Performing Arts
© Mike Keenan

Swan Lake in St. Petersburg, Russia is a joy to behold!

Swan Lake
Swan Lake

Magically, I'm in historic St. Petersburg, Russia to watch the famed Mariinsky Ballet (known as the Kirov in the Soviet era) perform their version of Swan Lake live in 3D at the dazzling Mariinsky Theatre .

Celebrating the beginning of Russian ballet 275 years ago in the Winter Palace and the very ballet born in St. Petersburg , this is the first ever 3D live transmission of a ballet from a theatre to cinemas around the world.

I'm ensconced in a comfortable seat in the Cineplex Odeon Niagara Square Cinema, while thousands of kilometres away, the Mariinsky Orchestra conducted by Valery Gergiev plays Tchaikovsky's romantic score. One of the neat aspects of this experience is that the cameras take us right into the orchestra pit. The event is filmed in Cameron-Pace 3D as was Avatar , Hugo and the Life of Pi , so the quality is good, but there are a few problems.

The ballet opens with Prince Siegfried ( Timur Askerov ) and his friends celebrating his coming of age at a private party. We get our first glimpse of the joker, Vasily Tkachenko , who excels throughout with spell-binding jumps and athletic twirls.

The ballet features a company deep in talent, beautiful young maidens transformed by the evil magician von Rothbart ( Andrei Yermakov ), a pleasure to watch in their talented unison, providing the backdrop for prima ballerina, Ekaterina Kondaurova , the white swan Odette and the black swan, Odile. One is mesmerized by her long, graceful arms and legs, and she captivates both audience and the prince.

Siegfried is tricked by Rothbart in his choice of fair maidens, but in a subsequent fight, he breaks Rothbart's wing and the sorcerer collapses, his power vanished. Love breaks the evil spell. The sun rises and shines radiantly on the Prince and Odette, and on the maidens whom Siegfried has rescued.

The well-practised precision of the corps de ballet, 24 young women posing and reforming in striking patterns with not an elbow or a wrist astray, is exceptional to watch; however, it's not like actually being there in the theatre when one can visually roam at will. Here instead, the camera is often not focussed as we wish and it sometimes concentrates on shots that miss the artwork of the feet.

Ekaterina Kondaurova, the Moscow-born dancer, at 30, appears to be at the top of her game. As Odette, she is elegant and one cannot stop watching her bird-like, elongated arms. As Odile, she is transformed into a fiery burst of passion that overpowers the prince. Timur Askerov as Siegfried is excellent with his powerful body literally soaring through the air, an eagle lifted by thermals. Andrei Yermakov's Rothbart is convincingly wicked in his attempts to deceive. Add music by Tchaikovsky, and it's a wonderful evening in St. Petersburg! This version of Swan Lake is lyrical, mysterious and dramatic, and the Mariinsky choreography displays its famed corps de ballet in all its beauty.

An added bonus besides the saving of airfare and accommodations is a quick travelogue of St. Petersburg prior to the ballet along with an interview with the principals.

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Cineplex Odeon Niagara Square Cinemas:
7555 Montrose Road, Niagara Falls ON,
L2H 2E9, (905) 357-1900

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