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Swan Lake in Finnish National Opera: Real classic!

More and more theaters decide to move forward in time the sets of classic operas and ballets. You can see the history of the Flying Dutchman moved by Kasper Holten into the XXI century (Finnish National Opera in Helsinki) or the most famous romance of the world, Romeo and Juliet moved into the ever-changing reality of XX century (libretto by Krzysztof Pastor and Willem Bruls, displayed at the Grand Theatre in Warsaw). The effect of this modernization is different – in the first case refreshed version of an opera fall out phenomenal , but in the second case the effect wasn’t so good.

However, in Swan Lake created by Kenneth Greve displayed in Finnish National Opera since 2009, we get the best-known ballet in classic (but fresh) version. They kept such classic elements like Dance of the Little Swans, the first pas de deux of Odette and the Prince, Odette’s variation and pas de deux of the black swans. One of element that has been changed in narration was the emphasis, that the Prince fell in love with Odette when she was in form of beautiful women, not in swan form. As the choreographer Kenneth Greve explains “I have never really understood why the Prince falls in love with a bird. In this version, I wanted to make the narrative more credible, which is why Prince Siegfired first meets Odette when she is in the shape of a young woman, not enchanted into swan, when she is allowed to resume her normal shape for a few hours at night. In Vladimir Bourmeister’s version, we see Rothbart transforming a women into a swan, but even in his version it is the swan and not the woman that the Prince encounters. I have respected and not wanted to change the culminations of the original work, but I have tightened up the narrative and created some new scenes. I updated Swan Lake for contemporary audiences, avoiding over-long conventional scenes.” The effect of this treatment is visible immediately – the scenes seem to be more dynamic. He also added elements from La sylphide and a little touch of Hamlet.

© 2017 Jonas Lundqvist

The role of Odette was played by Eun-Ji Ha, who could be also seen as Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty and Klara in The Nutcracker (both displayed in Finnish National Opera in Helsinki). I must admit, that Eun-Ji delights not only with her dance ( especially in the famous pas de deux) but also with her gesticulation and facial expressions. A little bit astrayed Prince Siegfired was portrayed by Michal Krčmář, and the role of his best friend Benno – Frans Valkama. Villain character of von Rothbart was ideally played by Wilfried Jacobs. However, the roles that impressed me the most were the Little Swans played by Iga Krata, Mafalda Fideles, Sofia Gustafsson and Elena Ilyina, who perfectly performed the Dance of the Little Swans, where every mistake and every misstep is very visible. The list of all cast is too long to mention everyone, but I can say, that as usual the entire crew of the Finnish National Ballet seems to be flawless.
Music of Pyotr Tchaikovsky was played by Finnish National Opera Orchestra conducted by Robert Reimer.
The costumes and sets by Karin Betz are also worth mentioning. Outfits of Swans remained consistently classic style, and feathers which were falling from them in more dynamic scenes, only added more charm to the Swans. Also in the scene of the engagement party, the audience could see the beautiful costumes inspired by traditional Spanish, Hungarian and Russian costumes. The stage design was quite minimalistic but with such a richly decorated costumes, it was the perfect visual addition.
The great level of this performance might be proved by the fact, that despite the premiere of Swan Lake created by Kenneth Greve took place nearly 8 years ago, tickets for this performance are still selling out.