Attending a performance of the English National Ballet’s Nutcracker is a Christmas tradition for me, so when I had the chance to experience Swan Lake in St Petersburg I was thrilled.
Russia has a wonderful theatre and dance culture and Tchaikovsky is the most beloved of all Russian composers, proudly upholding the country’s musical heritage. Tchaikovsky’s most familiar compositions today are his ballets, the Nutcracker and Swan Lake, which attract huge audiences, especially over the festive season.
For grand musical performances in St Petersburg head to the Mariinsky Theatre, where the talented company produce a plethora of shows every season. There are now several buildings which house the shows in order to keep up with the audience demand, this also allows the company to show ballet and opera simultaneously. The old Mariinsky Theatre is without doubt more prestigious and glorious in its design, but the modern Mariinsky II is also very striking and luxurious.
When I visited Swan Lake was performed on the Mariinsky II stage and was a triumph. The music soared from the orchestra pit filling the auditorium and the dancers moved across the stage with precision and grace. This ballet premiered in Moscow in 1877 and still captures the hearts of viewers, young and old.
This fantasy ballet is split into four scenes and follows the love story of Prince Siegfried and his Odette, who is cursed under the spell of the evil magician Rothbart, so that she is a swan by day, a human by night. The spell will only break with the power of devoted love. The dancers in this production were focused throughout dancing with an effortless charm. It was particularly moving to watch the Song of the Swans dance which was a flutter of white feathers and tutus. The only thing that distracted was the constant (forbidden) photography from the certain members of the audience, this seems to be a bit of a trend with the Russian audiences.
A visit to a Mariinsky show is essential when visiting St Petersburg, seeing this beautiful production of Swan Lake was a highlight of my trip.
More information on Swan Lake at the Mariinsky Theatre here.