By Mary Boyle
The list of classical ballets is not very long, but at the very top of them are all three of the ballets featuring the music of the great Russian composer, Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, and Swan Lake. Even to the uninitiated, the music of Swan Lake is familiar because it is constantly used in film, television, and commercials; in fact, it's likely to be a ring tone option on your mobile phone. Interestingly, Swan Lake was Tchaikovsky's first ballet, unveiled in 1877 in Moscow and, at first, it wasn't very successful. Today, it is the second most performed ballet in the world, after The Nutcracker, and you now have your chance to see SWAN LAKE performed by the Milwaukee Ballet November 3-6 at the Marcus Center in Milwaukee.
The story of Swan Lake, for those who are unfamiliar, is both a love story and the timeless tale of the battle for a crown, likely based on both German and Russian folk tales. The evil Von Rothbart (Davit Hovhannisyan), who is a confidante to the Queen, plans to take the throne through the use of his sorcery. Prince Siegfried (Randy Crespo/Parker Brasser-Vos), heir to the throne, has come of age and is being forced to wed by his mother, but wishes he could wed his childhood sweetheart, Princess Odette (Alana Griffith/Lizzie Tripp), who has suddenly gone missing. Von Rothbart has put a curse on Odette and her maidens that turned them all into swans during the day, only taking their human form at night. Siegfried is led to Odette in the night by Von Rothbart and learns her fate, pledging to always love her but, at the ball where his potential brides are presented, Siegfried is introduced to Odile (Marize Fumero/Marie Harrison-Collins), a copy of Odette created by Von Rothbart meant to fool Siegfried into pledging his love to the wrong woman, which will then seal the curse on Odette and her maidens and give Rothbart control of the throne. This ballet has several possible endings, from tragic to happy, but far be it from me to fill you in on this one.
The music of Tchaikovsky, performed by the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra under the direction of Andrews Sill, who has been with the Milwaukee Ballet since 2003 and is also the Associate Music Director of the New York City Ballet, is truly half of the reason one should see this production. While the music of Swan Lake is already unforgettable and easily recognizable, the orchestra, along with Associate Conductor Pasquale Laurino, makes the music come alive.
This production marks the 5th time Michael Pink, who is celebrating his 20th Anniversary as Milwaukee Ballet's Artistic Director, has directed and choreographed Swan Lake for the Milwaukee Ballet, and his version is not only incredibly accessible to a wider audience (meaning, to people who do not necessarily think of themselves as fans of the ballet), but also an honest to goodness work of art.
Classical ballets can sometimes be a bit tedious, but Pink's version of this classic is streamlined into two acts instead of 4 and is packed with enough emotion and drama to tell the story the way it is deserved to be told. My absolute favorite element is the flock of swans: their costumes, which replace the traditional tutu with tattered white dresses, were introduced in Pink’s 2nd production and embody both the curse they are under and the graceful creatures they become during the day; however, it's their choreography that is truly breathtaking – I would never get tired of watching it. I saw Alana Griffith as Odette and Randy Crespo as Siegfried and, I must say, their Pas de Deux was a triumph, while the entire production was pure magic. Don’t miss your chance to see this one.
SWAN LAKE only runs through Sunday, November 6th, at the Marcus Center, located at 929 N. Water Street in Milwaukee. Tickets may be purchased online at https://www.milwaukeeballet.org/ or by calling the Milwaukee Ballet Box Office at 414-902-2103 or the Marcus Performing Arts Center Box Office at 414.273.7206.
The Milwaukee Ballet will return to the Marcus Center December 10-24 with their annual production of THE NUTCRACKER. This year will be the final year to see the costumes and sets that have been used for the past 25 years before an all-new production of The Nutcracker will be unveiled in 2023!
About Milwaukee Ballet
Since 1970, Milwaukee Ballet has been making a name for themselves and the City of Milwaukee through the art of ballet and their mission to transform lives and connect communities through inspiring performance, community engagement, education, and training. Milwaukee Ballet is an international company of dancers, a thriving School & Academy, and a force for change in the community through their outreach and engagement programs.