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Arthur Lintgen
Fanfare, November 2009

Giselle is frequently referred to as the classic or “quintessential” (according to the program notes) romantic ballet. That may well be true, especially when you consider its subject matter deals with ever-lasting love, death, and the spirit world. This may also imply to some that Adolph Adam’s pleasant, melodic, and serviceable but relatively bland score remotely compares to the ballets of Tchaikovsky, or even Delibes, for that matter. Though it most certainly does not, Giselle has maintained its popularity ever since its premiere in 1841. In addition to its romantic story, Giselle’s appeal is undoubtedly due in large part to its “technically demanding and emotionally challenging” title role. There can be no doubt that the success of any production of Adam’s ballet lies squarely on the shoulders of the prima ballerina who dances the role of Giselle. The long tradition of prima ballerinas playing Giselle began with Carlotta Grisi at that 1841 Paris premiere and more recently included Carla Fracci and Svetlana Zakharova, among others. Alina Cojocaru now not only joins, but may even surpass that illustrious group. She is physically just about perfect for Giselle: delicate, frail, and elegant, with a remarkably expressive face and dancing that is so fluid and effortless as to be almost magical. The chemistry between Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg (Count Albrecht) is palpable, and he nearly matches her step for step. Marianela Nuñez (Lise in the amazing Opus Arte Blu-ray La fille mal gardée) is icy and commanding in the critical role of Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis.

Conductor Boris Gruzin emphasizes the lyrical aspects of Adam’s score and never drives the music too hard. This is a 2006 performance of a traditional production (first performed at Covent Garden in 1985) that basically preserves Marius Petipa’s choreographic vision. The colors in act I are warm browns, reds, and rusts. Act II is dominated by chilly blues and whites. The Blu-ray picture presents the contrasting and colorful sets with three-dimensional clarity and the high-resolution sound reveals nearly every aspect of Adam’s effective orchestration with chamber-like transparency. The three principal dancers and the technical perfection of this Blu-ray Disc totally eclipse all of the DVD competition, including excellent versions by Fracci and Zakharova.

Karl Lozier
Positive Feedback Online, September 2009

In the preceding issue I mentioned Die Walkure the second production in Wagner’s Ring Cycle. Out of order, here we have Das Rheingold, not really a part of the Ring, it is usually listed as the prologue to the Ring and is traditionally performed the night before the first night’s Siegfried. The all digital recording and playback sources offer fine, rich and full range audio quality. The singers and chorus are heard in full bloom and easily at least equal the last issue’s Die Walkure that had a different cast to a great extent. Though not traditional, the costumes here are a significant improvement, though the fine audio easily can stand alone and is comparable or superior to most DVD’s. I realized that I had not listened to the beautiful, melodic ballet music of Giselle in a very long time. As a ballet, evidently Giselle was a turning point in ballet history in many respects and well covered in the fine liner notes. The innovations helped change the direction of romantic ballets to this day. The underlying story of a beautiful dancer dying the day before her wedding, is transformed into dancing women leading men to their death. Costume change is, to my mind, extreme during the ballet and often copied from this early, a century and a half ago, premiere. Getting a bit more used to my rather modest home theater system, this outstanding Blue-ray release poured forth outstanding audio quality. Seemingly at least full range and great dynamic extremes at times with solid bass range and great reproduction of the brass, this is probably the best sounding Blue-ray release featuring audio plus video that I’ve heard so far! Obviously highly recommended.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, October 2008

Adam's popular ballet, Giselle, relates the story of the young peasant girl who, without knowing who he is, falls in love with the aristocrat, Count Albrecht. The love appears to be mutual, but under pressure from those at court who cannot accept a peasant girl in their midst, he betrays her. Sent mad by the turn of events, Giselle commits suicide, but returns as a ghost to haunt the Count together with all those who have suffered a similar fate. They are intent on killing young men, but Giselle manages to save Albrecht from their murderous intent. It is that sudden change from the opening full of jollity, and in colourful costume, to the black and white scenario that heightens the sadness of the closing act. This new DVD comes from a production at London’s Royal Opera House, the staging directed by Peter Wright who also brings some additions to the well-known choreography of Marius Petipa. In the best sense of the word, it is ‘traditional’, the sets kept to a minimum to open up the dancing space, yet sufficient to be eye catching. The cast is very strong and features Alina Cojocura, and the elegant Johan Kobborg as the Count. She is a waif and thistledown Giselle, quite capable of capturing the initial happiness; offers a highly plausible mad scene, but is incomparable in the final act. Above all it is the total security in everything she does that makes her one of the world’s most talked about dancers. Kobborg is lithe yet at his best in the grand gestures, while there is not one weak link in the remainder of the cast, the corps de ballet as good as any in the world. Boris Gruzin conducts one of the best orchestras the Royal Opera House has ever enjoyed, the visuals being captured in ‘High Definition’ video with true surround sound. Highly recommended.

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