Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake

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Watching the DVD: Prince: Robert Curran, Odette: Madeleine Eastoe, Baroness: Danielle Rowe.

Madeleine Eastoe is heartbreaking as Odette in Act I.

I really like Graeme Murphy’s work with The Australian Ballet: Swan Lake has one of the most recognisable scores in ballet, but he found a new way to tell a story, while keeping the familiar device of women as swans.

The prologue, Odette in the palace at night: does she see the Baroness and Prince Siegfried in each other’s arms?

The wedding: the usual: children, a fussy photographer, a regal Queen, folk dancers entertaining, girlfriends dancing, the happy couple…but who’s this Siegfried can’t keep his eyes off? Odette knows there’s something wrong, and when Siegfried and the Baroness think they’re unobserved, they’re wrong…and Odette becomes hysterical.

I remember when this production was first staged: Lynette Wills’ Baroness really set a benchmark for me, and to my mind, Danielle Rowe didn’t meet that standard. Nothing tangible, just my impression. Robert Curran gets to demonstrate both his solo ability and his superb partnering, and as said earlier. Madeline Eastoe is simply heartbreaking.

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I wish I were in Tokyo

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The Australian Ballet is currently in Tokyo, performing two of Graeme Murphy’s full-length ballets: Swan Lake and Nutcracker: the Story of Clara. Both of which I love.

Luckily (hah!) I have the DVD of both productions, and was thrilled that the Tokyo cast for the first Swan Lake at the odd hour of 3pm was almost the same as on the DVD, so I could “watch along”. Despite the DVD’s cover featuring Adam Bull and Amber Scott, the performance recorded features Robert Curran as Prince Siegfried, Madeleine Eastoe as Odette, and Danielle Rowe as Baroness von Rothbart. The only difference in Tokyo was that Lucinda Dunn was dancing the Baroness.

I wish I were in Tokyo this week.

The Three Musketeers

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1981 – The Three Musketeers

The world première season of The Three Musketeers was staged in February 1981 at the Palais Theatre. One of Australia’s greatest dancers, Marilyn Jones, was Artistic Director at that time, and the work was commissioned from André Prokovsky, who adapted Dumas’ novel for the stage. Music by Giuseppe Verdi was arranged by Guy Woolfenden.

Principal Artists that season were Dale Baker, David Burch, the incomparable Kelvin Coe, Paul de Masson, Michela Kirkaldie (brilliant as Milady), and Gary Norman. Leonid Kozlov and Valentina Kozlova were the Guest Artists.

1987 – The Three Musketeers revisited

Very similar programme – same costume design on the cover as the 1981 season. This time the Musketeers were played by David McAllister, Steven Heathcote and Paul de Masson (who had in fact been in the première season). Guest artist from the US, Fernando Bujones, learned the role of D’Artagnan and was absolutely wonderful, Milady was danced by Christine Walsh, and the costumes and sets were the same – lots of shinily dazzling pale blue, hurting the eyes and making some of the dancing difficult to see! Enjoyable in the extreme.

Ballet in the 1970s

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1970s – The Royal Ballet

We lived in England from 1970 and my first ballet was the Ashton Cinderella at Covent Garden, with Antoinette Sibley and Anthony Dowell, Merle Park as the Fairy Godmother, and Ashton and Helpmann as the Ugly Sisters.

I was 8 when Kenneth Macmillan’s Manon was first staged, and my first Des Grieux was Rudolf Nureyev, with Merle Park as Manon, and Derek Rencher as Monsieur G.M. I remember not liking the swamp scene very much, but being very moved by all the poor girls with short hair moving limply around on the dock after having been transported to Louisiana. It still moves me, although I now appreciate the swamp scene!

1970s – The Australian Ballet

Back in Australia in the mid-to-late Seventies, Mum took me to see the Australian Ballet whenever we could get to Melbourne or Sydney. Standing out in my memory are Kelvin Coe and Lucette Aldous in Gillian Lynne’s The Fool on the Hill, which had been originally designed as a television production, but which we saw at the Sydney Opera House. I remember seeing a Giselle around the late Seventies, too, but don’t have a programme.