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Lynn René Bayley
Fanfare, November 2012

This boxed set packages four of the Paris Opera Ballet’s most celebrated productions, Rudolf Nureyev’s stagings of Swan Lake and Cinderella, John Neumeier’s famous La Dame aux camélias, and George Balanchine’s Jewels. The Swan Lake, a 2005 performance originally issued on DVD in 2007…Because this performance uses so many unusual geometric patterns for the corps—you might almost call this the “Busby Berkeley Swan Lake ”—these overhead shots are consistently interesting, in fact the most original and imaginative choreography in the ballet.

I am, in fact, consistently impressed by the blocking and use of space that Nureyev gave to the corps and less impressed with his solo choreography. While it is true that the solo dancers all have very exuberant moves…

Franca Squarciapino’s costumes are exquisite, combining bright colors that play against a somewhat minimalist stage design. This makes the eye focus on the dancers and not on the sets, which is all to the good. There are so many fascinating geometric patterns created by the corps, all of which look better from above…

…Nureyev achieves some remarkable effects here, particularly in his manipulation of the swans, which at time resembles a huge pair of wings.

…the nationalistic dances in act III work very well. Nureyev throws some pseudo-kazatsky moves into the Czardas; the Mazurka is lively. His use of space…is consistently inventive and interesting…for an imaginative alternative, this Swan Lake is wonderful.

The DVD of La Dame aux camélias comes from performances of July 2008 and was originally issued in 2009. The difficulty in this ballet is to penetrate the characters as you perform some of the most devilishly difficult choreography ever devised.

Yet in the end, the performance is not only fascinating to watch and intricate in choreography but also extremely well acted.

Thanks to Neumeier’s difficult choreography, there are no easy roles in this ballet. One is just as amazed by the dancing of Marguerite Gautier’s close friend Prudence (Dorothée Gilbert), her later nemesis Olympia (Eve Grinsztajn), and even the dancer performing the role of Manon Lescaut (Delphine Moussin) as of Letestu’s work. Similarly, there are no easy moments for Armand’s friend Gaston (Karl Paquette), his father (Michaël Denard), Des Grieux (José Martinez), or even the Duke (Laurent Novis)…this is a moving ballet and the dancing is first-rate.

Ironically “Diamonds,” staged in the Russian style and considered the weakest part of the trilogy when it was performed in New York, comes off best. Dressed in white tutus, the female dancers closely resemble snowflakes in The Nutcracker, constantly crossing lines and creating interesting geometric patterns. Moreover, everyone dances much more exuberantly than in the previous two ballets. Even in the pas de deux, Letestu and Jean-Guillame Bart are much more exciting, and in his solo turns Bart’s dynamic style resembles Nureyev’s energy and grace. In the final number, everyone is so caught up that the ballet builds to a tremendously exciting conclusion…

Great ballet nowadays is expected to challenge as well as entertain, as are great opera and symphonic music. Thus I can give the highest recommendations to Nureyev’s reworking of Swan Lake (an amazing psychological fantasy that still holds up) and Neumeier’s La Dame aux camellias…The Paris Opera Ballet is, on balance, the finest dance company in the world right now, so you can acquire virtually any of its productions without qualms. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review

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