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English National Ballet Swan Lake Autumn/Winter 2022/2023


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15 hours ago, alison said:

I was in the Upper Circle, and did struggle at times to make out both Adams' and Frola's legs easily: both were at times dancing against areas of floor which were - or appeared to be, due to lighting - of similar colours to their tights/shoes.  I suspect this wouldn't have been a problem when viewed head-on from e.g. the stalls, where they would presumably have been seen against the backdrop rather than the floor.

 

14 hours ago, PeterS said:

It was an issue from the stalls too. A dull backdrop of darkish colour shades and low level lighting did nothing to help highlight the exceptional dancing. 

 

Whereas I didn't find it a problem, also sitting in the stalls. I don't know whether it helped that I was sat at the outer edge of the stalls both times so was looking somewhat across the stage rather than straight at it.

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On 22/01/2023 at 14:29, CCL said:

Emeralds, thanks so much both for your review and also for expressing what went wrong re the Coli’s expectations of audience behaviour. I was shocked and disappointed at the amount of background noise during the music at the start of Act 2 at last Sunday’s performance and couldn’t understand why the music wasn’t enough of a signal for people to stop chatting! Fortunately for me I was seated in a stage box on my own (exchanged from my original seat which I mentioned on the casting thread) so I was close enough to the orchestra for the noise to not make too much of a difference to me personally but I felt sad all the same that it was happening!

I did wonder if you would have to share the box with anyone annoying or inconsiderate, CCL! (And judging by our experiences, there seem to have been plenty of both attending these ENB Swan Lakes.) Glad you could sit on your own!

 

I remarked to my friend halfway through all the shenanigans that “at shows like this, we really need a box of our own”- but at the time of booking, there weren’t any empty ones left to buy because of the late announcement of casting. I’m really pleased for you though, CCL, as I know you were waiting and waiting on ENB for the casting like us. 

Edited by Emeralds
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6 hours ago, Emeralds said:

. I’m really pleased for you though, CCL, as I know you were waiting and waiting on ENB for the casting like us

Thank you Emeralds, that’s really kind. I actually only exchanged about half an hour before curtain up - the box office staff were helpful and offered box number 1 instead of my original seat. It was quite a restricted view but at times the dancers were thrillingly close so I didn’t mind. The next box along only had one person in it, a young Italian man who could not have been more courteous and charming- so I was really very fortunate indeed in my audience experience. I do feel for those who had a bad experience as outlined above.

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On another note, there’s a very positive write up of Brooklyn Mack’s Siegfried in Monday’s links, written by Jonathan Gray for Gramilano. I was really impressed by Mack in Le Corsaire three years ago and he was dazzling in ENB’s 70th birthday gala. I was sorry not to be able to see him this time round but could only manage one show. Did any forum users see him in SL?

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1 hour ago, CCL said:

On another note, there’s a very positive write up of Brooklyn Mack’s Siegfried in Monday’s links, written by Jonathan Gray for Gramilano. I was really impressed by Mack in Le Corsaire three years ago and he was dazzling in ENB’s 70th birthday gala. I was sorry not to be able to see him this time round but could only manage one show. Did any forum users see him in SL?

 

I didn't, but I did read that review and found it very annoying! Not because of Gray's enthusiasm for Mack but because of his rudely dismissive comments about the company performance. If he's really so bored with seeing endless Swan Lakes, he shouldn't write about them in public since it has clearly skewed his judgement.

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Sounds like Jonathan Gray (he was the last editor of The Dancing Times before it closed) also got very annoyed about the talking that drowned out the music, just like many of us were, which he mentions at the end of his review, and that put him in a bad mood that had a negative impact on his recollection of the production and dancing. Thankfully at least Brooklyn Mack got singled out for praise! (Mack is indeed brilliant- he danced Conrad and Lankedem respectively at two Corsaire performances I saw as well as an excerpt from Coppelia during the 70th anniversary gala; some of the photos in the article have been mislabelled- the photos in the purple costume are of Mack as Lankedem, not Conrad.)

 

The run is now over and London won’t see ENB until late March  when they are scheduled to perform Creature at Sadler’s Wells, and already, I am hearing that many regular dancegoers will not bother to attend Creature or the ENB season of Cinderella at the Royal Albert Hall given their experiences with Swan Lake.

 

Despite being listed in the website and programme as Artistic Director Designate and only “taking over in August”, Aaron Watkin writes and signs the artistic director’s welcome letter in the Swan Lake  programme that Tamara Rojo always used to write and sign. It's not signed by Rojo or, as you’d expect during a vacant handover period, the assistant artistic director (ie Loipa Araujo).

 

It seems as though Aaron Watkin has very quickly allowed front of house standards to crash at the start of the run of Swan Lake, whereas Rojo was always clear about the boundaries of behaviour - take photos and film videos during the curtain calls all you want, post them online to your heart’s content, but definitely no photos or filming during the dancing and screens, phones off....and no popcorn eating during the ballet!

 

As many dancegoers also associate the Coliseum front of house with English National Opera, who are the Coliseum’s owner and landlord, this will also put a dent in any goodwill that ENO have built up to gain support following their Arts Council cuts. It puts supporters in an unwelcome position when they’re being told: “we want you to buy tickets, attend, and donate .....you just won’t be able to hear the music over the chatter and crunching of popcorn, or see some of the show over the fitbits, smartphones and smart watches flashing in your face”!

 

On the other hand, this will be good news for the finance department of the Royal Ballet, as dancegoers avoid ENB and head to the ROH instead.

 

Perhaps if RAH help to promote Cinderella as an “ultimate ballet fairy tale” to RAH regulars and tourists in South Kensington, and ENB rely on the subsidies from Islington tax payers and support raised by Alistair Spaulding’s contacts and sponsors of SW, they may (just about) be able to raise enough box office income and advertising revenue despite alienating their core audience.

 

But will they survive next season and thereafter? 

Edited by Emeralds
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4 hours ago, bridiem said:

 

I didn't, but I did read that review and found it very annoying! Not because of Gray's enthusiasm for Mack but because of his rudely dismissive comments about the company performance. If he's really so bored with seeing endless Swan Lakes, he shouldn't write about them in public since it has clearly skewed his judgement.

I agree, Bridie.  If it’s such a chore and a bore, don’t do it.  Give your posh freebie ticket to an unbiased and enthusiastic writer.  Most critics see one performance of each production…hardly onerous.  I am sure that many of us have seen much more ballet than these poor jaded critics.  

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24 minutes ago, Emeralds said:

The run is now over and London won’t see ENB until late March  when they are scheduled to perform Creature at Sadler’s Wells, and already, I am hearing that many regular dancegoers will not bother to attend Creature or the ENB season of Cinderella at the Royal Albert Hall given their experiences with Swan Lake.

 

I've never seen ballet at the Royal Albert Hall before, so was tempted to book for ENB's Cinderella.

But of course, if their audience policies are just as bad then I'm unlikely to!

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On 21/01/2023 at 13:12, Emeralds said:

Then the show starts out of the blue. As regulars will know, the music which begins Act 2 is the quiet soulful iconic Swan Lake theme tune- one of the most beautiful pieces of music in the score and indeed the world. In the upper tiers, it is  completely drowned out by the cacophony of chatter. Even a few “shhhs” from audience members who have noticed that the show has restarted are futile as the audience can’t hear the music and are baffled by the shushing.....and continue nattering loudly. Eventually all the music is lost amid the yakking -  even when the curtain goes up, 90% of the audience (the ones yakking or still reading their phones)  have no idea that they missed one of the best bits of the show they paid for.

 

This is the crux of my issue as well. At all costs, do not disrupt the most iconic score in the ballet repertoire! Having that music lost amid mindless yakking is just sacrilege. (I'm aware there are many great scores but for me, Swan Lake is the ultimate one! Could listen to it every day - in fact I do - and never tire of it.)

 

What I prefer about the Royal Ballet's version (last year's run was my first time seeing SL live and I was enraptured for every single performance) is that Act 4 begins straight away and there is no music interim before the curtain goes up. I was a bit confused by ENB's approach to this, it being my first time seeing this version. As you say, without clear rules and proper management of this decision, the audience is not going to realise that the Act has begun and that means NO noise.

 

I also love the way the Royal Ballet's version does the Act 1 to 2 transition with the scenery change shown to the audience as it is very seamlessly done, we have that moment with the beautiful arabesque from Siegfried (picturing Vadim's one as I type this, which is just incredible), glimpses of Rothbart, it just moulds very well into the first white act. I understand that there are reasons for drawing the curtain for a scene change etc, but I don't really understand the reason for having the orchestra play for too long while the curtain is down - unless it's the overture at the very beginning of the ballet (when everyone usually shuts up as it's clearly obvious this is the beginning!) It just invites too much disruption.

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1 hour ago, Emeralds said:

The run is now over and London won’t see ENB until late March  when they are scheduled to perform Creature at Sadler’s Wells, and already, I am hearing that many regular dancegoers will not bother to attend Creature or the ENB season of Cinderella at the Royal Albert Hall given their experiences with Swan Lake.

Well, that would be unfair, if that's the only reason.  I don't think either Sadler's or the RAH sell popcorn, do they?  And as far as I know neither let latecomers in at unsuitable times.

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6 hours ago, bridiem said:

 

I didn't, but I did read that review and found it very annoying! Not because of Gray's enthusiasm for Mack but because of his rudely dismissive comments about the company performance. If he's really so bored with seeing endless Swan Lakes, he shouldn't write about them in public since it has clearly skewed his judgement.


Not only annoying but totally unwarranted. The company was on terrific form in both of the performances that I saw (opening and closing) and I can’t for one minute think that their standards dropped inbetween. 

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19 minutes ago, Scheherezade said:


Not only annoying but totally unwarranted. The company was on terrific form in both of the performances that I saw (opening and closing) and I can’t for one minute think that their standards dropped inbetween. 


Maybe Jonathan Gray feels unleashed from the constraints of being an Editor and was in the mood to let rip. But, after 31 Nutcrackers and 13 Swan Lakes, no Company deserves such a put down. Besides which, ENB’s corps were amazing.

 

And what a difference it made to have 24 swans on stage rather than the measly 18 snowflakes the RB mustered for its Nutcracker (which was otherwise beautifully done, also night after night).

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9 hours ago, alison said:

Well, that would be unfair, if that's the only reason.  I don't think either Sadler's or the RAH sell popcorn, do they?  And as far as I know neither let latecomers in at unsuitable times.

That’s what worried us. The Coliseum used to be friendly (their veteran ushers knew the casts and dancers- “Oh Alina-isn’t she wonderful?”, “You will enjoy watching Cesar-such a talent “) but were strict about decorum- they dealt with photo taking and filming immediately but let you photograph curtain calls (which were very short anyway!) knowing it was great for fans and the company.

 

The Coliseum used to be strict about latecomers too.  Latecomers weren’t allowed to walk in front of others- you either stood at the back till the interval, sat in a vacant space in the back row near the aisle, or if it was full house, they ushered you to the tv screen in the basement (outside the restaurant when it used to be there.) Food wasn’t allowed in apart from ice creams. People were expected to consume their drinks at the bar or the public areas outside the auditorium, and definitely no glassware or cans (beer and other fizzy drinks) inside.

 

There was simply a complete change in rules starting from 12 January. It was like wild hippies had taken over the running of the Coliseum. I’ve never seen any show allowing such chaotic behaviour at the Coliseum, whether it’s ENO, My Fair Lady, Sunset Boulevard, United Ukrainian Ballet, Ballet Icons Gala, or any of BRB, Bolshoi or ENB’s previous seasons there. What if SWT & RAH, on instructions from the new leadership, decided to adopt the same “laissez faire chaos” too? (Ironically, I couldn’t help thinking that the music for Creature and the Akram Giselle would probably have been loud enough to drown out the cacophony of chattering audiences!) 

 

Sadlers Wells and RAH allow drinks in plastic cups inside, but I’d say SWT generally has the most knowledgeable audiences who are very quiet and sit holding their drinks still during the dancing and when the music starts. RAH does get a lot of patrons guzzling alcohol and chomping food inside the auditorium- but then RAH will cater sandwiches, pizzas, canapés and champagne etc to the seats in the  boxes (not that the food has ever caused an issue, although some patrons have been known to spill drinks on the floor! (Don’t wear your most expensive shoes to RAH!)

 

The Coliseum never used to sell popcorn either, so it really shocked us that it had degenerated into some rowdy pub within less than a week. It was completely different during Nutcracker- people ate and drank outside the auditorium, absolutely no alcohol or fizzy drinks inside, and no popcorn in evidence at all. Can you believe that a show with children attending for the first time had better behaved audiences than Swan Lake? Even the children sat quietly and respectfully when the orchestra began to play. 

 

Edited by Emeralds
For accuracy
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8 hours ago, Scheherezade said:


Not only annoying but totally unwarranted. The company was on terrific form in both of the performances that I saw (opening and closing) and I can’t for one minute think that their standards dropped inbetween. 

Completely agree with you about the terrific form. The dancers were producing some of the best dancing I’d ever seen for Swan Lake (that includes the Mariinsky, Bolshoi, ABT and Royal Ballet).... everyone was on top form and giving it 100%. And it wasn’t even first night, last night, or a Saturday night but a random week night. The corps swans were perfect, the cygnets were impeccable, the leading swans were flawless and soulful, and the corps and soloists in Acts 1 & 3 were on fine form. The only other occasion I can compare it to was when Osipova made her debut with RB. and that Swan Lake was just as electric, with every RB dancer giving it 100%. And it wasn’t just a fluke - others who had visited other nights said the same. It felt horribly cruel to the company that while they were giving a five star performance on stage, many in the audience were being so disruptive and discourteous to them and to other audience members who then had to struggle to be able to see and hear the performance. 

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10 hours ago, art_enthusiast said:

 

This is the crux of my issue as well. At all costs, do not disrupt the most iconic score in the ballet repertoire! Having that music lost amid mindless yakking is just sacrilege. (I'm aware there are many great scores but for me, Swan Lake is the ultimate one! Could listen to it every day - in fact I do - and never tire of it.)

 

What I prefer about the Royal Ballet's version (last year's run was my first time seeing SL live and I was enraptured for every single performance) is that Act 4 begins straight away and there is no music interim before the curtain goes up. I was a bit confused by ENB's approach to this, it being my first time seeing this version. As you say, without clear rules and proper management of this decision, the audience is not going to realise that the Act has begun and that means NO noise.

 

I also love the way the Royal Ballet's version does the Act 1 to 2 transition with the scenery change shown to the audience as it is very seamlessly done, we have that moment with the beautiful arabesque from Siegfried (picturing Vadim's one as I type this, which is just incredible), glimpses of Rothbart, it just moulds very well into the first white act. I understand that there are reasons for drawing the curtain for a scene change etc, but I don't really understand the reason for having the orchestra play for too long while the curtain is down - unless it's the overture at the very beginning of the ballet (when everyone usually shuts up as it's clearly obvious this is the beginning!) It just invites too much disruption.

I think for most companies, the scenery change is done while the orchestra plays, moving the quieter  bits of the set during the Swan theme, and saving the clunky heavy set moves (you can overhear it behind the curtain if you sit near the stage) during the loud bits with the brass, and they somehow all manage to complete it in time.

 

I think the Mariinsky/Kirov  used to be “famous” for having lots of very, very  short intervals between each Act to do scenery changes, eg they would have three intervals (15mins each only or something like that) for Sleeping Beauty, and (if I recall correctly) possibly Swan Lake too (RB, BRB and ENB have the normal two intervals only). We used to wonder how people got back from the loos in time with such short intervals but somehow they did! The Bolshoi’s newish Swan Lake only has one!- but the sets are very minimal so it’s easy to change between acts. 

 

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On 21/01/2023 at 13:12, Emeralds said:

For this production, the scenery change takes several minutes (between 5 to 10 minutes I think, although I didn’t time it with a watch). The audience is left in darkness while this goes on, which is quite unsettling for all (even if people claim it isn’t). You can tell it’s unsettling because they start chatting, both to relieve boredom, and subconsciously, to cope with the darkness. The orchestra and conductor remain in the pit and some musicians start tuning up or practising while this is going on. Other audience members turn on their phones to read, get some illumination or get out of their seats to take pictures (a bit odd as the photos don’t look great when it’s so dark). There’s a voiceover to say it’s a short pause and “please stay in your seats “.

 

There’s another voiceover later on that says “thank you for waiting, the show is about to start”, but it doesn’t start. It takes about another 2 minutes to start again, during which time, the audience has gotten bored or anxious and started chattering loudly.

 

Then the show starts out of the blue. As regulars will know, the music which begins Act 2 is the quiet soulful iconic Swan Lake theme tune- one of the most beautiful pieces of music in the score and indeed the world. In the upper tiers, it is  completely drowned out by the cacophony of chatter. Even a few “shhhs” from audience members who have noticed that the show has restarted are futile as the audience can’t hear the music and are baffled by the shushing.....and continue nattering loudly. Eventually all the music is lost amid the yakking -  even when the curtain goes up, 90% of the audience (the ones yakking or still reading their phones)  have no idea that they missed one of the best bits of the show they paid for.

 

Actually, I was in a position to check the situation on both occasions: the house lights were raised to half at the beginning of the scene change, and then lowered again before the music began.  Unfortunately, the Coliseum's layout doesn't seem to be as appropriate for this as at the Royal Opera House, and it's far less effective.  But they were definitely doing what I've suggested they ought to in previous seasons, but to little effect.

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I saw Mamma Mia this afternoon, a show at which I do not expect a high standard of audience behaviour, and I think there were fewer people eating, drinking, chatting & phone checking mid-show than there were at Swan Lake!

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On 25/01/2023 at 00:31, alison said:

 

Actually, I was in a position to check the situation on both occasions: the house lights were raised to half at the beginning of the scene change, and then lowered again before the music began.  Unfortunately, the Coliseum's layout doesn't seem to be as appropriate for this as at the Royal Opera House, and it's far less effective.  But they were definitely doing what I've suggested they ought to in previous seasons, but to little effect.

House lights fully on would do it. Or if they are really keen on having scenery change behind a closed curtain, just do a proper interval of 20minutes and trim the other two intervals to 15minutes each. Generally, most people are eager to get out in the first interval- the restroom and bar queues are the longest at the first interval, then are shortest for the next interval/s, then the restroom queues are long again after the show. But ENB directors can’t keep letting the stage manager and the bar stalls troll their own productions!

 

Oddly enough, the problem wasn’t so bad in the 2015 run......unless I was just lucky enough to be surrounded by very dedicated fans, respectful theatregoers or sophisticated audience members who wouldn’t chat until the house lights were fully back on. Perhaps I was; the Siegfried that performance was the incredible Alban Lendorf guesting from Royal Danish Ballet and doubtless quite a few had booked to see him, like we had. (Perhaps Watkin might consider inviting him back as a guest artist with three principal men departed!) 

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