By Kaydee Donohoo
A few days ago, the Boston Ballet finished up the world premiere of Director Mikko Nissinen’s “Swan Lake.” I was fortunate enough to go, always having been a bit of a diehard Tchaikovsky fan, and the music from “Swan Lake” was something I have played incessantly over the past few years. As soon as I knew I might be going, I made it a rule not to play the music and keep the event more special. I was hoping not to pick out any small differences in the versions I listened to from the one I was seeing.
While it’s hard to forget in just one month music you’ve memorized over a few years, “Swan Lake” unfolded beautifully despite the differences.
For one thing, “Danse Russe”, or “Russian Dance” from the third act, wasn’t included at all. This was something I only realized once all the castle scenes, and thus the castle music, had ended, rather from sensing something missing. It would have been nice to see one of my favorite “Swan Lake” songs interpreted through dance, but I understood the director’s choice. The song, as beautiful as it is, didn’t quite fit the feeling of the rest of the ballet.
My favorite version of the ballet had more of a sharper sound to the song repeated in “Danses De Cygnes: Andante” after its place in “Pas De Duex: Andante.” The second playing was always as sharp as the first, with stringed instead of brass instruments. In most versions, the song plays when Prince Siegfried is with Odette and repeats as he celebrates on his own after dancing with Odile. In this ballet, it was played much softer the second time, which makes sense, having Prince Siegfried not being with his love and just being with an impostor. I really couldn’t complain because “Pas De Duex: Andante” was so beautiful the first time. There are several minutes of violin building up to it, just for people like me who knew it was coming.
As much as we want our favorite moments in music to last, they are so fleeting when listening to them on our headphones. But hearing the entrancing violin tune as ballet dancers interpreted the song made the moment stretch out for me. It was the most satisfying experience I could have had from a song.
The hand-painted set was straight out of a fairy tale; I wanted to crawl in and live there. The costumes were very detailed, most notably Odile’s black swan dress. Over 4,000 crystal jewels glittered and gave a stunning accent to Anaïs Chalendard’s solo which featured 32 fouetté (whip) turns. The choreography for this performance was gorgeous, but I had little to compare it with, having only seen a couple ballets that I am too young to remember.
After comparing a few different versions I found online, I found the Boston Ballet had given me extremely high standards. Almost all details, large and small alike were done so much better, from Odette’s shaky legs to the reacting of dancers outside of their set dancing choreography. Never before was “oh wow, what an amazing crossbow!” expressed so clearly without words.
If you missed “Swan Lake” I highly recommend catching The Boston Ballet’s “Nutcracker,” another one of Tchaikovsky’s classic ballets. It runs from Nov. 28 to Dec. 31, and if you grab your ticket early, prices are very reasonable. I have no doubt that this will be as spectacular as “Swan Lake” as many of the key people (such as choreography, set, costume design, and music director/conductor) are the same.