There have been a number of very fine performances on CD and DVD of of this marvellous timeless work - arguably the greatest masterpiece in the history of classical ballet - but a really good Blu ray disc is surely the visual holy grail! In my view this is by far the best overall presentation of Swan Lake to date. The playing and sound are magical under Gergiev's assured hand and the dancing is superb. It largely uses the traditional Petipa / Ivanov choreography. None of the sexual mannerisms that made Nureyev's dancing and choreography so distinctive, and the casting, costumes and sets are wonderfully conceived. No video performances include all the music Tchaikovsky wrote but this performance at 129 minutes seems quite complete…
Today it is difficult to imagine the impact on audiences at the beginning of the 20th century of Serge Diaghilev (1872-1929) and his Ballets Russes. In celebration of the debut of the Ballets Russes in Paris in 1909, this wonderful Stravinsky evening at the Mariinsky Theatre showcases the original Nijinsky version of The Rite of Spring for the first time on DVD along with The Firebird, both conducted by Valery Gergiev. Thanks to the relentless work of Millicent Hodson, Nijinsky's original choreography has now been recreated, performed by the lead dancers and Ballet Company of the Saint Petersburg's Mariinsky Theatre conducted by Valery Geriev, known the world over for his interpretation of Stravinsky's works.
Based on Gogol’s fantastical and comic story of the Devil’s antics on Christmas Eve, this magical blend of opera and ballet is brought to vivid life in Francesca Zambello’s colourful production. Magnificent set designs (Mikhail Mokrov) and costumes (Tatiana Noginova), and an excellent, largely Russian cast provide authenticity. Splendid dancing by The Royal Ballet and Cossack dancers completes the spectacle.
In 1974, British choreographer Kenneth MacMillan in turn decided to focus on the two protagonists for an ambitious ballet that could translate the feelings and emotions of two souls abused by the accidents of life and their own personal weaknesses. In short, how a young girl on her way to a convent manages to elope with the young student with whom she has just fallen in love, only to leave him to escape destitution and finally allow herself to be persuaded by her brother Lescaut to yield to the advances of wealthy “protectors”. Accused of prostitution and deported to Louisiana, Manon is rescued by Des Grieux. Driven to murder by Manon’s jailer, he escapes with her into the marshes where the young girl ultimately succumbs. Although sincere, the love that Manon and Des Grieux share for each other cannot stand up to the vagaries of existence. As a result, neither is able to escape moral or social decline. Rather than reuse the score of Massenet’s opera, MacMillan entrusted Leighton Lucas with the task of arranging a series of extracts taken from a selection of the French composer’s operatic, symphonic and vocal scores… The end result was a huge success from its debut performance in London in 1974 onwards.
Gluck‘s wonderful but neglected 1774 opera Iphigénie en Tauride, inspired by the Greek legend, is treated with forceful and convincing simplicity in Klaus Guth‘s revolutionary production staged at the Zurich Opera House. The psychological drama in a tense atmosphere of fears and traumas is underlined by Guth‘s use of huge masks and enclosed spaces. Conductor William Christie and his typically transparent but never cold orchestral sound perfectly match the descriptive elements in Gluck’s score, while the Armenian mezzosoprano Juliette Galstian as a fabulously good Iphigénie, the leading American opera baritone Rodney Gilfry as Oreste and the deceased South African tenor Deon van der Walt as Pylade head a superb cast.
Verdi’s epic drama of ancient Egypt comes to life in the Met’s monumental production, captured here in a breathtaking Live in HD presentation. Violeta Urmana stars in the title role of the princess-turned-slave girl, opposite Johan Botha as her lover and Dolora Zajick as her jealous rival. Maestro Daniele Gatti conducts.
This is the second creative project bringing together conductor Teodor Currentzis and director Peter Sellars (the first being the operatic double-bill of Iolanta and Perséphone staged in Madrid in 2012), and also the first collective production of three opera companies — the Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre, the Spanish Teatro Real and the English National Opera. The action is set in Central America. Spanish colonialists are at war with the native Mayan people. In the face of the armed forces the locals appear armed with bows and arrows, but they are mere children. Blood runs like a river. The Mayans resort to trickery – in order to infiltrate the enemy, the daughter of the Mayan chief becomes a concubine to the commander of the Spanish army. The plan brings her unexpected happiness (she falls in love with the commander and has children with him) but also tragedy (the Spanish colonialists continue the massacre of the Mayans). With nowhere to turn for help, the only hope is that the great Mayan gods will descend from the sky to the earth at the critical moment…
Uwe Scholz, ballet director in Leipzig, was hailed as one of the most brilliant choreographic minds of his generation when he died in November 2004 at the early age of 45. His ballet “The Great Mass” is one of the most impressive works of this important neoclassical Choreographer - a requiem, a choreographic revelation and certainly his grand legacy to the Leipzig ballet. The full length Choreography, here recorded at the Leipzig Opera in a performance in June 2005, takes its name from Mozart's famous unfinished Mass in C minor. It absorbs the structure of the liturgy of the mass and adds other works by Mozart as well as passages of Gregorian chant, and sequences from contemporary music by György Kurtág, Thomas Jahn and Arvo Pärt and readings of poems by Paul Celan. Internationally famous soloists from the Leipzig Ballet, among them Kiyoko Kimura, Christoph Böhm and Oksana Kulchytska, take on the leading roles and the staging proves the ensemble to be one of the best ballet companies worldwide.
The opera Platée by Jean Philippe Rameau is not just a comic opera but an opera in which the Gods of Olympus play a part. With his tragedies lyriques Jean Baptiste Lully had banned all comical characters from the opera, and musical comedies had become unfashionable. Thanks to works by André Campra and Jean-Joseph Mouret, however, the genre had not disappeared completely, and Rameau made his own contribution with Platée.