The ballet we’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived at Artscape’s Opera House; Swan Lake premièred on Saturday and the beautiful performances, detailed costumes and elaborate sets meant a night to be remembered.
Produced and performed by members and dancers of the Cape Town City Ballet as part of their 80th anniversary celebrations, this classic ballet comprises four acts of beautifully choreographed dance. It’s performed to the music of legendary composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky by the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of Graham Scott, on all dates except 13th April.
If you’ve never seen the ballet, or the animated movie The Swan Princess, here’s a reminder of the story.
It’s your classic fairy tale filled with magic, mystery and of course the battle between good and evil, starring (you guessed it) a handsome prince, impossibly beautiful damsel and an evil wizard.
Swan Lake follows the story of Odette, who is turned into a beautiful swan by the sorcerer Von Rothbart. As is the case with most fairy tales (think Sleeping Beauty and Snow White), his spell can only be broken by true, pure love. Naturally Odette – swan by day, woman by night – falls in love with the dapper Prince Siegfried, but alas, the fool is then tricked into falling in love with Odile, Von Rothbart’s daughter. Much drama ensues but eventually the audience gets their happy ending.
FYI Tchaikovsky, who wrote the exceptional music for the ballet, is said to have adapted an old German fairy tale to write a little ballet for his nieces and nephews in 1871. The ballet was first performed in 1877 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Russia but it wasn’t until Tchaikovsky‘s brother changed the ending to that of a happy one in 1895 that it became popular.
The opening night’s performance was wonderful and I so enjoyed the opportunity to see all my favourite dancers at their best, including leads Thomas Thorne and Laura Bösenberg, who danced the roles of both Odette and Odile.
The first time I saw this ballet I was very little and I sat equally mesmerised on opening night as I stared in awe at the graceful dancers in their perfect tutus, leaping effortlessly across the stage. Below is an image from my favourite scene from the ballet, which sees 19 swans (dressed in flowing, white dresses) dance onto the stage in perfect unison with their swan-like movements. It was magical.
On of the highlights of this production has to be the guest appearance of two dancers from the The Royal Ballet in London. Federico Bonelli and Hikaru Kobayashi spent a week with Cape Town City Ballet learning the nuances of the production and will grace the stage for the evening performance on 19th April and matinee on 20th April.
Laura Bösenberg, partnered by Thomas Thorne as Prince Siegfried, dances the dual roles of Odette and Odile on 5th and 12th April and the matinee on 19th April. Daniel Szybkowski partners Angela Hansford (Odette) and Kim Vieira (Odile) on 9th and 13th April while Jesse Milligan will partner Kirstel Jensen (Odette) and Mami Fujii (Odile) on 12th and 16th April.
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SAT 5 APR at 19h30 – Laura Bösenberg & Thomas Thorne
WED 9 APR at 19h30 – Angela Hansford, Kim Vieira & Daniel Szybkowski
SAT 12 APR at 14h00 – Kirstel Jensen, Mami Fujii & Jesse Milligan
SAT 12 APR at 19h30 – Laura Bösenberg & Thomas Thorne
SUN 13 APR at 19h30 – Angela Hansford, Kim Vieira & Daniel Szybkowski (recorded music)
WED 16 APR at 19h30 – Kirstel Jensen, Mami Fujii & Jesse Milligan
SAT 19 APR at 14h00 – Laura Bösenberg & Thomas Thorne
SAT 19 APR at 19h30 – Hikaru Kobayashi & Federico Bonelli
SUN 20 APR at 15h00 – Hikaru Kobayashi & Federico Bonelli
*Photography courtesy of Pat Bromilow Downing.