Swan Lake, with Rojo and Acosta, Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, March 2011

Tamara Rojo is the quintessential Odette/Odile, showing a wonderful purity of movement as Odette, the Swan Queen in Acts II and IV, and a sinister, calculating quality as Odile, the daughter of the evil Von Rothbart in Act III. She dons the magical aura that allows her to take on the form of Odette, causing the prince to lose his heart to her, and then suddenly laughs in his face as soon as they have plighted their troth together. As he sees a vision of the real Odette in a mirror at the rear of the stage, her nasty laugh has a wonderfully sinister quality.

Acosta and Rojo in Act IV, photo by Johan Persson

Carlos Acosta as the prince was wonderful. He showed suitable ennui in Act I, and again in Act III with the six princesses, yet a readiness to hunt at night under a full moon in Act II. His anguish was palpable in Act IV, as he searches for his swan queen, and his emotion and his dive into the lake after her at the end was very well represented. And with Tamara Rojo his deft partnering allowed her to shine, which she most certainly did, holding an arabesque en pointe in Act III without the slightest fear on either part that she might not hold the balance.

The corps de ballet, photo by Dee Conway

I’ve commented earlier this month on the production, so I’ll leave that aside, except to say that I loved the set and the lighting in Act II. As to performance, the corps danced beautifully in the big ensemble pieces, and the pas-de-trois in Act I was very well performed by Akane Takada, Deirdre Chapman and Valentino Zucchetti. He was particularly good in his jumps and the conductor, Boris Gruzin took the music at just the right pace for his solos. What a shame he couldn’t do the same for the girls. The first two female solos in the pas-de-trois were markedly too slow, as was Rojo’s big Act II solo in Act II. These are ballerinas, not men, and they need the music at a pace that allows them to shine.

The character dances in Act III were all beautifully performed, and Yuhui Choe and Liam Scarlett were a delight in the Neapolitan dance. It was a treat to have Gary Avis as Von Rothbart, both in the white acts and particularly in Act III where he exuded a charmingly dark menace, well-supported by his dwarves. The interaction with his sinister daughter Odile showed skilful sorcery, and this was altogether a Swan Lake to treasure.

Before the performance started, Monica Mason, the Company’s artistic director, came on stage. It’s always an ominous moment when one wonders whether such an appearance is to announce injuries and replacements, but this was simply to tell us that the Royal Ballet had made their first visit to Japan in 1975, and they were dedicating this performance to the victims of the appalling recent earthquake in Japan. In fact they are putting on a special performance this Sunday, March 20 at 4 p.m. in the Linbury Theatre — details below.

As for the present run of Swan Lake, performances continue until April 8 — for more details, click here.

Concert performance in aid of the Japan Tsunami Appeal, with former Principal Guest Artist of The Royal Ballet Miyako Yoshida and friends, including: Yuhui Choe, Valeri Hristov, Hikaru Kobayashi, Ryoichi Hirano, Kenta Kura*, Akane Takada*, and students from the Royal Academy of Music (*tbc).

Tickets: 20 pounds. Running time: about one hour.

HOW TO BOOK: Advance tickets available from the Royal Opera House Box Office in person and by telephone until 4pm tomorrow (Saturday 19 March). Day tickets available at the door (cash only, donations welcomed!). Box Office telephone number: 020 7304 4000

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