This is a very special DVD. Valery Gergiev leads his Mariinsky Orchestra in splendid performances of both ballets and both feature brilliant choreography, as well as colorful sets and costuming. Regarding the choreography, The Rite of Spring features a reconstruction of Vaslav Nijinsky's original 1913 choreography by Millicent Hodson. The sets and costume designs were also reconstructions, in this case by Kenneth Archer, from Nicholas Roerich's originals. I won't go into the various aspects of how close these reconstructions are to the originals, but suffice it to say that what you get here in The Rite of Spring is arguably very close to what audiences saw at the work's scandalous May 29, 1913 premiere at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris. The choreography and sets for The Firebird are also reconstructions: Isabelle Fokine and Andris Liepa reconstructed the original choreography by Mikhail Fokine, and Anna and Anatoly Nezhny designed the sets and costumes after the originals by Alexander Golovin, Leon Bakst and Mikhail Fokine. So, in a very real sense you can regard these productions as authentic facsimiles of the originals, which just happened to be very important milestones in music and ballet history. Moreover, they are actually not just facsimiles but very excellent productions whether judged by standards of the early 20th century or by those of today.
The dancers are splendid. Alexandra Iosifidi, as The Chosen One in The Rite of Spring, conveys as much with her facial expressions as with her brilliant dance movements. In The Firebird Ekaterina Kondaurova as the Firebird, Marianna Pavlova as the Princess and Ilya Kuznetsov as Ivan also turn in splendid work. About the only flaw I notice on this disc is that the sound reproduction, powerful and clear as it is, tends at times to push the horns and other brass instruments slightly into the distance, especially in The Rite of Spring. There is a bit of an imbalance, as most of the winds and strings come through with vivid presence, and the percussion sounds out with immense power, again most noticeably in The Rite.
This is the third Rite I have reviewed in this 100th anniversary year. The Bernstein performance on CD (Sony 46915) was one of the three I reviewed here and it was simply superb. The Sokhiev on CD/DVD (Naïve 5192) was paired with The Firebird, and featured two different and rather splendid recordings of The Rite, one on CD and the other a live concert performance on DVD. Of course, there have been countless excellent performances of both these ballets, including earlier efforts by Gergiev himself. Suffice it to say that these new ones, from both a musical and balletic point of view, are outstanding. By the way, this BelAir DVD also contains an eight-minute bonus track dealing with the Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes (which premiered both these ballets) and a thirty-minute bonus track offering interviews with Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer. The album booklet contains many photos taken from these Mariinsky productions as well as several associated with The Firebird and The Rite of Spring original ballet productions. Verdict on this DVD: highest recommendations!
Copyright © 2013, Robert Cummings