LABELS: Bel Air Classiques
WORKS: The Firebird; The Rite of Spring
PERFORMER: Ekaterina Kondaurova, Ilya Kuznetsov, Marianna Pavlova, Vladimir Ponomarev (Firebird); Alexandra Iosifidi, Elena Bazhenova, Vladimir Ponomarev (Rite);
CATALOGUE NO: BAC 441
Given its seminal importance in the histories of music and dance, it is remarkable that the Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer’s reconstruction of the original production of The Rite of Spring is appearing on disc only now.
This spectacular DVD, filmed live at the Mariinsky Theatre, pairs it with the The Firebird, in which Ilya Kuznetsov’s Ivan is not as feisty as Jonathan Cope’s for The Royal Ballet (Opus Arte). Where the newcomer wins hands down is in the sensational sound and visuals, the Blu-Ray version capturing every nuance of Valery Gergiev’s orchestra in natural surround sound to match the vivid, sumptuous colours (ironically, the searing lighting for the Firebird herself creates an effect uncannily like a worn-out video).
Both ballets have the frisson of a live performance, including an unfortunate burst of applause in the blackout after Kaschei’s death in The Firebird. Such niggles are trifling, though, in the context of the main event.
For those who only know the black-and-white pictures of the original production of The Rite of Spring, the colours of Roerich’s designs are a revelation, while the vision of Nijinksy’s revolutionary choreography can be experienced in its full glory, allowing a proper appraisal of his vision.
The three principals are mesmerising, especially Alexandra Iosifidi as The Chosen One, but it is the company as a whole that thrills. Add Gergiev’s ability to unleash the searing power of the music, not forgetting two useful bonus features, and the result is an exhilarating feast for eyes and ears. Christopher Dingle