PROKOFIEV: Romeo and Juliet - A Documentary on Rudolf Nureyev's choreography/production
TDK DVUS BLDDRAJ TT: app. 89 min.

PROKOFIEV: Romeo and Juliet Ballet
Alessandra Ferri (Juliet); Angel Corella (Romeo); Michele Villanova (Mercutio); Alessandro Grillo (Benvolio); Gianni Ghisleni (Tybalt); Bryan Hewison (Paris); La Scala Theater Ballet/Orchestra/David Garforth, cond.
EUROARTS 20 5007 9 TT: 115 min.

GLAZUNOV: Raymonda Ballet A Documentary on Rudolf Nureyev's choreography/production
TDK DVUS BLDDRAY app. 83 min.

MINKUS: Don Quichotte Ballet
Aurélie Dupont (Kitri); Manuel Legris (Basile); Jean-Guillaume Bart (Espada); Marie-Agnès Gillot (La Danseuse de rue); Delphine Moussin (La Reine des Dryades); Clairemarie Osta (Cupidon); Jean-Marie Didière (Don Quichotte); Fabien Roques (Sancho); Laurent Queval (Gamache); Alexis Saramite (Lorenzo); Karl Paquette (Le gitan); Fanny Fiat (La demoiselle d'honneur); Mélanie Hurel/Véronique Doisneau (Les deux amies); Paris National Opera Ballet/Orchestra/Ermanno Florio, cond.
TDK DVUS BLDQ TT: app. 122 min.

Two of these are documentaries directed by Francois Roussillon about ballets choreographed by Rudolf Nureyev. It would seem logical that after each documentary there would be a complete performance, but such is not the case. Nureyev had danced Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet for the first time in 1966 with choreography by Kenneth MacMillan at the London Royal Ballet.with Margot Fonteyne as Juliet. His choreography for Prokofiev's masterpiece was created for the London Festival Ballet in 1977, revised in 1984 for a production by the Paris Opera after he was appointed director of ballet. Raymonda also was created for the Paris Opera, in 1983. Nureyev already had choreographed three previous versions of Glazunov's masterpiece, but now was able to use the full resources of the Paris Opera to create a grand-scale production of Glazounov's magnificent and lengthy ballet, "after Marius Petipa."

In the interviews for both, which include comments by Patricia Ruanne who created Juliet in Nureyev's production as well as other dancers who participated in both ballets, it's clear that working with Nureyev, while rewarding artistically, was not easy. There was tension during rehearsals...."it became an endurance test...often it was painful." Nureyev's choreography was very involved and he wanted to "put a step on each note...he loved to do that," which was extremely demanding for everyone concerned. Excerpts from a 1999 Romeo and Juliet production performed at the Paris National Opera are included, tantalizing all too short episodes.

Raymonda is in the grand style of Russian big-scale ballet. The first two of the three acts are about the impending marriage of the young girl Raymonda, and take place primarily in medieval Hungary. The third act is a celebration of the marriage of Raymonda and Jean de Brienne, replete with many exotic oriental dances, the most famous of which is Pas classique hongrois, which is included in the excerpts from a Paris National Opera 1999 performance. As with Romeo and Juliet, it's unfortunate more of the performance isn't included. Included is an interview with conductor Alexander Anissimov in which he discusses music from Raymonda. His complete recording of the ballet, with the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, is available on Naxos (8.553503/4).

Both of these are full-price issues even though playing time is quite limited for a DVD. If you have great interest in behind-the-scenes glimpses of the ballet world you perhaps will find these worth while.

Romeo and Juliet is presented complete in the La Scala Theater production filmed in January 2000, the effective Kenneth MacMillan choreography adapted by Monica Parker, Georgina Parkinson and Julie Lincoln. This highly-acclaimed production was the first time Alessandra Ferri, who has been hailed "the Anna Magnani of ballet," and Spanish dancer Angel Corella, acclaimed stars of American Ballet Theatre, had danced together on stage. I don't find them particuarly effective although they dance magnificenty. His almost constant boyish smile distracts, and facially she hardly suggests the teenage Juliet. It's a beautiful production, indeed, but not a great one.A definite plus, however, is the superb 5.1 surround sound, which vividly captures the performance atmosphere. I am not familiar with other DVDs of the complete ballet, one each by Bolshoi Ballet and Lyon Ballet, another 1966 Royal Ballet performance with Nureyev and Fonteyn, but all surely merit investigation.

Ludwig Minkus' ballet Don Quichotte was a great success at its 1869 premiere at the Bolshoi Ballet. The original was choreographed by Marius Petipa and received many performances in the East. Rudolf Nureyev had danced the leading role of Basile in Leningrad when only 21 years old, and championed Quichotte after defecting in 1961. He creating a new choreography for Vienna in 1966, with John Lanchberry adapting Minkus' music for this version, which reduces the five acts to three and one prologue. On this DVD we have a new production at the Paris National Opera conducted by Jean-Guillaume Bart recorded at performances in April 2002. The roles of Don Quichotte and Pancho Sanza are almost incidental in this ballet; it really focuses on the courtship and marriage of Kitri and Basile, danced expertly by Aurélie Dupont and Manuel Legris. The latter is quite exciting indeed, but one can imagine how Nureyev would have danced the bravura solos. Photography and surround sound are excellent, program notes appropriate, with complete track listings—there are 47 of them.

R.E.B. (January 2004)