Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Tchaikovsky - The Sleeping Beauty / Fonteyn Somes Ashton Grey Sadler's Wells Ballet|
Actors: Margot Fonteyn, Beryl Grey, Frederick Ashton
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Kids & Family, Special Interests, Television, Educational, Musicals & Performing Arts
VAI DVD 4295 Margot Fonteyn, Michael Somes, Frederick Ashton, Beryl Grey. Sadler?s Wells Ballet (Royal Ballet). Choreography by Petipa. Music by Tchaikovsky. Conducted by Robert Irving Broadcast of December 14, 1955.... more »
Very truncated, but historically important Sleeping Beauty
Ivy Lin | NY NY | 11/21/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Margot Fonteyn's "calling card" role was Aurora, where her lyrical graceful style, regal stage presence, and balletic talents seemed to fuse synergistically. She was a sensation in this role when she toured in the US in 1949, and this 1955 B&W "made for TV" production is a souvenir of the Royal Ballet's Sleeping Beauty.
A few caveats: only a B&W print remains. The ballet was filmed on a cramped tv soundstage, and many times corps are cut out of the camera lens. The closeups of the dancers are awkward -- it seems as if the camera was placed too high or too low and thus many of the scenes cut the dancers off at the knees or seem to film them at an awkward angle. Plus, the ballet was heavily truncated, presumably to fit in a televised time slot. So if youre looking for a full-length, well-filmed Sleeping Beauty video, look elsewhere.
Margot Fonteyn was of course Aurora, and Michael Somes is the Prince Florimund. Beryl Grey is the Lilac Fairy. Fonteyn's extensions in the 1950s are higher and easier, her balances steadier, and the Rose Adagio stands the test of time as a remarkable display of steely toes. More importantly, Fonteyn has a natural charm, and the most beautiful, expressive port-de-bras -- like the greatest ballerinas her arms almost become a musical instrument. However, I think Fonteyn might have been uncomfortable with the conditions, because she wears a tight smile throughout most of the film. Nevertheless this remains an important souvenir of her most famous role.
Michael Somes is her partner. He's very handsome, but the partnership does not (at least onstage -- offstage they supposedly even had an affair) exude much chemistry. It's a very classical partnership, with a handsome, somewhat stiff male danseur assisting the prima ballerina. Sleeping Beauty doesnt have much of a storyline anyway. But I can see why Fonteyn was so revitalized by her partnership with Nureyev in the 1960s: it must have been like meeting a soulmate. Somes and Fonteyn arent really on soulmate level -- Aurora and Florimund seem like cordial dancing partners rather than a romantic prince and princess.
Frederick Ashton is appealingly overthetop as Carabosse, and Beryl Grey nearly steals the show as the Lilac Fairy."
For serious students and balletomanes only
kaream | 07/21/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I have no disagreement with Ms. Lin's thoughtful review, but would add that not only is this important document in black-and-white, but both video and audio are seriously degraded; it can be quite painful to try to watch. You would certainly not want to have this as your only version of Sleeping Beauty."
V. Stasov | 07/30/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The first time I viewed this DVD I had trouble with the dimly preserved image. I'm glad that I gave it another chance, because I now realize what a magnificent, museum quality performance it is. This is one of Fonteyn's most splendid roles. Technically dazzling, she does something special with a part that is pretty difficult to work with. Her technique is beyond reproach, her personal beauty and charm make this (for me) the greatest Sleeping Beauty, and one of the most impressive performances I've ever seen. She's the perfect, archetypal Aurora.
No wonder New York fell in love with her in 1949 when she made her debut there, dancing Aurora with such magnetism that the audience went berserk.
Also on this DVD is the rare opportunity to see Alexander Grant, considered to be the best male dancer produced by Great Britain. He's one of the Three Ivans, the character dancers that appear at Aurora's wedding. His power, charisma and prowess are mind boggling. He also appears in the same role on the DVD An Evening with the Royal Ballet. But in that performance the Three Ivans dance to different music (I think from Nutcracker), the choreography is less impressive, and the camera work is extremely irritating.
While this DVD could use the loving restoration that some get from Criterion for example, we're fortunate to have this at all. There is another fantastic DVD with Fonteyn and Grant that is available in Great Britain (and cheap!) at the moment, but not in North America yet. It's called The Royal Ballet, a film made by the visionary Paul Czinner. On it is Act II of Swan Lake with a Fonteyn so beautiful that just watching her is a transcendental experience. Also her Firebird (not really a great part for her even though she was coached by Karsavina, the original Firebird) and Ondine, written for her by Frederick Ashton. Alexander Grant appears in Ondine as the Sea King. VAI is trying to get the distribution rights for this monumental document of great dancing.
Highly recommended for Fonteyn's magnificent and quintessential Aurora, and for Alexander Grant's Ivan."