Swan Lake

★ ★

For my first time seeing Tchaikovsky’s legendary Swan Lake, I was expecting to be enchanted by the ballet’s almost mystical atmosphere. The St. Petersburg Ballet Theatre, with this very traditional version of Swan Lake, sticks to the original four-act structure and the happy ending for both Odette and Prince Siegfried. 

Each of the four acts is easily recognizable from one another: the elaborate setting changes completely from act to act, separating efficiently the ornated, rich Royal Court from the dark and magical lake. The contrast is so high that it is almost too much. Added to the fact that each setting is very over-the-top but also blatantly artificial, it results in a weirdly camp aesthetic that takes our attention from the enchanting music and the dancers’ wonderful performance, which was probably not intended. 


The costumes, if also kitsch, are beautiful and allow the spectator to identify the characters easily. An exception must be made of sorcerer von Rothbart’s costumes: the black and glittery clothes which he wears seems to have no other visual quality than making him fade into the dark setting of the lake. They delegitimize him as the main opponent and darkest character of the play.

Overall, the visible desire of producing a traditional mise-en-scène of Swan Lake disappoints by the lack of artistic boldness it results in. Far from making us spend a bad moment, the enchanting dancers succeed in making us forget that we are in the very modern Bord Gais Energy Theatre for almost three hours. The impression it leaves afterwards, however, is the one of disenchantment, and the feeling that this mise-en-scène does not give justice to Tchaikovsky’s timelessly compelling score.