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Balanchine's Jewels / Paris National Opera Ballet [Blu-ray]

Faure / Stravinsky / Dupont / Gillot / Connelly
Release Date: 10/28/2008 
Label:  Opus Arte   Catalog #: 7011  
Composer:  Gabriel FauréIgor StravinskyPeter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Paul Connelly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris National Opera Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
Length: 2 Hours 42 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

*** This Blu-ray Disc is only playable on Blu-ray Disc players and not compatible with standard DVD or HD DVD players. ***

Also available on standard DVD


JEWELS Paul Connelly, cond; Paris Natl Op O BBC/OPUS ARTE 7011 (Blu-ray Disc: 152:00)

FAURÉ Read more class="ARIAL12bi">Pelléas et Mélisande/Shylock: Excerpts. STRAVINSKY Capriccio: Excerpts. TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 3: Excerpts

Although George Balanchine is rather famously known for his negative opinion of classic, evening long, 19th-century story ballets, his roots in this tradition are clearly evident in this almost unbelievably gorgeous presentation of what must be considered one of the most characteristic and sustained manifestations of his genius as a choreographer. Jewels was first performed in its entirety in 1967 by the New York City Ballet in the New York State Theater. The full-length, 92-minute, abstract ballet is a triptych that renders homage to the three principal periods (and influences) of his career. “Emeralds,” set to the music of Gabriel Fauré, including excerpts from his Pelléas et Mélisande and Shylock , is a romantic tribute to the French school of ballet. “Rubies” provides a stylistically jarring contrast. Just about nothing could be farther from the music of Fauré than Stravinsky’s spiky Capriccio for piano and orchestra. “Rubies” acknowledges Balanchine’s American period with its jazz, Broadway, and Hollywood influences. “Diamonds” appropriately uses parts of Tchaikovsky’s Third Symphony to explore Balanchine’s roots in St. Petersburg and the legacy of Marius Petipa. The program notes explain it perfectly: “The circle is thus complete. A full length neo-classical ballet by an adopted American from St. Petersburg returns to where classical stage dancing began.”

This dazzling Opéra National de Paris production is seemingly made for Blu-ray technology. Color plays a major role in complementing the choreography and creating three dramatically contrasting sections. The costumes and sets designed by Christian Lacroix are a warm green for the Romantic “Emeralds,” bright red for the modernistic, hard-edged “Rubies,” and a bright blue backdrop for the white costumes evoking memories of Swan Lake in “Diamonds.” The camerawork is flawless as it presents perfectly judged and never exaggerated close-ups that preserve a critical sense of space for the dancers alternating with long shots encompassing the entire stage. This is especially apparent in the “Diamonds” pas de deux danced by Agnés Letestu and Jean-Guillaume Bart against that blue background with an overhanging sparkling diamond necklace effect that is breathtaking in its depth and dimensionality. In fact, I can find little to fault with any of the solo dancers and corps de ballet.

The album includes a lengthy documentary film about Balanchine and Jewels , including extensive comments by Brigitte Lefèvre (director of the Opéra National de Paris ballet), Barbara Horgan (chairman of the Balanchine Foundation), Lacroix, and several of the solo dancers. Their insight into Balanchine’s style, down to the size and shape of the typical Balanchine ballerina, is fascinating. Subtitles are available in English, French, German, Spanish, and Italian. Audio formats are PCM stereo and 5.0 surround sound. As Andrew Quint emphasized in his review of the Opus Arte BD Mozart Die Zauberflöte ( Fanfare 32:1), it is a pleasure to hear audiophile quality multichannel sound on a DVD. Spatial information is more involving in ballet as it replicates the feeling of a live experience even if the positioning of the singers and orchestra is not a factor as it is in opera.

Jewels in some ways can be viewed as a summation of Balanchine’s career and style. In the documentary film, the point is emphasized that he adhered to the traditions of classical ballet but modernized it in a way that defined his own unique neo-Classical style. This magnificent production thus becomes a microcosm of Balanchine’s work, and as such, is a must for any ballet-lover.

FANFARE: Arthur Lintgen
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Works on This Recording

Pelléas et Mélisande, Op. 80: Excerpt(s) by Gabriel Fauré
Conductor:  Paul Connelly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris National Opera Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1898; France 
Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Paul Connelly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris National Opera Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928-1929; France 
Symphony no 3 in D major, Op. 29 "Polish": Excerpt(s) by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Paul Connelly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris National Opera Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1875; Russia 

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