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Giv Cornfield, Ph.D
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, July 2007

1. The Nutcracker Ballet is based on the story "The Nutcracker and the King of Mice" written by E.T.A. Hoffman. It's the story of a young German girl who dreams of a Nutcracker Prince and a fierce battle against a Mouse King with seven heads. Nataliya Arkhipova, Irek Mukhamedov and Yuri Vetrov are the stars, and the orchestra is ably conducted by Aleksandr Kopilov. (available separately as 101-119)

2. Prokofiev's setting of Shakespeare's tragedy lends itself admirably to the drama of the first two acts. The protagonists are Natalya Besmertnova as Juliet, Irek Muhamedov as Romeo, Mikahil Sharkov as Mercutio, and Aleksandr Vetrov as the evil Tybalt. The performances, as expected, are absolutely magnificent from every point of view. The problem is with the third act. Here Prokofiev's score is uninspired, resulting in a static and arid landscape for the musicians, choreographers and dancers. Since music is the bedrock for any ballet - whose purpose is to entertain - I don't feel that it succeeds in this case. (available separately as 100-711)

3. Swan Lake is probably the quintessential expression of balletic achievement. The revised choreography (based on that of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov) does not appear to have markedly interfered with the classical beauty of this masterpiece. Yuri Vasyuchenko is magnificent as Prince Siegfried, and Alla Michalchenko is everything a prima ballerina should be. (available separately as 101-713)<

4. Sleeping Beauty is another pillar of the ballet repertoire. Nina Semizorova, Aleksei Fadeyechev, Nina Speranskaya and Yuri Vetrov give their all in this magnificent recreation. For balletomanes, this is an indispensable collection, although the four DVDs are available separately. In sum, the Bolshoi and excellence in ballet are synonymous and unsurpassable. (available separately as 101-113)

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