Search - Khachaturian - Spartacus / Vasiliev, Bessmertnova, Bolshoi Ballet on DVD

Khachaturian - Spartacus / Vasiliev, Bessmertnova, Bolshoi Ballet
Khachaturian - Spartacus / Vasiliev Bessmertnova Bolshoi Ballet
Actors: Natalia Bessmertnova, Maris Liepa, Nina Timofeyeva, Vladimir Vasilev
Directors: Vadim Derbenyov, Yuri Grigorovich
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Special Interests, Educational, Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2003     1hr 35min


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Movie Details

Actors: Natalia Bessmertnova, Maris Liepa, Nina Timofeyeva, Vladimir Vasilev
Directors: Vadim Derbenyov, Yuri Grigorovich
Creator: Vadim Derbenyov
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Special Interests, Educational, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Dance, Educational, Classical, Ballet & Dance, Musicals
Studio: Video Artists International
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 12/02/2003
Original Release Date: 12/00/1979
Theatrical Release Date: 12/00/1979
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 35min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 3
Edition: Classical
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

A Problematic Film: some remedies
Gary | 07/26/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Aram Khachaturian wrote the melodious score to the Spartacus ballet between 1950 and '54. The first choreographer was Leonid Jacobson. His version, which premiered at the Kirov on December 27, 1956, was not a real success. The problem was that the choreography contained too much mime and not enough actual dancing. Two years later, Igor Moiseyev staged a version for the Bolshoi, which had a similar fate; that one received only nine performances. Later there was a revision by Jacobson, which also didn't find favor with the public. Incidentally, excerpts from one of Jacobson's versions (it is not clear which--maybe both) can be seen in "The Glory of the Kirov" DVD; I don't think his choreography was all that bad, really, but you be the judge.

It wasn't till April 9, 1968 did Spartacus achieve its definitive form in a performance given at the Bolshoi, this time, with choreography by Yuri Grigorovich. His version is a three-act ballet divided into two main categories. There are the major soldier/crowd scenes and also the monologues in which one of the four principal dancers is the only one onstage, and he or she dances against a dark background. At the premiere, the four principals were: Vladimir Vasiliev as Spartacus, Ekaterina Maximova as Phrygia, Maris Liepa as Crassus, and Nina Timofeyeva as Aegina. So, with the exception of Maximova, who was replaced by Bessmertnova as Phrygia, these were the dancers in this famous 1977 film, not 1979 as Amazon indicates.

But that's where the good news ends and the problems begin. First, as others have already pointed out, they used some dated cinematic techniques that are downright irritating. For example, they superimposed images (double exposure) to make a battle scene look bigger than it is. Elsewhere, they slowed down the motion of one of Spartacus' leap sequences; I'm sorry, that format just doesn't suit ballet--dance movements should correspond with the music. Furthermore, the picture itself is sometimes very dark, which makes it hard to see the corps de ballet. And the sound quality is only passable.

Even if you can overlook all this, there remains the ultimate sacrilege. Here we have three-quarters of the original principal cast, along with Bessmertnova and a superb corps de ballet dancing their hearts out, and the producer decides to cut forty-odd minutes of dance and music out of the film, which makes the work much less coherent. Notable moments are the beginning of Act II, Scene 1; the Aegina monologue in Act II, Scene 2 (danced to some hauntingly beautiful music); and a series of leaps, performed by Spartacus near the end of Act II, Scene 1.

Now, lest you think I was just carping without actually presenting a solution, I'll let you in on a secret. As far as I'm aware of, there are at least three COMPLETE videos of the Grigorovich/Bolshoi-production Spartacus in existence.

The most recent is the one starring Irek Mukhamedov and Lyudmila Semenyaka, shot live in 1990 (Arthaus Musik DVD). This is by far the best overall video of the ballet. It boasts the best picture and sound quality--with exemplary dancing to boot! Plus Mukhamedov does a version of the Act II, Scene 1, leap sequence, missing in the present film, in which the final leap looks like a spinning flying-roundhouse-kick--AMAZING!

There is another video of Mukhamedov in the role (Kultur DVD), and this time, he partners Bessmertnova in a 1984 live performance. Picture and sound are of good quality. This otherwise solid performance was marred by Mikhail Gabovich's tepid portrayal of Crassus.

A third video (Via Classic DVD) was shot live in 1979. This one is marred by even worse picture and sound quality than the '77. And some of the principals made a couple of mistakes. However, you have the benefit of, again, seeing Vasiliev as Spartacus and, this time, Ekaterina Maximova as (the original) Phrygia in a COMPLETE performance. Sadly, Vasiliev does a less technically-demanding version of the Act II, Scene 1, leap sequence--no roundhouse-kick.

Of the three COMPLETE videos, my #1 choice would be the '90 version, starring Muhamedov, for the very reasons I stated earlier.

His '84 is also recommendable, but it's been surpassed by the version above.

Because of the overall (poor) quality of the '79 Vasiliev, I will recommend it to true aficionados ONLY for its completeness. Alas, if only it were better shot...
NOTE: This DVD is not in NTSC format. Rather, it is in PAL format, which means most DVD players sold in North America will not be able to play it. You can purchase a multi-format compatible DVD player at your local specialty electronics store.

The '77 Vasiliev has long been regarded as the ultimate Spartacus ballet video, because most fans have neither had the opportunity to sample, nor, indeed, even had been aware of the existence of the other Grigorovich/Bolshoi Spartacus videos. The present version is neither fish nor flesh. Buy it for its "cult" status. But if you're looking to experience the ballet in its full glory, I suggest you look elsewhere.

For further recommendations...I've created a Listmania List, called "Spartacus Ballet Videos, CDs, and More", for those interested. To locate it, check out my Listmania Lists section by clicking my name.

Happy viewing!


Khachaturian's original score was NOT used in any of the aforementioned versions of the ballet. Everybody from Jacobson to Grigorovich had used modified versions of the score."
For Everyone Who Loves Real Ballet, Even if the FIlimng Tech
Denis Plutalov | Lincoln, NE | 08/07/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This film is definitely he greatest monument to Maris Liepa (1936-1989), one of the greatest ballet dancers of all time.

Shortly after his film was shot, Liepa was kicked out of the Bolshoi Theatre by its head, a mediocre ballet master Yuri Grigorovich (who also later kicked out the famous Maya Plisetskaya).

From his very first appearance, all the viewers will begin to realize, that Crassus is the Champion here, not Spartacus (Spartacus is the champion! is the favorite motto of thr Spartacus soccer tam in Russia).

This footage is definietly one of the greatest monuments to the immortal Russian-Latvian ballet dancer.

The phonogram is also praiseworthy: the Bolhoi Theatre here sounds at is very best under the baton of its great leader Algis Zhuraitis.

As always, in the Soviet Union art always had to fight both with the State and with the Technology.

Worth having it
John | Berlin, Germany | 06/07/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I saw this version of Spartacus first in 1979 at a movie theater. I was a young teenager then. I remember I liked it very much, but I thought the cinematography was rather dated even then and the picture quality was poor, full of blemishes and annoying white dots, even back then. It's also sad that Aegina's parts were severely cut. All that said, it's still an amazing ballet movie. Of course, it is heavily cut (only 90 minutes). But the longest existing version which seems to be the 1990 Bolshoi version with Irek Mokhamedoff is only about 135 minutes long. Grigoryevich did not use the entire score for his choreography, nor did any other choreographer before him. The original score is 3.5 hrs. My recommendation to Spartacus fans is to buy the 1977 as well as the 1990 versions (the latter version's sound quality is unbelievable) plus a CD recording of the full score."