It's certainly a myth that you have to "get" dance and all of its subtleties to really enjoy a night at the ballet in Boston, a city internationally known for the craft. Whether you're a ballet junkie or completely new to the art form, there is something truly magical about seeing Boston Ballet's performance of “Swan Lake,” the classic and well-known story first shown on stage in 1877.
The story manifests itself in a two-hour performance, consisting of a prologue and four acts. Young Prince Siegfried (played by Gonzalo Garcia) is in the midst of his birthday celebrations when his mother, the Queen, reminds him that he must choose a wife amongst the women of the upcoming ball being held to celebrate his coming-of-age. Upset with his predicament, Prince Siegfried goes for a hunt with a crossbow given to him as a gift from his mother, only to witness a swan transform into a beautiful young woman named Odette. Odette and her friends were abducted by the evil sorcerer Von Rothbart and turn into swans, and she explains that only a young man's eternal love can break her curse. The plot follows Prince Siegfried's determination to pick Odette as his bride, only to be duped into falling in love with the sorcerer's daughter Odile, who pretends to be Odette.
The enchantment doubtlessly begins with location itself, as Mikko Nissinen's reinterpretation of the famous tragic romance unfolds in Boston Ballet's traditional home since 2009 at the Boston Opera House. Entering the richly detailed marble, gold, and satin-filled lobby is utterly breathtaking. The building, as explained on the Opera House's website, was designed in the image of French and Italian palace-like theaters, exuding a kind of luxury one only sees in fairytales. The theater room itself is intimate yet grand, featuring golden balconies, intricately carved ceilings, and a stage literally framed in gold so that performances appear to be moving paintings—an architecture fanatic's wet dream.
The set designers of “Swan Lake” certainly did not hesitate to play up the delectable painting-esque details of the theater. Each scene featured seemingly hand-painted backdrops of sprawling garden landscapes, the palace grounds, and perhaps my favorite, the lifelike ballroom during the Grand Ball sequence. Perhaps most skillful was the team's creative use of stage space and optical illusions. In the Grand Ball scene, the painted walls truly appeared to pop from the flat canvas, making it easier to slip into the Prince's world. One illusion that drew audible gasps of wonder from the crowd was one of the lake scenes, in which the stage was shrouded in a thick layer of fog to simulate the lake water. When the curtain pulls up, the stage appears empty aside from the set, until about two dozen swan dancers rise from the fog to perform.
While the dances evidently took immense strength and skill in both halves of the performance, the second half of the show was slightly more eventful and featured some incredible moves, especially on the part of Odette, played by Misa Kuranaga on the opening night performance. The second half featured various dance sequences by sets of men and women in different glitzy costumes each time, whereas the costumes were slightly more uniform and toned down in the first half, and the dances a little more repetitive. Kuranaga's position as lead female dancer came as no surprise: the Japanese ballerina's skill, even to the eye of someone less versed in ballet, was unparalleled.
Despite the somewhat slow beginning, the experience was magical from start to finish, most certainly worthwhile for anyone wanting to try something a little different on a night out. “Swan Lake” will only be showing for the month of May. Make sure to get your tickets this spring, as the show will not be returning to Boston Ballet for several years.
To check ticket availability, including the possibility of student rush tickets for $25, contact the Boston Ballet Box Office at 617-695-6955.