Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Manzotti - Excelsior / Romagna Massimi Seabra Bolle Benaglia La Scala Ballet|
Actors: Elisabetta Armiato, La Scala Ballet
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Special Interests, Musicals & Performing Arts
A bit campy and touchingly naive, but great fun.
R. Scharba | Chicago, IL USA | 02/06/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have seen articles and reviews that disparage the style of the solo dancing in "Excelsior" as too modern and/or bland to suit this piece which, despite its dedication to technological and scientific advances that pointed the way to the 20th century, does in fact date from the high Romantic era of the 1880s. The choreography has also been described as corny and passé, or even racist and reactionary. These sorts of comments come from seasoned aficionados of classical dance, and while knowledge is a commendable thing, and I don't wish to be associated with "obscurantism," I think that my relative lack of such preconceptions concerning dance allow me to look at "Excelsior" with a less jaundiced eye. All this is my way of saying how much of a delight it was to discover the DVD of this production.
The music certainly caught me by surprise. The first dance for the female ensemble left me a bit puzzled, as it sounded like something from the soundtrack of an Italian comedy film of the early 1960s, but then seemed to morph into something more akin to Offenbach at times. The costumes and scenery are delightfully retro in style and struck me as a bit quaint and campy in a fun way. Though others who have written about the production seem to think they managed to avoid this campy quality for purposes of good taste, I feel that it is there, and intentionally so. Why spoil something this good with "good taste?"
And speaking of good taste - Some have decried the old-fashioned "Orientalism" in this production, the depiction of Arabs, Turks, Indians, and especially the comic "Chinaman" of the Suez Canal scene. Well, we manage to wink and have a little giggle at the silly costumes and C.B DeMille spectacle aspects of "Excelsior," and I think all that national stereotyping is part and parcel of the piece. The national stereotypes depicted in this ballet are so cartoonish and ridiculous, I can scarcely believe that anyone takes them seriously enough to take offence. The "Ugly American" has been depicted many times in literature, TV, and films, and is sometimes quite funny. I wouldn't dream of taking offence at it. Please, people, reach behind you and remove that stick!
I particularly loved the last scene, a "ballet of nations" in which the flags of many different nations are paraded around the stage in intricate formations by high-stepping dancers in national costumes. Anyone familiar with the finale of the 1930 film "The King of Jazz," where Paul Whiteman presents a great melting pot of national stereotypes in their native costumes, will find this oddly familiar. It made me both laugh and cry. The touching naivety of the idea that science and technology was the magic that would finally bring all nations and peoples together in loving harmony is such a sweet and lovely delusion, and it's so heartbreakingly sad that it just isn't so.
I found "Excelsior" wonderfully entertaining, and while there is some impressive dancing by the male soloists, it seems to me a particularly good showcase for the strikingly lovely women of La Scala's corps de ballet. I wish I could take them all home with me (alas, my apartment just isn't big enough)."
21st Century Ballet
R. Scharba | 01/31/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Excelsior premiered in La Scala, Milan, Italy in 2002. Manzotti, the composer and choreographer (as well as narrator) explains his ballet in the Prologue. It is spoken in Italian but it goes something like this: Written for an intelligent audience, this ballet seeks to describe the triumph of light over darkness, of intellect over ignorance. In a series of choreographed scenes, Light overcomes Darkness throughout the ages. The Darkness was predominant in the Spanish Inquisition, but Lightness triumphed in the Enlightenment. She was there during the inventions of the 19th century- steam engine and electricity. In the finale, she brings together humankind in a blissful and peaceful condition.
Manzotti's music harkens back to the big Romantic symphonies of Brahms, Mahler and even Berlioz. But it is completelye new, and even modern. La Scala Ballet, renowned for its ballet as a seperate entity to La Scala's Opera, does a terrific job describing the story through bodily movement. It is a ballet about action- there are many actions that humans are doing. It is also about the action of human thought, actually it is mostly this. While to many, this is an abstract and rather lofty, high-flying ballet spectacle, I found it to be very moving. On DVD, it looks wonderful. I am surprised ballet lovers, even lovers of the new ballets that are being written, have not yet made a review. I'm proud to be the first. The characters include a cast of human inventors and power figures but it is mostly a big duet for Light and Darkness, Male and Female, Good and Evil. Light is played by the prima ballerina Romagna, and Darkness the male dancer Massimi. Other dancers include Seabra, bolle and Benaglia. They may not be as big a name as Russian ballet stars but they hold their own in Italy. This is an exquisite and lavish work of art. It was like starring at a big masterpiece of art. It is really positive and optimistic about mankind, especially at a time that is post 9/11 and when terrorism has become a new fear in the 21st century. I think, actually, this ballet welcomes the 21st century with promise of better things to come. What a magnificent ballet that honors humankind's better achievements of the past and looking forward to a better future."
Excelsior is Extraordinary!
MrLopez2681 | USA | 04/10/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an absolutley fabulous ballet, in the true 19 century tradition - it is from the era when ballets were BALLETS. I dont know where the "kids review" kid below got his info, but "Excelsior" premiered at La Scala on January 11, 1881. La Scala has performed the work off and on ever since - the production here is a revival of the original.
The choregraphy by the great Manzotti is completely flashy and grand, while the score, by the Italian ballet composer Romualdo Marenco, is sparkeling in the old antiquated tradition of the 19th century "Grand Ballet Musique Dansante".
I really could not believe how awesome this work was when I first saw it, it totally blew me out of my seat. I encourage every balletomane and dancer to pick it up ASAP!!"
RE Snodgrass | Madison, IN | 09/02/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an astounding production. The ballet dancers are superb. Also the music is great. I first viewed Excelsior when Italian television broadcast La Scala's version to North America some time ago. I videotaped it, but I was more than happy when I saw that Amazon offered it on DVD. Any one who purchases this might want to go to the Internet and read what Excelsior is all about before they watch it.
Robert E. Snodgrass, M.D."