Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake is a staple of The Australian Ballet’s repertoire. Though this production is now in its 11th year, this was the first time I have seen it live (as I have it on DVD), and WOW. It is one of the major works that TAB performs when touring, especially internationally, but it is the first time in about five or six years it has been shown in Melbourne. Last year, I saw TAB’s production of Stephen Bayne’s Swan Lake, and though it was good, I wasn’t blown away.
Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake is a bit of a deviation from the classic Swan Lake storyline, and, personally, I like it much more. Set in and around an imperial court in Europe between the World Wars, it is somewhat based on more recent royal history. No magic, but plenty of madness, scandal and undying love.
I was most excited to see on the cast sheet the names of Madeleine Eastoe and Lucinda Dunn as Odette and the Baroness von Rothbart (Odile) respectively. To those who don’t know, these two ballerinas would be the “prima” ballerinas of TAB. Lucinda Dunn has been in the TAB since 1991 (the year I was born!!!), and though I have seen them both dance in different ballets before, I have never seen either of them as good as they were last night. Rudy Hawkes was Prince Siegfried, and though he was very good, was outshone by the two leading ladies. It really didn’t matter; sometimes when the women are that good, so long as the chap can lift them when required and catch them in the turns, it doesn’t matter awfully.
Halaina Hills was wonderful as the Young Duchess, and I thought Laura Tong was a wonderfully kick-ass Princess Royal. Great to see Colin Peasley back on stage as the token old-chap at the wedding (Colin Peasley was one of the original dances in TAB when it was founded back in 1962. He’s now well into his 70’s, and is put into costume a couple of times each year for the “old-chap” roles as required). I also really enjoyed Calvin Hannaford and Cameron Hunter as the young Earl and his Equerry. They got a lot of laughs, and I think the audience was shipping them as hard as they were any other pairing in this ballet!
The set and especially costumes are absolutely exquisite. They were designed by the late Kristian Fredrikson, who I do not believe made one ugly costume in his whole career. There is not one dress in this ballet that I would not want to wear. And the detail in everything since piece is just stunning.
Swan Lake is of course one of the most iconic ballet scores, and, arguably, pieces of classical music, and Orchestra Victoria were fantastic as always.
My favourite dance of this version of Swan Lake, though perhaps a little clichéd, is the Act I waltz. It’s just so beautiful, and one of my favourite dances in any ballet (other top favourites being the Pas de Deux from Peter Wright’s The Nutcracker and the Act I Mazurka and Act II finale from Dame Peggy van Praagh’s Coppelia).
If The Australian Ballet are touring this production of Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake in your city, book early or miss out, and you do not want to miss this.
Up next: Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers LIVE with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. If it’s half as good as Fellowship was last year, then it’ll be beyond amazing.
All pictures from The Australian Ballet’s Facebook page.