'Swan Lake' natural choice

Gillian Murphy as Odette in the Royal New Zealand Ballet's production of <i>Swan Lake.</i>
Gillian Murphy as Odette in the Royal New Zealand Ballet's production of Swan Lake.
Swan Lake, one of the most famous classical ballets, is opening in Dunedin on Tuesday, part of the Royal New Zealand Ballet's 60th anniversary celebrations.

When this opulent production by Russell Kerr and designed by Kristian Fredrikson was first staged in 1996, it had audience members on their feet applauding. After its recent opening in Wellington, Radio NZ reviewer Diedre Tarrant described it as ''Probably the best Swan Lake in our lifetimes.''

The company's artistic director Ethan Stiefel explains: ''In this anniversary year, I felt it appropriate to present a ballet that would encapsulate the RNZB's history, as well as one that is an important work for any ballet company to perform regularly.

''I could think of no better way to capture this idea than to have Swan Lake performed. A production created by two celebrated New Zealand icons that have made such important contributions to the RNZB over the years - Russell Kerr and Kristian Fredrikson.''

Gillian Murphy as Odile in the Royal New Zealand Ballet's production of <i>Swan Lake.</i>
Gillian Murphy as Odile in the Royal New Zealand Ballet's production of Swan Lake.
Composed by Tchaikovsky in the 1870s, it tells the story of Prince Siegfried who falls in love with Princess Odette who, with her maidens, has been transformed into a swan by the evil sorcerer Von Rothbart and only regains her human form at night. She prevents Siegfried from killing Von Rothbart who suddenly appears, because if he dies before the spell is broken it can never be undone.

The following scene is a ball at which Siegfried is to choose his bride. Rothbart appears with his daughter Odile who resembles Odette in every way except she wears black. He mistakes her for his true love and declares he will marry her, but when Rothbart reveals the ruse Siegfried is grief-stricken and rushes back to the lake where he met Odette and the swans.

Odette forgives him but Rothbart insists he marry Odile, after which Odette will be completely transformed into a swan. He refuses, preferring to die with his love and they leap into the lake.