Please also view my oil paintings of ballet in my Dance Gallery

If you only see one classical ballet ever, THIS IS IT! The Petipa / Ivanov choreography stood for a hundred years until Tomasson did this one. Don't miss it!

The San Francisco Ballet's production of Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" is a lush visual spectacle with lavish costumes and strong scenic design by Jens-Jacob Worsaae and some of the best choreography I've ever seen by Helgi Tomasson. The entire stage is alive and vibrates with every note as Tomasson uses every level from tiptoes to splits to stretches to soaring leaps. Principal dancers Tina LeBlanc and David Palmer are strong and fluid throughout, but are absolutely scintillating in the Black Swan Pas de Deux as Siegfried declares his love for Odile. This, along with Act 2 retains the original Petipa/Ivanov choreography. The corps de ballet swandance is woven like a fine tapestry followed by the riveting precision of the cygnets and swan maidens.

We have roiling steam to open Act 2 against a painted backdrop of a lake deep in a forest with giant tree trunks like Redwoods on either side to give excellent depth to the staging. This set is essentially the same for the entire ballet, but in the ballroom scene a screen is lowered in front of the backdrop to turn it into a wall with big baroque paintings, gold trim and elegant stairways on either side. When Odette appears as a vision it is in the center painting backlit so that you can faintly see the forest scene behind her for a rather mystical effect.

In this staging Von Rothbart has a significant dancing part and actually competes with Siegfried for Odette's love in dance, as opposed to The Royal Ballet's staging last year where Von Rothbart stood off in a corner casting spells for the most part. That may have been gloomier, but in this San Francisco production Siegfried clearly defeats Von Rothbart and goodness and love win out at the end as Siegfried and Odette triumph in their love through death. Denis de Coteau leads the orchestra and wrings every bit of passion from Tchaikovsky's score in this stupendous production of "Swan Lake" by the San Francisco Ballet.

This review is from when I saw Swan Lake in 1996. The1998 review is here.

Please also view my oil paintings of ballet in my Dance Gallery

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Last Updated February 27, 2005 by Paul Berenson