This DVD contains excerpts from the first ever London trip of the Bolshoi Ballet of Russia in 1956. The visit was recorded on film by Paul Czinner and has been now made available on DVD.
Despite the fact that the cold war was revving up and the USSR was on the eve of quelling the uprising that was smoldering in Hungary at the time, there are reports that people waited as long as 3 days and nights outside for tickets.
Let me dispense with some of the minor negatives (things you might expect in a recording of this age)
1.)the audio is in mono and has (in places) a somewhat tinny sound.
2.)the color in most of the recording is a little faded and washed out.
3.)WARNING...if you intend to watch this history making event on the entire height and width of a big screen TV your going to be disappointed. This will only result in the movements of dancers being jerky and somewhat distorted; the colors even more washed out. However, this recording is visually excellent when watched in the smaller scale size, as was intended.
The DVD contains 7 separate segments, as follows:
Dance of the Tartars...Corps de Ballet
Spanish Dance...2 couples
Spring Waters...Pas de Deux (Bogamolova and Vlasova)
Palonaise and Cracovienne...Corps
The Dying Swan...solo (Galina Ulanova)
Giselle...starring Galina Ulanova and Nikolai Fadeyechev with the Corps.
From the applause and the oohs and aahs, it was not hard to tell that the audience was impressed with this performance. The Bolshoi put on one stunning routine after another, opening with the fast paced, non-stop 'Dance of the Tartars', and finishing with a full performance of 'Giselle'.
Yet, of all the performances it was Raisa Struchkova's incredible skills in 'Walpurgisnacht' from Gounod's 'Faust' the struck me as the dance of the night. This routine exemplifies the requirement of the prima ballerina to have absolute trust her male partner(s); the leaps, jumps, tosses and catches were unbelievable. Then, at the end of this extremely physical and difficult routine, Alexander Lapauri holds Struchkova aloft, over his head with one hand, for 13 incredible seconds (I timed it). Unbelievable!
The 'Giselle' on this DVD was less than the full feature; some parts were not recorded (or at least didn't make it onto this DVD). This work starred a 46 year old Galina Ulanova who showed in this performance that she had retained her youthful steps and expressive demeanor that made her a legend in her own time. I thought the first act was marvelous; however, the second Act had some lifts between Ulanova and Fadeyechev that appeared a little strained and looked somewhat uncertain.
A visual tribute to the Bolshoi's 1956 ground breaking trip to London; it left the audience stunned and begging for more. If you love ballet you'll want this for your collection. Despite the audio and video limitation, the fact that is available at all is a testament to Czinner's vision and the technology of both then and today. Easily 5 Stars.