Ballet review: Soaring Swan Lake one to flock to

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Men are polished, costumes gorgeous and the star of the show a revelation in a truly touching spectacle

Gillian Murphy, as Odette and Qi Huan as Prince Siegfried. Photo / Richard Robinson
Gillian Murphy, as Odette and Qi Huan as Prince Siegfried. Photo / Richard Robinson

You could just be mesmerised by the sheer physical beauty of the Royal New Zealand Ballet's Swan Lake. It is the stunning production's fourth season, its best ever and a perfect celebration of the company's 60th anniversary year.

Like many a traditional "story ballet", the curtain rises on a scene of pleasant, peasant festivity. But this time the bucolic shenanigans score a direct hit, drawing you to the edge of your seat with a huge shiver of delight. The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra are playing Tchaikovsky's score wonderfully. Kristian Fredrikson's costumes gleam and glow, and his set looms evocatively.

But it is the dancers, above all, who take your breath away, especially the men in their sleek tights, with their perfect physiques, technique polished to the nth degree and dancing with such elegance, energy and a new-found confidence and conviction.

In this classy line up, it has to be said, Jacob Chown, former hoon, is De Man.

In Act II, Qi Huan's most romantic of princes seeks solitude in a moonlit forest and it is the turn of the swan maidens to overwhelm with the purity of their snowy ensemble, perfectly manifesting their feathery plight, ethereal, so precise, gorgeous, totally present.

And then Gillian Murphy is there, Odette in exquisite form. We have seen her in Giselle; expect her expertise and artistry. But in Odette she produces all that and a magical communication of grief, entrapment, a stirring love and a quivering of hope. It is truly a star performance, but one that carries the company and the story to new heights alongside her.

But there is even more. As Odile, in a riveting black tutu, she is the epitome of the darkest gem, sparkling with evil intent and malice even as she echoes her white swan, pitch perfect, deadly.

You could be purely bewitched by Murphy, by the physical spectacle of this Swan Lake, or marvel at the vividness of a familiar tale, so well retold. You could note the exceptional talents and techniques of our national ballet company, how far it has come in its 60 frequently fraught years, and speculate on its future.

Or you could be helplessly transported by all that and more: and let it touch your heart.

What: Swan Lake, with the Royal New Zealand Ballet

Where: The Civic, till Sunday

- NZ Herald

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