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61 of 63 people found the following review helpful
Any Point of View Would DoNov. 19 2008
Joseph L. Ponessa
- Published on Amazon.com
Valery Gergiev conducts Swan Lake for the forces of the Kirov, now once again called the Mariinsky Ballet. A new generation of talented dancers carries on the great tradition of the house, recorded in high resolution video and audio. During the overture we are treated to closeups of the instrumentalists who will accompany the onstage action. It is great to see them for once. When the famous curtain goes up, a dolly shot gives a sweeping sense of the stage; so far so good. The opening scene belongs to the jester, who first intruded upon the court of Prince Siegfried here on this stage nearly sixty years ago. With the brilliant clarity of blu-ray picture one longs to look the jester in the eye (one imagines that a young Putin looked like this), but he does not stay in one place long enough for the camera to get a good shot of him. In fact, it soon becomes clear that the production is afflicted by too many cameras. It is great that the Kirov could afford seven camera set-ups but the editor must think he is Orson Welles or Dziga Vertov. During the jester's entry he makes a five-fold pirouette, broken up into three different camera shots. What's the point? I have compared this video with the 1990 film of the same production on the same stage. Three cameras seem to tell the story better than seven. One small detail shows the difference. After the Prince finishes his drink he tosses the goblet to the jester, who catches it deftly in 1990. Watch as one might, one cannot tell how the Prince gets rid of his cup on the blu-ray video. Shouldn't it be the other way around? Kudos, then, to the conductor, orchestra, principal dancers, corps de ballet, sound engineers and producers of the blu-ray. As for the video editor, may he be banished to the frozen lake, not to return until he discovers a point of view. Any point of view would do.
88 of 100 people found the following review helpful
Swan Lake Gergiev-styleNov. 17 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
The last Swan Lake on video to come from the Kirov Ballet dated from 1990 (Now available on DVD as well). Among its assets were the intriguing, beautifully talented Yulia Makhalina, the young and brilliant Igor Zelensky, still on his way to become one of the greatest Russian dancers of his generation; it had magnificently pure soloists like Larissa Lezhnina and Veronika Ivanova in the supporting cast; it also had the incomparable Viktor Fedotov playing the score with authority and understanding like only he could; and the whole production was offered with a genuine sense of artistic direction.
Now, the Kirov is long since called the Mariinsky again, and the new Swan Lake released by Decca and filmed by the BBC in St Petersburg in 2006 is a very different affair. The production (now with different sets) is still the same old one by Konstantin Sergeyev from 1950, based on the definitive 1895 Petipa/Ivanov staging, and remains one of the most exemplary, straightforward readings of the ballet around.
The current leads are danced by Uliana Lopatkina and Danila Korsuntsev. Lopatkina is adulated in Russia and abroad, and her many fans will undoubtedly welcome this release featuring the ballerina in one of her few signature roles. For my money, the filming came too late and might have been a treasurable addition to any ballet collection some ten years earlier, when Lopatkina's performances still had freshness and spontaneity. In this recording she takes the role of Odette-Odile in her now characteristic uncompromising, towering manner, with every inch and feather calculated and controlled. Her plastique is gorgeous but studied in the extreme. Her plight is long-winded and frozen, hard and unmoving by its insistence on a certain spiritual quality which unfortunately doesn't stick to film. This is an Odette locked in her own world, relating to nobody else on stage, least of all the cardboard prince of Danila Korsuntsev. Her Odile is more attractive but again very measured and lacking in excitement as well as in seductive power.
In such presence Danila Korsuntsev doesn't stand a chance. He may be an adequate porteur with great physical qualities but his prince is a cipher who dances his few bits in the Black Swan pas de deux without any distinction or interest. That the Mariinsky considers a weak performance like this sufficient to be preserved for posterity, is a only sad reminder of the current lack of artistic direction.
The pas de trois as danced by Irina Golub, Ekaterina Osmolkina and Anton Korsakov is clean and very lightweight. Here too, there isn't a personality in sight, and everything is delivered without much purpose or concern. Andrei Ivanov's jester is obnoxious and anything but virtuosic. The only one who stands out is Ilya Kuznetsov portraying the evil Rothbart with panache and a genuine sense of drama.
The true star of this DVD remains the Mariinsky corps de ballet, immaculate in its lines and turning the lakeside scenes, beautifully rendered in this film into a miracle of plastical beauty, stylistic coherence and spatial grandeur. Likewise, the national dances in the ballroom Act still look totally right.
Curiously, this might be the first ballet DVD release which bills the conductor higher than any of the dancers. Decca doesn't leave any opportunity unused to remind us that this performance of Swan Lake is conducted by "the great Russian maestro Valery Gergiev" (it's always wonderful that the labels emphasize how brilliant their artists are). A great conductor he may be, but it's still a fact that accompanying a ballet performance is far from his defining moment. The characteristic Gergiev mannerisms can be found here aplenty (the attention to orchestral detail, if sometimes at the expense of the overall line, the unnecessary long final chords etc), yet, worse, his reading lacks all sense of theatricality and spirit, which is with Gergiev's opera background rather surprising. Even Tchaikovsky's big finale sounds rather understated. As could be expected, the booklet features a full-page portrait photo of Gergiev (except for the cover shot of the DVD-case and some thumbnail-shots in the booklet there is nothing comparable of Lopatkina or Korsuntsev) and again in the otherwise learned liner notes by Giannandrea Poesio about the genesis of the ballet we are reminded of how well Gergiev is supposed to understand Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. Some words about the dancers might have been appropriate, although Decca clearly doesn't consider them important enough. Be that is it may, Gergiev might have been better served with a studio recording of the full-length Tchaikovsky score, without the constrictions of accompanying a live performance.
The image quality (16:9 anamorphic widescreen) is excellent, although as a film of a ballet performance this will never go down as a model. There are too many cameras angles slicing up movements and bodies, too many close-ups and frames from the waist up, the central camera providing the overall stage view cuts off the feet, while the crane shots sweeping during the lakeside scenes among the swans are more annoying than revealing. The sound quality (PCM Stereo or DTS 5.1 surround) is first-rate although balance-wise the timpani and percussion should ideally have been more forward. Unfortunately, the editing has been too hasty (Irina Golub tripping in the Dance of the Little Swans, some wobbly endings of solos, Lopatkina floating in all directions during the fouettés, the model swans appearing a second time while in fact only the swan queen is appearing etc. could easily have been edited.)
Admirers of Lopatkina needn't hesitate, but to see a better focused Mariinsky Ballet and Swan Lake the older performance with Makhalina and Zelensky remains a clear first choice.
43 of 48 people found the following review helpful
A splendid production with a very moving Uliana LopatkinaOct. 28 2007
S. W. Gan
- Published on Amazon.com
This is an excellent rendition by the Kirov (now Mariinsky). This version is almost identical to the one by Zelensky and Makhalina in 1990, and features the jester and the happy ending.
The first act is well danced, and the highlight is the pas de trois by Korsakov, Golub and Osmolkina. Korsakov has very good height to his leaps, and the 2 ladies danced with a lightness that only the Kirov seems to have.
The highlight of the ballet for me is scene 2, the lake scene. The corps de ballet is practically perfect here, as they enter. At some points the dancers look like CGI replicas, they are in such good alignment. But the jewel in this production is Uliana Lopatkina. She dances very well, but her magic lies in the way she captures the remoteness and vulnerability of Odette. I have never seen any other ballerina do this so well. She is helpless maiden and royal princess at the same time. Her dancing is always on time and never rushed, her line always elegant.
In Act 2 (the ball), she is sexy and seductive, but still subtle enough not to overdo the evil bit. Her dancing has dazzle and snap, and the 32 fouettes in the pdd coda are beautifully executed. Back at the lake she is entirely believable again as the depairing Odette. The way she first rejects the prince and then forgives him is very moving.
The prince is also very well danced by Danila Korsuntsev. He doesn't have the same leaps and bravura as, say, Ruzimatov, but he moves well and is a good actor. His portrayal is a young man who falls in love, rather than someone who is dissatisfied with life and seeking something else. He has very good chemistry with Ms. Lopatkina; there isn't the detachment I sometimes feel exists in other productions between the main couple.
The national dances are well executed, with flair and polish. The way the dancers bend their backs in the Spanish dance is amazing.
The video quality and sound (dts) are excellent. The camera work is very good, with appropriate closeups where required and nothing jarring.
I really find it very difficult to find any fault with this production. The music in the final scene is not the music usually heard in versions by the Royal ballet or POB, and it may come as a bit of a surprise to some viewers; I have heard this before in the Zelensky/Makhalina Kirov production, and it works ok for me.
This is the best production I have ever seen, as compared to the ones by the Swedish ballet, POB, Royal Ballet with Markarova, the previous Kirov one and the Moscow ballet. You will not regret buying this.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A common man's point of view.March 29 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
First of all, this is not a Hi-Def DVD as the advertising implies. It IS taped in HD with very good resolution, but the DVD is an ordinary standard DVD. It will play just fine on your $40.00 Apex player or your $250.00 Plaina-sonic Blu Ray player. PS, I apologize, Amazon did not imply the DVD was HI DEF. Ebay was the culprit.
I've seen one or two SWAN LAKE ballets that I didn't like, but this is not one of them. This ballet is very very similar to another Kirov version starring Yulia Makhalina and Igor Zelensky. The costumes are almost the same, but they did manage to change the sets a little. In both versions the principle dancers are fabulous, (for the common man), but the experts can pick them to pieces. I have one small gripe with this version, and that is, there a few too many close up camera shots. For instance, in the second scene at the lake side, when Siegfried first manages to catch Odette by the arm, and she turns to face him (in close-up) we cannot see the beautiful leg flutter she does that tells us that she is so excited she just shivers all over. There are several instances when the producer gets carried away in the close-up department. You will not find a more synchronized pas de quatre by the Cygnets in any SWAN LAKE that I know of. Their leg and head movements were almost perfect. Thank goodness the producer kept them ALL properly framed through-out the dance. Odette showed absolute faith in Siegfried when he swore his eternal love for her in the final moments of scene two. She did that better than any Odette I've seen. Overall a beautifully danced and recorded ballet.
This ballet is 128 minutes in duration, so most of the dances are included. The sound quality is excellent LPCM stereo and/or DTS digital 5.1 Surround, 16:9 Anamorphic widescreen, tapped in 2006. It will make a very good addition to your ballet library. Good viewing.......Richard.
I feel that I have to write this review because this is one of the most beautiful Blu-ray discs I have seen, both for technical reasons and because of the very high quality of performance and production served up by the Mariinsky Ballet. Let it be noted that this review is for the average ballet-goer, by one who has attended many ballets live in the theater, including Swan Lake at least twice, as well as watching on TV & video, but who is not schooled in the technical intricacies of this art. This review also incorporates the impressions of a professional classical musician with whom I watched this disc.
Our overall impression was that this was dancing of very high caliber; it certainly seemed to us to be executed with precision and elegance. I was especially interested in the way Act I, Scene 2, at the lake, was conceived. Much of this scene took place at an unusually slow tempo--not only much slower than we are used to in concert performances of the music alone, but also in comparison to most ballet performances. This imparted a serene, dreamy, contemplative, and mesmerizing aspect that I thought was very effective; and to see this is one of many justifications for viewing this disc. I did feel, however, that once the action began to pick up toward the end of the scene that the tempos dragged a bit, draining some of the excitement we usually feel at that point.
Conductor Gergiev certainly did not hesitate to hit the accelerator at other points in the ballet, although there were also a few other instances of more-leisurely-than-usual tempos. I noticed that most of these relaxed sequences occurred during Odette/Odile's solos, and I hope that this does not imply a technical limitation on the part of the prima ballerina Ulyana Lopatkina. More likely, I suspect, the ballet director and conductor (assuming they agreed with each other) had a concept of the character in which part of her allure was bound up in the spellbinding beauty of languorous movement. One could consider the tempo changes as almost a leitmotif for Odette. I also appreciated the fact that these swings from very slow to quite fast added an extra element of variety; and while extreme in some ways, they were gradual and sensitively measured, appropriate to the story line, and not simply thrown in for sensationalist effect. On the other hand, Tchaikovsky and Petipa themselves provided a lot of spectacle that could be considered gratuitous--all those wonderful show-off national dances in Act 2, for example. Here the pace is noticeably quickened, providing plenty of the requisite pulse-quickening we all expect. Act III was paced with urgency and power--I was actually choked up by the end.
Lopatkina was lovely, danced beautifully, and acted well enough. Danila Korsuntsev, dancing Prince Siegfried, was almost ideal, quintessentially princely, handsome, and the right combination of masculinity and beauty, as would be expected of pampered royalty. His acting was better in the smiling and swooning departments than it was in delivering anguish.
As to the look and sound of this production as delivered on Blu-ray, I can only say that it almost single-disc-edly justifies going out and buying a large-screen HDTV. The staging is traditional - thank goodness - and fairly lavish, with gorgeous costumes. The scenes by the lake have an appropriately blue cast; but the palace in Act 2 is very warmly lit and overcomes the tendency of TVs to lean toward the cool side. Camera work is fine.
Sonically, the surround sound is used subtly, being noticeable only in the applause. The overall sound quality is almost ideal. I have heard more spectacular sound on a few discs, and a few in which there was more sheen on the massed violins; but the stereo separation and apparent distance (not too close, not too far, and just reverberant enough) were well chosen, giving the effect of being in the audience only about ten rows from the orchestra pit. While there is a well-blended orchestral sound-stage, individual instruments are still heard with admirable clarity.
A lover of fine arts and the best of technology should put this disc near the top of his or her wish list.