Returning to Theatre Royal Bath as part of an extensive UK tour, the hugely popular Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet presents a double-bill of Tchaikovsky’s most loved ballet works, Swan Lake and The Nutcracker, both of which feature the Hungarian Sinfonietta Orchestra, conducted by Vadim Perevoznikov. Surely productions with piped-in music must be avoided at all cost? With the exception of Matthew Bourne productions, for I would forgive him anything.
Founded in 1996 by former prima ballerina Marina Medvetskaya, Saint Petersburg’s Classic Ballet productions are truly accessible to all audiences and can be commended for their faithful retelling of two of the best loved works in the repertoire. The easily transportable cardboard sets and backdrops are sheer children’s book and as charming as the costumes, however, not having a large stage to work with meant that the often busy design did make things feel a little overcrowded when you wanted to focus more on the dance. It also seemed as though the dancers were slightly inhibited in their movements.
Whereas the performance is scattered with issues, principal Natalya Romanova is magnificent as Odette/Odille, capturing the passion of both characters and elevating the overall production with her riveting precision and acting. Having trained at the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet, studying under the tutelage of the legendary ballerina Natalya Dudinskaya, she has gone on to prove herself a world-class performer, particularly when she dances the Black Swan pas de deux and showcases 32 fouettes (a 360 degree spin on one leg) to perfection.
The surprise is seeing a star such as Romanova within a considerably less quality company; for example the Cygnets (Sofia Ogneva, Anastasia Izmesteva, Alina Volobuyeva, Viktoria Bogomazova) are all superb until the final moments when they begin to look untidy. Vadim Lolenko is an exception to this rule, for he proves a convincing Siegfried, although I was less sure of Evgeny Silakov as Rothbart, whose portrayal was more comical than menacing. On the other hand Mikhail Bogomazov was not nearly amusing or energetic enough as the Jester.
All flaws aside, this well choreographed Swan Lake was highly enjoyable, with glimmers of magic throughout that make you remember exactly why it’s so well treasured. A production the whole family would enjoy and a rare chance to see a classic ballet outside London, Romanova’s performance is the thing that makes it worth booking a ticket for.