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Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker / Arkhipova, Mukhamedov, Et Al

Tchaikovsky / Arkhipova / Mukhamedov / Kopilov
Release Date: 10/18/2005 
Label:  Arthaus Musik   Catalog #: 101119  
Composer:  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Aleksandr Kopilov
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Natalya Arkhipova, Irek Mukhamedow, Yuri Vetrov, Andrei Sitnikov, Ilze Liepa
The Bolshoi Ballet, The Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra
Alexandr Kopilov

Choreography by Yuri Grigorovich based on the original choreography by Lev Ivanov.

Sound Format: PCM Stereo
Picture Format: 4:3
Region Code: 0 worldwide
Subtitle Languages: Italian, German, French, English, Japanese, Spanish
Menu Languages: German, French, English, Spanish
Running Time: 112 mins

Tchaikovsky´s ballet The Nutcracker, which was written in 1891, premiered in St. Petersburg in 1892 and first performed at the Bolshoi Theatre Moscow in 1919, shows no sign of losing its hold as the No. 1
Read more Christmas ballet. It is based on the fairytale The Nutcracker and the King of Mice written by E.T.A. Hoffman and tells the story of the young girl Clara, who dreams of a Nutcracker Prince and a fierce battle against a Mouse King with seven heads. The ballet is a fantastic tale presented in the choreography of Yuri Grigorovich. It is filled with beautiful music - the Waltz of the Snow flakes and the pas de deux of Sugar-Plum Fairy and Prince have become immortal - as well as enchanting costumes and a fabulous setting at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.


Originally presented as part of “The Bolshoi at the Bolshoi” series, this Nutcracker was filmed in 1989 and has been available for home viewing before. The choreographer, Yuri Grigorovich, used the original choreography by Lev Ivanov as his basis, although there are some significant departures from the familiar storyline. The roles of the Snow Prince and Princess and the Sugar Plumb Fairy and her escort are eliminated. The dances usually assigned to these characters are now assumed by Clara and the Nutcracker as they journey to the Land of Snow and the act II Kingdom of Sweets; except in this production, The Kingdom of Sweets is also missing. The first part of the second act shows Clara and the Nutcracker in a small sailboat suspended over the stage. The area beneath them is under water, complete with fish. (A similar scenic device is handled more effectively by the Kirov’s Nutcracker. ) Once the journey is over, the action takes place at the bottom of the Christmas Tree from act I, but the big fish remains stage right.

The first act set is what we would expect from a Nutcracker production, although the Stahlbaum’s house is rather austere. It looks somewhat like a concrete bunker decorated for Christmas. Attractive scenery is not this production’s strongest feature. Costumes, on the other hand, are colorful and pretty. There are three manifestations for the Nutcracker. The character makes its first appearance as a very large stuffed doll, later Drosselmeyer transforms it into a mechanical doll (a woman dancing the role), and after the battle with the mice, Irek Mukhamedov assumes the role. Drosselmeyer doesn’t necessarily dance, but his movements are quite balletic and stylized, befitting his Harlequinesque attire and mask.

Beneath the Christmas tree, as revealed during the act I transformation scene, are an assortment of dolls that come to life. These are the characters who dance the specialty numbers in the second act: the Russians, the Chinese, the Arabians, Mother Cigogne, and the rococo shepherd. They join Clara and the Nutcracker in their travels to the Land of Snow and are present throughout most of the second act. Flowers are missing from the Waltz of the Flowers; instead, an assortment of ladies and gentlemen in attire that is probably considered formalwear (with dreadful wigs) for the folks in Fairyland populate the dance. The men carry candelabras on the end of long poles. The final act II waltz is a celebration of the engagement/wedding of Clara and the Nutcracker. For the Apotheosis, Clara returns to the Stahlbaum’s parlor and wakes up from this dream with the stuffed Nutcracker. For me, at any rate, telling us (the viewers) that all of the amazing events—the battle with the giant mice, the trip to the Land of Snow, the wondrous events of the second act—were merely a dream is a letdown. It takes all the magic out of The Nutcracker . It’s much more fun if we are to believe that these unusual events really happened to Clara.

Irek Mukhamedov and Natalya Arkhipova are spectacular as the Nutcracker and Clara. The dancing throughout this production reflects the technical precision the Bolshoi is known for. Especially appealing is seeing that most of the dancers are enjoying themselves. Their smiles seem genuine rather than frozen lips pulled back into relentless grins. Some of the applause toward the end of the second act is mercilessly milked. The video director has, for the most part, pulled the camera back to let us watch all the action. A few close-ups are unfortunate. Seeing the Mouse King appear through the trap in the stage floor would have been more effective if the camera had been pulled back, and whenever people are flown, the effect is diminished if we can’t see the distance between them and the floor. The picture (4:3 full screen) is bright and clear. Three sound formats (PCM stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, and DRS 5.1) are available. It’s not the most traditional telling of the Nutcracker ballet, but it’s not way out in left field, either. It is similar to the 1994 Kirov production available on Philips DVD (see Fanfare 25:1). For a more traditional Nutcracker , I would recommend the videos featuring the Royal Ballet Covent Garden (the newer one on Opus Arte with Anthony Dowell’s excellent, mysterious Drosselmeyer) or George Balanchine’s production on Nonesuch. In spite of this Bolshoi production’s deviating from the usual storyline, it is a fine performance and offers much viewing pleasure.

FANFARE: David L. Kirk
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Works on This Recording

Nutcracker, Op. 71 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Aleksandr Kopilov
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1891-1892; Russia 

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