Bristol Hippodrome

National Ballet Swan Lake

November 2018


Warning: ballet story spoiler!

On a Tuesday night at the end of November the Bristol Hippodrome was packed for a performance of Swan Lake by English National Ballet and the audience were in for a treat.

It is astonishing to think that Swan Lake, Tchaikovsky’s first ballet, was as flop when it reached the stage at the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre in 1877.

It attracted criticism from all sides.

The music, so loved now, was thought too complicated for dance.  

The story too seemed involved (though nothing compared, for instance, to the twists and turns in the operas of Mozart).  

It is essentially a fairy tale with romantic themes of love and tragedy mixed with magic which are so typical of the era in which it was composed.

Swan Lake tells a love story between Prince Siegfried, heir to a mountainous kingdom, and Odette, a young woman turned to a swan by her vengeful father.

Odette spends her days as a swan swimming in a lake of tears and appears in her nights in beautiful human form.

She falls irreversibly in love with Siegfried.

The couple battle with the evil sorcerer Rothbart as he tries to trick Siegfried into marrying his own daughter, Odille, by making Siegfried think she is his love.

After a storm Rothbart is finally overcome by Siegfried and his love for Odette.

The couple drown but are reunited in eternity - shades of Wagner’s Ring cycle?.

The company have been touring this production before appearing on the stage in London in the New Year.

This showed in the seeming lack of first night problems in Bristol.

The Hippodrome stage coped well - a recent performance in the Albert Hall had many more swans.  

The sets were mostly plain and the lighting subtly subdued.

The special effects, like the storm near the close, worked well.

So too did the final wafting of the doomed couple into the clouds, the traditional and most satisfactory ending (despite past Soviet doubts.  

The costumes were essentially traditional which meant in particular that the beautifully choreographed groups of swans and the leading individuals were quite stunning , contrasting with the frightening huge wings given to the evil Rothbart, realised on the night by Junor Sousa - mocking boos from the audience at the close.

Special mention must, of course, go to the principals.

On Tuesday Erina Takahashi with charming poise took the traditional joint roles of Odette and Odille.

Her change of manner and costume served to distinguish the two. Prince Siegfried, Francesco Frola was admirably agile and duly expressive as the story unfolded.

Mention too must be made to the flawless contribution made by the company’s own English National Ballet Philharmonic.

Tchaikovsky’s music is key to the success of this ballet.

There is so much to enjoy beyond the tuneful snippets which feature in the much shorter orchestral suite.

The orchestra and their conductor rightly received their big ovation at the close.

For those lovers of ballet performance and also those new to the experience there was so much to admire and enjoy.

Paul Cronin   

November 2018


English National Ballet at Bristol Hippodrome

PREVIEW: World class ballet is coming to the Bristol Hippodrome from Tuesday to Saturday, November 27-December 1.

Continuing its commitment to UK touring and presenting class ballet to the widest possible audience, Autumn 2018 sees English National Ballet tour the timeless classic, Swan Lake, appearing at the city centre theatre.

Principal casting for Swan Lake sees soloist Aitor Arrieta debut in the role of Prince Siegfried dancing alongside first soloist Emma Hawes, soloist Rina Kanehara performs the dual role of Odette/Odile for the first time, partnered by soloist Ken Saruhashi, and junior soloist Daniel Kraus will debut in the role of Rothbart, performing alongside principal Shiori Kase and lead principal Joseph Caley when they dance Odette/Odile and Prince Siegfried. 

Further casting sees performances from lead principals Jurgita Dronina and Isaac Hernández, lead principal Erina Takahashi and principal Francesco Gabriele Frola, and lead principals Alina Cojocaru and Jeffrey Cirio in the roles of Odette/Odile and Prince Siegfried respectively. 

The role of Rothbart will be reprised by first soloists James Streeter, Fabian Reimair and junor souza as well as artist of the company Shevelle Dynott. 

Choregraphed by Derek Deane, Swan Lake features some of the most iconic scenes in ballet with Tchaikovsky’s glorious score performed live by English National Ballet Philharmonic.



Derek Deane's Swan Lake
Tuesday to Saturday, November 27-December 1, evenings 7.30pm, Thursday matinee 2pm Saturday matinee 2.30pm
Tickets from £13.90 concessions available - to book click HERE