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Rob Maynard
MusicWeb International, December 2012

These may be 50 years old black and white television recordings, but a superb Coppelia places it right at the top of my list. The charismatic Nadia Nerina displays a delightful sense of fun as Swanilda while Robert Helpmann offers a memorably bonkers—yet very touching—portrayal of the mad doctor. With excellent support in depth, this is vintage British ballet at its best. © 2012 MusicWeb International

Rob Maynard
MusicWeb International, November 2012

The disc’s undoubted highlight—pace any Fonteyn/Nureyev fans who will be entranced by their pas de deux from Giselle—is Coppélia. It is not a full length version, but one that has been very skilfully adapted to take account of both the time constraints of television and the non-specialist viewing audience. The remainder of the score is cunningly trimmed too, so that it becomes an irresistible sequence of foot-tapping rum-ti-tum melodies, each following hard on the heels—or perhaps that should be the pointes—of the last.

The dancing is tremendous. The role of Swanilda calls for exuberance and vivacity rather than any great depths of pathos and that suits the charismatic and perky Miss Nerina to a T. Many of the supporting dancers make strong impressions too, with special mention going to Swanilda’s four girlfriends.

What really adds to this production is the quality of the acting as well as the dancing. The many TV close-ups show that all the principals are truly living their parts.

…I turn much more briefly to the other two items on offer. Of this 1956 recording of Les sylphides, even the booklet notes express a reservation, describing it as “one of the oldest recordings featuring Nadia Nerina in the BBC archives. Due to the age and condition of the film, the level of possible restoration work was limited. In spite of certain technical constraints, this performance is of exceptional artistic and historical interest and value.”

The Fonteyn/Nureyev Giselle collaboration, on the other hand, is of obviously greater and wider interest. It documents the earliest stage of an artistic partnership that was to break new ground in the development of ballet outside the USSR.

All three productions on this DVD are supported by very good orchestral playing. Conductors Robert Irving and John Lanchbery were closely associated with ballet throughout their careers, while Marcus Dods was an experienced conductor who worked not only at Sadler’s Wells but also frequently in film and television. All three do excellent jobs, with the palm going to Lanchbery who has, it is true, the most ear-catching of the scores and an obviously top-flight recording crew at his service.

This new release takes us back to that earlier age and provides important evidence for students of British ballet in a transitional period. Two of the productions are of the greatest historical—as well as of considerable artistic—interest. For the general audience it will be the entrancing production of Coppélia justifies, entirely on its own, the acquisition of this hugely enjoyable DVD. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

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