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Minkus: La Bayadere / Royal Ballet

Minkus / Acosta / Royal Ballet / Oroh / Ovsyanikov
Release Date: 02/22/2011 
Label:  Opus Arte   Catalog #: 1043  
Composer:  Léon Fyodorovich Minkus
Conductor:  Valeriy Ovsyanikov
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MINKUS La Bayadère Valeriy Ovsyanikov, cond; Tamara Rojo ( Nikiya ); Marianela Nuñez ( Gamzatti ); Carlos Acosta ( Solor ); José Martin (Bronze Idol ); Yuhui Choe; Helen Crawford; Lauren Cuthbertson; Royal Opera House O Covent Garden OPUS ARTE OA 1043D (DVD: 167:00). Live: London Read more 1/15–19/2009

As I said when reviewing the Paris Opera’s Don Quichotte , “Ludwig (or Léon) Minkus does not rank very high on anyone’s list of distinguished composers, but his music nonetheless survives thanks to the tuneful scores he turned out for the ballet, particularly for the choreographer Marius Petipa.” I will spare readers a plot summary as that has already been done by David Kirk when reviewing the Royal Ballet’s 1991 performance ( Fanfare 30:5) and La Scala’s in 2006 (30:6). Once again, it remains unclear how much of what we see is “authentic” Petipa as many of the revisions and additions have been extensively documented. The two performances cited earlier and the one under review are all stagings by Natalia Makarova, omitting many of the items that are part of the Kirov performance that can also be seen in Nureyev’s staging for the Paris Opera, neither of which has been reviewed in Fanfare. La Bayadère is a ballet of excess, as these last two performances attest, while Makarova has focused on the main characters and attempted to re-create the lost fourth act; it must be admitted that other versions end rather abruptly as the curtain comes down on the scene of the Shades, perhaps the best-known part of the ballet, but that too is a longstanding tradition dating back more than 100 years. For anyone interested in trying to understand the complicated history of this work, there is a lengthy article on Wikipedia that can unreservedly be recommended.

There can be no doubt that the current crop of dancers in the leading roles is capable of rendering with clarity every step in the repertoire, and in the case of Tamara Rojo, Carlos Acosta, and Marianela Nuñez with considerable presence as well, while the corps de ballet comes through its perilous entry in the Shades’ scene with flying colors. The three soloists in that scene lack the vitality that some of us may remember from performances by the same Royal Ballet almost 50 years ago, or even in some of the other productions mentioned above. Surely Monica Mason, director of the Royal Ballet, could have taken time off from her administrative duties to show the dancers how she and Deanne Bergsma almost stole the show back then. It may also be that Makarova encouraged the conductor Valeriy Ovsyanikov to sag in those three variations, but his otherwise excellent support is here absent.

There are more than 40 minutes of bonuses, including interviews with Rojo, Makarova, and two of the corps dancers, as well as a long sequence showing Rojo and Acosta in rehearsal. Each of the versions mentioned above has its adherents, and this newcomer is a welcome addition. It should also be noted that the Royal Ballet is in the process of re-filming some of its repertory but with a new generation of dancers ( Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, Manon, La Fille mal gardée ). It is unfortunate that Ross MacGibbon, a former dancer now a film director, perpetrates such horrors as close-ups of subsidiary characters while the principals are dancing, at other times cutting off the dancers’ feet, and worst of all over-active cameras so that one is constantly readjusting focus.

FANFARE: Joel Kasow

Solar – Carlos Acosta
Gamzatti – Marianela Nuñez
Nikiya – Tamara Rojo
The High Brahmin – Gary Avis
Rajah – Christopher Saunders
Magdaveya – Kenta Kura
Solor's Friend – Valeri Hristov

Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House Orchestra
Valeriy Ovsyanikov, conductor

Natalia Makarova, choreographer

Recorded live from the Royal Opera House, January 2009

- Tamara Rojo on dancing La Bayadère
- Leanne Cope and Francesca Filpi on the corps de ballet
-Tamara Rojo and Carlos Acosta rehearse with Alexander Agadzhanov
- Natalia Makarova on choreographing La Bayadère

Picture format: NTSC 16:9 anamorphic
Sound format: LPCM Stereo / DTS 5.0
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Menu languages: English
Subtitles (Bonus): English, French, German, Spanish
Running time: 166 mins
No. of DVDs: 1
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Works on This Recording

La Bayadere by Léon Fyodorovich Minkus
Conductor:  Valeriy Ovsyanikov
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877; Russia 

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