La Bayadere - Royal Ballet
The Royal Ballet comes from long line of amazing, gorgeous dancers: Fonteyn, Shearer, Nureyev and Sibley are names that evoke some of the best in ballet. However, it seems that England's own has gotten a little lost.
The staging of this Bayadere--set by Natalia Makarova--is lovely, taken after the former Kirov (now Mariinsky). It is in all senses of the word, a classical ballet. While not Petipa's strongest work, the choreography is nothing less than what you would expect from him. Minkus's score is pleasant and suited to the ballet, and one can see why it is a standard, long lasting composition. I have no issue with any aspects of the staging or spectacle of this ballet. On top of it, the Blu Ray recording is absolutely stunning in quality, and well filmed. There are no missing dancers, chopped off feet, or misplaced shots. Additionally, the costumes are so stunning that Blu Ray makes them dazzle. One can see every detail, down to the Swarovski stones glittering on Nikiya's bodice in the Kingdom of the Shades.
Quite possibly the best part of this production is not Tamara Rojo's Nikiya, but the ever charismatic Marianela Nunez as the devilish Gamzatti. While Nunez does not have the same lines as Royal Ballet predecessor Darcy Bussell, her Gamzatti equals--if not surpasses--Bussell. Nunez presents the powerful princess in many dimensions; she is a seductress; a woman who knows what she wants and goes for it; a guilt wracked temptress; a scared little girl. While the tendency is to play Gamzatti as the girl you hated in high school, Nunez uses her ice cold control and smooth technique to give a performance that juices the choreography for depth in the character. By the final act, I found myself almost rooting for Gamzatti in spite of her actions--something I have never done in seeing La Bayadere. Suffice to say, Nunez is the Royal Ballet's gem.
Disappointing were the performances of Rojo and Carlos Acosta as tragic lovers Nikiya and Solar. Having never seen Rojo in a full length production outside of her incredible Isadora, I was looking forward to seeing her dance Nikiya. While Rojo's technique had that lovely measure of control and strength that is trademark of Royal Ballet ballerinas, her emotional performance was lacking. She seemed set on one expression, tragic angst, throughout the entire ballet. By the end it seemed she was wallowing in self pity, and one wondered why it is the gods seemed to favor her so much. Solar, on a similar plane, seemed chronically depressed and unsure, if not flat. While Acosta has some brilliant technique, it did not seem to shine through in this performance. Instead, he seemed a bit behind on his game.
Overall, the DVD is worth a purchase for just Nunez's performance as Gamzatti. Additionally, the corps work in the Kingdom of the Shades is stunning and well performed. Do not hope for a stunning or moving performance by Rojo and Acosta, however, as you will find yourself disappointed.