ALBUM TITLE: Stravinsky/Rimsky-Korsakov
WORKS: The Firebird; Petrushka; Sheherazade
PERFORMER: Bolshoi State Academic Theatre Orchestra/Andrei Chistiakov
CATALOGUE NO: 079 322-9
Filmed ballets rarely venture beyond a visual record of a live stage performance. Not this one. It was made in Russia’s Mosfilm studios, shot not on video but 35mm film, and aims to recreate three of the most famous Ballets Russes productions as first seen in Paris almost a century ago. The sets and designs are based on those of Leon Bakst, Alexander Benois and Alexander Golovin – and, believe me, they look stunning. Fokine’s original choreography has been used as the basis of the film.
The man behind it all is the Mariinsky’s star dancer Andris Liepa, who has not only provided the screenplay but also directs and takes the lead in all three ballets. It’s an ambitious undertaking and it succeeds triumphantly. The busy cutting in Petrushka captures the bustle of the Shrovetide Fair, while in extended, lyrical solos (the capture of the Firebird or the Slave’s Adagio), Liepa deploys his cameras imaginatively and sensitively. The orchestra is not a world-class outfit, but is more than adequate, though the ‘bonus feature’ of 17 minutes of rehearsal footage is sadly unfocused (in both senses). With a lavishly illustrated booklet, I imagine seasoned balletomanes will be as entranced by Liepa’s film as a youngster encountering these great works for the first time.