No one will ever be a second Nijinsky, but wonderful dancing
Ivy Lin | NY NY | 02/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Vaslav Nijinsky's dance career was short and troubled, but his effect on dance profound. His elevation was legendary, as well as his androgyny. After Nijinsky, male dancers were no longer expected to be stiff "attendants" but virtuosos in their own right.
Nijinsky, as well as his main choreographer Michael Fokine, and his partner Tamara Karsavina, all started their careers at the Imperial Ballet (now the Kirov Ballet). So it's fitting that the Kirov releases a program devoted to Nijinsky pieces.
Scherherazade is a bit of a fluff piece -- Rimsky Korsakov's score is very familiar, and the story is basically a preview of the Arabian Nights. A sultan finds out his wife is having an affair, slaughters her lover, and the wife kills herself. Svetlana Zakharova's incredible plasticity and sensuality of movement are in itself a joy to watch. Emotionally, she's a bit too overtly sexy and cold for my taste -- I would have liked someone who was more mysterious and exotic. Farukh Ruzimatov as Scherherazade's lover was fantastic. His sinewy, almost feline grace are a fitting tribute to Nijinsky.
Spectre a la Rose was well-danced by Igor Kolb and Zhanna Ayupova. Ayupova is properly dreamy, although she doesnt remember to keep her eyes closed. Kolb was a great Spectre, until the famous leap out the window. Kolb sets himself a bit too carefully, and ruins the magic spell of the spectre. A disappointing ending to a very well-danced ballet.
Polovtsian Dances was IMO choreographically the most disappointing. Borodin's music is lovely, but the ballet as a whole failed to become a single coherent vision. (Not surprisingm, as it's an extract from the opera Prince Igor).
Finally, the Firebird, with Diana Vishneva and Andrey Yakovlev. For me, just this Firebird is worth buying the entire dvd. Diana Vishneva is the ballerina that puts the "Fire" in "firebird." It'd be hard to imagine a better performance today. She seems born to play the part -- with her glamorous, bird-like features, and even slightly crooked legs. With a flick of her wing (to suggest fire) or a kick of her long legs, Diana owns the stage. I also have a performance by Nina Ananiashvilli, and Ananiashvilli is more lyrical, less dangerous. But Diana is a STAR -- like all stars, she demands attention even if shes not actually dancing. And when she dances! The sheer enthusiasm of her dancing is a joy to behold. Diana's portrayal is also a bit unorthodox. Most Firebirds portray the ferocious FEAR they have at being captured by the Prince. Diana's Firebird is way too self-possessed for naked fear. She portrays a kind of nuisance annoyance, as one would feel for a persistent fly. When he refuses to release her, you can actually see her switch gears and seduce him. Never has Stravinsky's adagio music sounded so sensuous and langorous. When Diana finally reaches back to give the Prince her feather, you know that she is the conquerer rather than the conquered.
The staging for the Firebird is surprisingly fussy, but I guess this is keeping within the spirit of the Russian folktale. Diaghilev's Ballet Russes, after all, werefamous for their expensive, painstaking sets.
It would have been interesting if the Kirov had tried to replicate some of Nijinsky's more controversial works like The Afternoon of the Faun but overall with 110 minutes of dancing and a budget price this dvd is a must-get! As usual, Kultur breaks down the chapters into large chunks, which makes it inconvenient to replay individual parts of each ballet."
A Sheherazade to die for!
S. Fowler | 02/18/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It is ironic to watch the Kirov Ballet perform works that were not seen in Russia at the time of their original creation. [The exception is the Polovtsian Dances] All are well presented and performed.
The gem of the DVD is the production of Sheherazade -- the Bakst decor and costumes are ravishing. The performances chew the scenery without having it actually fall down! I enjoyed Svetlana Zakharova's aloofness because it symbolized,for me, her position as the favorite wife. There was an intentity underlying her coolness, which made her final moments even more effective. I think Fokine would have liked her performace for its dignity & restraint. As performed by Zakharova & Farukh Ruzimatov, the central duet between Zobeide and the Golden Slave sizzles, perhaps a bit more "hands on" than in the first performances of 1910 :)
The downside of the DVD is the lead performance of Firebird. Compared to the old [currently unavailable, alas] Royal Ballet version with Margot Fonteyn [who was coached by the original Firebird, Tamara Karsavina] the Firebird of Diana Vishneva is pale. Her performance was more ballerina than bird. You didn't see her desperation or struggle in her attempts to escape the Prince's clutches. The steps are all there, but as danced by Vishneva they don't make dramatic sense."
A feast for the eyes
MusicMad | Metuchen, NJ | 09/24/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The four ballets presented by the Kirov are all based on the original designs for Diaghilev's Ballet Russes, and the jewel-like colors leap off the screen. (The costumes for Sheherezade and The Firebird especially seem to be inspired by the jeweled eggs of Faberge.) The dancing is indeed technically accomplished -- perhaps too much so, since the bodies that Michael Fokine had to work with were probably not quite this flexible (just a theory). I've read the posted reviews on this site, and they had valuable things to say: I find myself wavering somewhere in between.
Scheherezade seems to be the least choreographically accomplished, taking a while before the dancing really kicks in, and when it does, the moves seem quite repetitive at times, especially in the long central pas de deux. (Sometimes it seems like there are long stretches of filler material.) Still, I've only read about it up to now, so it was good to see it.
Le Spectre de la Rose is a mood piece more than anythng else, and the performance here is quite good. So what if Zhanna Ayupova forgets to close her eyes: other famous theatrical sleepwalkers keep their eyes open as well, notably Shakespeare's Scottish Lady in the play and in Verdi's opera. Otherwise, how would she know where she was going? (And don't forget Balanchine's sleepwalker in La Sonnambula.) This sleepwalker gets the romantic mood right, and that's what matters. Igor Kolb as The Spectre is appropriately androgynous, and although I found his leaps graceful, they didn't seem quite effortless.
I saw a production of Prince Igor in New York some years ago, and the ballet was the best part. The choreography then was by Balanchine; the Fokine original presented here is very exciting and captures the exotic and barbaric energy of the score perfectly. Too bad the sopranos in the chorus were too far away from the microphones -- they get most of the tunes; and because the altos are right on top of the amplification, they do not sound beautiful.
I bought this DVD for The Firebird: I think it's the only really traditional one available (?). Visually, it is stunning to see.
I did find Diana Vishneva's performance more concerned with choreography than drama: her attempts at escape from Prince Ivan just seemed to be an ordinary set of lifts. As Ivan, Andrei Yakovlev doesn't get much to do besides partnering and postering, but he does it well and presents a real character. I don't recall Kotschei being quite so reptilian: Vladimir Ponomarev's performance - and his costume - is delightfully hideous.
The Mariinski Theater orchestra under Mikhail Agrest performs the various scores well, but they fall asleep for a moment in the apotheosis section of The Firebird. All in all, this is a very entertaining DVD, and deserves repeated viewings."
The Joy of Dancing
Andromeda | Chicago | 09/22/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Kirov dancers not only have formidable technique, they know how to use it. The dancers are all beautiful but sincere and dance honestly. Especially notable is their joy of folk dancing in this DVD. It captures the true spirit of dance, which is joy. I can watch this over and over and never tire of the beautiful dancing of the Russians. To me, the two jewels of this recording are the Firebird and Spectre de la Rose. I imagine what Nijinsky must have looked like as the spirit of the rose. The Russian man has amazing flexibility, which is only seen in male dances who start training young enough to develop it. The choreography of this is brilliant, as is the choreography in the Firebird. The firebird is a true animal spirit, which Nijinsky has captured in his ballet. A very entertaining DVD."