Ballet Company of Teatro alla Scala
Teatro alla Scala
September 27, 2023 (livestream)
by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf
Last Wednesday’s livestream of “Swan Lake” was the third such event since Manuel Legris took over the artistic reins of the Teatro alla Scala’s ballet company in December 2020. What a pity that I missed the previous livestreams – “Le Corsaire” and “Romeo and Juliet”!
La Scala dances a version of Rudolf Nureyev’s “Swan Lake” that, if I’m not mistaken, is the one he created for the Paris Opera Ballet in 1984. As all of his ballets, this one has jam-packed choreography. Last time it was shown in Milan in 2014 under the directorship of Makhar Vaziev. After Vaziev left to the Bolshoi Ballet in 2015, La Scala’s company entered unsteady waters. Legris’s guidance seems to be returning the company to its previous standards. Olga Smirnova and Jacopo Tissi (former colleagues at the Bolshoi and meanwhile at Dutch National Ballet) guested in the leading roles twice. The livestream was given to in-house soloists – Maria Celeste Losa (Odette / Odile) and Navrin Turnbull (Prince Siegfried).
Some ballerinas are more convincing as Odette, others as Odile. Celeste Losa was strong in both parts. Once her Odette overcame her anxiety of Siegfried, tender hope shone all over her face. Nevertheless, Odette’s movements – smooth and vigorous at the same time – kept their melancholy. She seemed to know about her fatal fate all the time – and bore this fate with dignity. Still, the intimidating glance of Rothbart (Emanuele Cazzato) made her cower, but in fact she was strong. Not a hint of reproach marred her farewell from Siegfried. She even consoled him like a mother would a child. Celeste Losa’s Odile had an aura of poisonous cold and not a single moment did the suppleness of her limbs belie the fact that they were as sharp as steel. Odile’s malice was so obvious that I wondered (as in many “Swan Lakes” before), why Siegfried fails to notice the deceit.
Could that solely be attributed to his absent-mindedness? His ruminations? He seemed to search for a path he couldn’t quite figure out. Each of his limbs looked like an extension of his soul’s longing. No question, choosing a fiancée from his mother’s (Luana Saullo) pre-selected roster, was not on his agenda. Only a new crossbow awakened his spirits. And then he ran into Odette – and suddenly found his calling. Perhaps a lasting rush of endorphins explains why the sight of Odile set him ablaze. Despite the emotional turmoil, Turnbull’s Siegfried tackled his steps calmly, allowing the beauty of the choreography to shine. For the flash of a moment he reminded me of Nureyev.
Nureyev’s “Swan Lake” is said to echo his autobiography and to be influenced by Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis. Indeed, it’s like a glance into the melancholy of a constrained soul. Bright splendor and the zest for life are out of reach for Siegfried. We meet him in the prologue, sleeping in an armchair and it’s unclear whether what follows is real or his dream. But in either case, Siegfried is a prisoner of himself. He never leaves the stern walls of the royal palace (set design by Ezio Frigerio), not even when hunting swans. His prey rather emerges from a wall-sized lakescape painting inside the palace. (The swans’ gorgeous patterns made me forget the lack of foggy lakeside mystery.)
Siegfried joins the jaunty dances of his age-mates (of which a huge proportion is male), but the silky swing of their dances (supported by Franca Squarciapino’s tasteful costumes) cannot lighten his heart. To worsen matters for the prince, Nureyev made his role doubly tragic. Not only does Siegfried lose Odette by his own fault (she is finally carried into the night sky by a bird-of-prey like Rothbart), but the evil Rothbart turns out to be his tutor Wolfgang – his confidant, the man closest to him. Step by step, this Janus-faced traitor reveals his rotten character. In the end, as Wolfgang-cum-Rothbart steps over the shattered Siegfried, who’s lying defenseless on the ground, one knows that he’d stop at nothing. This despicable twist wasn’t part of Nureyev’s first “Swan Lake” for the Vienna State Opera in 1964, in which Rothbart and Wolfgang are portrayed by two dancers. I can only speculate what happened in the twenty years between both versions, causing Nureyev to crush the life of the prince. This “Swan Lake” has plenty of dimensions to explore and seeing it back on stage is very welcome.
|Links:||Website of Teatro alla Scala|
|“Swan Lake” – trailer|
|“Swan Lake” – excerpt from Act II|
|“Swan Lake” – dance of the cygnets|
|Photos:||1.||Maria Celeste Losa (Odette), “Swan Lake” by Rudolf Nureyev after Marius Petipa, Teatro alla Scala 2023|
|2.||Navrin Turnbull (Prince Siegfried) and Emanuele Cazzato (Wofgang / Rothbart),“Swan Lake” by Rudolf Nureyev after Marius Petipa, Teatro alla Scala 2023|
|3.||Maria Celeste Losa (Odile) and Navrin Turnbull (Prince Siegfried), “Swan Lake” by Rudolf Nureyev after Marius Petipa, Teatro alla Scala 2023|
|4.||Maria Celeste Losa (Odette), Navrin Turnbull (Prince Siegfried), and ensemble, “Swan Lake” by Rudolf Nureyev after Marius Petipa, Teatro alla Scala 2023|
|all photos by Brescia and Amisano © Teatro alla Scala|