Teatro dell'Opera presented a new production
on 27 September 2016. I was in the audience. There will be fifteen performances until 5 November. I
should point out that the production is new for Rome and Italy but had its European premiere in 2009 at the Badisches
Staatstheater of Karlsruhe. Its original staging was in Philadelphia in 2004, and over the last
twelve years, the production has been fine tooled.
As created by choreographer and stage director Christopher Wheeldon, Swan
Lake is clearly not a children's Christmas show. It
was composed during one of the worst
periods of the composer's life, whilst he was
attempting to conceal his own sexual orientation with a marriage which was short and
ended tragically. In the score, the juxtaposition
between B flat-D-F and B-F sharp-C expresses not only the
confrontation between good and evil but also the composer's
inner intimate torment.
In this production, the conceit is that a male dancer in a Degas-like
studio is portraying PrinceSiegfried in a rehearsal. À la
Stanislavsky, he identifies himself with his role and becomes Siegfried.
Reality and fantasy blur. Like Rudolf
Nureyev, Wheeldon has set Swan Lake inside a room, in the
rehearsal area of the Paris Opéra at Palais
Garnier, during the belle époque. Also in the third act the
banquet does not take place in a cardboard GermanMedieval Castle but in a plush
restaurant in Toulouse Lautrec's times. Among rich upper class gentlemen,
such as members of the Jockey Club who acquired mistresses from the Paris
Opera Ballet, the man in the top hat and tails from a Degas painting becomes the stand-in
for Rothbart, the evil magician. This masked opera ball is all too real,
full of decadence and brilliantly summed up in the divertissement: a
Russian dance that becomes a strip
tease, an invasion of can-can girls (dancing to the tarantella!),
and best of all, an overcooked Spanish dance for a smirking
and shoving trio.
This and other elements suggest that the
lakeside encounters of Odette, the Swan Queen, and Prince Siegfried,
as protagonist, are projections of the
hero's mind. But in the end
the male dancer returns to reality. Definitely not Siegfried, and back in
the classroom, he does a double take when he sees his ballerina as
herself. Escape from his ambiguous reality was one of Tchaikovsky's key
problems whilst composing this ballet.
Christopher Wheeldon conveys nothing
heavy, but something highly innovative and imaginative. He is fascinated by
the way in which dancers train and perform. Here
again, he mixes the humorous and the serious. He has rechoreographed
a hilarious floor show for the ballroom scene, in which Odile,
Odette's evil double, seduces Siegfried. But this masked ball is the
reality that the hero encounters.
But Tchaikovsky is not only ballet. Nir
Kabaretti conducts the Teatro dell'Opera Orchestra very well, and with an
almost symphonicflair to underline the
composer's intimate troubles.
The three youngprotagonists are simply excellent:
Federico Bonelli as the principal dancer and Siegfried,
Lauren Cuthberson as Odile and Odette, and Manuel Parucini as Rothbarth
and a wealthy gentleman. All the
others are of high standards too. The audience was enthusiastic: there were ten minutes