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Pyotr Il'yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
The Nutcracker - ballet in two Acts (1892) [102:00]
After Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov
Clara - Liudmila Konovalova
Drosselmeyer/Prince - Vladimir Shishov
Luisa and Fritz/Spanish dance - Emilia Baranowicz and Davide Dato
The parents/Russian dance - Franziska Wallner-Hollinek and Gabor Oberegger
The grandparents / Arabian dance - Eva Polacek and Christoph Wenzel
The rat king - Attila Bakó and Martin Winter
Little nutcracker - Trevor Hayden
Two snowflakes - Alena Klochkova and Prisca Zeisel
Arabian dance - Ketevan Papava and Eno Peci
Chinese dance - Marcin Dempc, András Lukács and Richard Szabó
Pastorale - Ioanna Avraam, Kiyoka Hashimoto and Masayu Kimoto
Corps de ballet, students of the Ballet Academy of the Wiener Staatsoper, children of the Opera School of the Wiener Staatsoper
Stage Orchestra of the Wiener Staatsoper/Paul Connelly
rec. live, Wiener Staatsoper, 7 October 2012
Choreography and stage direction by Rudolf Nureyev
Set and costume design by Nicholas Georgiadis
Video director: Michael Beyer
Filmed in High Definition and mastered from an HD source
Sound formats: PCM stereo + DTS-HD MA 5.0
Picture format: 1080i 16:9
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
C MAJOR Blu-ray 718304 [102:00]

It was not too long ago that I assessed this performance on DVD and so, for a full consideration of this striking and somewhat controversial production, I refer you to that earlier review (see here).

As I noted at that time, Rudolf Nureyev's concept of The nutcracker is decidedly dark and more than a little quirky. To be honest, its scarcely-veiled allusions to psycho-sexual themes make it more of an entertainment for grown-ups than one aimed at the traditional children's audience. Even if those adult references pass over the heads of the younger children, of whom we see a large number in the Staatsoper audience, I'm not sure that some of the darker - in every sense - visual images wouldn't be a little too scary for them.

If I've had no cause to change my opinion on Nureyev's production and the Vienna performances, what, if anything, has this Blu-ray Disc added to the deal? Certainly the picture quality is improved in its new technically superior format. Images are generally sharper and, with much of the on-stage action taking place on sets that are less brightly lit than usual, sometimes more clearly delineated. What looked before a little dull, can now emerge as richly-toned or even opulent. The richly embroidered detail on some of the costumes is, for example, more obvious on Blu-ray. In fact, the medium's extra clarity even manages to add a little more desperately needed sparkle to Nureyev's all-gold Waltz of the flowers, although I still can't imagine ever seeing a drearier or less imaginative combination of set, costumes and choreography in that particular number.

The overall result - as is almost always the case when watching ballet or opera on Blu-ray - is an enhanced sense of immediacy and of "actually being there." That's especially the case if you watch this disc in a darkened room and turn up the - very good quality - sound to an appropriately theatrical level.

Your own reaction to the Nureyev production will probably determine whether you actually want to "be there" more than once at all. Personally, I'm pleased to have acquainted myself with this version and to have experienced a concept that has polarised critical opinion for decades. Having watched both the DVD and the technically superior Blu-ray disc in pretty quick succession, I'm not sure that I'll be returning to either of them again for at least a little while.

Rob Maynard

Previous review: Rob Maynard