Prokofiev's popular fairy tale Peter and the Wolf has often been used in ballet productions, and this one, not surprisingly, is clearly aimed at young audiences, probably very young audiences. Ten- and twelve-year-olds might well find it beneath their level of interest, but very young kids, as well as adults with an appreciation for ballet, would like this production. The dancing by all the principals here – particularly Kilian Smith as Peter, Laurine Muccioli as the Bird and Sergei Polunin as the Wolf – is quite fine. The dancers, with the exception of Will Kemp and Sergei Polunin, are students of the Royal Ballet Lower School in the age range, I would guess, of eleven to sixteen. (Polunin, the one bona fide star here, was about twenty at the time of the production.) The dancers are especially good in their dramatic skills, particularly their facial expressions, which often divulge a charming sort of cartoonish exaggeration. The choreography is rather basic but quite fitting to the generally straightforward treatment of the work. Kemp's delivery of the narration is colorful, perfectly capturing the fairytale character of the story and stage action. He also does well in his portrayal of Grandfather.
The sets, often employing groups of dancers in like-colored dress to portray scenery, are certainly decent enough, if modest. The costuming, while not lavish, is quite effective in conveying the colorful fairytale atmosphere. The camera work is excellent, as is the sound reproduction. The playing by the orchestra, though acceptable in this kind of production, is a bit reticent. The flutist plays the Bird's theme with accuracy but without sufficient spirit, and other woodwind instruments tend to come across at times with a similar casualness. But then, conductor Paul Murphy's tempo choices tend a bit toward the slow side and may well account for the often earthbound character of the playing. All that said, the performance is still enjoyable and more than adequate, as Prokofiev's catchy themes and vivacious rhythms are rendered with enough color and playfulness to effectively underscore the action on stage.
There is an interesting bonus track on the disc, Rehearsing Peter and the Wolf, wherein the choreographer and dancers in the production discuss the performance, often with their commentary heard above dancing scenes from rehearsals. Rarely do I comment on cover art, but in this instance it is so clever, so catchy that I must draw it to your attention. The wolf in close-up appears utterly imposing and menacing, and the glint in his eye, if you'll take careful notice, reflects an image of Peter, who stands proudly and confidently. Recommended.
Copyright © 2012, Robert Cummings