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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Peter TCHAIKOVSKY (1840 – 1893)
Nutcracker Ballet – complete - Op. 71 (1892)
Choreography Lev Ivanov and Peter Wright, with Lesley Collier, Anthony Dowell, Michael Coleman, Julie Rose and Guy Niblett
The Royal Ballet Corps and Orchestra, conducted by Gennadi Rozhdestvensky.
recorded in the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, January, 1985
Video directed by John Vernon in association with Peter Wright.
WARNER MUSIC VISION, NVC 0630-19394-2 [99 minutes]


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Here is a classic performance of the Nutcracker ballet. It has been released in time for Christmas, so if you cannot visit one of the many venues putting on this ballet as a Christmas treat, you can, for a price not that much different from a ticket, obtain this DVD. This is a recording of a classic performance of Tchaikovsky’s ever popular ballet and of course it can be watched and enjoyed over and over again with no deterioration in either sound or vision.

The recording dates from 1985, and is very much in a traditional vein, thank God. There are no scrapyards here, nor any plain, paint splattered sets to destroy the image of the fairy tale; just the interior of a drawing room, complete with Christmas tree and presents.

The choreography is based upon the original Petipa version, and so there are the long familiar set pieces, given in a traditional style which if you like this type of production will please you greatly.

The principal dancers are the well known Covent Garden favourites, and apart from a slightly wooden appearance of facial expressions on the principals, together with some over-emphasised movements, this side of things cannot be faulted.

The musical performance is also first rate, although those viewers who remember Gennadi Rozhdestvensky’s performance of the ballet, released here on Melodiya with Bolshoi forces, and more recently on an RCA "Twofer", will notice that the voltage is much lower in London. This is due no doubt to the British orchestra (before the time of Haitink), and the presence of the dancers, whose needs tend to reduce the adrenaline levels significantly.

The sets are Covent Garden ‘standard issue’, which means very good, with the magic Christmas tree enlarging very convincingly, with the rest of the set, as the witching hour arrives.

The interpretation of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s original story by Tchaikovsky has given us an enchanting ballet which is now a favourite with audiences world-wide, and the Royal Ballet has made it one of its specialities, loved by its audiences, year after year. The favourite characters are here with Michael Coleman playing the part of Herr Drosselmeyer introducing us to the Clara danced by Julie Rose. She takes the part of the young girl, and very convincing she is in her portrayal of Clara. She is supported by the rest of her family, celebrating the Christmas Eve jollifications, all of which are done with conviction, and which are supported by the sets and scenery making a very convincing scene.

Once the story gets well under way, we have Guy Niblett dancing the part of the Nutcracker and Jonathan Cope as the Mouse King. As midnight passes there are appearances from Lesley Collier as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Anthony Dowell as the Prince. These two carry much of the action through Act II, supported by the Company through the Characteristic Dances and set-pieces.

Sound quality is good, but not outstanding, as is the video quality, both reflecting the age of the production. There is an up side to this, we have a production of the traditional type which will make the Christmas celebrations more meaningful. Excellent value, and well worth experiencing.

 

John Phillips


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