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Divine Dancers - Live from Prague
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Manon (1884) – Act I Scene 2a (excerpt, arr. Lucas) [5:55]
Kurt WEILL (1900-1950)
Wie lange noch?b [5:04]
Serge RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Mémoirec [6:25]
My Wayd [5:07]
Cesare PUGNI (1802-1870)
La Fille du Pharaon (1862) – excerpte [5:47]
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
The Moor’s Pavanef [20:50]
George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
Who cares?g [6:34]
Peter TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
The Sleeping Beauty (1890) – Grand Pas de deuxh [11:31]
Jacques BREL (1929-1978)
Amsterdami [3:39] Les Bourgeoisj [3:31]
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Raymonda (1898) – Act 2: Adagioe [6:21]
aPolina Semionova, aIgor Zelensky, bNatalia Hoffmann, bAttin Kaftira, cDelphine Baey, dDaniil and Dimitri Simkin, eMaria Alexandrova, eSergey Filine, fCharles Jude, fStéphanie Roublot, fJean-Jacques Herment, fViviana Franciosi, gNatalia Hoffmann, gAltin Kaftira, hOksana Kutcheruk, hRoman Mikhalev, iDmitri Simkin, iMarek Tuma, jDaniil Simkin.
rec. live, Prague State Opera, 11 January 2006. NTSC 16:9 anamorphic. Region 0. EUROARTS 2054708 [90:00]




The spread of composers represented on this disc is remarkably wide, moving from Purcell to Jacques Brel via Rachmaninov and Pugni, amongst others. Each item is preceded by a commentary by the dancers concerned, generally documenting their reactions to the music.

The music of Manon is charming, and both dancers exhibit the highest grace. It is with the Weill that the dancing becomes almost a commentary on the music, heightening the characteristic edge of the sounds we hear.

There are surprises – the father and son team of the Simkins underlines the lyric impulse of the original song - they dance to the Sinatra recording. Conversely, sometimes simplicity provides the most effect, as in the simple white dress of Delphine Baey against a plain dark blue background for the Rachmaninov. 

The Simkins are truly remarkable. No less remarkable is Jacques Brel’s song, Amsterdam (the lyrics are here). Simkin the elder dances this astonishing song – as the song increases in tempo, so the dancing becomes more frenzied. To begin, small gestures achieve maximum effect from the beret-topped dancers. Predictably, the song brings the house down. 

Interesting to hear the music of Cesare Pugni; just a shame it is so brief at just less than six minutes. This balletic take on the Purcell - ‘Moor’s Pavane’ referring to the Othello story - is twenty minutes long – long enough to give the tale enough space to breathe. Purcell’s music receives a tragic intensity not normally associated with it. 

The Gershwin is choreographed by Balanchine, no less and emerges as slinky, both in music and in movement. The more classically-oriented will enjoy the eleven minutes of Sleeping Beauty, doubtless. Musically, some may be surprised to learn that the Glazunov Raymonda excerpt is every inch the match of the Tchaikovsky. Marius Petipa’s choreography mirrors this beauty perfectly – Alexandrova and Filine’s movements reveal the art of movement perfectly.

Production values are of the highest here. The method of moving between one item and the next often exhibits as much beauty as the item itself, while the inserted short commentaries/interviews help to illumine the balletic novice.

Colin Clarke

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