We live in an imperfect world, but when a stage full of white swans float together in perfect symmetry under lights that might be reflecting moonbeams, all goes right, at least for this moment. The Boston Ballet has revived its 2004 production of “Swan Lake,” staged by company artistic director Mikko Nissinen, and it’s a satisfying spectacle to behold.


 

We live in an imperfect world, but when a stage full of white swans float together in perfect symmetry under lights that might be reflecting moonbeams, all goes right, at least for this moment. The Boston Ballet has revived its 2004 production of “Swan Lake,” staged by company artistic director Mikko Nissinen, and it’s a satisfying spectacle to behold.

Nissinen and his ballet masters, augmented by guest teacher Sorella Englund, a former ballerina with the Royal Danish Ballet, and artistic associate Trinidad Vives, who has groomed the women’s corps into a stunning artistic machine, have concentrated on the traditional story, with only one surprise to bring down the final curtain. Ala the Soviet version, the Swan Queen and her Prince vanquish the evil sorcerer, Von Rothbart, free the swans, and stay alive and breathing, wrapped in each other’s arms. Some of us prefer the more widely used epilogue of eternal life-in-the-hereafter.

At Thursday night’s opening performance, the dual role of Odette-Odile, the Swan Queen and her black-hearted twin, was portrayed by the company’s most fragile looking ballerina, Larissa Ponomarenko, but make no mistake about her capabilities. Beneath that aura of virginity and spirituality, lies the strength of steel girders that allow her to suspend a leg out into arabesque and hold it forever, or pull out her movements ever so slowly in her second act pas de deux with Prince Siegfried, taking her own tempo over the measures of Tchaikovskyís beloved score. The tour-de-force is her transformation in the next act into Odile, with arms and legs as sharp blades slicing the air rather than moving in the fluttery gestures of a frightened bird. As Odile, her expression of a maiden-like “come-hither” changes into a sexual invitation. Needless to say, the Prince is mesmerized rather than enchanted.

Less fortunate is the choice of Roman Rykine as Prince Siegfried. To be sure, he’s dependable as a partner, and offers a steady pair of hands and strong shoulders to secure the overhead lifts, but who wants steady and dependable in a romantic lead? It’s the villain, Von Rothbart, animated by Pavel Gurevich, who energizes the stage, and also becomes the most enticing male figure of the production. Rykine is too passive and generally too much disengaged, even for a Prince who is supposed to be moody.

The basic shape of the choreography that has come down to us from Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, who created the ballet for the 19th century Imperial troupe in St. Petersburg, has not been changed, but each new director tinkers around the edges. Nissinen has cut the intermissions between the four acts, making two long acts with only one interval.  (On opening night, the stage crew was as confused by this order as the audience but I suspect itís a good decision.)  Once the lackluster first act of preparations for the Prince’s birthday party at court is over, the setting changes to the forest where the Swan Queen and her attendants rule. The Boston Ballet rented sets, designed by Peter Cazalet, from Ballet West rather than retrieve their own, more ponderous scenery from storage.

Nissinen has wisely kept his additions to a minimum.

(The two men, Jared Redick and Boyko Dossev, made a particularly effective, high-flying pair). 

The divertissements of the third act included a Spanish dance, led by Melinda Atkins and Mindaugas Bauzys, and a sparkling Neopolitan duet, with Misa Kuranaga and Joel Prouty as the perky pair. Bonnie Mathis as the Queen Mother and longtime company veteran, Arthur Leeth, as Master of Ceremonies, brought a welcome texture of the older generation to the cast. Jonathan McPhee conducted the Boston Ballet orchestra with vigor and sensitivity, as always.


SWAN LAKE

At The Wang Theatre, through May 11. Tickets $25-$110 at Telecharge, 800-447-7400 or www.telecharge.com.

The Patriot Ledger