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Stravinsky & The Ballets Russes / Gergiev, Mariinsky Theatre

Mariinsky Theater Orchestra, Valery Gergiev
Release Date: 10/27/2009 
Label:  Bel Air Classiques   Catalog #: 41  
Composer:  Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Valery Gergiev
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Petersburg Mariinsky Theater Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Also available on Blu-ray

The Firebird:

Ekaterina Kondaurova (Firebird)
Ilya Kuznetsov (Ivan Tsarevich)
Marianna Pavlova (The Princess)
Vladimir Ponomarev (Kachtchei the Immortal)
Choreography & libretto: Michel Fokine (1910)
Reconstruction Isabelle Fokine, Andris Liepa
The Rite of Spring:

Alexandra Iosifidi (The Chosen One)
Elena Bazhenova (300-Year-Old Woman)
Vladimir Ponomarev (Shaman)
Choreography after Vaslav Nijinsky (1913)
Scene plan:
Read more Igor Stravinsky & Nicholas Roerich, reconstructed and staged by Millicent Hodson

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STRAVINSKY AND THE BALLETS RUSSES Valery Gergiev, cond; Mariinsky O and Ballet BELAIR BAC041 (DVD 85:00 Text and Translation) Live: St. Petersburg 6/2008


The Firebird. Le Sacre du printemps


Here’s a fascinating DVD, with two works essential to both musical and balletic history. The Firebird was Stravinsky’s introduction to the Western world, under the aegis of Serge Diaghilev, with choreography by Mikhail Fokine (1910). The reigning ballerina of the age, Anna Pavlova, refused the title role as she found the music incomprehensible. She missed out on a historic occasion. By the standards of the time, there was little dancing and much pageantry, a point that remains valid today. But Fokine rose to the challenge of the music, with the Firebird darting around and ultimately coming to the rescue of the Prince and his Bride. Ekaterina Kondaurova in the title role is startlingly precise in her movements, capturing the nuances of bird motion. Ilya Kuznetsov is a winning Prince.


Even more significant was the 1913 creation of Sacre du printemps, which caused a riot. Stravinsky is at a turning point, and Nijinsky, the choreographer, is about to turn dance on its head with his refusal to follow the tenets of classic dance. The ballet ran for one season and was dropped, to return several years later with new choreography by Léonide Massine. Millicent Hodson has devoted a significant portion of her working life to rescuing Nijinsky the choreographer from oblivion, and the 30-minute interview with her that comes as a bonus tells us about the difficulties of re-creating a masterpiece. Today no one is the least bit fazed by the music, while recognizing its difficulties for both musicians and dancers. As Hodson points out, the ballet is for 47 soloists, though in much of the work they are working in small groups, only the Chosen One standing out with her exhausting solo at the end. It is nonetheless easy to see why contemporary audiences were hostile, as none of the elements fit standard patterns. The costumes and painted drops are exceedingly colorful, the makeup resembles the faces on matrioshka dolls, and of course the choreography is the antithesis of, say, Giselle or Swan Lake . People watching this DVD may be a bit puzzled as it is difficult to see the whole stage as the camera gives us (too) frequent aerial shots so that we can see the floor patterns, and when Hodson talks about the sections where there are 47 soloists, we don’t see enough of what’s happening at a specific moment. Alexandra Iosifidi as the Chosen One unsparingly throws herself into her role, so that we are almost as exhausted as she at the end.


Of course, re-creating Firebird is an easier task than Sacre , as Fokine continued to stage the work until his death. The Mariinsky performance gives credit for the restaging to Isabelle Fokine (the choreographer’s granddaughter and artistic director of the Fokine Estate Archive) and Andris Liepa. Other performances can be traced to Diaghilev’s original ballet masters, Serge Grigoriev and Liubov Tchernicheva (Royal Ballet), not to mention totally new choreography by a host of contemporary figures. In both ballets, we see copies of the original designs for sets and costumes, magnificently re-created, while the care lavished on these performances is evident throughout. And who can resist being spoiled by the Mariinski Orchestra and its charismatic conductor, Valery Gergiev.


FANFARE: Joel Kasow
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Works on This Recording

1. Firebird by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Valery Gergiev
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Petersburg Mariinsky Theater Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Russia 
2. Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Valery Gergiev
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Petersburg Mariinsky Theater Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911-1913 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 MAGNIFICENT PRODUCTION!!!!! June 13, 2013 By Robert Bogden Demkin (URUNGA, New South Wales) See All My Reviews "The ballet "Fire bird" was absolutelly well produced...exhiralating!! Stravinsky's music is very well conducted and alive... well done." Report Abuse
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