Big pond, little pond

By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  May 7, 2008

Saturday afternoon gave us Karine Seneca as Odette, Melissa Hough as Odile, and Carlos Molina as Siegfried — a combination that had been scheduled for the second Saturday rather than the first. It’s unusual to have Odette and Odile danced by different ballerinas, but not unheard-of: in Boston Ballet’s 2004 Swan Lake, Lorena Feijóo did Odile to her sister Lorna’s Odette. Seneca was a watery Odette, slow, liquid, a touch tragic, a touch recessed; Hough brought velocity and voluptuous volume to her temptress Odile and the steadiest presentation of the fouettés. These interpretations, like Cornejo’s, looked to be just getting started. With his shoulders thrown back, Molina was the most princely of the three Siegfrieds, and the most poetic — especially in his port de bras — in his end-of-first-act solo, but he attempted less than Rykine or Madrigal.

Pavel Gurevich is a great horned owl of a Rothbart in an unfussy costume (just a hint of feathers) that shows off his line. Rothbart doesn’t have much to do, only big, uncomplex jumps, and on opening night Gurevich did them well. Sabi Varga, apart from a powerhouse manège, looked inhibited (another injury?); Bo Busby’s watchful, quivering Rothbart gave off intriguing flashes of youth and vulnerability. The pas de trois in the first act was more successful than the pas de cinq in the third; the music for the latter (Tchaikovsky?) is treacly and generic until the circusy solo and then the concluding galop, and there are many pleasurable steps but few memorable ones — I’m not convinced it was a good idea to prune the Csárdás and the Mazurka to make way for this. Among the weekend’s good moments that did linger: Jaime Diaz lighting up the pas de trois Saturday (all three pas de trois trios were good); Kathleen Breen Combes leading the pas de cinq; Misa Kuranaga zipping about Joel Prouty in the Neapolitan Dance; Melanie Atkins and Sabi Varga leading the Csárdás. As usual, corps member Sarah Wroth caught the eye, whether demurely accepting Boyko Dossev’s invitation to waltz (Me? Me??) or, on behalf of the other princesses Friday, staring daggers at Odile’s revealing tutu and huffing silently, “Well, no one told us skimpy black was in this season!”

But it all feels a little thin. Boston Ballet’s pre-Nissinen Swan Lake had a virtuoso Jester who interacted with Siegfried (and, yes, sometimes overacted), drama-clarifying changes of lighting in the third act, and black swans (a metaphor for Siegfried’s betrayal) threading through the white in the fourth. (The Mariinsky Ballet — formerly the Kirov — still does this production: you can see it on the new Decca DVD, with a breathtaking Uliana Lopatkina and Danila Korsuntsev and swans with real Vaganova backs.) And Diaz was the only man all weekend who did anything remotely explosive.

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