Notes and Editorial Reviews
Also available on Blu-ray
Paul Connelly, cond; Laëtitia Pujol (
); Nicolas Le Riche (
); Marie-Agnès Gillot (
); Wilfried Romoli (
Richard Wilk (
Prince of Courande
); Natacha Quernet (
); Paris Natl Op Ballet & O
TDK 4 (DVD: 111:00) Live: Paris 12/2006
This superb and quite traditional presentation of the first structured ballet in history (1841) may be, to some, rather simple compared to what we’re now used to since the innovations of Stravinsky and more modern dance, yet it’s exquisite in its own right. Adolphe Adam, composer of some of the treacliest operatic trifles to come out of Paris, wrote here his finest score. While it will certainly never be confused with the superior works of Delibes or Tchaikovsky in this genre, it still holds up rather nicely. Adam’s use of “theme music” to depict the various characters made a deep impression on young Richard Wagner, so in a sense Adam was the originator of the
This production was based on the original 1841 choreography of Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Théophile Gautier as restaged by Marius Petipa, younger brother of the original Albrecht, in 1887. The sets and costumes are exactly those used by Alexandre Benois in 1924 for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo. This was the era in which Diaghelev used a great many “oriental” costumes for his characters, and so we have the Prince and Princess de Courande looking for all the world like Arab royalty.
Since the choreography is based on what was really the beginning of classical ballet, it’s not flashy in the modern sense. All of the dancers’ moves are on a small scale, geared towards elegance of movement and an illusion of stillness even in the midst of flurries. A good example is the entrance of Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis, at the start of act II. She enters and continues dancing for some time completely on point, moving quickly forward and backward with feet close together, her body completely still from the waist up. It’s certainly not flashy, but it’s extremely difficult. You can’t imagine how difficult unless you’ve tried something similar, like walking on stilts in very tiny steps while keeping your upper body motionless. The audience, normally suppressing its applause to allow the performance to be filmed without interruptions, spontaneously breaks out when she is finished, as well they should.
Also superb was the peasant couple in the first act, Myriam Quid-Braham and Emmanuel Thibault, who showed exceptional control in some of the most difficult steps by any of the subsidiary dancers. And, as is probably to be expected, our lead dancers, Pujol and Le Riche, did their jobs extremely well. Le Riche was especially impressive in the second act, doing two dozen consecutive
perfectly, and Pujol almost always gave the impression of a body in unbroken fluid motion, even when landing, with only a few tiny bobbles.
is indeed Adam’s finest score, it isn’t exactly
; yet conductor Paul Connelly did a splendid job of giving both excitement and grace to it. Special praise must also go to the Paris Opera orchestra, whose playing was enlivened with the proper inflections and had the right style.
François Roussillon’s video direction is the best I’ve seen to date in these ballet videos. He knows exactly when to show the full stage and when to use a mid-range close-up; he never uses extreme close-ups except when the dancers stop to take a bow (showing how hard they are sweating, which I’m sure they loved!). I especially liked the overhead shots when the corps de ballet swirls in their skirts, forming patterns that I’m sure must have influenced Busby Berkeley. Recreating Carlotta Grisi’s ballet style isn’t as difficult as recreating Maria Malibran’s singing style, but this entire production, as well as Pujol should be commended for an outstanding job well done. In a sense, TDK is competing with itself, since one of the very best competitive versions is by the same company, a La Scala production featuring the spectacular dancing of Svetlana Zakharova and Roberto Bolle. This one may be a hair less fine, but it’s up there with the best I’ve ever seen on or off DVD.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
Picture format: NTSC 16:9 anamorphic
Sound format: LPCM Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.0 / DTS 5.0
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Booklet notes: English, German, French
Running time: 111 mins Read less
Works on This Recording
Giselle by Adolphe Adam
Paris National Opera Orchestra
Written: 1841; France
Date of Recording: 12/2006
Venue: Opéra national de Paris
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