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George Balanchine’s Jewels

Gabriel Fauré, Igor Stravinsky, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Ballet de L’Opéra National de Paris
Orchestre de L’Opéra National de Paris / Paul Connelly
Set and costume design Christian Lacroix


Opus Arte DVD OA 0951


Whether your interest in reading this report comes from the world of dance or of music, Jewels is not to be ignored.

Dance DVDs can sometimes be more satisfying than opera in that every moment is visually important. Often the music takes second place, but here you have a concert to listen to, comprising good performances of Fauré rarities (excerpts from Pelléas and Mélisande and Shylock), Stravinsky's Capriccio (Jean-Yves Sébillote the excellent pianist) and Tchaikovsky's Polish Symphony, which together make a satisfying whole, and one which it is a pleasure to hear more than once.


Each of these abstract ballets is costumed in a single colour representing Emeralds, Rubies and, in pure white, Diamonds. Georgi Balanchivadze was unpopular in reactionary Russia and he emigrated to the West, where he remained, eventually opening a School of American Ballet and ballet companies in USA. Music was integral to his work, He was a neo-classicist who invented completely new stepd set to contemporary music, with a long association particularly with Stravinsky and his music. His objective was "to make the audience see the music and hear the dancing".


The novelty of his approach is not immediately obvious in Emeralds and Diamonds, and our readers may find the witty angularities of Rubies to Stravinsky the more immediately appealing, but the others, which frame it, gradually exert their spells with the patterning which is shown excellently as filmed (see clip on Opus Arte website)..


The documentary film George Balanchine Forever helps understanding and introduces you to members of the company, who explain what Balanchine means to them; gratifying to hear one of the ballerinas explain that she doesn't count in Capriccio, preferring to rely on knowing the music!

It is open to doubt whether even Balanchine has ever created a work in which the inspiration was so sustained, the invention so imaginative, or the concept so magnificent.’ New York Times

For Rubies nothing but delight. Aurélie Dupont, Marie-Agnes Gillot, Alessio Carbonne were electric, super charged, at the head of a fizzing cast, hard edged, hard driven, hard to beat.’ Financial Times

© Peter Grahame Woolf