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Gramophone, April 2011

A truly sumptuous ballet Blu-ray, filmed in high definition on the stage of the Royal Opera House and presented in a choice of LPCM stereo or DTS-HD Master Audio.

The production is dramatic and romantic, and the costumes and sets suitably striking, creating a real visual feast on disc, supported well by a highly detailed, powerful orchestral sound, with just the right amount of audience ambience.

It’s all exotic and heady stuff and a delight to watch, with performances nicely tempered for the video close-up rather than the furthest row of the theatre.




Lawrence Devoe
Blu-rayDefinition.com, March 2011

The Performance

It is unusual that a classic mainstream ballet can be rethought and reworked so successfully that it improves on the original. This is one of those rare occasions as Natalia Makarova, herself a legendary prima ballerina, has taken La Bayadère, which was originally conceived and choreographed by Marius Petipa, the Russian ballet choreography of the 19th century and turned into her own masterpiece. The story is very basic. An Indian warrior Solor falls in love with a temple dancer Nikiya who is La Bayadère. However, it has been decided that he will marry the Rajah’s daughter Gamzatti. Nikiya is bitten by a poisonous snake provided by the Rajah and although she dies, Solor never forgets her. Ultimately, they are reunited in death when the temple where Solor and Gamzatti are to be married is destroyed.

The show-stopper of this ballet is the famous “Kingdom of the Shades” scene in Act II where a troupe of Nikiya look-alikes appear to Solor in an opium-induced vision. While this is an old story, shades of Orpheus and Eurydice, the effect of this choreography is mesmerizing and breath-taking, unlike anything else in the traditional ballet repertoire, putting even the ballet de cygnes from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake to the side.

This production is blessed by the superb corps de ballet of the Royal Ballet Covent Garden, headed by an amazing group of principals: Tamara Rojo (Nikiya), Carlos Acosta (Solor), Marianela Núñez (Gamzatti), and in the cameo role of the Bronze Idol, José Martin. The Leopold Minkus score, while a fairly routine piece of music, supports the dancers extremely well, and is sympathetically conducted by maestro Valeriy Ovsyanikov.

Video Quality

The scenes and sets are largely magnificent and atmospheric. The destruction of the temple by artificial lightning amid flashing strobes is a little hokey but is offset by everything that has preceded it. The costumes are as good as it gets and are extremely photogenic. The videographer nails the key moments in the performance with judicious close ups, mixed with panoramic stage shots. Ballet is a challenging art form to get right on the screen. The overall video production values are as good as I have seen. Viewers do get a great seat in the theater and are rewarded with the best shots possible.

Audio Quality

The soundtrack in DTS-HD Master Audio is never less than adequate. There is surprisingly little stage noise since I have heard other productions from this same venue that have been obtrusively noisy. Surround effects are refreshingly absent. You are always directed to what is on stage which is as it should be.

Supplemental Materials

There is a sampling of interviews with the prima ballerina, some of the corps de ballet, a gratuitous rehearsal sequence which is about three times too long, and a brief voice over interview with choreographer Makarova superimposed on an old press release photo.

The Definitive Word

Overall

This is not only the lone BD version of this work but I would submit that it would be pointless to try to improve on a performance so vividly captured with dancers at the tops of their respective games. There are alternative SD performances of the same production but this is a very visual work and the sharp images of Blu-ray give this version “a leg up”. For those whose ballet exposure is limited the holiday season’s The Nutcracker or the hackneyed Giselle, La Bayadère should not be missed. It wears well with repeated viewings and while the pairing of the reticent Rojo and athletic Acosta does not recall that of Fonteyn and Nureyev, they acquit themselves quite well. Highly recommended.



Nicholas Sheffo
Fulvue Drive-in, March 2011

Ludwig Minkus’ La Bayadère is another less-familiar ballet work getting solid treatment in a Blu-ray release and once again, The Royal Ballet and Opus Arte have come up with a top rate presentation all around in this tale of love, death, living and consequences that takes place in India. Impressive down to the Natalia Makarova choreography, the extras include a Corps de Ballet featurette, Tamara Rojo profile, cast gallery and rehearsal footage.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2011

London’s Covent Garden opera house had assembled a star-studded trio of soloists for this spectacular performance of Marius Pepita’s ballet to music by Ludwig Minkus. First performed in 1877, it comes from a time when Western Europe was fascinated with any story with a Far Eastern theme, La Bayadere being set in an India at the time when it was ruled by the Rajah. Nikiya is the gorgeous temple dancer (La Bayadere), who falls in love with the warrior, Solor, much to the anger of the temple’s High Brahmin who is besotted by her beauty. On his return home, Solor is offered the hand of Gamzetti, the daughter of the Rajah, as a gesture of reward for his brave exploits. Nikiya finds out of his proposed marriage and comes to the Palace to convince herself of its truth. On receiving a bunch of flowers she holds them to her breast but is bitten by the snake hidden beneath, the flowers were not from Solor, but from her rival. The High Brahmin offers her an antidote, but she prefers to die. The remainder of the ballet, is largely a ‘white’ ballet, Solor’s drug induced dream bringing her to life amidst a host of other beautiful women. On awakening he is taken to his wedding at the temple, but an enormous storm kills everyone there, Nikiya coming to claim Solor as her own in death. The staging is sumptuous, the dress colourful, and in the leading roles are three of the finest dancers of our time: Tamara Rojo (Nikiya), Carlos Acosta (Solor) and Marianela Nunez (Gamzatti). Rojo, as light as thistledown and so utterly fragile, has the strength of legs that allow her to ‘lock-out’ in a way few dancers can achieve; and if Solor is mainly a grand gesture role, Acosta explodes into one brilliant solo. Nunez has the unenviable part in the trio, but she dances superbly. The corps de ballet receive a massive and prolonged ovation in the second act, which is richly deserved, and the lesser roles are taken with consummate artistry and authority. Very good orchestral playing directed by Valeriy Ovsyanikov, the video made at performances on January 15 and 19, 2009. In Blu-ray format the colour definition is exceptionally good and the sound highly realistic. The disc also comes in standard DVD on OA1043D. Very highly recommended.






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6:12:23 PM, 1 August 2014
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