Before emigrating to the West, George Balanchine studied in St Petersburg and was a member of The State Academic Theatre, now known as the Mariinsky. Jewels dates from late in his career as a choreographer and was premiered at the New York City Ballet in 1967 and since 1999 has been a core part of the Mariinsky Ballet's repertoire.
Regarded as the world's first abstract ballet, Jewels features music by Fauré, Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky. There is a stark contrast in composition and style for each of the three acts, linked only by the dancers' dazzling costumes encrusted with colored gems.
ThisRead more performance was filmed by Brian Large at the Mariinsky Theatre and features many of the Mariinsky’s most well-known dancers including Ulyana Lopatkina, Igor Zelensky and Andrian Fadeyev alongside conductor Tugan Sokhiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra.
Filmed by Brian Large at the Mariinsky Theatre, the disc also includes an interview with the Artistic Director of the Mariinsky Theatre, Valery Gergiev.
Duration 94 mins approx
Recorded at Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg April, 2006
Brian Large director
A production of the Mariinsky Theatre, In cooperation with Austrian Broadcasting Corporation, ORF
Interview with Valery Gergiev
Tommy Pearson director
Duration 7 mins
DVD5 (REGION 0)
STEREO Dolby digital
5.1 Dolby digital
FAURÉ Emeralds: Zhanna Ayupova; Denis Firsov; Daria Sukhorukova; Dmitry Semionov; Yana Selina; Xenia Ostreikovskauya; Anton Korsakov
STRAVINSKY Rubies: Irina Golub; Andrian Fadeyev; Sofia Gumerova
TCHAIKOVSKY Diamonds: Ulyana Lopatkina; Igor Zelensky
Thanks are in order to the Balanchine Trust, which, I believe, does not permit many companies to release films of the master’s works; now we have a second version of Jewels, filmed in 2006 but only recently released as an alternative to the Paris Opera Ballet DVD from 2005. Both are essential viewing as their virtues are complementary, though the camera in both chooses odd moments to deviate from the focal point. Brian Large for the Mariinsky occasionally shoots from the equivalent of the third or fourth balcony and at other moments from slightly below the level of the stage floor, the former essential to show Balanchine’s interest in the movement patterns from above alongside a frontal view, the latter bizarre. At least he films the second ballerina’s exit at the end of the first movement of Rubies in its entirety rather than shifting viewpoint in the middle. Unfortunately, the otherwise excellent Sofia Gumerova robs the moment of its somewhat sinister aspect with her summary pliés.
To take the works in order, Emeralds is given with the added pas de deux but not the final epithalamium, which completely changes one’s perception of the ballet. Zhanna Ayupova in the Violette Verdy role finds just the right balance between accuracy and mannerism, while Daria Sukhorukova lacks the poetry of Mimi Paul as the other ballerina. The men are excellent partners, while the pas de trois is led with bravura by Anton Korsakov. In Rubies, Irina Golub and Andrian Fadeyev find the fun in the work, while Gumerova is effective, but perhaps her average height is also a factor in diminishing her impact. Ulyana Lopatkina rises to the ballerina challenge of Diamonds, enormously helped by Igor Zelensky, whose years at the New York City Ballet must surely have been helpful to his partner. We are grateful for the inclusion of the Scherzo, as those of us who saw the premiere of Jewels in 1967 (preceded by Prodigal Son) were deprived of this section, and for quite some time thereafter, as injuries to the principals precluded its inclusion.
Jewels is a special ballet, one that we can see as the choreographer’s acknowledgment of the major influences on his work. Emeralds could not possibly be more French with its Fauré score (incidental music to Shylock and Pelléas et Mélisande) that few others would attempt to use, its simplicity, and the jubilation of the (here) final section. Rubies to Stravinsky’s Capriccio for piano and orchestra is a celebration not only of Balanchine’s ever-fruitful collaboration with the composer but also the brashness that many consider an American trait. Diamonds captures the Russian sphere in which the choreographer was formed, ending with a polonaise in a manner that only Mr. B could bring off, yet again.
Tugan Sokhiev leads the Mariinsky orchestra in elegant readings of the three quite different scores, while the orchestra demonstrates that its music-making remains on a high level even when its customary Svengali, Gergiev, is not at the helm.