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"Jewels" DVD and PBS Great Performances broadcast


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#136 kfw

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Posted 03 September 2006 - 01:27 PM

As far as Emeralds was concerned, there was a generally tepid response--and Pujol's "emoting" bothered many: most expected to see more sang froid and less joyeux.

More sang froid fits the music, I think. How did Verdy do it? Among the several photos in B.H. Haggin's "Discovering Balanchine" of Verdy in Emeralds there is one on page 100 where she's smiling.

#137 Paul Parish

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Posted 03 September 2006 - 05:01 PM

I've seen old footage of Violette in Emeralds, and the performance is -- well, the words I'd use would be voluptuous, ravishing, ecstatic. The lower body was very sharp and arrowy, and the upper body was dancing behind the music, like a jazz singer, toying with the beat, and her shoulders, breast, the whole upper body were like Isadora Duncan's, somehow she "left herself behind." The dance that's all port de bras was ravhishingly playful.... an awful phrase, but I don't know how else to put it. I can't think of anybody nowadays who could get away with it -- maybe Dolly Parton. Unbelievable feminine charm.

#138 richard53dog

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Posted 03 September 2006 - 06:01 PM

I've seen old footage of Violette in Emeralds, and the performance is -- well, the words I'd use would be voluptuous, ravishing, ecstatic. The lower body was very sharp and arrowy, and the upper body was dancing behind the music, like a jazz singer, toying with the beat, and her shoulders, breast, the whole upper body were like Isadora Duncan's, somehow she "left herself behind." The dance that's all port de bras was ravhishingly playful.... an awful phrase, but I don't know how else to put it. . Unbelievable feminine charm.



Paul,

I saw Verdy in Jewels just one time but your description ties in pretty well with my long ago memory. I didn't catch the time lag between her lower and upper body, that would have been a little too subtle for me to notice at that early point in my experience.


She was very feminine in this role and very "on", not acting or emoting, but "on". But I agree a dancer trying to model their approach after Verdy could easily come off as "too much"

Richard

#139 dirac

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Posted 05 September 2006 - 02:52 PM

Objections about casting set aside (and Helene is right to point them out, even if I still prefer the French filtering of Balanchine to many others), I find this in many ways quite an exemplary ballet DVD release. The performance itself is augmented by a 58 minutes documentary bonus, more rewarding than its title "George Balanchine Forever" might suggest at first sight. It has interviews with the Parisian soloists featuring in the performance (interesting in itself as it concerns a generation who knows Balanchine only from books and teaching), dance director Brigitte Lefèvre, Barbara Horgan, and designer Christian Lacroix.

There is also a 26-page booklet with photos and with solid liner notes (even if I wouldn't call Balanchine "son of a famous composer"). It even has all the names of the dancers appearing in the performance. OK, they are given in alphabetical order, étoiles mixed with premier danseurs, but hey, how many ballet DVD's have the whole corps de ballet listed?

I thought the filming better than on many other recent ballet DVD's. Surely, there is always something that gets lost in the multi-camera editing, but when there would be just one camera filming the whole stage people would complain they can't see the faces. What's more worrying however is the definition quality of the image, blurry in movements (it seems it was produced for TV?)

Yet as a document on the POB dancing Balanchine, in my view, a superb release that no ballet lover should miss.



I couldn't agree more. I don't have the DVD yet, but based on the television broadcast I think we are very fortunate to have this "Jewels" on the record. I have quibbles and cavils, many of which have already been made above, but if this is the only "Jewels" we will have on DVD for awhile, we could have done much worse.

"Emeralds" comes off best, but in addition to all the reasons set forth above, I would add that it benefits from being made on a smaller scale and so suffers least from the flattening effect that filming so often has on ballet. "Diamonds," as might be expected, is hurt the most, although the corps was still a pleasure to look at.

It might be interesting to see a complete "Jewels" staged for the studio. The Dance in America excerpts have cheesy sets and no room, but on the other hand you do get close to the dancers without having arms and legs cut off.

Am buying the DVD pronto.

#140 volcanohunter

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Posted 05 September 2006 - 04:52 PM

This may be of interest to those who were surprised by the omission of the last section of Emeralds. I had already seen the DVD, so I was more than a little miffed when it was deleted unceremoniously from the PBS telecast. I wrote in to complain, and this is the reply I received:

"Thank you for taking the time to write. We are sorry that you missed the final section of Emeralds. Schedules vary from station to station. To find out why the program was preempted it would be necessary for you to contact KCTS directly."

This led me to believe that it was KCTS Seattle that shortened the broadcast, but judging from this thread, no one saw the last section. (Talk about passing the buck!) It's ironic that PBS chose a still from the missing last section to put on the front page of the Great Performances web site. I realize that PBS has to divert some time from each program to list their corporate and private sponsors, but I do wish they could have found an extra five minutes to show the ballet in its entirety.

#141 kfw

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Posted 06 September 2006 - 06:15 AM

The Dance in America excerpts have cheesy sets

All this time I thought those were the original sets.

#142 dirac

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Posted 06 September 2006 - 08:49 AM

I'm aware of that, thanks. I'm talking about how they look on the tape.

#143 kfw

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Posted 06 September 2006 - 11:06 AM

I'm aware of that, thanks. I'm talking about how they look on the tape.

I thought I was aware of it myself until you posted, and then I thought that perhaps I'd been mistaken. I prefer LaCroix's as well, but for my taste cheesy (and cloying and overwrought) describes what NYCB currently uses for Emeralds and Diamonds.

#144 Dale

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Posted 06 September 2006 - 11:52 AM

There's a long history of the backdrops at NYCB. The first ones were made for Peter Harvey. For the PBS tapings, Balanchine asked Harvey to come up with something to use in the studio (Harvey also did the other ballets). In 1983, new sets by Robin Wagner were introduced. The old sets given (borrowed) to the Kirov for its 1999 production. In 2004, Peter Martins asked Harvey to come up with some new sets, just for NYCB. Those are the ones currently in use. All 4 have their moments, to me, and I also like the star-lit ones used at MCB.

#145 Estelle

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Posted 06 September 2006 - 01:56 PM

As a POB fan (well, I should almost say "ex-fan", as I have seen so few performances in the last two years... :dry: ) who saw "Jewels" only as performed by the POB (three times, if I remember correctly), it is very interesting to read this discussion... Unfortunately I never saw maost of the dancers present on the video on stage in those roles - and I really wonder how people here would have reacted to the first POB cast of that ballet (as far as I know- Guérin and Le Riche, Gaïda and Belarbi for Emeralds, Moussin, Legris and Gillot for Rubies, and Letestu and Martinez for Diamonds) or to some other dancers who performed it (especiallly Maurin and Arbo).

I'm happy to read some positive comments about Osta's performance here, as she's a dancer I've always liked much in the Balanchine repertory, and she sometimes got some undeserved criticism from some people insinuating that she was promoted to principal only as Nicolas Le Riche's wife. I generally was less convinced by Pujol in Balanchine roles, but haven't seen her that often in such a repertory.

#146 Estelle

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Posted 06 September 2006 - 02:03 PM

Edited to add:

here are some links to the biographies of the main dancers of that video on the POB site, in case it could be useful:

http://www.operadepa...etitiaPujol.asp
http://www.operadepa...remarieOsta.asp
http://www.operadepa...athieuGanio.asp
http://www.operadepa...aderBelarbi.asp

http://www.operadepa...reliedupont.asp
http://www.operadepa...ssioCarbone.asp
http://www.operadepa...AgnesGillot.asp

http://www.operadepa...gnesLetestu.asp
http://www.operadepa...illaumeBart.asp

#147 Amy Reusch

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Posted 08 September 2006 - 08:08 PM

I just find a lot of the way it was shot & cut very disturbing. I find the framing of the close-ups odd (I really don't like cropping dancers off at the knees... if you're going to go in close, you might as well go for it), I don't know if it's the wide format aspect ratio, or what... and they almost always stay in too long.

I don't mind the medium shots, many of which are very nicely done.

It's interesting that they didn't go for a lot of side angle shots (which so many directors do to a fault)... Was it less distracting that way? I find many of the cuts still distracting with your eye having to re-adjust and hunt for continuity of vision. I appreciate that they may have wanted to do it all with cuts rather than dissolves because of the style of the choreography (we are talking cut jewels, aren't we?) but there are too many times where a choreographic shape needs to hang in your eye while you begin to take in the next moment. I know in the past I've complained about jumping the viewer around the house, and that this was apparently shot to keep the viewer in one seat... but I wouldn't go so far as to say one should never use a side angle (from the house, not the wings, that is) if one has the resources to have several cameras as I imagine this production did. It seems this was shot with fewer cameras than the typical PBS ballet shoots have used; but I see from the credits that they had 10 cameramen....

I didn't have the oportunity to watch this on a high def screen, and I have a question for those who did... Did you find the wide shots too wide or was the resolution was so fine that you didn't feel you were too far away?

#148 Cliff

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Posted 28 December 2006 - 09:07 PM

Just an alert for those in the Chicago area. WTTW is showing Jewels this sunday, 12/31, at 3pm. As far as I know, this is the first showing by WTTW.

#149 Cliff

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 09:50 PM

The stage sets were a distraction. In Emeralds the dancer's costumes blended into the background. And in Rubies the giant ruby overwhelmed the stage. It looked poised to fall and smash some hapless dancer. Only Diamonds had non-intrusive stage decorations.

Emeralds had the best music. Rubies the liveliest dancing. Diamonds an odd mixture of old and new. I liked it.

#150 scherzo

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Posted 20 January 2007 - 01:51 PM

This is my first post on Ballettalk!!! Hurrah. I’ve been following this discussion since it began, and have only just de-lurked and registered. So this post will be pretty long, and if I repeat what’s already been said…Bear with me. (Btw I’m a relative newbie to Balanchine, we don’t have the same Balanchine culture in Britain, and so I might commit Balanchine-sacrilege but really mean no offence!)

Anyway. Onto the DVD!

The Decor
It was mostly beautiful. The Emeralds bodices and tiaras were quite unflattering (esp. to Pujol) but the projection and the layered skirts were GAW-geous. I also thought the men’s stripy arms were quite stylish. I thought the Rubies ruffles fitted the mood, and again the projection was rather delicious. Least favourite, in fact, was Diamonds: the tutus (esp. Letestu’s) were too stiff and wide, and under the top layer, they had the same texture as crinkle-cut crisps. But these are unfair, small quibbles: of course, the overall stage picture was beautiful throughout.

Emeralds
The music for Emeralds is completely ravishing and must be heaven to dance to: in fact I personally would have to actively keep myself from getting carried away and, perhaps, end up like the POB on this video. Pujol’s ‘oddly demented expression’ (love that phrase, bart!) was slightly distracting, but she really poured herself into her dance. Osta perhaps caught the intended, mysterious atmosphere better, but then stood out in comparison (esp. in the finale: unfortunate close-up) and looked a bit flat, and even sulky. The contrast between ‘young lovers’ and ‘older lovers’ was there in the two pd2s (authentic or not) which I found effective, making the ‘walking pd2’ appear all the more pensive and beautiful (though was the walking a little off?). Ganio and Belarbi didn’t have much to do except look handsome, which they did (supermodel-worthiness apparently being a prerequisite for a job in the POB). The pas de trois was appropriately sprightly, and the two finales were well done. I love the quiet end: it’s such a brilliant idea.

Rubies
I love this section: it’s so fun (the ‘high-five’ is great!). For me, the fun still came across despite the slightly over-sophisticated approach. Also, the ‘ballet is woman’ thing (that was Balanchine, right?) was most obvious here (in this performance at least) because Dupont seemed so dignified and technically awesome as well, in contrast to Carbone who was happy and bouncy, seemingly trying to attract her attention. I wasn’t especially struck by Gillot: she danced really well but didn’t click with me, for some reason. She also suffered from her tiara, which really was quite unflattering.

Diamonds
Re: Letestu, her interpretation may not have been authentic but I found it more intriguing than Farrell’s more ‘goddess-like’ version. That’s not to say I preferred it, but I didn’t dislike it: to me (atm, at least!) each is perfectly acceptable in its own way. I guess the difference is that Martins was ‘in love’ with Farrell, while Letestu/Bart were ‘in love’ with each other. (I know that’s simplistic, but you get the idea.) Their emoting really brought out the romanticism of the Tchaikovsky, and in the end I found it very moving. Maybe I’m biased: I love the music and the choreography. The kiss on the hand was impulsive and heartfelt rather than tribute, even seemingly catching Letestu by surprise. So, a more intensely romantic reading overall, vs the more restrained ye perhaps more powerful Farrell/Martins.
Re: the rest of Diamonds, I’m not over-keen on the choreography for the first movement: the two soloists are fine, but there are far too many ‘waltz steps’ (sorry, I don’t know its proper name) for my taste. However, the two and later four soloists were great. Bart’s hair was a little odd, but hey, he danced really well. Hmm, Letestu was I think a little overambitious in playing with phrasing during her solo passages in the third movement (of the ballet, not the symphony) and she looked a bit behind the music sometimes. But she moved beautifully anyway. The finale is so exciting, and it was lively and exhilarating, a great end to the performance.

Overall ranking
Favourite: Emeralds
2nd: Rubies
3rd: Diamonds (a little bit blah)

So, although it wasn’t a completely perfect performance, which is probably best described as ‘alternative’, I think we are lucky to have to have such an effective alternative.


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