Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Tchaikovsky - Swan Lake|
Actors: Paris Opera Ballet, Agnes Letestu, Jose Martinez, Karl Paquette, Muriel Halle
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Special Interests, Educational, Musicals & Performing Arts
Beautiful production, but this Lake remains frozen
Ivy Lin | NY NY | 03/04/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Despite some quibbles which I will list below, I really think this dvd is worth having. The Parisian swans are absolutely beautiful. Nureyev's production for the POB was controversial at first but looking back one can't see where the controversy lies. Yes it is a bit "Freudian" and one is never sure whether the whole ballet is really a figment of Siegfied's imagination. But I unlike his film with Margot Fonteyn the production is essentially very traditional. The pas de trois is back (well danced by Emmanuel Thibault, Nolwenn Daniel, and Dorothée Gilbert), and Nureyev restores Odette's poignant mime in Act 2 when she explains why she is a swan and how a prince's true love will break the curse. Despite a very short interpolated solo for Siegfried, Act 2 preserves the sacred Ivanov choreography. Act4 is one of the best Act 4's I have ever seen. For, unlike, say, the ABT production that is available on dvd, the music is not cut to shreds, the desperation of the swans is palpable, and the ending closely follows the original Petipa/Ivanov ending, which I found in the Nijinsky book: the Evil Genius drags on the Swan Queen, pursued by the Prince. But it is dawn once more, the beloved has vanished and a swan with a crown is seen gliding across the lake. The Prince falls dead.
Yes there are some idiosyncrasies. Rothbart and the tutor are a dual role. I don't know Nureyev was following Soviet tradition or not but the Black Swan pdd is a bit of a pas de trois with Rothbart. The Prince dances along with the waltz in Act 1. There's a brief interpolated solo for Rothbart in Act 3 (danced by Karl Paquette). But all the traditional musical arrangements are intact. Overall, I really liked the production, which has a stately Gothic beauty.
My reservations are with the leads -- Agnes Letesu and Jose Martinez. Letetsu is more Ice Queen than Swan Queen. Not for a moment does she seem afraid of anyone, and she never melts, not even during the White Swan pdd. There's very little chemistry between her and Martinez, despite the fact that they are/were romantically involved. Martinez's Siegfied seems callow and shallow. In one closeup during the White Swan pdd he is actually grinning. It's a shame, because the liquidy flow of the White Swan pdd is a welcome respite from the endless posing and sloooooooowness that is all too common today. Letetsu's dancing has a pure, austere classicism -- she eschews the attitudes in the White Swan pas de deux for perfect 90 degree arabesques. Her textbook positions are impressive, although one wishes she'd soften her line just a bit, to suggest any hint of frailty. She does not.
Letetus's Odile is more effective, although she fails to imitate her Odette, and again seems a bit too icy and remote for Siegfried to truly fall in love. Her fouettes are well-done, with some doubles thrown in, landing in perfect fourth position. In Act4, there is no sign of forgiveness from Letetsu. Siegfried has betrayed her, and she is the most unforgiving Odette I've ever seen. Their farewell is not a painful parting -- Letetsu seems like she can't wait to get away from Siegfried. I'd call this an interesting interpretation except Letetsu's Odette/Odile is so cold throughout the ballet that her Act 4 just seems to be an extension of her coldness. A shame, because Parisian swans are hard to beat. The classical beauty of the POB's dancing is awe-inspiring, but some warmth and vulnerability from Letetsu and Martinez would be welcome.
The best Swan Lake on video remains Royal Ballet's dvd with Makarova and Dowell. Makarova can't match the whiz-bang technicians of today, but her frailty and vulnerability in this dual role makes one forget about her technical weaknesses."
Cold cold lake
Marc Haegeman | Gent, Belgium | 02/03/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is the second Swan Lake by the Paris Opera Ballet appearing on DVD. A few years ago Bel Air brought us the Vladimir Bourmeister version, filmed in 1992, with Marie-Claude Pietragalla and Patrick Dupond. Interesting from a choreographic point of view, the production was betrayed by its ungainly designs.
The present DVD released by Opus Arte documents Rudolf Nureyev's production of Swan Lake, created for the Paris Opera in 1984 - twenty years after his first staging of the ballet for the Vienna Opera Ballet, which is also available on DVD in the famous film with Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn.
The current Parisian version of Tchaikovsky's most popular ballet has the Nureyev touch all over. Prince Siegfried and his tutor Wolfgang are promoted to central characters and the story is re-told from a Freudian angle: the whole ballet is conceived as a product of the prince's dreams and imagination. One may have mixed feelings about this approach, yet we have to grant Nureyev that he always kept faith in the possibilities of classical dance itself and no matter the personal sidetracks, his Swan Lake remains recognizable as a lyric tragedy.
The staging is dramatically effective. The costumes by Franca Squarciapino inspired by 15th-century frescoes and the grand neo-gothic sets by Ezio Frigerio are tasteful, sober and unobtrusive, letting the choreography ample space to speak for itself. Nureyev followed the dramatic structure of the canonical Petipa/Ivanov version from 1895, left the pantomime intact and kept parts of the choreography (notably the 2nd Act, the pas de trois and most of the Black Swan pas de deux). For the rest he devised his own, being most successful in the final Act where he preserved the original music, only interpolating an extra farewell duet set to the music of the omitted Act 3 pas de six. Less attractive are a rather long-winded Waltz in Act 1 and the tedious national dances in Act 3. The Prince and Rothbart get extra solos.
Directed for TV by François Roussillon, the performance was filmed live at the Opéra Bastille in Paris in 2005. The DVD captures the production beautifully, the image quality is outstanding. The editing convincingly mixes longshots from the top of the house, showing the choreographic patterns, with generally well-chosen close-ups of the soloists. Sound (LPCM stereo or 5.1 DTS) is first-rate.
The main issue with this Swan Lake, however, is the casting of the leading roles, étoiles Agnès Letestu and José Martinez. Not everybody will warm for Agnès Letestu straight-faced rendering of Odette. Her dancing is clean and poised, but she seems to appear from a lake of ice, while her confident persona and stiff-backed plastique enhance an image of remoteness and invulnerability. José Martinez, noble, slim and very tall, isn't the most emotional of dancers either and never succeeds in breaking the ice. The close-ups only emphasize how little interest he seems to find in the role. Like Letestu his dancing is assured and neat, but eventually rather pale. His too reserved personality is at odds with the essentially romantic character devised by Nureyev. Letestu is undoubtedly preferable as Odile. The Black Swan pas de deux demonstrates some superbly controlled dancing, but even here the overall impression is rather one of cold calculation. Premier danseur Karl Paquette isn't the ideal choice either for the dual role of Wolfgang/Rothbart, lacking authority as well as mystery.
The pas de trois in Act 1 is danced well by Emmanuel Thibault, Nolwenn Daniel, and especially a remarkable Dorothée Gilbert. Company dancing is excellent overall, as can be expected from the Paris Opera. Vello Pähn conducts the Paris Opera Orchestra.
An illustrated synopsis and a meagre "cast gallery" are the only bonus features on the DVD. Included is a 28-page booklet with excellent photos from the production and liner notes by François Roussillon, covering the creation and subsequent performance history of Swan Lake as well as Nureyev's lifelong fascination with the ballet and its music. Not everyone will agree with Roussillon's - otherwise anything but original - conviction that Swan Lake and its theme of impossible love is a reflection on Tchaikovsky's own homosexual life. Others will also note that the cast list in the booklet is far from faultless (the on-screen credits only mention the leading dancers): the second soloist in the pas de trois is not Mélanie Hurel but Dorothée Gilbert; while in the Czardas Fanny Fiat and not Dorothée Gilbert performs the female lead.
An Outstanding Traditional Swan Lake!
J. M WILINSKY | teaneck, NJ United States | 03/12/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What makes a Swan Lake traditional? Some might say it should follow the Petipa/Ivanov model, but they did not really honor Tchaikovsky's intentions and even used some music not written by him! He was so furious that he divorced himself from the project. To be called "traditional" A Swan Lake really needs to borrow from Petipa/Ivanov but also needs to keep Tchaikovsky's intentions alive as well as utilizing modern expectations. Suffice it to say that this performance certainly qualifies. The choreography is outstanding and complex as is the dancing by all. This Swan Lake is quite different from Nureyev's version with Margot Fonteyn. The first act in this one is more complete, but the black swan pas de deux is along the Petipa/Ivanov concept whereas the one with Fonteyn utilized Tchaikovsky's original concept. The choreography does have Nureyev's concept of balancing male and female dancing. The scenery and costumes are somewhat simpler here than in the older one, but still appropriate and interesting. The most beautiful aspect of this performance is simply that it is danced by the Paris Opera Ballet, one of the greatest ballet companies in the world! This is a wonderful, complete Swan Lake and is highly recommended!"
Maxitita | 02/24/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A splendid production of Swan Lake. I have seen it live and I couldn't wait until the DVD release.
Agnès Letestu, as Odette, dances with grace and beauty and José Martinez, in the role of prince Siegfried, is just brilliant.
The costumes are lovely, rich, elegant and colourful. The swans are beautiful. The dancers of the third act are dressed magnificently.
The sets and lighting are great and give importance to the dancers. The style isn't ornate. In the first act for example, the sets present everything that makes a palace look immense : tall marble columns, walls with moulding, large steps, a beautiful golden throne, and a bright lighting that changes to a dark one as the sun goes down; or, in the second act, a mysterious forest and a lake with a soft, bluish lighting.
The Black Swan Scene is remarquable. Ms. Agnès Letestu really has a talent in miming. In this scene, she shows evil, hypocrisy while dancing graciously."