Prokofiev's 'Ivan the Terrible': Film Music as a Ballet
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 11/17/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Sergei Eisenstein's grand unfinished 1940s-50s film trilogy 'Ivan the Terrible' had elaborate incidental music by Sergei Prokofiev. In 1975 Yuri Grigorovich, for thirty years the chief choreographer of Moscow's Bolshoi Ballet, made a ballet on the same subject and used a conflation of Prokofiev's music from the film. It was quickly taken up by ballet companies the world over. This DVD is a film of a performance recorded live at the Opéra National de Paris in December 2003 and featuring three premier dancers of that company in the solo roles of Ivan, Anastasia and Kurbsky. The stage is filled at times with as many as eighty dancers as boyars, oprichniks (Ivan's personal police, assassins actually), maidens from whom Ivan picks his bride, and 'the Russian people.'
The character of Tsar Ivan, who was born in 1530, is a complicated one. On the one hand, he is considered a hero of sorts by Russians because he brought the disparate parts of Russia under one rule and virtually formed the nation. But his name is also synonymous with cruelty and paranoia. In the ballet Grigorovich tries to present both sides of Ivan, and in particular makes the point that Ivan was driven to his vicious behavior by the murder of his bride by boyars who hoped to take advantage of his ill-health (from which, in the ballet, he miraculously recovers in order to wreak havoc on his enemies). Consequently, in this narrative ballet, we have scenes of surpassing tenderness between Ivan and Anastasia, and others of a warlike nature.
The lovely Eleonora Abbagnata dances Anastasia with grace and gentleness. Both her solo scenes (as in 'Anastasia deep in thought') and her pas de deux with Ivan (as in 'Meeting between Ivan and Anastasia' and the dream scene which is a pas de deux between Ivan and the ghost of Anastasia) are sublime. Karl Paquette as Kurbsky, who is Ivan's early rival for Anastasia, but later his friend, has a bravura role which he dances brilliantly. But best of all is the electrifying Nicolas Le Riche as Ivan. A tall, handsome man, he is a fine actor who portrays Ivan's many emotions tellingly, and an even finer dancer in both his solos (e.g., 'Ivan's happiness' and 'Ivan mourns for Anastasia') and the aforementioned pas de deux with Anastasia. The corps de ballets, and particularly the men, are excellent. One could quibble a bit about Grigorovich's choreography which can seem trite and even laughably gauche at times. Grigorovich is no Balanchine.
Costumes are lavish and lovely. Scenery is rather plain but quite effective. The orchestra of the Paris Opéra is conducted rather routinely in Prokofiev's often brutal score by Vallo Pähn. (If you're primarily interested in the music qua music, get Fedoseyev's riveting account on Nimbus.) Still, the overall impression is engaging and certainly the narrative carries one forward breathlessly to the end.
This ivan is terrible
E. J. Alipio | Calgary, AB CAN | 04/30/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"beautiful costumes, effective sets, and superb dancing, but the lighting was not properly prepared for filming. it may have been porpusely left that way to emphasize it's dark theme but i wasn't happy at all to watch this production that i found it gloomy and the picture was not as crisp as shown in the cover and in the booklet, it felt like watching an old video tape.
wonderful performance though, throughout, non-stop dancing, breathtaking jumps; the ladies in the corps, and synchronized acting of the men.
& to those who are not familiar to this ballet, like me, i'll just tell you that the dancing is something like what you'll get when you put a show together between le noces and othello. with the same dramatic score.
i only gave this 4 star because i think it wasn't prepared professionaly for dvd, it just marginalizes the idea that dvd films have crystal clear pictures, and the this ivan production tried it terribly. 5 stars for all the stars of paris opera though."
Ivan goes to paris
James A. Pantano | beacon, new york United States | 10/26/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"this is the third dvd i have purchased of ivan the terrible the other two being bolshoi performances. one being live and the other movie like. of the three my favorite remains the bolshoi live performance featuring the truly magnificent irek mukhamedov and natalya bessmertnova. mr. mukhamedov is to me, truly one of the greatest dancers of all time. the more i am exsposed to other ballets be they recorded or live performances the more i appreciate mr. mukhamedovs dancing. okay, now that i have that said my thoughts about this paris opera ballet production. the dancing is superb, not quite as intense as i would have liked but enjoyable none the less. although i enjoyed nicolas le riche as ivan (he definatly looks the part) he just did not have the maniacal intensity that i was expecting. of course if you have not seen irek mukhamedovs bolshoi performance prior to this one you might not think that. elanora abbagnato as anastasia is magnificent, beautiful and graceful as can be. karl paquettes performance as kurbski is commendable although at times it seemed as if he were smiling which doesnt seem role appropriate. the corps de ballet was excellent. another reviewer thought the recording of the performance was sub-par but i thought it was very good. i thought the lighting was very good as was the clarity of the picture and the sound. the editing was a bit lacking though, as i thought the camera angles changed a bit too quick at times. the sets were very good, almost identical to the others i have seen but slightly more detailed. same goes for the costumes. so in conclusion if youve seen the bolshoi productions and really like this particular ballet then this is a worthy addition to your collection. if youve never seen this ballet i recommend the bolshoi production featuring irek mukhamedov and natalya bessmertnova."
An unforgettable Ivan
Jose Brito | Estoril,Portugal | 02/16/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Since Vasiliev and Mukhamedov ,each of them creating unforgettable Ivans,no dancer had so powerfully portrayed on stage the character of Czar Ivan IV,the Terrible .
Now the Opera National de Paris offers a formidable performance of Grigorovch's Ivan ,recorded live in 2003,Vello Pähn conducting Prokofiev's great music,composed as film score for Eisenstein's 1942-44 masterpiece. Grigorovich had choreographed it,in his vigorous style,in 1975, for the Bolshoi and his wife Natalia Bessmertnova,recently deceased, who had danced Anastasia with Mukhamedov ,helped as assistant choreographer,in this Paris production.
Nicholas Le Riche gives an impressive,electrifying Ivan ,his prodigious "jetés" memorable,his presence as an actor extremely convincing,performing with great technique this 17 year-old sombre, cruel and tormented Ivan. The world had taken notice of him in 1993,dancing Auber's Pas de Quatre with Elisabeth Platel,in Tokio,as Nina Ananiashvili's guest.Since then,as "étoile" of the BNP,he has become the epitome of the great dancer,along with Manuel Legris.On DVD,one can watch him in Balanchines'Jewels,Neumeier's Sylvia,and Albrecht in Giselle ,appeared now.
His beloved Anastasia is young and beautiful Eleonora Abbagnato who convinces with her subtle,moving dancing.
Karl Paquette,already seen in Lacotte's revised Paquita(2003) and Nureyev's Swan Lake(2006),is an intense,fiercing Kurbsky,more than deserves to become an "étoile".
This luxurious production ,beautifully filmed,is a must."