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article imageReview: 'Swan Lake' a first-class ballet that shines in Toronto Special

By Andrew Moran     Nov 11, 2013 in Entertainment
Toronto - On Nov. 9, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts had its “Swan Lake” debut of the 2013-2014 season. By the end of the legendary and historic Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky ballet, patrons were roaring in applause.
“Swan Lake” is a four-act ballet composed by the world-renowned Russian composer between 1875 and 1876. It is based on old Russian folk tales and tells the story of a princess named Odette, who is turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer (Rothbart). Prince Siegfried, meanwhile, is urged to marry by the Queen and falls in love with Odette. After a terrible storm and a fight with Rothbart, the prince perishes and Odette lies by his side and mourns his death.
Since its premiere by the Bolshoi Ballet in March of 1877 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, “Swan Lake” remains one of the most popular ballets in history, which is quite apparent as it will be returning to Toronto in just a few months.
The National Ballet of Canada’s production of “Swan Lake” was stellar, first-class and extravagant. Indeed, the Four Seasons should be proud to have such a magnificent performance grace its stage. From the dancers to the musicians, stagehands to the crowd itself, everyone should take pleasure in knowing they were part of a glorious show.
Xiao Nan Yu solidified herself as one of the top dancers in the world today with her splendid and brilliant performance. Playing Odette/Odile is quite a physically demanding role and the principal dancer nailed it to perfection. McGee Maddox as Prince Siegfried was a superb choice as he showcased his talents in the third and fourth acts – in the first half he was similar to a field general and leading the rest of the cast.
Of course, who could forget the dance routines by the Four Little Swans and Two Swans? These dancers captivated the audience, which had to remind themselves to breathe after witnessing the delightful “Danse des petits cygnes.” This was certainly the largest applause of the evening – there was definitely a lot of clapping throughout the two-plus-hour ballet.
An important element of the production was the stage setting. For the past several years, I have heavily criticized both the Canadian Opera Company (COC) and the National Ballet of Canada (particularly the COC) for not having better set designs. After experiencing “Swan Lake” over the weekend, it was rather pleasing to see a superb setting, sublime effects and beautiful costumes that the lovely dancers made look even better – also thanks to Santo Loquasto and Robert Thomson.
The performance of this Russian ballet is a treat and one that the whole family can enjoy – or just two swans in love.
“Swan Lake” runs until Nov. 17. The production returns in 2014 for a March 8-16 engagement.
More about Swan lake, four seasons centre for the performing arts, national ballet of canada, Toronto, xiao nan yu
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