This is Swan Lake, expanded! The production was created in 1988, towards the end of Rudi van Dantzig’s 20-year directorship of Dutch National Ballet, working collaboratively with Toer van Shayk, who choreographed the national dances and designed the set and costumes. Character definition is greatly enhanced and there is much more dance in a performance that, with two intervals, lasts almost four hours. The director of the Hungarian National Ballet, Tamás Solymosi, a former principal in Amsterdam, brought it into the Hungarian company’s repertoire, in 2015.

Aliya Tanykpayeva and Dmitry Timofeev in Swan Lake
© Valter Berecz/Hungarian State Opera

While Act 2, the first of Lev Ivanov’s ‘white’ acts, is unaltered, the other three acts are significantly extended, either through a greater variety of ensemble dancing (especially in the opening act’s birthday celebrations for Prince Siegfried) or the injection of entirely new dances. This includes a long pas de six, enveloping two duets and two solos, danced largely to unfamiliar music, appearing among van Shayk’s national dances of the third act. As well as these additions, following their final reconciliation, Siegfried and Odette dance a tragic pas de deux (although versions of this extra duet appear in other twentieth century central European productions). There is an abundant richness of character detail, especially in the psychological portrayal of Prince Siegfried’s torn emotions. On the cusp of his eighteenth birthday, the prince faces an imminent transition from happy-go-lucky adolescent to the formal rigours of kingship. Dmitry Timofeev portrayed this tension between delight and duty with great sincerity allied to a strong and precise technique that showed a virtuoso dancer in very fine form. It was a special evening since Timofeev was partnering his wife, Aliya Tanykpayeva on her return to the stage as Odette/Odile after a year-long absence. The chemistry between them was electric.

Hungarian National Ballet in Act 1 Swan Lake
© Valter Berecz

It was a triumphant return for this Kazakhstan-born ballerina who, in 2016, performed the role of Galina Ulanova for an episode of The Crown. As both Odette and Odile, she danced with great expressiveness and smooth precision. In her opening moments as Odette, one could truly believe that this was a young woman who had just emerged from her enchantment as a swan, utilising long, slender arms and delicate hands with a conviction that they had not long since, been wings. The orchestra’s tempo in the second act was remarkably slow (David Coleman was conducting) but Tanykpayeva has an exceptional quality of control and musicality that conjures an allusion of making time be her servant. 

Hungarian National Ballet in Act 2 Swan Lake
© Valter Berecz

Siegfried’s former carefree life is emphasised by his matey friendship with Alexander (often named Benno in other productions) and the prince is easily seduced into dancing alongside him (Valerio Palumbo) in an outstanding pas de trois that briefly slips into a pas de quatre, the friends partnering two local girls (Lili Felméry and Claudia García Carriera), distinctive in shimmering, white satin skirts. The reason for the brevity of Siegfried’s insertion into the dance was the strictness of his tutor, unusually given a name, Von Rasposen (György Szirb), and much greater prominence than usual. Von Rasposen’s similarity to Von Rothbart goes beyond the name and one sensed that they could have been brothers. Takaaki Okajima gave a scintillating performance as a particularly authoritative Rothbart, dismissing the challenges of Siegfried with ease, knocking him into the wings at one point, and then (spoiler alert) drowning him in the lake. The final moments are of Alexander discovering his friend’s body and sobbing while carrying it towards the audience as the curtain falls.    

Aliya Tanykpayeva and Dmitry Timofeev in Act 3 Swan Lake
© Valter Berecz

Siegfried’s six potential princess brides, presented to him in three pairs, are also given distinctive personalities: one is so timid that she must be dragged to meet the prince, whereupon she suddenly gained so much nervous exuberance that she overshadowed her otherwise more confident competitor in their subsequent dance-off! Van Schayk’s national dances (Spanish, Neapolitan and Csárdás) were all beautifully performed. I particularly enjoyed Jessica Carulla Leon and Balázs Majoros as the lead Csárdás couple. And the unfamiliar extra pas de six was a revelation with two excellent solos danced superbly by the returning García Carriera and Taran Dumitru. 

Hungarian National Ballet in Act 3 Swan Lake
© Valter Berecz

Van Schayk’s costumes are spectacular and colourful especially in the various Act 3 dances although I found the large jewel in the centre of the swans’ bodices to be an unnecessary embellishment. Incidentally, another distinctive difference in this production is that there is no apparition of Odette to signify Siegfried’s betrayal at the tumultuous end of the third act.      

This is a very satisfying and rich production that was danced with great clarity, further elevated by celebrating the sublime return of a much-loved and exceptional ballerina.