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Ashton: Les Patineurs, Divertissements, Scenes De Ballet / Royal Opera House Ballet

Ashton / Royal Ballet / Ashton / Mcrae / Raine
Release Date: 01/31/2012 
Label:  Opus Arte   Catalog #: 1064  
Composer:  Giacomo MeyerbeerIgor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Paul MurphyBarry Wordsworth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 36 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Frederick Ashton
BALLETS

Les Patineurs
Music: Giacomo Meyerbeer

Laura Morera • Samantha Raine
Steven McRae • Sarah Lamb
Rupert Pennefather • Christina Arestis
Francesca Filpi • Ryoichi Hirano
Kenta Kura • Liam Scarlett
Andrej Uspenski
Frederick Ashton, choreographer
Paul Murphy, conductor

Divertissement
Music: Tchaikovsky / Massenet / Paganini / Brahms / Strauss / Tommasini

Darcey Bussell • Jonathan Cope
Mara Galeazzi • Thiago Soares
Viacheslav Samodurov • Tamara Rojo
Leanne Benjamin • Carlos Acosta
Laura Morera • Ricardo Cervera
Frederick Ashton, choreographer
Barry
Read more Wordsworth, conductor

Scènes de ballet
Music: Igor Stravinsky


Miyako Yoshida • Ivan Putrov
Edward Watson • Lauren Cuthbertson
Frederick Ashton, choreographer
Barry Wordsworth, conductor

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Bonus:
- Interviews with dancers from Les Patineurs

Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: LPCM 2.0 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Menu language: English
Subtitles (bonus): English, French, German, Spanish
Running time: 96 mins
No. of DVDs: 1

R E V I E W S:

An all-Ashton DVD is a treat, for apart from several full-length ballets we have been lacking examples of the choreographer’s work in shorter pieces. Les Patineurs is a hardy classic, dating from 1937, and makes a wonderful introduction to the work of one of the major choreographers of the 20th century. Meyerbeer’s catchy music inspires Ashton not only in the pas de deux with its fan lifts, but also the male solo, which is as virtuoso as can be. The dancers maintain a skating step throughout, but it is the variety of which Ashton is master that continues to astound us. The dueling girls who try to outdo one another offer further examples of virtuosity, which make us wonder at the qualities of the dancers of 75 years ago. Today, with Stephen McRae as the Blue Boy and Sarah Lamb and Rupert Pennefeather as the Lovers, we can still sense the excitement of balletgoers of an earlier epoch.


Scènes de Ballet is a postwar creation that has never achieved the widespread currency of Patineurs , yet remains a signal piece in Ashton’s oeuvre, much as Symphonic Variations, of which we desperately need documentation. A lead couple is supported by four men and a corps of women, and the choreographer continually astounds us with the patterns he weaves. His response to Stravinsky is perhaps not as direct as that of Balanchine, but then Mr. B never gave us his version of this “dancy” work. It is nonetheless fascinating to watch the Ashtonian sensibility at work, while Miyako Yoshida and Ivan Putrov show off both the music and the choreography. Ashton’s delicate references to such classics as the Rose Adagio from Sleeping Beauty cannot be missed. André Beaurepaire’s sets and costumes are the only things that appear dated in what is otherwise a major contribution to the repertoire of the Royal Ballet.


The divertissements show Ashton’s craftsmanship in the “Awakening” pas de deux from Sleeping Beauty with the ravishing Darcey Bussell and Jonathan Cope; two excerpts from a wartime ballet created for American Ballet Theatre; Devil’s Holiday , especially the man’s solo eloquently danced by Viacheslav Samodurov; and three pièces d’occasion : a duet to the Méditation from Massenet’s Thaïs (Mara Galeazzi and Thiago Soares), Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan (Tamara Rojo), and the Voices of Spring pas de deux (Leanne Benjamin and Carlos Acosta). The Brahms is the most interesting of the lot as Ashton had seen Duncan when he was a young man, and later created his own work for Lynn Seymour. Rojo is astounding in this re-creation, as she conveys Ashton’s own impressions but also embodies much of what one has read about Duncan in other sources.


FANFARE: Joel Kasow

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Sir Frederick Ashton choreographed a very large number of ballets and it is good to be able to welcome a disc containing not just one of the best and most popular but also a fascinating collection of occasional and otherwise forgotten pieces. That is the Divertissements. It starts with a Pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty in a version dating originally from 1968 and danced here by Darcey Bussell and Jonathan Cope in costume but against only a blue backcloth. I have to admit that seen like this and out of context its impact is limited although it is certainly worth reviving. I am less convinced by the two extracts from Devil’s Holiday, based on the life of Paganini and using an arrangement of some of his music. It was first produced briefly in 1939 and not revived until this reconstructions of the original choreography by Frederick Franklin who had taken part in the original production. Taken out of context however they amount to very little. Fortunately the final three sections, although also relatively brief, are each of real merit. The Massenet and Strauss date from 1971 and 1977 respectively and have real individuality. Best of all is the Brahms, to some of his piano waltzes (Op 39) played on stage by Philip Gammon and danced by Tamara Rojo. Ashton had seen Isadora Duncan dance, and although she had been past her best she had still made a big impression on him. This short ballet gives a wonderful illustration of how great that impression must have been. Probably it is the only part of Divertissements which you would want to repeat frequently, but it is so good that it makes up for any disappointment you may feel with some of the rest of this composite work.
 
Scènes de Ballet is typical of Ashton’s more abstract work in which movement and patterns are in constant state of flux, rather like a human kaleidoscope. According to the helpful essay by Robert Orledge, from which I have obtained much of the information in this review, Ashton had wanted to do a ballet that could be seen from any angle, one which if seen from the wings would give a different but equally good picture. A pity that the opportunity to film it in that way was not taken, but a more serious problem with this performance is the untidiness which seems to affect it especially in the early stages. It may be simply a trick of unfortunate camera angles but it did reduce my enjoyment by drawing attention to the difficulties of the ballet rather than allowing the viewer to glory in its wonderfully fluid pattern-making.
 
The best item on the disc is however also the most popular - Les Patineurs. I find it hard to believe that this was choreographed as long ago as 1937. Its basic idea, of the dancers appearing to be at a skating rink, may have been derived from the notorious skating ballet in the opera Le Prophète by Meyerbeer, whose music from other operas is used here. The astonishing variety of movement that this simple premise inspires from Ashton never ceases to amaze me. This is a ballet to see over and over again to appreciate not only its invention, good humour and variety but also the virtuosity of the dancers involved, not least Steven McRae in the part of the Blue Boy who ends the ballet with a seemingly endless series of pirouettes as the curtain comes down.
 
The “extras” on the disc consist of three short rehearsal studio films showing key parts of the ballet being rehearsed and discussed in an admirably clear manner.
 
Not everything on this disc is as good as Les Patineurs but it is full of good things and it is all worth seeing at least once. I suspect that I will be returning to the main work and to the Isadora Duncan piece at regular intervals.
 
-- John Sheppard, MusicWeb International
Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Les Patineurs by Giacomo Meyerbeer
Conductor:  Paul Murphy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1837 
2.
Scènes de ballet by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Barry Wordsworth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944; USA 

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