One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,928 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS

Cesare PUGNI (1802 - 1870)
La Fille du Pharaon, ballet in three acts (1862) [101.00]
Aspicia danced by Svetlana Zakharova; Taor danced by Sergei Filin.
Choreography by Pierre Lacotte, based on Marius Petipa. Scenario after "Le Roman de la Momie" by Théophile Gautier.*
Stage design and costumes by Pierre Lacotte
Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theater, Moscow/Alexander Sotnikov.
Recorded at the Bolshoi Theater, Moscow, Russia, 31 October 2003.
Video Direction by Dennis Caiozzi.
Menu and subtitle languages: Français, English, Deutsch, Español, Russkiy.
Special features: Interview with Pierre Lacotte [16.00] Dancers’ biographies [13.00]
PCM Stereo 2.0, dts 5.1 surround sound. DVD 9 PAL 16:9. All regions.
No NTSC version is currently listed.
BEL AIR BAC 001 [130.00]


This is a grand show, pretty girls and boys dancing around in pretty costumes with lavish sets. At times there are so many people on stage the streets of Moscow must have been half empty. It is based on the classical ballet style, which is to say they simply move from one classical ballet position to another for an hour and forty minutes — admittedly with grace, charm and skill. The production does represent an amazing amount of balletic archaeology in reconstructing a ballet from the classic period of the nineteenth century. In truth the choreographer, Pierre Lacotte, had only a small amount of authentic material to work from, so most of it he made up in the style, something he had been practising doing by restoring other classic ballets to the stage, notably La Sylphide (Not, of course, to be confused with Les Sylphides if you know your ballet history).

The music is abominably banal but serves to give everyone the beat, occasionally add a few strains of atmosphere. The plot involves one Lord Wilson who is touring Egypt with his servant John Bull(!). During a sand storm they take refuge in a temple built into a pyramid and pass the time sharing opium pipes with their Arab companions. The mummy of a Princess, Aspicia, comes to life, magically changes Lord Wilson into Taor, her lover, and they head off to Pharaoh’s court. On the way, after a lot of dancing, Taor saves the princess’s life by shooting a lion. But, alas, the Princess is already betrothed to the King of Nubia and her father is determined to honor the treaty. The lovers escape. From the costumes and sets it appears they’ve fled to Geneva (a set left over from William Tell?) after stopping in Athens to buy new clothes (don’t expect Aspicia ever to wear the same clothes twice on stage). Or, from the amount of beer the fishermen drink, perhaps it’s Munich. Nevertheless the angry King of Nubia arrives and demands that Aspicia marry him or he’ll kill her. She evades him by jumping into Lake Geneva — or the Isar — no, it must be the Nile, even though it is in Neptune’s court (a set left over from Sadko?) that we next see her. After a lot of dancing, including a Polonaise danced with castanets, the King of the Deep relents and sends her back to her father’s court where Taor is about to be executed for "kidnapping" her. She accuses the King of Nubia, he tears up the treaty and storms out with his considerable retinue, and, after a lot more dancing, including some suicide threats, the Pharaoh relents and the lovers are to be married — whereupon Lord Wilson wakes up to find it was all a dream.

But this really is a good show. The costumes are sparkling, lavish, colourful. The dancing is superb, the dancers are all very attractive, most especially the star, Svetlana Zakharova. The precision of the corps de ballet is excellent, but not stupefying. The girls wear tutus, tops, tights, and toe shoes with hard wooden ends they tap on the stage now and then. The guys wear only little skirts, collars and sometimes a wig. In contrast to some ballets I’ve seen recently, everybody here looks strong and healthy; these Egypto-Russian men even have suntans. Character roles are extremely well done; the children, the snake, and the monkey really steal their scenes. Leave it to the Bolshoi to have a real horse on the Pharaoh’s chariot, but they do mostly use a fake lion. I never heard of the Egyptian army consisting predominantly of female archery corps in green and yellow tutus, but what the heck, by now, who’s counting. When the princess falls asleep on a moss-covered rock in a forest in the middle of Egypt — well, the program notes do refer to the "hilarious" naïveté of the scenario.

Sound and video quality are very clear and colourful, video direction is very good.

*Theophile Gautier also wrote the poems Berlioz set in Les Nuits d’Ete.

Paul Shoemaker


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10


Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month


Symphonic Works

Frederico Mompou

Extraordinary Music for Organ


Gunnar Kristinsson Moonbow

Mozart and Contemporaries


La clarinette Parisienne


Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.