Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake

COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Opus Arte
ALBUM TITLE: Tchaikovsky
WORKS: Swan Lake
PERFORMER: Agnès Letestu, José Martinez, Karl Paquette; Paris Opera Ballet & Orchestra/Vello Pähn; choreographer: Rudolf Nureyev (Paris, 2006)
CATALOGUE NO: OA 0966 D (NTSC system; LPCM stereo; 16:9 anamorphic)
Nureyev first choreographed Swan Lake in 1964 for Vienna, starring himself and Margot Fonteyn. Twenty years later he returned to the subject in Paris, a version captured here in 2006 state-of-theart sound and vision, and if hardly as ‘astonishingly Freudian’ as Opus Arte’s booklet article makes out, it sheds an interesting light on the plot: Wolfgang, the Prince’s tutor (danced by Karl Paquette), is no sozzled clown but a sinister manipulator who doubles as the evil sorceror, von Rothbart, and finally carries off swan queen Odette in an unhappy end. So Paquette’s evil genius regularly makes up a Pas de Trois with José Martinez’s unhappy prince and Agnès Letestu – mesmerising as she eloquently mixes mime and dance on Odette’s first appearance and, as black swan Odile, all brilliant mechanical smiles switched off when the prince isn’t looking. Paris Opéra’s female corps de ballet form captivating patterns, captured at three levels by François Roussillon’s stylish filming, and reminding us that Matthew Bourne’s all-male swan ensemble isn’t the last word in Swan Lakes.


Not quite all the music is here, and Nureyev borrows some divertissement numbers to give the prince extra variations. But at least the last Act doesn’t suffer from additional swathes of musical tamperings by Drigo (the Russian Imperial Ballet’s conductor) still used at the Mariinsky. And Vello Pahn is quite simply one of the best dance conductors I’ve ever heard, capturing the full suavity of the waltzes, the panache of the national dances in Act III (shunted towards the beginning) and the full blazing tragedy of the final lakeside scene. David Nice