I have a whopping pile of ballet DVDS's but this one is special! It's the only one that my sadly orphaned Toshiba HD player has to play. For that reason alone, the disk is worth what it cost me. However, it's pressed in Blue-Ray format too, so you don't have to be on the "should'a waited" losers list like I am. As far as discussing the actual ballet, the other two reviews are far more informed re ballet matters than I am. Read them! I agree totally with both. This is a stunning visual rendition of this very entertaining ballet! I especially appreciated the myriad of talented youngsters who are so obviously having the time of their lives. (I bet their mom's and dad's were beaming with joy at what their kids were up to - I sure was!) There is one factor in reviewing a DVD that is often neglected by most reviewers, especially us amateur ones. The viewing medium. The size and type of TV, the audio system used and the environment they reside in largely determine the ultimate overall effect the DVD provides. A production viewed on a 20 inch TV with the audio assigned to its tiny internal speakers isn't in the same universe as the same thing piped through a 50 or 60 inch HD unit with a quality Home Theatre sound system. And the ambient light situation in the viewing area can have a significant effect on the "final product" ie - the picture. So, to practice what I preach, I view my ballets in a dedicated little theater room with a 6.1 sound system (6 speakers and one sub-woofer) and through a 50 inch HD plasma tv. So, when I rave about the incredible sound and video quality of a particular ballet, (this one, for instance) you may not be much the wiser if you don't have access to a similar system. As long as you kind of know what you're getting, you won't be disappointed. Mind you, a lousy production of a ballet, or anything - is just as lousy on a large system as on a small one - sometimes even worse!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Balanchine would love this ballet company !March 31 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
With this new blu-ray release, ballet fans have another option to view what the overwhelming majority of reviewers think is one of the best ballet productions ever filmed.
Though now directed by former NY City ballet dancer/choreographer Peter Boal, this Seattle based company went from a "second city"/provincial, little dance group with a small budget (and not much dance history) to a major player on the international scene when they had the good fortune to have former Balanchine dancers Francia Russell & Kent Stowell take the helm in 1977. They taught their dancers the Balanchine style, and this comes through in spades with this production of one of Balanchine's rare evening-length ballets.
Patricia Barker (Titania) grew up with Russell & Stowell, coming up through the school that was established when the former NY City Ballet duo left Germany for Seattle. She was deservedly well-known and respected all over the world (she retired recently), and her dancing by itself would be more than enough reason to get this DVD. But this group is so talented that the dancer who rivaled Barker for many of the lead roles through the '90s, Louise Nadeau, could have danced Titania to critical acclaim of Balanchine himself. Nadeau makes the second act pas de deux as much of a highlight as the one between Titania and Bottom (to the accompaniment of that beautiful nocturne with arguably the greatest French horn solo in all of classical music history). Nadeau is a fantastic dancer, and Seattle audiences were lucky to have her AND Barker together for so many years.
As other reviews have mentioned, most of the plot resolves itself in the first act (almost an hour), and the second act (only half an hour) includes a beautiful divertissement set to Mendelssohn's 9th String Symphony (the slow middle movement is the previously mentioned pas de deux that Nadeau shines in); a wedding scene for the two reunited couples (as well as Hippolyta & Theseus) to Mendelssohn's infamous wedding march; and a tail end selection of the Midsummer Night's score for the butterflies, bumble bees & fairies to sum everything up with Puck.
Fortunately, the feet of the dancers aren't cut out of the frames as in so many ballet productions, the beautiful costumes of Martin Pakledinez must have been wonderful confirmation for the Balanchine Trust to allow Russell & Stowell to commission the redesign of the original production, and every dancer in the corps gives you the impression that they are future Barkers and Nadeaus. This isn't too far fetched, since the retirement of Barker, Julie Tobiason, Lisa Apple, Paul Gibson and others from this live 1999 London performance has led the way for Mara Vinson, Noelani Pantastico, Carrie Imler, Kaori Nakamura, Maria Chapman, Jodie Thomas and Lesley Rausch to fill in for those lead roles. Nadeau will dance Titania for the first time on April 4th, 2008, and Chapman, Pantastico, Nakamura and former NYCB dancer Miranda Weese will each take turns performing the act 2 pas de deux.
Highly recommended, this production ranks up there with the SLEEPING BEAUTYs, SWAN LAKEs, SYLVIAs and GISELLEs. Whether Blu-ray, HD-DVD or the old VHS, treat yourself to this flawless production.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A common man's point of view.Aug. 12 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: HD DVD
I noticed some reviewer has stated that the DVD disc he/she received from amazon was defective because it would not play on his/her DVD player. I thought so too, and I purchased the product knowing it was an HD-DVD thinking it would play on my player since it had an HDMI output and was connected to a HD television set. But, guess what? It WON'T play on a non-HD player. I contacted the dealer from whom I bought the HD-DVD and they said they would gladly give me credit for the DVD even though it was opened and MY fault. I decided to keep the HD disc and get myself an HD-player. This disc plays perfectly on the new player, and I am certainly glad I went that route because the picture quality is superb. I now have two players hooked up to my set because the new HD player won't play PAL format discs, whereas, the the non-HD player will.
This ballet has some of the best music your ears will ever have the pleasure to hear. I've always loved Mendelssohn's Incidental Music to A Midsummer Nights Dream, and like someone else said the solo horn passage is one of the best ever written. I just know in my heart that the young Mendelssohn at 17 years of age was having a ball writing this music with the twinkling of fairies and the braying of donkeys, not to mention the antics of love struck adults as only Shakespeare could describe them.
We might as well say something here about Ashton's The Dream because in my mind it is as good as the Balanchine version. The only difference that my unsophisticated untrained eye could see was that The Dream did not have the Duke and Hippolyta nor the palace court divertissements nor, in fact, did it even have a second act, but told the whole story taking place in the Forrest glade. Both stage settings were absolutely magnificent.
Balanchin's use of children for little fairies and bugs of all kinds is a wonderful addition to his version of the ballet and adds to the length as well. The children of the Pacific Northwest Ballet (done at the newly restored Sadler's Wells Theater in London) are students of PNB School' and must have traveled to London with the entire troupe. Don't you just know those little ones were thrilled to get to go to London with everyone else? They are the best trained children's group I have ever seen, though I have only seen children in The Nutcracker, so I am no expert on children in ballet. These children were GOOD to say the least, and the young lady playing "Butterfly" is as good as many "ballerinas". Her performance was delightful to watch, and one day she will be starring in a grand ballet.
I was so delighted with "The Dream", that I got out my volume of the complete works of Shakespeare and read A Midsummer Night's Dream, it being at least 60 years since I had read it (I'm a 77 year old male).And because I have the ballet Romeo and Juliet, I went on to read that story too. If I wasn't too old for antics I would kick myself for waiting this long to become interested in this so beautiful art form.
Notice this version SAYS it is an HD-DVD so anyone buying it must be aware that it will NOT play on a non-HD player. The Dream is not HD but looks FANTASTIC played on the HD player.
In view of the many enthusiastic and detailed reviews posted by knowledgeable followers of ballet, I will focus on a review aimed at helping the non-specialist who enjoys ballet perhaps on a less informed level (rather like me!).
George Balanchine, the choreographer, has created a full length ballet loosely based upon the Shakespeare play. The basic story is extended into a second act which is entitled 'At the Court of Theseus' and, like many other ballets at this stage of a story, the focus shifts from the basic narrative to celebrating the intended wedding/s. In so doing Balanchine has made use of Mendelssohn's music for the play augmented by a considerable amount of other pieces by the same composer. Fortunately these are complete items and not just 'bleeding chunks' stitched together so they work convincingly.
To this attractive musical setting has been added a totally traditional ballet with markedly beautiful costuming and attractive scenery. The choreography matches all of this with steps of grace and humour as appropriate. The whole ballet company deliver a high quality performance and it would therefore be invidious of me to single out solo artists for special praise. Instead I will comment that the considerable contribution made by the children at a number of key moments is absolutely charming and they all dance with evident delight throughout. In summary, the word 'magic' comes to mind!
Finally it must be said that the recording values are equally excellent, both visually and sonically (in surround mode) and it is hard to imagine anyone struggling to enjoy this veritable feast both for the eyes and ears. I join all the other enthusiastic reviewers with a clear 5 stars.
Some dialogue from the comments section that may offer further help:
An EXCELLENT Review, Ian! Upbeat, enthusiastic, non-technical, and articulate...it doesn't get better than this! Thank you from all of us non-expert fans of Ballet. (U.K. review)
A 1999 production that remains Beautiful!June 14 2014
Dr. John W. Rippon
- Published on Amazon.com
Beautiful, just Beautiful! So simple, sensitive, accurate; every gesture, every elevation, every placement just right. This production done in the Sadler's Well's Theatre, London by the Pacific Northwest Ballet shows it is a world class organization. I've watched this several times now and marvel each time at how well done is each and every action by the members of the corps. All of the numerous children of various ages (all are adults now) as butterflies, fireflies, fairies etc. do exactly what was called for and doing it well. The then new sets and costumes are glorious. The BBC concert orchestra led by Stewart Kershaw kept a steady pace benefiting all the adult dancers as well as the numerous children. Again I emphasize what a totally satisfying production this one is. It's really refreshing to look back and see something that really turned out well. This was a 1962 production by choreographer George Balanchine for New York City Ballet and I'm sure he would be pleased by this presentation as well as old Felix Mendelssohn himself. As Oberon, Paul Gibson was majestic and imperious as he should be. He does not get much of a chance to show off what he is capable of doing but what he does do is very well done. Patricia Barker is the haughty Titania who is aloof and regal even after having been tricked into a romance with Bottom, an Ass. In the Divertissement in Act 2 some of the best dancing of the entire production is done in the pas de deux by Louise Nadeau and Olivier Wevers. They have excellent rapport and their dance glistened brilliantly; everything went smoothly and was artistically solid. She particularly has such sparkling eyes. There are also a few Shakespeare songs well performed by soprano Libby Crabtree and mezzo Judith Harris. But the dancing star of the performance for me was Seth Belliston as Puck. He was so active yet seemed to glide everywhere and jump into and out of trouble. I was exhausted just watching him skitter about. A truly delightful entertainment. So many new projects and performances seem to fall short of their intended goals, it is nice to review some older material that has shown itself to be even better now as compared with more recent productions.
Established in 1972 the Pacific Northwest Ballet School took its current name in 1978. Performing as the Pacific Northwest Ballet it's home is in Seattle, Washington. For thirty years it was guided by and under the directorship of Kent Stowell and Francia Russell, originally of the New York City Ballet, both of whom had studied with and danced for George Balanchine. Stowell and Russell left the company after the 2004-2005 season and retired. Today their portrait hangs in the Phelps Center, Seattle, the physical home of the ballet school since 1994, to commemorate their careers and retirement. When the company toured to New York City in 2013, for the first time in sixteen years, the New York Times dance critic Alistair Macaulay stated of their presentation that "...this is a true company" more "unified in its understanding of Balanchine" than the New York City Ballet. It is "one of the leading, if not definitive, professional training schools in the Country." The teaching is structured on that of the School of American Ballet. In 2012 PNB brought in Twyla Tharp for it's first artist in residence for a one year residency. This 1999 production was performed and recorded for the BBC at the Sadlers Wells Theatre in London. In addition to the excellent principals, solo dancers and the corps de ballet, the junior corps de ballet as sprites and faeries further enhance the quality of the production. The costuming of all of the dancers is beautiful and imaginative. The stage settings are extensive providing an appropriate dreamlike atmosphere. Even the stage floor adds interest. This is considered one of the best ballet performances ever preserved on Video. The Blu-ray technology simply makes it more outstanding.