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Dancer's Dream - RAYMONDA

TDK DV-BLDDRAY [1999, 83 mins]

Dance DVDs are amongst the most rewarding, compelling visual attention moment by moment in a way that is not so for many opera and orchestral concert presentations.

This tribute to Rudolf Nureyev's work in Paris is exceptional as entertainment and for its insights into the world of ballet. It is a documentary which demonstrates, mainly through his personal development of the Glazounov/Petipa Raymonda, how he brought the ballet of the Paris Opera to a peak position as one of the world's leading companies.

Nureyev was a hard taskmaster, sparing himself no more than did he in his demands of his dancers. He first reconstructed Raymonda in 1964 in London, revised it for Australia the next year, in 1972 in Zurich and again in 1975 in the USA. Finally his definitive version reached Paris, with simplification of the story line and upgrading of the male roles. We are taken behind the scenes and share thoughts of many of the dancers who have taken the chief roles over the years, and we see Nureyev directing them in rehearsal.

Marvellous in itself, this DVD leaves you eager for the released of a complete performance, which evidently would have been filmed. Meanwhile, do not hesitate; Francois Roussillon's documentary film, with excellent sound and camera management, is a great work in its own right. 83 minutes, but so tightly packed it feels much more. We were particularly taken by the rapidity of the cutting and juxtapositions of scenes and the intelligent, articulate comments of all involved in fluent, clear French, with subtitles in language of choice. Completely engrossing.

RAYMONDA - The Bolshoi Ballet

Arthaus DVD 100 719 [TT 125 mins; 4:3]

The complete Raymonda is now available in a Bolshoi Theatre performance of 1989. It is decently filmed, with inevitable compromises, and gives a good feeling of the vast stage and the height of the curtains which dwarfs the dancers. Sound is good but the lighting could with benefit be a little brighter.

The main roles are taken authoritatively by Ludmilla Semenyaka (Raymonda), Jean de Brienne, her betrothed (Yuri Vasyuchenko) who is away at the wars, which gives the opportunity to Gedeminas Taranda, the Saracen knight Abderakhman, to try hard to seduce her. This is thwarted by Jean's return and (regrettably for the audience) Abderakhman is killed in a duel at the end of the second, and best, of the three acts. That's the story. Alexander Glazunov made a mark following in Tchaikovsky's footsteps, but although it is full of colourful music, this is rarely as memorable as the latter's great ballet scores.

The marriage celebrations for the third act are anti-climactic, we thought; Petipa's dances, requiring a succession of dancers to be on top form for short appearances, contribute to this ballet's continuing success in the Russian repertoire.

Taken together, these DVDs will give satisfaction to ballet fans, and are interestingly educative for the rest of us.


© Peter Grahame Woolf