Royal Albert Hall (venue)
02 June 2016 (released)
05 June 2018
It was no surprise to find a strong contingent of TV celebs turn out for the opening night of Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall on Thursday night. Tracy Ulman, Gemma Anderton and Olivia Grant (both of whom brought their mums), to name a few close by. Swan Lake in the Royal Albert Hall is a truly grand affair.
Since 1997 the English National Ballet has presented classical ballets in-the-round with the huge oval floor for the stage and the action radiating out from the middle. The numbers of performers are dramatically increased to fill the space and with 120 dancers at the Castle for Prince Siegfreid’s birthday it wasn’t much of a leap of the imagination to feel that we were guests at the castle too, being entertained beneath the glow of the chandeliers that stayed illuminated in the circle of boxes above. It’s quite a different experience to the traditional proscenium arch, both vast and intimate at the same time.
The most famous ballet of all time, it is probably the swans emerging from the misty lake set to Tchaikovsky’s irresistible score that first captures the imagination. The English National Ballet Philharmonic Orchestra was impeccable but there was a technical hitch the night we went (perhaps a dodgy smoke machine?) that delayed the magic of the first lake scene. Luckily it was worth the wait as when they eventually filtered through, the veils of mist floated so perfectly above the oval lake, before the evil sorcerer Rothbart erupted from a huge plume of smoke, beating his huge black wings and racing furiously around the stage. As for the white swans - watching 48 dancers, all in perfect alignment is quite simply an awesome sight, like being in a beautiful hall of mirrors. And when they sink to the ground, folding forward in soft-feathered unison it really takes your breath away. I may have seen more emotionally intense productions of Swan Lake but the scale and majesty of ENB in the round is unbeatable.
A warning to those unfamiliar with Swan Lakes variety of endings –whilst it is always romantic, it can be either tragic or triumphant… be prepared for the unexpected!