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Eternal Treat

Tulsa Ballet, under the direction of Marcello Angelini, gracefully dances past the challenges of reinterpreting one of the most technically grueling and revered ballet storylines, Swan Lake.

Donna Leahey
February 15, 2017

Once upon a time at the ballet, a handsome prince named Siegfried journeyed into the woods, entertaining himself with hunting. He spied a beautiful, perfect swan, but just as he readied an arrow, the swan turned into a woman. She told him her name was Odette, and she had been cursed by the evil sorcerer Von Rothbart to spend her days as a swan, able to return to her human form only at night. She can only be saved by a virgin prince swearing his eternal love to her, but if he then betrays her love, she will remain a swan forever.

Siegfried insisted Odette come to his palace to attend a ball the next night, where he would propose to her and break the spell. Von Rothbart learned of their plan and brought another girl to the palace disguised as Odette. Siegfried was fooled by the illusion and proposed to the wrong woman, thereby condemning Odette. Upon learning of his tragic mistake, Siegfried returned to the lake, where the lovers resolved to remain together forever. 

The Tulsa Ballet performs Swan Lake, telling this tragic fairy-tale of love through Tchaikovsky’s soaring music and the vision of artistic director Marcello Angelini.

Swan Lake is one of the most difficult classical ballets ever,” Angelini says. “One that is really the measuring yard of any ballerina, principal male dancer and for the company as a whole. It’s dancing down to its fundamentals, it’s the kind of dancing through which you can’t lie; you either are or you are not.

“The quality of a classical ballet company is measured by the technical competence, technical quality, stylistic competency and artistic talent. With Swan Lake, there is nowhere to hide. Everything must be of the highest quality.”

Only the second act of the four has survived. The rest has been lost throughout the years. This allows Angelini to take the classic story in his own direction.

“The rest of the ballet has been lost throughout the years,” he says. “So, when staging a production of Swan Lake, whomever stages it has to actually choreograph three out of four acts. This is what I did in 1998, when our production in Tulsa was talked about in The New York Times.

“In my version, Prince Siegfried and Von Rothbart, the evil sorcerer, are the same person. They each represent one side of the same personality, Von Rothbart representing the part of Siegfried’s personality that stops him from establishing a romantic relationship with another human being. And that is really the reason he sees ideal love in the form of a swan, making the relationship kind of impossible. Once Siegfried faces his fears about relationships, and defeats such fears, he is free to love and be loved. At that point Princess Odette loses her feathers and becomes a beautiful young maiden. Love and relationships are now possible.”

One doesn’t have to be a ballet aficionado to enjoy Tulsa Ballet’s Swan Lake. Angelini explains that the performance offers, “Magnificent sets and costumes, beautiful music, a story that is easy to follow, great choreography and unique entertainment value.” As for those who love ballet, Angelini says, “They will be able to appreciate the quality of the dancing and the subtleties of the choreography.”

Angelini has lived his life in ballet. He is the son of a dancer who became not just a teacher, but also Angelini’s teacher. Angelini studied in the former Soviet Union, in Kiev, with one of only two full scholarships available from his home country of Italy. He has danced as a principal dancer with companies all over the world, from the United Kingdom to Germany, Chile and Canada, and has been in Tulsa for the last 22 years.

In his role as artistic director, Angelini chooses what will be performed, the casting of the dancers, and how they perform. In addition to Swan Lake, he has led productions such as The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty, and La Sylphide.

Managing director Scott Black is proud of Tulsa Ballet’s contribution to the culture of Tulsa and the state of Oklahoma.

“The company has been named the official Cultural Ambassador for the State of Oklahoma because we have toured nationally and internationally to represent our state in countries across the world,” he says. “Tulsa Ballet helps put Tulsa, and the state of Oklahoma, on the map as a destination for arts and culture here in the center of the country.

“We have been described by the International press as the fifth most relevant dance company in the U.S. as well as one of the best in the world. Our company is very diverse and includes professional dancers from 14 different countries. The top choreographers from around the world come to Tulsa to work with our company because of its international reputation for excellence.”

Swan Lake
Tulsa Performing Arts Center
March 24-25: 8 p.m.
March 26: 3 p.m.