The Boston Ballet’s creative director, Mikko Nissinen, recently decided it was time to present one of the highlights of their 51st year: the ultimate classical ballet, Swan Lake. From Oct. 30 to Nov. 17, the Boston Ballet performed Swan Lake, starring Misa Kuranaga as Odette and Odile.
Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake is been one of the most well-recognized ballets of all time. Originally choreographed by Marius Pepita and Lev Ivanov for the Imperial Ballet in 1895, the graceful, delicate dances provide the illustration for an enchanting tale of a forbidden romance. Nissinen’s interpretation of Swan Lake made its international debut this year, adhering to its traditional storyline and choreography with a few slight tweaks. Thursday’s performance at the Boston Opera House brought a crowd of people filling every seat of the hall. Before the show started, young children played with ballerinas’ shoes on display, couples took pictures in front of the backdrop and friends stood on the balcony with sparkling glasses of champagne in hand. Once the show was about to begin, everyone filtered into the large, elaborately decorated gold hall. The audience took their seats, the lights dimmed and the live orchestra began to play.
The story began with the prologue, showing the transformation of Odette into a swan by the curse of Von Rothbart, an evil sorcerer. In the first act, Prince Siegfried, played by principal dancer Jeffrey Cirio, was introduced as a bachelor actively seeking a bride. He instantly showcased his dancing prowess as his leaps soared to unbelievable heights and his turns landed in incredible precision. Act II introduced Kuranaga, the Swan Queen and star of the show. The audience instantly fell victim to her charm as she floated about onstage with her glittering, feathered costume and elegant headdress. With the achingly beautiful theme song of Swan Lake playing and the backdrop of a moonlit lake, Odette and Prince Siegfried shared their first dance together amongst the flock of fellow swan ballerinas.
Act III introduced a new setting, the Castle Ballroom, a part of the 34,000 square feet of fabric hand-painted for this show. During the act, several other principal dancers took turns in the limelight to “pay their respects” to the prince with German, Spanish and other dances. Their costumes visually enhanced the drama of each culturally-inspired dance, one example being the Spanish dress’s flamenco flair. During one of the performances, a soloist took a slight fall during an intricate choreography, but recovered immediately, amazing the audience with her resilience and confident comeback.
In the middle of Act III, Kuranaga was introduced again, this time as Odile. She wore an exquisite, black dress with over 4,000 crystal jewels sparkling in the light — the costume was one of 127 handmade especially for this production. Kuranaga perfectly portrayed Odile, the daughter of the evil Von Rothbart, dancing with more sensuality and mischievous confidence than she had playing the delicate, vulnerable Odette. This performance highlighted Kuranaga’s unparalleled ability to keep her emotional and artistic interpretation to each character while also maintaining precision in the technical aspects of the dances.
At the end of Act III, Odile was successful in deceiving the prince, claiming that she was Odette in disguise. As the solo violin soared in a passionate melody, the prince and Odile came together in an enchanting pas de deux — dance for two — as they proclaimed their love.
They then took turns performing their own solos with lively fanfare. Cirio leaped across the stage and showcased his flexibility and strength, while Kuranaga performed her fouettes. She twirled 32 times on one foot without pause. The sheer mastery of the performers showed in their strength and elegance throughout the performance. Each act ended in an outbreak of applause and cheers.
In the last act, the background was returned to its moonlit lakeside setting, and the stage floor was covered in a heavy layer of fog. As the Swan Lake theme played in the background, the swan ballerinas undulated below the fog as their graceful limbs and feathers recalled resting swans — one of the many examples of Nissinen’s artistic mastery. Audible “oohs” and “aahs” were heard in the audience as the dancers gracefully rose from the fog and delicately formed various fluid patterns surrounding Odette and her Prince in their final dance. The melody then exploded in horns and drums as the prince lifted Odette above his head to defeat Von Rothbart in the final scene. At the end, Kuranaga dramatically rushed offstage and perished in the fog as the Prince passionately followed her in death. The tragic ending was turned into a beautiful one as the swan ballerinas came back onstage, fluttering their wings. with their feet en pointe while the harp concluded the piece in happy resolution. The crowd once again erupted in applause and a standing ovation as the dancers came out and bowed three times. The night marked another success for Mikko Nissinen and a strong opening for the Boston Ballet Company’s worldwide debut of Swan Lake.