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DOCUMENTARY: Dancer’s Dream: The Great Ballets of Rudolf Nureyev: Raymonda
Music by Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Choreography and Stage Direction by Rudolf Nureyev after Marius Petipa
Les Etoiles, les Premiers Danseurs, le Corps de Ballet
et l’Orchestre de l’Opéra de Paris. Musical Direction: Alexander Anissimov
A documentary dedicated to the great ballet productions, inspired by Rudolf Nureyev of Raymonda at the Opéra National de Paris
With the participation and commentaries by Nureyev and dancers:
Raymonda: Florence Clerc; Fanny Gaïda; Marie-Claude Pietragalla; Elisabeth Platel; Noëlla Pontois; Claude de Vulpian
Jean de Brienne: Charles Jude; Manuel Legris; José Martinez; Rudolf Nureyev
Abderam: Jean Guizerix; Laurent Hilaire; Wilfried Romoli
(Recorded:1999.But with excerpts from different Paris Opera productions of Raymonda stretching back to the early 1980s)
TDK DVD Video DV-BLDDRAY [83 mins]

First, since this is primarily a music site: a comment about Glazunov’s Raymonda score. Alexander Anissimov is the recognised interpreter of this scintillating work and I thoroughly recommend that readers acquire his 2CD Naxos (8.553503-04) recording of the complete Raymonda ballet music with the Moscow Symphony Orchestra. This ballet music follows in the great tradition of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty and Nutcracker scores with dance music that is romantic, richly melodic and colourful.

Now a word of warning: those expecting to see a full production of Raymonda – or even substantial uninterrupted excerpts should look elsewhere. The heavy-typed ‘DOCUMENTARY’ shown on the front cover of this DVD box should be heeded. This DVD presentation is essentially a homage to the great Nureyev in his appointment as Artistic Director of Paris Opera in 1983 with the much of the DVD programme’s time devoted to the Paris Opera’s leading dancers lining up to relate how Nureyev staged his magnificent new production of Marius Petipa’s oriental ballet Raymonda. Having said that balletomanes will be fascinated.

Nureyev developed a close working relationship with the dancers as choreographer, teacher and director. Contrary to press reports at the time he was not paid millions of francs but 35,000 FR per month. Modestly he looked upon himself "…as more of a doctor, to help the dancers…’ Many of the dancers testified as to how they had been encouraged to stretch their technique and talent and how they had been shown new ways to interpret their roles. They spoke of his enthusiasm and of how stimulating it was to work with him. But they also remembered his bad temper, at times, and his demanding management style: no breaks, only three chances to get a movement right or you were out etc ...

Nureyev’s production of Raymonda broke new ground, explored new areas. He wanted particularly to expand the male roles (19th century classical ballet was very much feminine-orientated with the male ballet dancers considered as supporting dancers). Nureyev made more of the role of the two-dimensional Jean de Brienne who goes off to the Crusades in Act I leaving Raymonda to languish until the final act. He also beefed up the dancing of the Saracen knight, Abderam (who tries to seduce Raymonda) making him a wild and sensual character. His treatment of the central role of Raymonda is equally refreshing turning her, by the time of her Act III triumphal dance, into a woman of strong character. He was also keen to add colour and narrative interest to the dancers of the Corps de Ballet.

Interestingly, Nureyev would coach in great detail the first performers in the major roles of Raymonda only. He would them to pass on his teachings to subsequent dancers in their roles with added refinements and variations but stretching them further. It was Nureyev’s idea of delegation.

The interviews are of course interspersed with excerpts from the Paris Opera’s productions of Raymonda and of the dancers in rehearsal.

A documentary strictly for balletomanes. Not those wanting to see the ballet. Recommended – Anissimov’s (this DVD’s conductor) Naxos recording of Glazunov’s sparkling ballet music.

Ian Lace

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