Tchaikovsky would have been proud. And mesmerised.
In fact, if he were alive today I am confident he would have been thrilled to watch the reaction of the audience to last night’s opening of Swan Lake on Ice at the State Theatre. With gasps of delight and awe, a full house applauded the magnificent performance by the world renowned Imperial Ice Stars and left at the end of nearly two exhilarating hours with the privilege of re-visiting a masterpiece.
Combining both the athleticism and skill of the ice skaters with a timeless fairytale, the story of Swan Lake in the hands of Artistic Director/Choreographer Tony Mercer brought magic to the stage with the music of one of Russia’s greatest composers: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
Keeping to the traditional version of the story of the beautiful swan maiden doomed to live forever as half swan and half human until the true love of a faithful man can set her free, Mercer affirmed Tchaikovsky’s original decision to set the characters of Odette and Odile to be played by different performers thus creating the love triangle between the Prince, his swan princess and the daughter of the evil Baron Von Rothbart.
The main characters are all brilliant to watch. Olga Sharutenko as Swan maiden Odette literally flies across the stage with breathtaking elegance while her Prince (Andrey Penkin) not only displayed agility on ice but was an excellent actor as well. Other stellar performances were given by the Prince’s friend Benno (Ruslan Novoseltsev) who added much of the humour to the performance and Baron Von Rothbart (Vadim Yarkov) who with his despicable attempts to thwart true love was one of the strongest characters on stage.
The dramatic narrative of Swan Lake has a very clear development and in the Director’s Notes Mercer explains that his vision was to avoid ‘storyboard moments’ that only a offer a vestige of understanding. Instead as this version of Swan Lake illustrates the ‘storyline has a logical and realistic pattern but also retains its fairytale magic‘. The performance in two acts gently navigates the audience through the topology of the palace where mercenary marriage contracts are being contemplated by the Prince and his mother while nearby at the brimming and secretive waters of the Lake the beautiful swans in all their grace and beauty offer a glimpse into a very different slice of existence.
Worlds collide in this production of Swan Lake and do so in a fantastic way. Not only does the soft pointe of the ballet shoe meet the hard steel of the skate but with Mercer’s own original twist the traditional divides between good and evil are blurred allowing for a welcome shift of the lyrical beauty of the fairytale into our own more prosaic world.
With new choreography that includes skating elements never before seen in the world of figure skating, superb costuming undertaken by Albina Gabueva and amazing sets pieces by one of Australia’s leading scenic designers Eamon D’Arcy this is drama that transfigures the theatre into a lyrical and poetic space, all with the magic of ice.