Regarded as the greatest of all the classical ballets, this spectacular production of Swan Lake was filmed live in Russian at the Maryinsky Theater. Prima ballerina Galina Mezentseva gives a memorable performance in the d... more »ual role of Odette/Odile, and Konstantin Zaklinsky portrays Prince Siegfried. 144 minutes, color, 1992.« less
""Musically, and as a dance drama, 'Swan Lake' is undoubtedly the most popular of all classical ballets"--George Balanchine.This performance by The Kirov Ballet was filmed live at the Maryinsky Theater in Leningrad, USSR. The principal dancers are Galina Mezentseva (as Odette-Odile) and Konstantin Zaklinsky (as Prince Siegfried). This tape carries a 1986 Soviet copyright. The opening credits, done in English, have apparently been added by the distributor, Kultur Video; they simply state the name of the ballet, the composer, and the principal dancers. The full credits at the end of the tape are in Russian. This is a four-act production.The music was written in 1875 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky on commission by the Bolshoi Theater. The music is absolutely beautiful and moving; it is performed wonderfully by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra. Tragically, "Swan Lake" was not a big success during Tchaikovsky's lifetime. It was taken out of the Bolshoi repertory in 1883 after only 33 performances. The Kirov Ballet is credited with having revived the ballet in 1894, shortly after Tchaikovsky's death. When you go to compare the different "Swan Lake" editions available on Amazon.com, they will all have different run times. Some productions make more cuts than others. Nobody uses all of the music, as it would be too lengthy. In the scheme of things, this production seems to be one of the longer ones.The promotional copy on the VCR dust jacket claims that the choreography is by Lev Ivanovich Ivanov and Maurius Petipa. Petipa was the Kirov Ballet Master, and Ivanov was his assistant. While there are many fans of Petipa, I am not to be counted among them. I do not appreciate the way that he uses the corps as a scenic backdrop and makes them hold their poses for minutes on end, while the primary dancers solo in the middle of the stage. Petipa is responsible for having choreographed Acts I and III, while Ivanov is credited with having choreographed Acts II and IV. The real significance of this ballet can be found in Ivanov's choreography:"The two acts of 'Swan Lake' which Lev Ivanov was permitted to stage were a great achievement for the choreographer and the culmination of his long but frustrated career at the Maryinsky, too little of which is known to the outside world."In staging the two acts Ivanov went contrary to the basic artistic direction in ballet during the second half of the nineteenth century, which aimed to demonstrate the technical proficiency of the dancer and the spectacular solution of complicated technological choreographic problems. Ivanov built Acts II and IV on musical principles, thus breaking a strong and generally accepted tradition. An excellent example of this is the adagio in Act II."In Petipa's ballets the adagio usually unfolds against the background of a picturesque backdrop or an immobile group of dancers who do not take part in the action. Ivanov's composition of the adagio in Act II is a duet with an active ensemble which accentuates and participates in the dance of the two principals...."This may sound less than revolutionary now, but in 1894 it was quite a step forward...."If one man can be considered the precursor of modern ballet, especially in the musical approach to choreography, that man was Lev Ivanov."(1)With Ivanov's choreography, it is important to consider not only the merits of the principal dancers when choosing which "Swan Lake" to purchase, but also the strength of the corps, as well. There are many dances in this production that are not performed by the principals: the pas de trois, the Joker solos, all of the divertissements, the four Cygnets, as well as many numbers with just the Swans. Let's be honest about it: on average, the Kirov has the best classical ballet dancers in the world. Therefore, every dance in this performance is executed extremely well. I invite a comparison of the Kirov to Rudolf Nureyev's 1967 production with the Vienna State Opera Ballet. For instance, watch the four Cygnets in the Vienna Ballet. Their heads are not well in sync, and there are big height mismatches between the dancers. The Kirov Cygnets are really a cut above this. The strength of the corps is one reason to give serious consideration to purchasing a Kirov version of "Swan Lake."Unfortunately, there is some bad news as well. Back at the time this ballet was choreographed in 1894, there were restrictions placed on the type of endings allowed in a ballet by the Tsar. The Soviets also continued with this tradition. This has resulted in an ending which is not faithful to the original libretto, and does not correspond with the character of the music. Nureyev was also known to have disliked the Kirov ending, and his ending is more true to the actual story. For me, the Kirov ending merits a one-point reduction to four stars, on what is otherwise a fabulous performance.Out of the five "Swan Lake" versions that I have seen (to date), my favorite is a Peter Martins after George Balanchine after Petipa & Ivanov production from the "Live From Lincoln Center" public television series. It features innovative choreography, great dancing and an absolutely stunning ending! Peter Martin's production is my idea of a five-star "Swan Lake." Unfortunately, it is not available commercially. Therefore, I recommend this production as a reasonable, quality substitute that can be purchased immediately.Notes: (1) Anatole Chujoy, "Dance News" (April 1952), quoted in George Balanchine and Francis Mason, "101 Stories of the Great Ballets," 3rd edition (1975; reprint, New York: Doubleday, An Anchor Book Edition, 1989) pp. 452-454."
Stephen McLeod | New York, NY USA | 08/16/2002
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I have since raised the score a bit on this DVD although I still can't recommend it except for the curious. So, notwithstanding the bump-ups on some of the categories below. I have not disturbed the headline to this review. I have given scores 1.0 to 10.00, the latter corresponding to perfection.
DVD Video: 3.0 - dull transfer of shabby 1986 Soviet Production is blurry, grainy, and shoddily directed.
DVD Audio: 2.0 - has a very annoying tape hiss that can be very distracting during the quieter numbers.
Production: 0.00 - Dull and way dated. Probably unchanged since the first production. Ideologically this makes sense I guess because Swan Lake was created for this company, now calling itself the Kirov. Unfortunately, the choreography is rote and too willing to cling to orthodoxy. This amounts to something entirely uninteresting to look at. The worst thing about it is that it seems there was no effort to justify this recorded performance, which is decidedly contrary to just about every other Swan Lake available on DVD. Examples include the over-prominence of mime and the relative aimlessness of the principle male dancer.
Galina Mezentseva (Odette/Odile): 8.5 - I have revised my opinion on Ms. Mezentseva's dancing. On further viewings, I found her technique to be precise and moving. Still, it's hard to believe in her performance. She just doesn't seem to be into it, a situation that I believe is consistent to the cold war image of what Russian life was like - ideological and intensely dull (an oxymoron but accurate).
Konstantin Zaklinsky (Prince Siegfried): 4.5 - KZ was probably a pretty good dancer in 1986: good looking, nice long legs;the problem is, he doesn't get to do anything with them (he has one bit in Act III where he gets to do a once-around with grand jettes (impressive). That's basically the only moment he's allowed to shine. But he's a decent partner. He seemed mostly bored.
Corps: 8.0. - Pretty solid in a late soviet-era sort of way. Lots of technique. Little joy.
Orchestra: 3.0 - The violin soloist in the Act II pas de deux is quite moving. Best I've ever heard on this music. Ditto some of the wind soloists. The rest of the orchestra is little more than passable.
DVD content - 0.00. Herein lies the single most annoying thing: This package contains ZERO information (in English), on the case, the insert, or on the DVD itself, apart from the names of the two principles. No mention is made of what the name of the orchestra is, who conducts, what year the production was made. Some of this information is available in the end-credits, but it's in Russian, so... I gathered from my very humble ability to sound out Russian characters that the Academy Orchestra of the Kirov Opera/Ballet was conducted by Yevgeny something-or-other.
There is really no excuse for this DVD with the possible exception of Mezentseva who has great technique but doesn't connect very smoothly with the music."
Traditional production of the Swan Lake from the Kirov
R. Blomberg | 03/02/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"First class dancers, costumes and settings from the Kirov Company. Prima Ballerina Galina Mezentseva is very good in showing the contrast of the characters in the dual role Odile/Odette. I rather recommend "Giselle" from the same couple in which she excells in the dramatic interpretation of the role. She gives the best Giselle performance (both dramatically and technically) and one can even see the tears in her eyes in the Mad Scene. (I don't know whether this video is available from amazon.com)."
Dissapointed in DVD quality
R. Blomberg | 05/18/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"On a purely technical note, the DVD is in Dolby Stereo, not Dolby 5.1 so the sound was not all it could be. Also the video was grainy, not sharp as to be expected for a DVD. I am guessing this is just a transfer of the VHS version without any remastering to take advantage of DVD's features."
Miss Mezentseva is MAGNIFICENT!
michaelfraydon | 07/01/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Miss Mezentseva is the ultimate russian balleria. She conveys such fragility in her presence, such humanity in her movements that you are sure that what you are seeing trancends the riguers of training and style. But rather you are face to face with her soul which she reveals with such candour and frankness. Miss Mezentseva is regal yet is longing for her princes love. She is fragil yet powerfull. It is in these paradoxes of charachter that we identify ourselves. She is not a bird inlove with a prince. She is his equal! A princess inlove. One human being rescuing another and shering a common love. All this is what she brings to you and more. The beauty of the russian school, almost too beautiful, and the integrity and humility of the human spirit which has found love. Miss Mezentseva's dances from the edge of her fingertips when she joins the prince in the famous pas de deux to her points. She is a dancer of such poise and purity, she is so completely devoid of mannerism that one knows that this is the russian school at it's most sublime never seen before or since!"