- Actors: Thiago Soares, Marlanela Nunez, Christopher Saunders
- Directors: Anthony Dowell
- Format: Blu-ray, Classical, Color, Multiple Formats, NTSC, Widescreen
- Language: English
- Subtitles: French, German, Spanish, Italian
- Region: All Regions
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- Number of discs: 1
- Studio: Naxos Deutschland Musik & Video Vertriebs-GmbH / Poing
- DVD Release Date: 27 Oct 2009
- Run Time: 180 minutes
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- ASIN: B002KLGLVE
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Yolanda Sonnabend's Faberge-inspired designs evoke a world of Imperial Russia in Anthony Dowell's acclaimed production for The Royal Ballet of one of the world's best-loved ballets. Marianela Nuñez as Odette/Odile and Thiago Soares as Prince Siegfried bring new vitality to a compelling story of tragic romance. The Russian conductor Valeriy Ovsyanikov directs the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House in Tchaikovsky's lush romantic score. Filmed in High Definition and recorded in true surround sound.Press Reviews
"Anthony Dowell's production...offers the ultimate classical experience, with the sights and sounds of a proud 19th century tradition running at full throttle. Fancy a romantic tragedy in a tutu? Then this is the ballet for you...The production as a whole is beautifully formed and dramatically convincing...And praise, too, for the corps, who made us feel the sorrow and anger of the swans’ collective misfortune." (The Times)
Marianela Nuñez (Odette)
Thiago Soares (Prince Siegfried)
Christopher Saunders (An Evil Spirit, later Von Rothbart)
Elizabeth McGorian (The Princess, Siegfried’s mother)
Alastair Marriott (The Tutor)
David Pickering (Benno)
The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House; Valeriy Ovsyanikov
Company: The Royal Ballet
Choreographer: Marius Petipa; Lev Ivanov
Catalogue Number: OABD7042D
Date of Performance: 2009
Running Time: 179 minutes
Sound: 2.0 PCM & 5.1 DTS
Aspect Ratio: 1080i High Definition / 16:9
Subtitles: FR, DE, ES, IT
Label: Opus Arte
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Spectacular staging exploits Blu-ray's capabilities with demonstration quality. Costumes and sets sparkle, special effects bedazzle, the orchestra sounds tremendous. Camera work is exemplary. Among my hundreds of Blu-rays, this is one of three or four I'd pick to show someone what the fuss is all about.
The dancing? Impeccable throughout. The corps de ballet adds to its world-class reputation. The husband-wife team of Marianela Nuñez and Thiago Soares cannot be faulted. If Nuñez lacks the long arms and legs of Svetlana Zakharova and Polina Semionova, her Odette is nevertheless ravishing, her Odile an agent of evil who relishes her assignment.
What's wrong, then, with this Swan Lake? It's not that the action has been moved forward from medieval Germany into Tchaikovsky's own 19th century Russia. That works and opens for designers and viewers a world of color not offered, for example, by the Gothic tones of the Royal Swedish Ballet's Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake more "authentic" version.
It's not simply that the "white" acts are dimmer than usual or that the swans are decked in knee-length, feathery skirts instead of traditional tutus. I still prefer the tutus, but this new look I can accept -- especially when black swans join the flock in Act IV to add to the sense of foreboding, a detail of Petipa's notes that Ivanov followed when the choreography of the "white" acts was handed off to him and which I have seen observed only in Russian videos of Swan Lake, such as those from the old Kirov Tchaikovsky, Petipa - Swan Lake / Kirov Ballet, Yulia Makhalina, Igor Zelensky and the new Mariinsky Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake [Blu-ray].
Nor is it the conclusion, which follows the classic 1895 Petipa/Ivanov ending to a T. In fact, the Royal Ballet in 2009 provides a technologically improved version of the close of its 1980 Swan Lake Swan Lake (in which Dowell danced the role of Siegfried): Resigned to her fate, Odette throws herself into the lake, Siegfried follows, and the spirits of the two are united in an apotheosis that glides across the backdrop.
Alter but two elements, and this Swan Lake goes to the head of the class. First and foremost is the outlandish costume Rothbart is forced to wear in Acts II and IV. It's laughable -- and these are not moments when laughter is appropriate. Rothbart is the very embodiment of evil, not a Snidley Whiplash cartoon figure. The cognitive dissonance undercuts the elevated tone of the action, belittles it, reduces it from the sublime to the ridiculous. Away with such mockery. A more simple costume would have done better.
The production's second flaw occurs at Rothbart's and Odile's Act III entry, in which they are accompanied by an entourage that looks as though it wandered in from a Sleeping Beauty set where Carabosse's appearance was being rehearsed. This false note generates further cognitive dissonance, like the action of "Blazing Saddles" bursting onto the set of a Broadway musical. Carabosse is a stock villain in a fairy tale. Rothbart is, or should be, a real villain in a tragedy. Never the twain should exchange places.
Rothbart and Odile don't need any help. The misguided "support" for the wicked couple actually detracts from their menace and distracts from the otherwise terrific performance Nuñez and Christopher Saunders manage to deliver on an unnecessarily cluttered stage. Somebody could have saved money by cutting the supernumeraries.
Dowell has been with the Royal Ballet since 1961. Over the decades, he has accomplished much, and the institution and the world of ballet owe him genuine gratitude. During those 50-plus years, he has danced in, been part of, directed, and seen no telling how many Swan Lakes. In this case, perhaps, familiarity has bred not contempt, but a forgetting of the fundamentals that have made Tchaikovsky's work a cornerstone of the classic repertoire.
I was surprised to see Roland John Wiley credited in the booklet with production research. A name many will recognize, Wiley literally wrote the book on Tchaikovsky's Ballets Tchaikovsky's Ballets: Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker (Oxford Monographs on Music). But I doubt he was given final cut privileges. I was hoping the interview with Dowell in the extra features would provide insight about his production choices, but it fell short of expectations.
This is a good Swan Lake. It could have been a great one. Less would have been more.
So what was wrong? For starters, bad costumes, most of which were either pale and washed out or dark gray or black with dark sets. The dancers skirts were too long (mid-calf), obscuring their legwork. The costumes have stylized bustles. The bustles were small but not flattering to the dancers' line.
SWAN LAKE is a fairy tale set in the 15th-Century. Setting it in the mid-19th-Century doesn't make any sense and destroys the fairy tale atmosphere. The sets and costume designer said he first came up with a list of everything that's wrong with SWAN LAKE in order to come up with a fresher and more realistic version. How the Royal Ballet agreed with his view defies credulity.
Fortunately, the white ballet acts (acts II and IV) survived the costume designer's vision except that the ballerinas' costumes are off-white with silver trim.
This production also suffered from Liam Scarlett's tampering with the choreography of Marius Petipa and Lyev Ivanov. Fortunately, Act II retains all of Ivanov's choreography.
There are a few cuts in Act I with most of Petipa's choreography replaced, except in the pas de trois, marred by the long skirts.
Acts I and II are combined without a break.
Act II (the traditional Act III) is saved by the music and dancing. The costumes are mostly black, except for the Neapolitan dance. The Black Swan pas de deux is great.
Act III (the usual Act IV) adds one number usually dropped but omits at least three that were standard. In this production Odile commits suicide and Von Rothbart dies. Prince Siegfried goes to the lake and retrieves Odile's body and her ghost hovers over the set.
SWAN LAKE, as if the case with other great ballets, owes its greatness to the choreography, not the music. The fact that ballet companies seem to forget this boggles the mind. Keep in mind, the original production of SWAN LAKE in 1976, choreographed by Reisinger was a disaster. The music could not save this turkey. It was not until Petipa with the aid of Ivanov revised both the score and choreography that this ballet in 1895 was elevated to the status of one of the greatest ballets ever. This is due entirely to Petipa-Ivanov not the music.
This production is the 13th in my collection. Of these, my favorite remains the 2005 ABT production with Gillian Murphy and Angel Corella, even though I have many reservations with it.
A very good new version. I loved everything about it. from the costumes to the children in the first and second acts, to the excellent dencers in general. Miss Nunez is particularly effective as Odile. And no, I didn't like or understand Von Rothbart strange costum.
There are others who can give a much better and more detailed review. But I have three different Swan Lakes and as of now this is my favorite (at least for the time being).