’s Day concert filmed ballet excerpts dancing a gorgeous short ballet choreographed by former Paris Opera Ballet etoile Jose Martinez, and in the YouTube film of ENB’s Nutcracker Delights (the digital offering to replace their Christmas season cancelled due to government Covid rules) dancing the role of Clara, with Erina Takahashj dancing the Sugar Plum part (“tutu part”) of the role, and she was delightful in those films. 

 

I’d say she excels in portraying graceful, elegant parts rather than as a technical virtuoso. It’s been hard for her relocating to a different country and joining a new company during a pandemic, when opportunities to get settled in were so restricted then, or often curtailed at the last moment. She was lovely and graceful at the Nureyev Gala performance I saw, a very sweet Aurora. I thought she looked very nervous at the first show I saw her in (Black Swan pdd). Hopefully she will blossom as she gets more performances under her belt- some contemporary ballets, eg during the Sadler’s Wells week next month, may also help.  I haven’t seen this season’s run of Swan Lake yet. 

Edited by Emeralds
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I went to another performance of ENB Swan Lake at Manchester Palace Theatre yesterday, Thursday Matinee with Emma Hawes and Aitor Arrieta leading. Although I'm familiar with Arrieta, I hadn't heard or seen much of Hawes and had to look up her details to see she only joined ENB in 2018 and promoted to principal in 2022. Thanks to ballet forum I've been able to read about her performances in ENB Swan Lake in 18/19 - which is so valuable, thanks BalletForum.

They are a stunning couple and delivered a splendid Siegried/Odette/Odile, although if I am completely honest I must say I felt the sheer, exceptional beauty of their movement wasn't quite matched with the very highest levels of drama/emotion/passion that I've seen in some performances of Swan Lake over the years. Perhaps I set an unreasonable standard; they certainly have, and displayed, all the physical and technical attributes to the highest level.

 

I appreciated again the wonderful ENB swan ensemble and other elements, wanted to particularly to mention Noam Durand's flair and leaps in the Pas de Trois.

 

I see on the ATG/Palace Theatre website that all 3 remaining performances on Fri/Sat are now sold out, I don't think I've ever seen this before in Liverpool/Manchester theatres. 

Edited by northstar
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Does anyone know when the casting for Swan Lake will be announced in London? 

Edited to add that perhaps someone ought to let Rupert Christiansen know how popular the ENB Swan Lake is proving to be.  🙂

Edited by Fonty
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4 hours ago, northstar said:

I went to another performance of ENB Swan Lake at Manchester Palace Theatre yesterday, Thursday Matinee with Emma Hawes and Aitor Arrieta leading. Although I'm familiar with Arrieta, I hadn't heard or seen much of Hawes and had to look up her details to see she only joined ENB in 2018 and promoted to principal in 2022. Thanks to ballet forum I've been able to read about her performances in ENB Swan Lake in 18/19 - which is so valuable, thanks BalletForum.

They are a stunning couple and delivered a splendid Siegried/Odette/Odile, although if I am completely honest I must say I felt the sheer, exceptional beauty of their movement wasn't quite matched with the very highest levels of drama/emotion/passion that I've seen in some performances of Swan Lake over the years. Perhaps I set an unreasonable standard; they certainly have, and displayed, all the physical and technical attributes to the highest level.

 

I appreciated again the wonderful ENB swan ensemble and other elements, wanted to particularly to mention Noam Durand's flair and leaps in the Pas de Trois.

 

I see on the ATG/Palace Theatre website that all 3 remaining performances on Fri/Sat are now sold out, I don't think I've ever seen this before in Liverpool/Manchester theatres. 

The Manchester audiences (who may include many who have travelled some distance to Manchester!) clearly know great art when it is “in da house”   (maybe they are quietly reading this forum?)...😊

 

I am looking forward to the London run! I do like Hawes and Arrieta a lot- they are more subtle and self effacing dancers, but beautiful lines, very neat technique and always fully committed to their roles, with no histrionics or over the top acting. Arrieta is such a humble artist- always concerned with showing his partner at her best and interacting with his fellow cast, that I had no idea what a marvellous virtuoso he was until I saw him in the live streamed Emerging Dancer Gala dancing Grand Pas Classique. His jetes/leaps - ok, they don’t look human. Aitor literally flew ....and hovered in the air, reminding me of the accounts of Nijinsky by those who had managed to see him in performance. I booked to see Emma Hawes in a lead role twice last winter and both got cancelled by Omicron Covid hitting the company! Am hoping I’ll get to see her in a full length role this time. I did manage to see her previously as one of the Step Sisters (the bossy mean one) in Wheeldon’s Cinderella and in Stevenson’s Three Preludes, and she was brilliant in the two contrasting roles. 

 

That’s fantastic that the remaining shows are sold out- I do like this traditional, classic style Swan Lake.  And hopefully the theatre will circulate word to encourage novice/infrequent attenders to arrive on time, get to seats before the house lights dim, and leave food, beverages, mobiles, cameras and tablets inside their pockets or bags untouched (and smart watches/fitbits turned off) while the music and dancing are going on. 😉 

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My daughter went to the Manchester shows on Wednesday and Friday. Loved it - and said Friday was easily the best. A couple of gasp-out-loud moments she said.

 

But she too was infuriated by the apparent inability of people to watch a ballet without unwrapping and eating sweets and crisps! 

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I remember seeing ENB’s Coppelia in Manchester about 20 years ago.  I went up from London as a friend of mine was dancing Coppelius.  The whole time people were eating, drinking and chatting.  At the interval I asked the two girls behind me why they didn’t just go to the pub.  They were better in the next act.  
 

So sadly, things haven’t changed.  

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The Manchester audiences (not counting our well behaved forum members, forum members’ family and a minority of well behaved audience members) must be chronically starved, like Oliver Twist and friends- they’re grazing and chomping  all the time! Well done, Sim, for pointing it out to them! 

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There's a terrific review of Swan Lake in today's links, from the Mancunion and written by someone who'd never been to ballet before. Exactly how you'd hope a newcomer might react, and very well expressed. Do read it if you haven't already.

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  • 2 months later...

Toi toi toi to ENB tomorrow for the start of the London run of this well loved production by Derek Deane (for a theatre with a proscenium stage as opposed to his other Swan Lake for an arena or “in the round” type of theatre). Wishing all forum members attending the shows safe travels there and back- and you know the drill.....let us know what you thought of it afterwards, share any photos of the curtain calls if you can, and most of all, enjoy the show! 😊

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Note the announced cast change (thanks Dawnstar) on the other thread for tomorrow night- Francesco Gabriele Frola replaces Ken Saruhashi as Siegfried to Fernanda Oliveira’s Odette/Odile. Would have liked to see it (in addition to the dates I’ve already booked) but unfortunately I am busy tomorrow! Wishing Ken all the best and a speedy recovery from whatever is keeping him off the stage.

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Well, what a night of total fabulousness that was!  More tomorrow, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Beautiful dancing, gorgeous production.  I’d forgotten how much I love it!

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Seeing the production for the first time tonight, my first reaction was the opposite to seeing ENB's Nutcracker a fortnight ago. With the Nutcracker I was surprised at how much it differed from the RB's; with Swan Lake I was surprised at how much of it was very similar, though with a few significant differences especially at the end. I was not expecting Siegfried to follow Odette off the rock!

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3 minutes ago, Dawnstar said:

Seeing the production for the first time tonight, my first reaction was the opposite to seeing ENB's Nutcracker a fortnight ago. With the Nutcracker I was surprised at how much it differed from the RB's; with Swan Lake I was surprised at how much of it was very similar, though with a few significant differences especially at the end. I was not expecting Siegfried to follow Odette off the rock!

In most versions he does!  

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17 minutes ago, Sim said:

In most versions he does!  

 

I've clearly not seen enough SLs! I've only seen the RB's live, where of course he survives. During lockdown I saw a streamed one from Vienna, where he drowned & she lived, and a Russian one, can't remember which company, where both of them survived. Hence ENB's ending was a surprise to me.

Edited by Dawnstar
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Dawnstar have you seen the previous RB (Dowell) version?  
 

Traditionally they both jump and are then reunited forever through the final apotheosis.  For me, that’s what the music tells me should happen.  I really don’t like the versions where they both live.  It just seems wrong to me!  Just my opinion.  

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1 hour ago, Sim said:

Dawnstar have you seen the previous RB (Dowell) version?  
 

Traditionally they both jump and are then reunited forever through the final apotheosis.  For me, that’s what the music tells me should happen.  I really don’t like the versions where they both live.  It just seems wrong to me!  Just my opinion.  


I prefer the versions where they both die, as in ENB where they both jump and drown in the lake …  it shows Siegfried would rather die with Odette, than be left alive alone.  
 

in the RB version … the ending is too similar to Giselle … to have Siegfried mourning Odette’s death.  

Edited by FionaE
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1 hour ago, Sim said:

Dawnstar have you seen the previous RB (Dowell) version? 

 

No, I haven't, only the Scarlett one (first the cinemacast when it was new in 2018 & then finally live in 2022, as the 2020 performances I had booked were covid victims). So my reference points when it comes to SL are extremely limited. While I have yet to be really moved by the ending of SL (at least moved in the way I am by R&J, Manon, Mayerling) I think on reflection it's nicer for both of them to die & be reunited in death than for one to die & the other left alone. The Vienna production seemed particularly bleak as not only was he dead & she alive but, if I understood it correctly, she was still under Von Rothbart's spell, so nothing had been achieved by their suffering.

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Some not very good curtain call photos from tonight's performance with Emma Hawes as Odette/Odile, Aitor Arrieta as Prince Siegfried & an unrecognisable James Streeter as Von Rothbart. They didn't do any front of curtain calls.

 

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The Nutcracker pointe shoe tree has been replaced in the foyer by pointe shoe swan wings!

 

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5 hours ago, Dawnstar said:

 

No, I haven't, only the Scarlett one (first the cinemacast when it was new in 2018 & then finally live in 2022, as the 2020 performances I had booked were covid victims). So my reference points when it comes to SL are extremely limited. While I have yet to be really moved by the ending of SL (at least moved in the way I am by R&J, Manon, Mayerling) I think on reflection it's nicer for both of them to die & be reunited in death than for one to die & the other left alone. The Vienna production seemed particularly bleak as not only was he dead & she alive but, if I understood it correctly, she was still under Von Rothbart's spell, so nothing had been achieved by their suffering.


The Vienna ending is closer to the original scenario which has Siegfried tearing the crown from Odette’s head at which point the waters rise and drown him with the last image being of the swans on the lake. 

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