"Swan Lake" is arguably the most recognizable ballet in the world. Even ballet novices can at least admit that they've HEARD of this famous work, and most of them could probably even hum a few bars of the enthralling score. But what they probably don’t understand is that this an ageless tale that focuses on the always-present battle of good versus evil and the victims it leaves in its wake.
An innocent day at the lake between Prince Siegfried – played by the talented and dashing Davit Hovhannisyan – his childhood sweetheart Odette and their friends takes a sinister turn thanks to the evil sorcerer Von Rothbart and his ruthless quest for the crown.
Fast forward to the eve of Siegfried’s 21st birthday. His closest friends gather to celebrate the occasion in a way that is much more elegant and graceful than the way I celebrated my 21st birthday. But suddenly, in a move that IS very reminiscent of my 21st birthday, the prince is given a dangerous concoction which leads him back to the enchanted lake.
There he is reunited with his lost love Odette. But a happily ever after doesn’t come that easily for our smitten couple. It turns out that Von Rothbart has placed a curse on Odette and her friends: They appear as swans during the day and as women in the night.
To the surprise of no one, everything about the Milwaukee Ballet’s magnificent production of "Swan Lake," ending the 2017-18 on a high note, is unabashedly beautiful. The Milwaukee Ballet orchestra plays Tchaikovsky’s moving score with an alarming amount of expertise and passion, while credit must also be given to artistic director Michael Pink for wisely sticking to a traditional presentation of this beloved masterpiece.
Recently coming off his hugely successful world premiere of "Beauty and the Beast," Pink’s choreography consistently creates new levels of greatness. Just when you think this man can’t get any better, he somehow does. There is no doubt that he is an extraordinary visionary that Milwaukee is lucky to have.
Jose Varona’s set designs are equally sensational, instantly transporting you away from the summer heat of Brew City and into a cool and mystical environment. Varona strikes me as having the exceptional gift of making hard work look easy, effortlessly creating everything from castles to bodies of water with a masterful stroke. Even just looking at the layout of the magical lake made me feel refreshed and rejuvenated from Milwaukee’s recent streak of humidity (although my hair would say otherwise).
But the creative powerhouses behind this production would be nowhere without a cast of exceptional performers. In this regard, "Swan Lake" does not fail to deliver. Odette, a role cherished by countless dancers around the world, is certainly a role that Luz San Miguel was born to play. Her stunning portrayal of this innocent and tormented Swan Queen is truly flawless. Odette’s delightfully menacing counterpart, Odile, is perfectly played by Marize Fumero. I can only imagine that their matinee-performance counterparts, Nicole Teague-Howell and Annia Hidalgo, are equally inspirational.
In addition to the outstanding featured dancers, the ensemble cast impeccably completes every moment onstage. It is evident that they are putting their heart and souls into their performances – and who can blame them? I can only imagine (since I’ve come to the painful realization that I will never be a professional ballerina) that performing "Swan Lake" for them is the equivalent of a pro football player finally playing in the Super Bowl: Being a dancer doesn’t get much better than this.
After seeing the always-excellent Milwaukee Ballet perform "Swan Lake," I can tell you that this show has earned every bit of its renowned reputation. This timeless Russian folklore truly has something for everyone: passion, deception, forgiveness and a little bit of magic.