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Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840–1893)
The Sleeping Beauty complete ballet (1890)
Nina Semizorova – Princess Aurora
Aleksei Fadeyechev – Prince Desire
Nina Speranskaya – Lilac Fairy
Yuri Vetrov - Carabosse
Aleksandr Vetrov - Bluebird
Maria Bilova – Princess Florine
Andrei Sitnikov – King Florenstin
Irina Nesterova – Queen
The Bolshoi Ballet
Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre/Aleksandr Kopilov.
Recorded live at the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow in 1989
DVD (PCM Stereo).
ARTHAUS MUSIK 101 113 [145:00]

Another superb production from the Bolshoi Theatre. This production is based upon the choreography of Marius Petipa and staged by Yuri Grigorovich. This means that we have an absolute visual feast. As well as superb dancing we have the delight of sets based upon the originals setting the story in the time of Louis XIV.

This means that we do not have modern dress, with motor cars, tanks or rockets or any of the other rubbish, which is served up by today’s current directors as art. This production is totally in harmony with the original ideas which Tchaikovsky worked with, and indeed, might even be classified as a "period" performance.

In addition, the production has been filmed in such a way that the noise of feet clumping on the floor is entirely absent, so making it a pleasure to listen to, unlike many DVDs of ballet where the footfall noise is clearly evident.

Are there any problems – well yes, but they are minor. As the ballet progresses, some of the dance numbers get a little monotonous as the orchestral performance is dampened by the choreography. This does not happen often, but is noticeable when it does. In addition, one of the virtues of this set, actually works against it. Although the costumes are traditional and are realised magnificently, because of the sheer length of the work, it can be a little boring watching the same all the time. I suppose we, in this age cannot ever be totally satisfied. Any slight reservations that I might have are completely nullified by the positive aspects of this production.

In general, the orchestra plays superbly, and displays the traditional rawness in the brass which is very exciting and sounds exactly right. The sets are also traditional, presumably being updated to take advantage of modern technology. Visually, this production is an absolute feast. For example, in Act II, Scene of Panorama, the two principals are together and the required effect is that they move through the forest together. How this is done is that the principals dance together on the spot whilst the scenery moves past them, so giving the sense of the two dancers moving through the forest. The trees of the forest appear to be printed on a gauze curtain, and this moves across the stage from right to left, giving the impression of movement. The effect is wonderful.

I have said nothing so far about the standard of dancing, and although most of the names were unknown to me, what I can say is that ballet training in Russia is still in a class of its own. This performance was recorded at the Bolshoi on a public night, and although at particularly moving moments, the audience erupts, it is mainly limited to a few rowdies who seen determined to be heard. Throughout the ballet they are generally mercifully quiet.

There are one or two moments in this score which I found particularly exciting. One notable example is the first appearance of Prince Desire, danced by Aleksei Fadeyechev. He bounds onto the stage in a green costume and the effect is electrifying – it is almost as though the audience has been sitting waiting for this moment and goodness me, he delivers in full.

By now you should be aware that I liked this issue for a variety of reasons, and I can recommend it with all enthusiasm.

As far as ballet DVDs are concerned, I have not enjoyed one so much for so long, and if traditional productions are for you, then try this one – you will not be disappointed.

John Phillips



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