Irina Kolesnikova and St Petersburgh Ballet Theatre are in town

Irina Kolesnikova and St Petersburgh Ballet Theatre are in town

Robert Tanitch reviews Swan Lake at London Coliseum

The greatest romantic classical ballet of all time has been a success ever since Petipa and Lev Ivanov reworked it in 1895, a year after Tchaikovsky died from arsenic poisoning at the age of 53.

No other ballet is staged so often. No other ballet has had so many interpretations. Every great ballerina wants to play the dual role of the white swan (Odette, pure and innocent) and the black swan (Odile, evil and erotic).

It is a role to die for; or even murder for.

Swan Lake August 20152

Irina Kolesnikova

So, if you are going to see only one ballet in a lifetime, it has to be Swan Lake; but, hopefully, it won’t be this one. The corps is not really up to it. And I have heard Tchaikovsky better played.

Yuri Gumbi’s 1996 staging, amateurishly lit, looks old fashioned and is totally lacking in drama. Act III is particularly disappointing.

There is no real fight between Good (Siegfried, very bland) and Evil (Rothbart, not that evil) and the swans contributes absolutely nothing, not a flutter of panic amongst them.

Irina Kolesnikova is the box-office attraction and behaves as if she were a prima ballerina assoluta rather than as Odette and Odile. The black swan’s fouettes rightly wins the biggest applause of the evening; but elsewhere her over-extended bows are slightly absurd.

Her Prince is the very boyish Denis Rodkin, a dancer with fine technique, who does not act. Odile would almost certainly have eaten him for breakfast!