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Stravinsky conducts The Firebird in a exceptional concert recording from the BBC archive, filmed in 1965. David Drew recollects his role in Nijinska's original production of Les Noces.Also includes behind the scenes rehearsal footage of The Firebird and Les Noces, and illustrated booklet with synopsis and biographies.
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De « L'Oiseau de Feu », il existe une magnifique reconstitution de la production originale de 1910 (costumes, décors...), disponible en DVD dans trois versions au moins : Théâtre Marinsky avec Valery Gergiev à la baguette, spectacle filmé au Châtelet « The Kirov celebrates Nijinksy », et film « Return of the Firebird » (voir mes commentaires sur ces trois DVD). Le spectacle du Royal Ballet, s'il reprend assez fidèlement la chorégraphie de Fokine, est visuellement assez différent. Dans la deuxième partie du ballet, une ambiance orientale, qui serait mieux adaptée pour « Schéhérazade », aboutit à une cacophonie chromatique d'une grande laideur. Et la chorégraphie de cette deuxième partie, trop ordonnée, répond mal à la violence révolutionnaire de la partition.
Dans le rôle de l'oiseau de feu, Leanne Benjamin est très loin de pouvoir rivaliser avec les trois merveilleuses ballerines des versions précitées (Ekaterina Kondaurova, Diana Vishneva, Nina Ananiashvili). Si elle est très souple physiquement, il n'en va pas de même de son style, bien raide par rapport à celui des trois danseuses russes.
Dans le cas des « Noces », le Royal Ballet reste fidèle aux décors et costumes austères créés en 1923 par Natalia Gontcharova, mais c'est l'œuvre elle-même qui a pris un sérieux coup de vieux.Lire la suite ›
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The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, under the able direction of John Carewe, beautifully performs the unabridged score of The Firebird. Before the curtain rises, an on-screen plot synopsis accompanies the first few minutes of music. From start to finish, the well-mannered British audience (as opposed to the typically clap-happy American audience) does not needlessly interrupt the dancing with inappropriate, annoying applause. In the opening scene, Leanne Benjamin, the Firebird, flits across the stage with bird-like jumps. Prince Ivan, Jonathan Cope, appears next, hopping down from the wall that encloses the enchanted garden of the immortal and evil sorcerer Kotschei. Ivan hides, lying in wait to catch the Firebird and seizes her after she steals an apple from the magic tree. What ensues is a captivating performance by Ms Benjamin. Her acting is first-rate but her dancing is inspired, arms waving and hands fluttering. She is the firebird. Her leg work, turns, and jumps (developpes, chaines, and jetes) are marvelously executed. Jonathan Cope's partnering shows sensitivity and deftness. He and Benjamin dance as one, his lifting very silky and effortless. Cope's facial expressions and body language demonstrate fine acting. David Drew as Kotschei is deliciously grotesque: long fingernails, black skeleton costume, flowing cape, humped back, and scraggly beard. His grotesqueness, however, is tinged with humor. Genesia Rosato, the beautiful Tsarevna, is suitably demure. She and her 12 princesses play catch with apples taken from the enchanted tree (not great dancing, but an interesting diversion). Watching these attractive women in their long nightgowns prancing around the stage provides pleasure. The finale, full of pomp and circumstance, is emotionally and visually satisfying, intensified by a succession of full orchestral chords.
In Les Noces, the two principals--Zenaida Yanowsky as the bride and David Pickering her groom--are nice to look at, but they do little dancing. The real stars in this dance-cantata are the men and women (especially the women) of the corps de ballet. Because this is a tricky ballet, full of changing beats and irregular tempos, dancers can easily lose count and make errors. Fortunately, they never do. Nijinska's choreography is just as fresh and modern today as it was when it was first performed in 1923. But the music (composed for four pianos, percussion, small chorus, and four soloists) is what makes this ballet-cantata a masterpiece.
These two performances are emotionally and intellectually stimulating. Anyone who appreciates Stravinsky will be rewarded with the purchase of this DVD.
As for the sets, I believe they do not reproduce the 1909 originals, which were destroyed by humidity, but the new ones made for the 1922 revival.
As for Les Noces, I found the version released by the Paris Opera Ballet better danced. They sing a French translation of the Russian text and their male soloist - Kader Belarbi - transmits a sense of dignity to the nuptial ceremony that is lacking in Mr. Pickering.
One should not neglet to mention Mr. David Drew's funny account of how Ms. Bronislava Nijinska taught the choreographyto the first cast in the 60'.
The Firebird is Stravinsky's most popular work, and it receives top billing here. Musically, it is an experimental work, preparing the foundation for the revolution that is Le Sacre du Printemps. Yet, its treatment by thr Royal Ballet in costumes, scenery, and dance, is as a work of pure classical ballet, marked by grace, and a remarkable lack of dynamism. Firebird is not not Swan Lake (despite some similarities in their underlying myths); to treat Stravinsky like Tschaikovsky is to produce a banal anachronism. One ought not to blame Folkine here -- at least not entirely, for the Kirov's Return of the Firebird shows the excitement that can be produced in Folkine/Stravinsky conbinations, even if the Kirov's technical effects a bit over the top.
Ah!, but the production Les Noces with choreography by Nijinskaya is among the most extraordinary on disc. Through most of his music, Stravinsky in interested not in portraying the day to day reality of individual lives but the excitement and drama of community rituals. Nijinskaya, the sister of Nijinsky, choreographed a dance of extraordinary originality based on her own unique conception of formalized movement that underscores Stravinsky's artistic genius. Those who, like me, love the Taymor production of Oedipus Rex with Norman & Ozawa will be intoxicated by this dance. (Drew's commentary on Les Noces is the most enjoyable "extra" I have found on DVD.) If, however, you find these works distasteful, I am sure you will enjoy the Royal Ballet's Firebird.