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Tchaikovsky - Swan Lake
Tchaikovsky - Swan Lake
Actors: Valery Gergiev, Uliana Lopatkina, Danila Korsuntsev, Ilya Kuznetsov, Mariinsky Kirov Opera Ballet
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Special Interests, Educational, Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2007     2hr 8min


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Movie Details

Actors: Valery Gergiev, Uliana Lopatkina, Danila Korsuntsev, Ilya Kuznetsov, Mariinsky Kirov Opera Ballet
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Special Interests, Educational, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, DTS, Dance, Educational, Classical
Studio: Decca
Format: DVD - Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 11/13/2007
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2007
Release Year: 2007
Run Time: 2hr 8min
Screens: Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
Edition: Classical
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: French
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Swan Lake Gergiev-style
Marc Haegeman | Gent, Belgium | 11/18/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)

"The last Swan Lake on video to come from the Kirov Ballet dated from 1990 (Now available on DVD as well). Among its assets were the intriguing, beautifully talented Yulia Makhalina, the young and brilliant Igor Zelensky, still on his way to become one of the greatest Russian dancers of his generation; it had magnificently pure soloists like Larissa Lezhnina and Veronika Ivanova in the supporting cast; it also had the incomparable Viktor Fedotov playing the score with authority and understanding like only he could; and the whole production was offered with a genuine sense of artistic direction.

Now, the Kirov is long since called the Mariinsky again, and the new Swan Lake released by Decca and filmed by the BBC in St Petersburg in 2006 is a very different affair. The production (now with different sets) is still the same old one by Konstantin Sergeyev from 1950, based on the definitive 1895 Petipa/Ivanov staging, and remains one of the most exemplary, straightforward readings of the ballet around.

The current leads are danced by Uliana Lopatkina and Danila Korsuntsev. Lopatkina is adulated in Russia and abroad, and her many fans will undoubtedly welcome this release featuring the ballerina in one of her few signature roles. For my money, the filming came too late and might have been a treasurable addition to any ballet collection some ten years earlier, when Lopatkina's performances still had freshness and spontaneity. In this recording she takes the role of Odette-Odile in her now characteristic uncompromising, towering manner, with every inch and feather calculated and controlled. Her plastique is gorgeous but studied in the extreme. Her plight is long-winded and frozen, hard and unmoving by its insistence on a certain spiritual quality which unfortunately doesn't stick to film. This is an Odette locked in her own world, relating to nobody else on stage, least of all the cardboard prince of Danila Korsuntsev. Her Odile is more attractive but again very measured and lacking in excitement as well as in seductive power.

In such presence Danila Korsuntsev doesn't stand a chance. He may be an adequate porteur with great physical qualities but his prince is a cipher who dances his few bits in the Black Swan pas de deux without any distinction or interest. That the Mariinsky considers a weak performance like this sufficient to be preserved for posterity, is a only sad reminder of the current lack of artistic direction.

The pas de trois as danced by Irina Golub, Ekaterina Osmolkina and Anton Korsakov is clean and very lightweight. Here too, there isn't a personality in sight, and everything is delivered without much purpose or concern. Andrei Ivanov's jester is obnoxious and anything but virtuosic. The only one who stands out is Ilya Kuznetsov portraying the evil Rothbart with panache and a genuine sense of drama.

The true star of this DVD remains the Mariinsky corps de ballet, immaculate in its lines and turning the lakeside scenes, beautifully rendered in this film into a miracle of plastical beauty, stylistic coherence and spatial grandeur. Likewise, the national dances in the ballroom Act still look totally right.

Curiously, this might be the first ballet DVD release which bills the conductor higher than any of the dancers. Decca doesn't leave any opportunity unused to remind us that this performance of Swan Lake is conducted by "the great Russian maestro Valery Gergiev" (it's always wonderful that the labels emphasize how brilliant their artists are). A great conductor he may be, but it's still a fact that accompanying a ballet performance is far from his defining moment. The characteristic Gergiev mannerisms can be found here aplenty (the attention to orchestral detail, if sometimes at the expense of the overall line, the unnecessary long final chords etc), yet, worse, his reading lacks all sense of theatricality and spirit, which is with Gergiev's opera background rather surprising. Even Tchaikovsky's big finale sounds rather understated. As could be expected, the booklet features a full-page portrait photo of Gergiev (except for the cover shot of the DVD-case and some thumbnail-shots in the booklet there is nothing comparable of Lopatkina or Korsuntsev) and again in the otherwise learned liner notes by Giannandrea Poesio about the genesis of the ballet we are reminded of how well Gergiev is supposed to understand Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. Some words about the dancers might have been appropriate, although Decca clearly doesn't consider them important enough. Be that is it may, Gergiev might have been better served with a studio recording of the full-length Tchaikovsky score, without the constrictions of accompanying a live performance. (And let the Decca marketing not fool you, the double-CD release of Gergiev's Swan Lake is exactly the same live recording as on the DVD).

The image quality (16:9 anamorphic widescreen) is excellent, although as a film of a ballet performance this will never go down as a model. There are too many cameras angles slicing up movements and bodies, too many close-ups and frames from the waist up, the central camera providing the overall stage view cuts off the feet, while the crane shots sweeping during the lakeside scenes among the swans are more annoying than revealing. The sound quality (PCM Stereo or DTS 5.1 surround) is first-rate although balance-wise the timpani and percussion should ideally have been more forward. Unfortunately, the editing has been too hasty (Irina Golub tripping in the Dance of the Little Swans, some wobbly endings of solos, Lopatkina floating in all directions during the fouettés, the model swans appearing a second time while in fact only the swan queen is appearing etc. could easily have been edited.)

Admirers of Lopatkina needn't hesitate, but to see a better focused Mariinsky Ballet and Swan Lake the older performance with Makhalina and Zelensky remains a clear first choice."
Lopatkina is true Swan Queen
Ivy Lin | NY NY | 11/10/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Uliana Lopatkina was one of the last proteges of legendary Kirov ballerina (and, later, pedagogue) Natalia Dudinskaya. Lopatkina is so loyal to the memory of her teacher that she refuses to dance in the "new-old" reconstructions of Sleeping Beauty and La Bayadere, as she considers the reconstructions a betrayal of Dudinskaya's husband, Konstantin Sergeyev, whose stagings of Swan Lake, the Sleeping Beauty, La Bayadere and Raymonda were considered the standard stagings in the old Soviet Union.
This Swan Lake is the third full video version of Sergeyev's Swan Lake from the Mariinsky in twenty years. I think that, all things considered, it is also the best, although the film with Yulia Makhalina and Zelensky is also very fine. The reason I give this film the slight edge is that it was filmed in front of a live audience, and thus has a frission and excitement missing from the Makhalina/Zelensky video, which was a "canned" performance. Also, Makhalina in 1990 was a lovely dancer, but very young, and her O/O in my opinion was beautiful but not a fully developed portrayal. Lopatkina also handles the technical challenges of the ballet better than Makhalina.
Sergeyev's Swan Lake, despite employing a jarring happy ending and an annoying jester, remains one of the most elegant versions of the ballet anywhere. The Mariinsky corps de ballet dances Swan Lake as if it were in their blood, making Ivanov's famous "white" acts a hypnotically beautiful experience. The national dances in Act 3 are danced with an impeccable vigor and sense of character. This is Russian ballet at its best.
As for the leads, I admit I find Danila Korsuntsev good-looking but a bit vapid. I wonder if he was chosen because he's one of the few dancers tall enough to partner the 5'10" Lopatkina.
Indeed, from the minute we see her bourree onto the stage, with her long arms flapping slowly like a swan, it is the Lopatkina Show. She is so tall and long-limbed that she makes Syvlie Guillem look petite and stubby. She is the most regal Swan Queen I have ever seen, with strong emphasis on the Queen part. Her Odette has an air of remoteness and inscrutability. You have the feeling that Odette has been a swan for a long, long time, and this is not her first heartbreak. Lopatkina's ultra-thin arms give her the illusion of absolute weightlessness. On the one hand, this is incredibly beautiful, with each hand gesture seemingly designed to accompany a note of the score. On the other hand, sometimes it can seem like a lot of "fingers stretch to the left, eyes glance to the right" posing, albeit beautiful posing. There's little sense of spontaneity - indeed, Lopatkina's Odette at times barely seems to be aware that she is dancing *with* Siegfried. The "Love Duet" is danced so slowly Makarova would check her watch, with Lopatkina assuming a trance-like expression from the first unfolding of her arms to the last penchee. It's all a bit marbelized. I wish that there was more warmth behind the magisterial beauty, yet it's an undeniably commanding portrayal, and one that I'm happy was caught on video.
If Lopatkina's Odette has an air of almost supernatural remoteness, her Odile is arrestingly hard, like a diamond. She does not smile seductively -- instead, she has an air of a "touch me and you die" femme fatale, much like a film noir heroine. Whereas her Odette seemed to be a showcase of adagio dancing, her Odile has traces of her teacher Dudinskaya's famed technical brilliance. Her long legs swing through the air like knives. Her Plisetskaya-like red hair seems to glow and clashes brilliantly with her shiny black tutu. Her fouettes are brilliantly executed, with several doubles thrown in. Her long bravas at the end of the act are well-deserved.
I must admit that I really dislike the tacked-on happy ending of Sergeyev's Swan Lake, choreographed to please the Soviet era bigwigs. The beginning of the fourth act is breathtaking beautiful, with the formerly energetic swans of the second act transformed into sad, elegiac creatures. Indeed, there couldn't be a ballerina more unsuited to the happy ending Swan Lake than Lopatkina. Her remoteness works to her advantage in Act IV. Odette has become unreachable, despite Siegfried's pleas. Lopatkina has such a grand air of tragedy in the fourth act, that her sudden transformation to a smiling human is unforgivably jarring. But I suppose no version of Swan Lake is ever fully satisfying, and we should all be grateful that Lopatkina's Odette/Odile was captured on film for posterity."
A splendid production with a very moving Uliana Lopatkina
S. W. Gan | New Zealand | 10/28/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is an excellent rendition by the Kirov (now Mariinsky). This version is almost identical to the one by Zelensky and Makhalina in 1990, and features the jester and the happy ending.

The first act is well danced, and the highlight is the pas de trois by Korsakov, Golub and Osmolkina. Korsakov has very good height to his leaps, and the 2 ladies danced with a lightness that only the Kirov seems to have.

The highlight of the ballet for me is scene 2, the lake scene. The corps de ballet is practically perfect here, as they enter. At some points the dancers look like CGI replicas, they are in such good alignment. But the jewel in this production is Uliana Lopatkina. She dances very well, but her magic lies in the way she captures the remoteness and vulnerability of Odette. I have never seen any other ballerina do this so well. She is helpless maiden and royal princess at the same time. Her dancing is always on time and never rushed, her line always elegant.

In Act 2 (the ball), she is sexy and seductive, but still subtle enough not to overdo the evil bit. Her dancing has dazzle and snap, and the 32 fouettes in the pdd coda are beautifully executed. Back at the lake she is entirely believable again as the depairing Odette. The way she first rejects the prince and then forgives him is very moving.

The prince is also very well danced by Danila Korsuntsev. He doesn't have the same leaps and bravura as, say, Ruzimatov, but he moves well and is a good actor. His portrayal is a young man who falls in love, rather than someone who is dissatisfied with life and seeking something else. He has very good chemistry with Ms. Lopatkina; there isn't the detachment I sometimes feel exists in other productions between the main couple.

The national dances are well executed, with flair and polish. The way the dancers bend their backs in the Spanish dance is amazing.

The video quality and sound (dts) are excellent. The camera work is very good, with appropriate closeups where required and nothing jarring.

I really find it very difficult to find any fault with this production. The music in the final scene is not the music usually heard in versions by the Royal ballet or POB, and it may come as a bit of a surprise to some viewers; I have heard this before in the Zelensky/Makhalina Kirov production, and it works ok for me.

This is the best production I have ever seen, as compared to the ones by the Swedish ballet, POB, Royal Ballet with Markarova, the previous Kirov one and the Moscow ballet. You will not regret buying this.
Magnani Franco | ITALY TUSCANY | 07/21/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I have seen many times The Swan Lake, at the Bolshoi Theatre and in URSS in Leningrad before and S.Petersbourg later ,and abroad, this ballet, but the role danced by Uliana lopatkina, so mature and controlling her movements so perfectly , i have never seen before!!"