When London’s Royal Opera House, in all its glory, flashed on the screen Sunday afternoon at the Cranford Theater in connection with the astounding production of the Ballet in Cinema’s “Swan Lake,” a ballet afficionado did not envy the hundreds of well-dressed people seated in five tiers of balconies and in the theater proper.
And the reason was because even though the Royal Ballet’s spectacular performance in four acts was filmed live from the London stage on Oct. 23 of this year, the giant screen at the Cranford Theater offered more — much more — to the New Jersey audience than to the British theater-goers. In the first place, a ballet fan could imagine how she or he, practically seated in the first row, could be rewarded with such enormous close ups of faces and bodies and witness the appropriate steps and movements, nearly in one’s lap.
In addition, with this particular Ballet in Cinema presentation, the Cranford audience was presented with a true study in the world of ballet — such as working with the choreographer, or in rehearsals, with sweat running down the male dancers’ chests and the ballerinas, so exhausted that they would sit in a corner, gasping, near tears.
Nevertheless, the show must go on, and the smiling faces during the performance and particularly at the climax of the ballet, as the principals and the others took innumerable bows, one would never know how much human energy and power really go into the making of a complete ballet. Particularly the absolutely stunning “Swan Lake.”
Swayed and enchanted by the exquisite, spellbinding music of Pyotr Ill’yich Tchaikovsky, who actually wrote the score in a year and completed it April, 1876, “Swan Lake” also boasts of exciting choreography by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, with additional choreography by Frederick Ashton and David Brintley. This Anthony Dowell production, with impressively colorful designs by Yolanda Sonnabend, bright and dark lighting designs by Mark Henderson, was brilliantly conducted by Boris Gruzin.
The story’s background appears to have had Russian influences before it was brought to the London stage. Among many magical moments, in exceptional pantomime, it captivates the audience with a tale of Prince Siegfried, who, on his 21st birthday, celebrated at a ball at the castle, must choose a bride, among those lovely ladies, who are in attendance. However, he falls in love with the Swan Queen Odette, who has had a spell forced upon her to spend half of her life as a swan. And if Odette marries the prince, she will be free from the curse. Unfortunately, the count has a daughter, Odile, a black swan, who resembles Odette, and through his trickery, attempts to have Odile pretend that she is the white swan, turned into a beautiful woman.
Throughout all four acts of the beautiful presentation of “Swan Lake,” the ballerinas and the male dancers are exceptional as they fly around the stage. Of particular beauty is the coordination of the many wonderfully talented ballerinas, who portray the swans at the lake, and actually, mezmarize the audience.
However, it is Zenaida Yanowsky, an exceptionally fine ballet artist, whose inspirational performances as both Odette and Odile, captivate an audience as she reaches the very heights of perfection. She is absolutely extraordinary. Nehemiah Kish, as the handsome Prince Siegfried, has an enormous, emotional appeal, and his dancing equals the many male ballet talents. Gary Avis as Von Rothbart, the evil sorcerer, is magnificently frightening — so much so, that when he appeared at the end of the performance for a bow, the London audience wildly screamed its “boos.” And that was right after that same audience applauded the other principals endlessly.
The Cranford Theater can take pride in offering such a theatrical ballet gem as “Swan Lake,” complete in four acts and two intermissions on its large screen. Because every aspect of this production is magnificent. Unquestionably, it’s as good as it gets! And in ballet, truly, there’s nothing better.