RoyalBalletTour – Swan Lake

Swan Lake
Teatro Real Madrid
Sunday, 22nd July 2018

Swan Lake – 07/22/2018  

The Teatro Real
Odette/Odile: Marianela Nunez
Prince Siegfried: Vadim Muntagirov
Von Rothbart: Gary Avis
Benno: Alexander Campbell
Siegfried’s sisters: Francesca Hayward, Akane Takada
Big swans: Claire Calvert, Mayara Magri
Cygnets: Anna Rose O’Sullivan, Meaghan Grace Hinkis, Romany Pajdak, Isabella Gasparini


I knew couldn’t have survived without an infusion of Royal Ballet during the summer, and I migrated to Madrid as a loyal RB fan for one more lakeside adventure. Turned out, I was not the only one: Covent regulars were at the Stage Door waiting for the stars to come out and even more predictably, they were in total awe. This may have been the last run this Season but definitely not the least: indeed, it’s been the most incredible one.

It’s been my ninth Swan Lake, but I could happily watch a hundred more shows: Royal withdrawal symptoms were (temporarily) healed at Teatro Real – a majestic venue, even though no theatre will ever be more wonderful than our own Covent Garden gem.  

Schermata 2018-07-23 alle 10.57.40
Nela as Odette in the prologue, here with Bennet Gartside back during the ROH run earlier this Season

Obviously, let’s start with queen herself: Nela was a swan. Her balances in the piqué turns during Odette’s solo were something unbelievably insane! She took the piqué and then kept turning. And turning. And turning. A lady beside me gasped in disbelief.

Her white swan was the picture of delicacy and grace, but her Odile brought the Teatro down!  With her usual allured charisma and rock-stoned technique, she visibly enjoyed calling all the shots at the party in act 3, and what a pas de deux, solo and coda!

Nela bein her swantastic self

Her interpretation is always the icing on the cake of her glorious performances: Nela always   showcases perfectly rounded roles and owns brightness to fill a whole opera house (and more). Her Odette/Odile was characterised by such a sudden shift of personality – I’ve never seen someone mastering the role so perfectly.

Queen Nela and Vadream in act 2

Vadream was on top form as well, showing off his flight-like elevation in all his excellently  performed routines.

He was just perfect, both technically and emotionally speaking, and one thing I really liked (already noticed in London) is the camaraderie between him and Alex, who was dancing as Benno. They’re friend and their friendship is even more visible on stage, and they always make a great duo: their small touches they add, even a simple hand on a shoulder or smiles – their performances are incredibly detailed, and sometimes the smallest detail makes all the difference.

Alex, then, was impeccable as per usual as Benno, partnering Frankie and Akane as Siegfried’s younger sisters in the pas de trois in the first and third act.

This all-principals trio rocked it once again, and the princesses were just gorgeous.

Mr Christmas no more!

Great to see Gary alongside Nela and Vadim as well! The first cast’s Von Rothbart back in London was Bennet Gartside (who’s just had a baby boy and is not on tour), but this was my   dream cast. Gary may be Mr Christmas (and I can’t wait to see him throwing glitter on stage during the Nutcracker run) but he’s also a terrific villain with his pitch perfect interpretations.

More like Tom Riddle with a nose.


In the first act Matthew Ball, Marcelino Sambé, Fernando Montano, James Hay, Olivia Cowley, Mayara Magri, Meaghan Hinkis and Fumi Kaneko led the waltz and polonaise in flawless routines – and now, a round of applause for Matthew, newly appointed Principal of the Royal Ballet! He deserves this promotion so much, and I am very much looking forward to his bright future with the Company.

I’m really happy for Mayara and Fumi’s promotions to First Soloists as well: they are the future of Royal, and they shone bright this past Season.  

Gorgeous flock of swans

For their last evening by the lake, the swans flocked flawlessly in act 2 and 4 led by their astonishing swan queen Nela, two elegant Big Swans – Claire and Mayara – and four graceful cygnets – Anna Rose, Meaghan, Isabella Gasparini and Romany Pajdak.

I loved Claire and Mayara’s Big Swans: Claire’s line were pushed to perfection and Mayara was just great. Good Fumi and Tierney Heap alongside them as side swans as well.

Oh, and I spotted a few swans’ glances at Nela’s superbe variation, whilst they were lined up as she danced and smashed her Odette.

In act 3 the four princesses kept the party glamorous: Itziar Mendizabal, at her home-bound as the Spanish princess, Melissa Hamilton as the Hungarian princess, Meaghan as the Italian princess and Beatriz Stix-Brunell as the Polish princess, gave their finest performances dancing to win Vadream’s heart. They all danced beautifully, but Bea was beaming in her wonderful tutu and tiara, and her face of disdain when Siegfried chooses Odile, and when Nela walked beside her was fantastic.

Awesome Spanish dance by Tierney, Reece Clarke, Ben Ella, Fernando Montano and Nicol Edmonds (with Reece always shining with his elegance whatever he does) and Neapolitan dance by Anna Rose and James Hay. Their ashtonian routine was gorgeous and lived up by their smiles and charisma.

As one of the dames at the party Leticia Dias stands out pushing her developpé till her hears along with the always great Joseph Sissens.

Outside the stage door there was a crowd, but thankfully in the inside we were a small party and it was good to chat with Royal enthusiasts and a few of the dancers like Vadim, Alex and Gary, and Nela was lovely as per usual.


Von Rothbart’s lake, aka Lord Voldemort’s Cave, where you all know he kept his Salazar Slytherin’s locket Horcrux (I could go on)

It was great to be back to the lake one last time, and what a masterpiece we’ve witnessed!

The whole Company gave all they could give for their last show of the year, and the production itself is a gem in the ROH gilded crown: the costumes, the sets, everything is so amazing!
In the lakeside acts I felt like I was in Voldemort’s Cave by the sea, which he used to hide Salazar Slytherin’s Locket, one of his Horcruxes. The rocks are so similar to the props used in the films, and the atmosphere is just like the one J.K. Rowling describes in the books, when Harry and Dumbledore get into the cave searching for the locket: “an eerie sight met their eyes: they were standing on the edge of a great black lake, so vast that Harry could not make out the distant banks, in a cavern so high that the ceiling, too, was out of sight. A misty greenish light shone far away in what looked like the middle of the lake; it was reflected in the completely still water below. The greenish glow and the light from the two wands were the only things that broke the otherwise velvety blackness, though their rays did not penetrate as far as Harry would have expected. The darkness was somehow denser than normal darkness.”

I mean, I am a Potterhead, and I loved this HarryPotteresque side! I was almost waiting for Regulus Black to come over with Kreacher the house elf to steal the Horcrux!

To end this review, I don’t want the summer holidays to end, but I really cannot wait for next Season at the Royal Opera House now: how will I cope with more than two months without shows?


Programme libretto signed by the Queen, Lord Voldemort, Vadream and his bff, alias Nela, Gary, Vadim and Alex