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Sleeping Beauty, w/ Sylve, Dutch National Ballet

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Anybody know what this is?:

Tchaikovsky – THE SLEEPING BEAUTY Sofiane Sylve, Gael Lambiotte; Ermanno Florio, Dutch National Ballet, Het Muziektheater, Amsterdam, 2004 (Opus Arte)

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It's being released by Opus Arte, but its not clear exactly when the release date is (the Opus Arte web site lists, on their upcoming releases page, 1/10/2004, which has clearly passed). Amazon.co.uk lists October 4, and yet another website lists "sometime in November." It is not on Amazon.com (for the U.S.). ALso according to Opus Arte, it is a production by Sir Peter Wright, and clocks in at a whopping 180 minutes with 4 bonus features, including one on Sylve herself.

Anybody know anything about this production? E.g. when it was recorded, the quality of the Dutch National Ballet's production overall, etc. I think the main interest for American fans is with Sofianne Sylve as Aurora, now that she's dancing with New York City Ballet.

Any idea when it'll be released in the United States, much less released at all?

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A tape of Sofiane as Aurora! :wub: Somebody pick me up off the floor!

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I recommend you get it. Sofiane danced in Amsterdam for ten years, and though she increasingly was a star principal, it was not like the rest of the company stood / danced in her shadow. In other words, there is lots of great dancing to be seen on this dvd.

Gael Lambiotte is a wonderful prince, and I often think back on his Act II. (Lambiotte danced briefly in Boston, but came back to Amsterdam.)

This was Sofiane's last set of performances with the Dutch company (though she might do some guesting in the future), and her Aurora was simply amazing. I suspect Marc would say it's not completely idiomatic: Sofiane's Act I Aurora goes from Shy to "I Can't Believe Everybody Loves Me" very fast. In the big Act I diagonal after the Rose Adagio proper she's as much a Beast as a Beauty, really devouring the stage. I haven't been able to watch the old Lezhnina / Kirov video ever since. It's just too cute. (In fairness I should say that Lezhnina was very young at the time of the Kirov shoot; I have seen more substantial Lezhnina Auroras here in Amsterdam.)

The one thing with the Peter Wright production is Lilac don't do no dancing. Lilac's Waltz in the Prologue is taken by what Arlene Croce dubbed the Fairy of Surplus, in this case Britt Juleen (from Florida originally) who is a wonderful dancer - though my recollection is she wasn't at her best in this part.

One more thing: the orchestra and Florio are great. You'll find they blow the NYCB band out of the water. Better players, better preparation.

The extra features include Sofiane in wintry Manhattan, and in her Amsterdam apartment, preparing the final move, and a substantial segment about the mime in this production - I forget whether it's Wright himself talking about it or somebody else.

For those who are getting this disc, I'd love to hear your reports.

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It's being released by Opus Arte, but its not clear exactly when the release date is (the Opus Arte web site lists, on their upcoming releases page, 1/10/2004, which has clearly passed)......

1/10/2004 in Britain means Oct 1, 2004 in the US. They have a different dating format, it switches the month and day around. So the release date is 10/1/04.

I hope the DVD will be released in the US and I'd be the first one on line.

Herman, where did you get yours? Do you know the region code and TV system (NTSC, PAL, Secam..) on your DVD?

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Hi Mussel,

I don't have a copy of the dvd yet.

However, the dvd is part of a deal with Dutch public TV (and possibly French and Swiss TV, too), and I saw part of the December 25, 2004 broadcast, before our Xmas social activities got started. This is why I think I know about some of the extra features - and I checked with the company today, and yes, it's Peter Wright himself who's talking about mime on the dvd. Same as on TV, only a little more extensive, probably.

How I know about the character of the performance is because Sofiane danced Beauty three times in the December 2004 run, and I saw two of 'em in the theatre, plus half of the live TV broadcast (which was Sofiane's third and last performance in this run). Plus a bunch of rehearsals. I have to confess I thought the second was the best, but that one was taped, too, and perhaps footage was mixed for the dvd.

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1/10/2004 in Britain means Oct 1, 2004 in the US.  They have a different dating format, it switches the month and day around.  So the release date is 10/1/04.

Doh! Slipped my mind that it was a British company...makes perfect sense now. Usually I'm more prepared for it when I have to type "co.uk" in the address bar, but I arrived perfectly save and sound with a ".com".

It is a Region 0 encoded, though in PAL format, so technically you could play it on your computer system in the United States. You couldn't play it on your TV if you only have an NTSC-format DVD player, though, since it won't read the PAL format correctly.

But then again, you'd also have to convert the 24.99 GBP price into American dollars, plus add overseas shipping - might not look that pretty anymore once you get it here...

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But then again, you'd also have to convert the 24.99 GBP price into American dollars, plus add overseas shipping - might not look that pretty anymore once you get it here...

The dancing and the music will be just as pretty a year later when you don't even remember what the amount paid turned out to be.

I would much rather have everything for free, too, but my guess is some 250 persons directly worked at this dvd, either dancing, playing the music, doing technical things in the theatre and the film studio, so maybe it's not all that expensive.

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In any case it's great news that this performance will be released on DVD. The production is worth seeing and so is the company. Yes, Herman, I find Sofiane Sylve much too athletic for the role :wub: , but I suspect many will like her no-nonsense I-can-do-anything approach.

I agree that Lezhnina's more recent Aurora's in Amsterdam were a major improvement on her early filmed performance we have with the Kirov, so I can only regret that she wasn't filmed instead of Sylve... It would have been great to have one of the great Aurora's of our time in the beginning and near the end of her career.

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I have been watching this Sleeping Beauty dvd for about a week now, and I have to say it's one of the best shot big ballet videos I have - right up there with the Royal Ballet Coppélia in the way the action is presented.

Sleeping Beauty is obviously a monster to capture with those typical Petipa changes from big ensemble work to solo variations, but generally speaking I can say they have done a marvellous job. The entire Rose Adagio with its two ensemble intermezzos and the powerful solos is captured brilliantly. You will never get to watch Sofiane Sylve as closely and extensively as this, both her dancing and her acting.

The Vision Scene is beautifully done. Only now I see how subtly acted Gael Lambiotte's prince is. The Vision is also a case IMO that the Wright production beats the Kirov production* as captured on the Lezhnina video in terms of musicality and emotion. In both cases Lilac is, naturally, not dancing, but in the Wright version her action is clearly that of a magical infinitely benevolent being (wonderfully performed by Sarah Fontaine) saying "not yet, dear prince," whereas Makhalina's a more static force just saying "no". A statue Lilac. Correct me if I'm wrong but neither do I see a whole lot of chemistry between Lezhnina and Ruzimatov - he doesn't seem really surprised he gets to hold her after a while, it happens every night after all - whereas there's some really subtle interplay between Sylve and Lambiotte: her little come-hither glances and his despair of ever getting hold of this er, beauty.

The Bluebird pdd is wonderful, too, with Sefton Clark and Sabine Chaland (Lambiotte's gorgeous wife).

So, even if you're not going to watch every character dance over and over again for the rest of your life, I think there's plenty material you will return to quite frequently.

Starting from Act I the orchestra is marvellous too - beautiful violin solo in the Rose Adagio, great cello solo in the vision, and just great playing overall.

* Of course the Kirov has in the meantime changed its Sleeping Beauty production significantly.

Perhaps I should also say, as a kind of disclaimer, that I have extensively interviewed both Sylve and Lambiotte in the past; however I am not "with" the company and have no interest in promoting this video other than recommending a thing of beauty.

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Thanks for the review, Herman. And now I sit patiently and hope that they will release it in American NTSC format soon!

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Found it there, too - minutes after posting. :-) I swear it wasnt there when I checked for new ballet DVDs last week.

Nice list price though, huh? At least Amazon brings the price down some; now its in the same price range as other ballet DVDs on the market.

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At least Amazon brings the price down some; now its in the same price range as other ballet DVDs on the market.

And it's double cd, too. Apparently they were unable to squeeze the special features on a single disc, too. So you get two segments of Peter Wright talking about supervising the rehearsals, with some studio footage, and about mime (I seem to recall there's a bit of mime translation, too) and there's a lengthy segment of Sofiane Sylve both in her Amsterdam home and in Manhattan talking about her life as a dancer. So the only thing I could think of yet is a five-minute exposee of the musical intricacies of the Beauty score.

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I received my copy of this DVD from Amazon UK yesterday, and had a chance to watch parts of it last night. Good news: the DVD is region free, and in NTSC format, so people in the US can get this DVD a couple of weeks earlier if desired without owning a hacked DVD player and PAL converter. It took about a week to reach me, and cost 22.22 GBP total (including shipping), so it's not really more expensive than ordering it from the Amazon US.

The packaging is very nice, and the ballet is on 2 DVDs: Prologue and Act 1 on one disk, Act 2, 3, and extras on the second disk. Video quality is good, though they have a tendency to dwell on the long shots of the whole stage.

I don't think Sylve's special stage quality (her huge stage presence which fairly oozed out of every performance she gave with NYCB here in Southern California) comes across well on video, but her impressive technical abilities certainly do.

--Andre

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I looked at the clip on Opus Arte -- it was of the Grand pas de deux. It was odd, at one point the camera just showed a huge expanse over the dancers' heads and sort of their heads. It looked like a mistake, but why would the director do that? Is there a lot of that?

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That is rather odd. It looks like the clip crops off parts of the full image, since the full image is letterboxed, and the clip appears to be the standard TV 4x3 ratio. The DVD doesn't look like that, but instead has a wide shot of the whole stage.

--Andre

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I just got it and have only watched it once, with half an eye, but I agree it's a good production. The designs aim to be grand rather than beautiful, but the first act, especially, I think, really shows the contrast between the heaviness of the court, with its processions, and the lightness of the fairies. I like it that Lilac is in a dress -- but she could go off and change and come back to dance, as one reads was done in the original production (and her dress is one I don't like, a generic doll's ball gown, far from the gorgeous dresses in the new/old Kirov).

The direction is very fine -- I liked Sylve. Not as much as Lezhnina (whom I've seen dance the role on stage) who has what is, for me, the perfect line for Aurora, and that beautiful Kirov schooliing. Sylve has facility and technique but no schooling, meaning you're not going to bask in the beauty of her lines or expressive arms. But the Act I solo is beautifully done -- there's a graciousness in her dancing that goes beyond merely "nailing it." The Rose Adagio is odd -- I've never seen anyone handle balance problems the way she does. That toe is planted, as though held to the floor by a magical turning magnet; there's no fear she'll fall off pointe. But she'll twist and shift a bit in the upper body and hips. I also liked her acting in the pas de vertige; it's very clear.

I was less impressed with Lambiotte's Prince and the third act divertissements, but it is very well filmed and I think it's certianly worth having -- it's a model of how a classical ballet can be made to look contempoary (in the sense of being done in this time) without making it kinky.

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My dvd came in today and I've only watched the prologue so far, but I agree that it's very well filmed. It also served as a reminder what a blessing it is for Houston Ballet to have Ermanno Florio. :)

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My copy finally came, and I've managed to watch it all the way through as well.

I was particularly impressed with the Prologue; I thought the fairy pas de six was very well danced, particularly the so-called "Lilac Fairy" variation - though in this production it is not danced by the Lilac Fairy but by an ambiguous other fairy instead. From what I could ascertain from the credits, it was Britt Juleen. I was also impressed by the fairies' entrance in the intrada of the pas de six - very sharp, and got the production off to a good start.

Sofiane Sylve was very good, especially in the Vision Scene, in the Awakening Pas de Deux, and in the Grand Pas de Deux in Act III. At many times in Act I, she seemed almost too womanly for the girlish Aurora. Her reactions in character read too put on; she just seems to naturally carry herself far more glamorously than her character at that moment is supposed to. That said, though, the dancing was just fine as I expected. She was definetly wobbling in the big balance moment of the Rose Adagio - as Alexandra mentioned. I'm not sure if that was a fluke (seemed like a one-off recording, based on what Herman wrote above), since I've seen her do a still balance live before. Though I liked Sylve very much, I'm afraid my favorite DVD Aurora will have to be Viviana Durante's on the Royal Ballet (even if the production itself was very oddly designed); she perfectly captured Aurora's innocence in Act I and then transformed into mysterious for Act II and then grandly bright for Act III. Larisa Lezhina on the Kirov video is pretty but almost too pretty; less texture for my taste.

On DVD, Peter Wright's production is interesting to me. Very stately and very grand, which I liked. He does, however juggle some big musical moments and scenes that I'm used to seeing in certain places, particularly with the removal of the big long mime scene at the beginning of Act I, and then, at the end of Act II he goes from awakening kiss straight into a lyrical Awakening pas de deux for Aurora and Florimund - removing the traditional grandiose finale (the music used here is the Entr'acte normally cut from 'Beauty' productions, but which Ashton used for an Awakening pas de deux, and which Balanchine lifted for the moment just prior to the battle scene in his Nutcracker). Thus, Act II ends on a far more romantic note than usual, giving Aurora and Florimund a chance to meet and fall in love - makes sense dramatically but I guess I was waiting for the timpanies and cymbal crashes.

I, too, was less impressed with the Act III divertissements; not as crisp as the Prologue dancing or even the Vision scene. Red Riding Hood's costume and make up actually looked a bit scary. But, Sylve and Lambiotte were sparkling in the Grand Pas de Deux.

By far the BEST thing about this DVD though is the extra features: they're just fantastic. There's a great mini-documentary on Sylve, with a ton of great dancing clips (including, for NYCB fans, excerpts from her debut as Dewdrop in NYCB's Nutcracker in 2003 - marvelous to watch), and then interviews with her personally. The documentary is very well done, and its far better than the normal fluff pieces that might appear on PBS; this one actually has her talking a bit about difficulties in her life, real challenges of being a dancer. The other features are also very sweet, particularly one about fairy tales, where the history of the "Sleeping Beauty" story are interspersed with a bit following young students preparing for a visit to the Het National Ballet's Sleeping Beauty - anyone looking for reasons to put arts education in the schools? Very sweet.

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I just received & viewed this DVD. OK -- most of you, I believe, are going to scream at what I'm about to write:

So this is the famous Sofiane Sylve about whom so many balletomanes and critics have waxed on eloquently?

Sorry but I cannot stand Sylve's Aurora. To me, she's the antithesis of the elegant, aristocratic, porcelain-pure Kirov Classic style...which should be THE style for that most 'imperial' of ballets, Sleeping Beauty! Sylve has a great jump, amazonian muscles and earthy face...which perhaps serves her in good stead in contemporary choreography at DNB and NYCB (I'd like to see her there, in Balanchine's great 'leotard' roles, such as Choleric in Four Ts)...but, for heaven's sake, she's no Princess Aurora. Aurora calls for otherworldly, delicate, 'angelic' beauty of face & figure (not to mention style)...the Lezhninas, Cojocarus, Platels, and Fonteyns of this world. Sylve's interpretation is downright crude in comparison to those ladies or anybody else whom I've seen perform the role, for that matter. For example, notice Sylve's silly 'little girl' expression in Act I, following her entree and just prior to the Rose Adagio; it's as if someone told her to 'look girlish, dear'...something that simply cannot be painted on in one brushstroke. You either have it or you do not.

I'm happy that this DVD afforded me the opportunity to see Sylve, though. Hopefully I'll see her 'live' in choreography that is more appropriate to her unique gifts.

p.s. - I'll agree with the majority on this point: this is a magnificently recorded production. If only the existing Kirov, Bolshoi and Royal Ballet videos/DVDs had been filmed so splendidly!

p.s.s. - Just curious why Sylve, a French ballerina (born in Nice), did not go through the POB school and system? That is not mentioned in the DVD's 'extra feature' on her life & career. I can't help but think that her unique physical qualities didn't allow her to 'fit a mold' at the POB school in Nanterre...Marie-Agnes Gillot being the only 'amazonian' female etoile of the current generation...yet Gillot is more 'refined' in the classical-dance sense than Sylve. If Sylve's schooling has been discussed in another thread, please direct me to it. She intrigues me as someone who has found success 'outside the mold'...it's just too bad that her very first DVD presents her in an altogether wrong role (for me, at least).

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Sylve received training from Académie de Danse in Nice. She joined the Ballet Karlsruhe as first soloist at a young age. Nowhere is it mentioned, not on the dvd, the NYCB website, or her personal website, that she received any training outside of this, which I find pretty incredible.

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Thanks, OldFashioned. Definitely amazing. I bet that she was an athlete. I picture her as a natural track-and-field star...long jumper or hurdler. She has some 'mean' muscles on those legs!

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Mean muscles, indeed. The frame of her body is certainly different from the "typical" ballet dancer, yet you're actually the first person I've known to mention anything atypical about her. I always found that odd, since people are usually quick to point out dancers with different bodies, like Karen von Aroldingen, Lauren Anderson, Monique Meunier and Veronika Part.

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Well ... wasn't the current RB Sleeping Beauty designed for Darcey Bussell, who is many things but certainly not what I'd imagine to be an Aurora type? The video from that production went to Viviana Durante, who is rock solid but also quite a bit earthier than the "typical" Aurora.

I havent seen the Sylve video (it's on my Xmas list) so I certainly appreciate the insightful reviews.

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