The Beauty of Sorrow

by suu4leaf

Watched a wonderful performance of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake at the Art Festival, performed by Stuttgart Ballet. This is my first time ever watching a ballet classic, and I genuinely thought I would fall asleep (because that is a universal truth for all classical stuff). But not only I did not fall asleep, I was constantly awed by the wonderful spectacle in front of me (we were very fortunate to have got fairly good seats about 10+ rows from the stage, slightly to the side, and Anson Chan actually just sat one row in front of us, in the centre of course). It was a bit like Miranda seeing a whole new world open before her — “O brave new world!” And yes indeed, “it is new to thee.”

Who has not heard of the famous Swan theme by Tchaikovsky? Even given the difficult pronunciation of the Russian language, Hong Kong people are so familiar with the name (though as a term for “drivers”, probably to the great astonishment of the Russians). Still, no one can tell the story with absolute certainty — partly because there have never been one but many versions of the story: happy, tragic, ambivalent… and John Cranko, the noted choreographer of this production of Swan Lake, decided it should be tragic, and I think that is the best possible rendering of both the music and the story. I mean, the Swan theme is so sorrowfully beautiful, so how can it be the lovers get reunited and live happily ever after, as if the crisis is no crisis at all? Even plot-wise it would not make any sense. Or you can just say I am a pessimistic soul, but I do think sorrow is beautiful.

Friedemann Vogel plays Prince Siegfried, whose angelic appearance really appealed to me. But the vulnerable elegance of Linda Waasdorp playing Odette was even more breathtaking — she was the bird of heaven itself! Audience has a tendency to find fault with the main casts, but these two really worked for me and I have no complaint at all save applauses.

One thing kept coming to my mind while I was being enchanted by the spectacles before me — and that is (quite undoubtedly) Degas. Degas and his ballerina. It was then that I totally understood why this impressionist artist was so much fascinated by this performance art form. Because it is just heavenly impressionistic. And more so the swan lake scenes — what with the movement of the group of swans! Nature inspires Art, and Art triumphs over Nature. This famous argument between King Polixenes and Perdita.

These photos are not from the Art Festival performance, but another performance of Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall in London, June 2007. Also featuring Friedemann Vogel as Prince Siegfried. A Sofiane Sylve plays Odette, whom I feel is not as elegant as Linda Waasdorp.

All images are copyright John Ross ©