, January 2006
Four recent DVD releases range from engaging summaries of dance history to performance tapes of ballet companies that American audiences seldom see.
"Swan Lake" is not exactly a novelty on home video, but TDK gives us a 2004 performance by the ballet of La Scala, Milan, featuring Svetlana Zakharova, a star dancer who appeared with the Bolshoi Ballet (currently her home company) on a 2005 U.S. tour - but not, alas, in Southern California.
Moreover, the DVD (available from www.naxosusa.com) offers a better version of "Swan Lake" than Zakharova dances at the Bolshoi: an inventive, exciting edition created a half-century ago by Vladimir Bourmeister for the Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet.
Thanks to Bourmeister, Act 3 is no longer merely a parade of national dances but a hallucinatory cavalcade in which Prince Siegfried keeps seeing the black swan, Odile, materializing and vanishing. Bourmeister's revision also preserves the original sequencing of Tchaikovsky's score more than most "Swan Lake" stagings.
Act 2 here is credited to Lev Ivanov but lacks the hunters, the character of Benno and the storytelling pantomime from the Ivanov original. It does, however, boast the finest dancing, with Zakharova demonstrating extraordinary purity, partnered with great suavity by La Scala's noble Roberto Bolle. Directed by Tina Protasoni, the DVD features first-rate image and sound quality.
. . .
Enlisting massive choral and orchestral forces, along with vocal soloists and more than 40 dancers from the Leipzig Ballet, "The Great Mass" is a two-hour tribute to German choreographer Uwe Scholz, taped in June, seven months after his death.
Director Hans Hulscher sometimes breaks the flow of the dancing with shots of the singers and chorus members, but otherwise this EuroArts DVD (again available from www.naxosusa.com) represents an admirably fluid and effective transcription of a complex live performance.
The ballet begins as a large-scale reflection of Mozart's mighty Mass in C Minor, with Scholz especially gifted in his use of corps geometry as well as expressive movement for the arms and upper torso. Soon music by contemporary composers and spoken poetry turn the work into a meditation on faith in the modern world.
Evocations of random terrorism and questions about our lives amounting to nothing - the "bloom" of nothing - end with the dancers in street clothes sitting on a bare stage listening to Mozart's "Agnus Dei," searching for affirmation.