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Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
The Stone Flower (ballet) (1946)
Ekaterina Maximova (Katerina)
Vladimir Vasiliev (Danila)
Svetlana Adirkhaeva (The Mistress of the Copper Mountain)
Vladimir Levashov (Severyan)
Bolshoi Ballet
Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra/Alexander Kopilov.
Choreography: Yuri Grigorovich
Director: Valery Gorbatsevich
rec. Gala 1979 performance, Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow.
Bonus: Pas de Deux from Anyuta by Gavrilin with Maximova and Daukayev.. Colour, mono, 116 minutes.
Region 0; Subtitles: none; Audio: MONO; Video: 4:3, colour
VAI 4411 [116:00]



Comparison review (music only)
BBC PO/Gianandrea Noseda Chandos CHAN10058
 
Prokofiev engaged with the ballet throughout his life. The Stone Flower is his last. It was written at about the same time as his fine opera The Story of a Real Man. Spread across a wide canvas it is comparable in ambition with Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet. Prokofiev had abandoned the idea of setting Pushkin's The Stone Guest and in the murderously irresistible spirit of the 1940s chose a subject with nationalist resonance. Folk material was specifically acceptable to the authorities. And so it came that Prokofiev chose The Stone Flower, a folk legend of the Urals as rendered by Pavel Bazhov. It was surely a story in keeping with those populist times for it appeared in the same year as Aleksandr Ptushko’s colour film The Stone Flower (A Legend from the Urals) with cinematography by Fedor Provorov. The original Bazhov tale was adapted by Leonid Lavrovsky and the libretto crafted by Mira Mendelson-Prokofieva and Lavrovsky. It was first performed at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow in 1954 with no less than Maya Plisetskaya as Katerina.
 
The ballet tells the tale of the young stonemason Danila, who must choose between his village sweetheart Katerina and a magical temptress. The hero is Danilo. His ‘grail’ is the stone flower hidden somewhere in the caverns of the Copper Mountain. He needs it as the raw material for a malachite vase. The supernatural Mistress of the Copper Mountain guards the flower. Danilo finds it but is enchanted by the Mistress. Katerina rescues Danilo and the flower is won. The villainous bailiff, Severyan who early on has tried to have his wicked way with Katerina, is sucked down into the earth under the retributive justice of the Mistress. All ends well for the couple.
 
The present DVD takes us back to a Gala performance in 1979 during the heyday of Yuri Grigorovitch’s reign at the Bolshoi. The film is in slightly grainy colour but is typically vivid and a pleasure to watch. Throughout this production the lighting is subdued with the action usually held in the cupped hands of a black penumbra. The colours of the costumes are dark or pastel. They are fantastic for the Mistress but otherwise everyone wears typical nineteenth century folk garb – at least typical of Russian ballet productions. The Prologue and the preludes to the other acts are played out against pictures of a darkened pit viewed from above with very little movement by the camera. The lighting is from music-stand spots. Kopilov instantly asserts that Russian magic with an orchestra that still retains that Soviet intensity and the solo trumpet cries out in impossible soaring-clawing aspiration.

Vladimir Vasiliev as Danila has the appearance of a young Nureyev and his gestures always register in their typically silent movie style exaggeration whether gazing upwards at the flower or in torment with the Mistress in Act III. Ekaterina Maximova as Katerina has the manner and appearance of the young Juliet – the innocence of a Tatyana. The evil Severyan is in black and purple with dark beard and moustache – all the stigmata of the villain. The First Act has its fair share of big ensemble pieces and the folk dances continue on and off into the Second. Village dances are played out in choreography that alternates invention and convention with the orchestra emulating the wheezing village band. The final act stiffens its emotional sinews and there is some fine violent music for the Mistress. Overall though this is not another Romeo and Juliet but neither is it negligible. You must have this very idiomatic performance and production if you have any liking for Prokofiev’s music.
 
Rob Barnett
 

 
Chapter Track listing
1. Prologue (4:39)
The Mistress of the Copper Mountain: Danila and his work

Act I
2. Scene 1 (6:56)
Danila in search of the flower • Scene and Duet of Katerina and Danila
3. Scene 2 (part I) (11:54)
Round Dance • Katerina bids farewell to her friends • The Girls’ Dance • Danila’s Dance • The unmarried men’s dance • Severyan’s Dance • Altercation over the malachite vase  
4. Scene 2 (part II) (4:33)
Scene of Katerina and Danila • Danila’s Meditation
5. Scene 3 (3:25)
Danila enticed away by the Mistress of the Mountain: Duet of the Mistress and Danila
6. Scene 4 (15:19)
The Mistress shows Danila the treasures of the earth: Scene and Waltz of the Diamonds • Dance of the Russian precious stones • Waltz • Danila’s Monologue and the Mistress’ Reply • The Mistress shows Danila the stone flower
 
Act II
7. Scene 1 (8:03)
Scene and Katerina’s Dance (Thinking of Danila) • Severyan’s Arrival • “Where are you, sweet Danila?”
8. Scene 2 (28:04)
Ural Rhapsody • Russian Dance • Gypsy Dance • Severyan’s Dance • Solo of the Gypsy Girl and Coda • Katerina’s Appearance and Severyan’s Rage • The Appearance of the Mistress and Scene of Severyan transfixed to the earth • Severyan follows the Mistress • Severyan dies
 
Act III
9. Scene 1 (5:43)
Katerina sits by the fire and yearns for Danila • Scene and Dance of Katerina and the skipping of the Fire Spirit • Katerina follows the Fire Spirit
10. Scene 2 (22:17)
Scene of Danila and Duet with the Mistress • Danila tries to escape and is turned to stone • The Fire Spirit leads Katerina to Danila • Dialogue of Katerina and the Mistress • The Joy of the Reunion of Katerina and Danila • The Mistress presents gifts to Katerina and Danila
 
Bonus:
Pas de deux from Anyuta (5:22)
Music by Valery Gavrilin
Choreography by Vladimir Vasiliev
Danced by Ekaterina Maximova & Marat Daukayev
Produced by Lenfilm for Gosteleradio, 1982
Complete ballet available as VAI DVD 4410



 


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