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Adam: Giselle / Paris Opera Ballet [blu-ray]

Adam / Le Richie / Gillot / Connelly
Release Date: 11/17/2009 
Label:  Tdk   Catalog #: 9  
Composer:  Adolphe Adam
Conductor:  Paul Connelly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris National Opera Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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ADAM Giselle Paul Connelly, cond; Laëtitia Pujol ( Giselle ); Nicolas Le Riche ( Albrecht ); Marie-Agnès Gillot ( Read more class="ARIAL12i">Myrtha ); Wilfried Romoli ( Hilarion ); Richard Wilk ( Prince of Courande ); Natacha Quernet ( Princess Bathilde ); 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 Leitmotiv.

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 entrechats perfectly, and Pujol almost always gave the impression of a body in unbroken fluid motion, even when landing, with only a few tiny bobbles.

Though Giselle is indeed Adam’s finest score, it isn’t exactly Swan Lake ; 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 [reviewing the standard DVD version]

Picture format: 1080i Full-HD
Sound format: PCM Stereo / DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Booklet notes: English, German, French
Running time: 111 mins
No. of Discs: 1 (BD 25) Read less

Works on This Recording

Giselle by Adolphe Adam
Conductor:  Paul Connelly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris National Opera Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1841; France 
Date of Recording: 12/2006 
Venue:  Opéra national de Paris 

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