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My own video Nutcrackathon


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#16 canbelto

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Posted 15 December 2010 - 03:46 PM

Nutcracker (TV special) - Edward Villela, Patricia McBride, Melissa Hayden

Omigod. One of the most bizarre Nutcrackers I have experienced, bar none. I am just going to try to explain, blow by blow, this "Christmas special."

This severely abridged Nutcracker is less of a ballet performance than a cheesy made-for-tv special. It's incredibly cheesy -- the sitcomish soundstage sets, the narration, the costumes. Everything is Americanized -- Drosselmeyer is now "Uncle Alex," the brother is now "Tommy," and pretty much all of the first act is gone. There's no party scene to speak of, just Marie's Nutcracker being broken by her brother and his friends. No mouse scene either -- Marie goes to sleep, and out step Edward Villela in a bright red suit and Patty McBride in a weirder black, Bournonville-style village dress and red pointe shoes. They dance the Awakening pas de deux. The fluffy cotton candy outfits by the snowflakes have to be scene to be believed -- they look like stuffed polar bears.

Oh, I forgot, the Nutcracker Prince is not really a Nutcracker, but an "enchanted prince," and the Sugar Plum Fairy is his mother. An evil Mouse King changed him into a Nutcracker and only in his mother's palace would he again become a prince. They travel to the Land of the Sweets by an airborne sled. Coffee, Russian, and Mother Ginger get their due, but the other divertissements are rearranged to occur later. Mother Ginger by the way in this video is a rather severe-looking elderly lady with a black dress and out of her widow's weeds pop three clowns. I'm not making this up you know. :smilie_mondieu:

Then Nutcracker and Marie take off and arrive in the "Land of the Bluebirds." This is an occasion for a random insertion of the Bluebird duet. The Florine by the way is in these rather dirty-looking flesh colored pointe shoes. Considering how massacred the score has been, the Bluebird/Florine duet is strangely presented complete, along with variations and coda. Helga Heinrich and Nils Keleth are the dancers.

"They had to fly over the seven seas, over many continents and oceans" to reach the Sugar Plum palace. Now the Arabian variation is inserted. Then Marzipan. Traditionally Marzipan is a female dance, but the Marzipan performers are all male, and the main Marzipan dancer seems to be doing an exact replica of the Bluebird variation. Waltz of the Flowers - fairly standard, women are wearing blue and white romantic tutus with huge organge, white, and blue wigs. Women do a series of simultaneous fouettes. Then there is a male and female soloist who barge in and make the Waltz of the Flowers a sort of pas de deux with women dancing in the background. More fouettes.

Finally the SPF appears (Melissa Hayden). Yay, mother and son are reunited. Edward Villela is now dressed like a prince in a dark costume. And then he ... dances a pas de deux with the Sugar Plum Fairy. His mom. A bit creepy, if you think of it. Choreography for the grand pas de deux is basically Balanchine's. In the middle of the duet, there is some strange overdramatic reorchestration, and a cut in the middle of the music. Villela and Hayden both get to dance severely abbreviated variations. Both of them dance a very cut coda.

Child Marie wakes up in his room. Mom blows out Christmas tree candles. The end (as music from the OVERTURE plays).

I didn't comment much on the dancing because there's practically nothing to comment about. McBride dances for MAYBE two minutes, tops, Villela not much more than that, Hayden a little more. But it's not a fair judge of their dancing, so I'm not going to comment.

But my, what a bizarre "Christmas special." :smilie_mondieu:

#17 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 15 December 2010 - 04:29 PM

I've been tempted to buy this for a while. Glad about your alert... :speechless-smiley-003:

#18 canbelto

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Posted 15 December 2010 - 05:00 PM

NYCB's Nutcracker - Adams, Kent, Mitchell, Villela, Balanchine (1958)

Choreography: George Balanchine


This was a Playhouse 90 special, but unlike the other Christmas special I just reviewed (horror!), this is an invaluable video. Yes for the sake of TV Balanchine had to make some cuts (the Prince's mime in Act 2), and there's an annoying narration by June Lockhart. And the dancers are obviously cramped by dancing on a tiny soundstage. The growing tree in particular looks cheesy under such cramped conditions. The second act suffers the most, with its array of cardboard gingerbread houses that look really cheap.

But this video is an absolutely wonderful Nutcracker video. It's an interesting point of comparison how Balanchine changed his Nut over the years. In 1958 it was still relatively new, and there are some differences. Coffee (Arabian) is danced by a male smoking a hookah. The Grand Pas de Deux is not danced with one cavalier, but with four supporting cavaliers. I much prefer Balanchine's final version of the Grand Pas de Deux.

Yet this video is unmistakably Balanchine's Nutcracker, with all of Balanchine's charming touches. The charming beginning has Clara and her brother pushing each other to peak through the door of the party. Real children populate the party, and they act like kids too. I always love the children and adults dancing together, with the children imitating the adults. Balanchine himself plays the Drosselmeyer and he's an absolute delight -- not at all sinister, but dotty, eccentric, and most of all, extremely kind. I love the moment when he tenderly fixes the Nutcracker, but not before blowing his nose on a hanky. Little touches like that are heartwarming without being corny. The mouse fight scene includes the seven-headed mouse king and the cheerleading mice, who sit bleacher-like and cheer on their mouse king as if it were a football game (always one of my favorite moments of the ballet). The angels, Candy Cane, the Marzipan sheperdesses, and Mother Ginger never lose their charm. And most of all, the wondrous choreography for the Snowflakes and the Waltz of the Flowers is all there. Balanchine's Nutcracker for me never loses its charm, its wonder, its humor, its magic.

Balanchine was often criticized for making great ballets with ugly decor and costumes. Nutcracker is one ballet where this is untrue. Like Cristian, I adore the soft, flowing romantic tutus for the snowflakes -- gives a real impression of snow flying around. I love the look of the Stahlbaum home -- not too fancy, not too shabby, just the right amount of coziness. I love the Flowers costumes, with their multilayered pink and lavender romantic tutus. And most of all Balanchine managed to create mice that are cute. Furry, rotund, they're more funny than scary. In 1958 the snowflakes aren't yet carrying their snowflake wands, but the magical effect is there.

The best part of this video is that it's an indicator of how strong of a company the NYCB was in 1958. Not a bad performance in the whole video, from the corps to the soloists. Allegra Kent, tiny and enchanting, zips through the choreography of Dewdrop as if it were child's play. Diana Adams is regal, gracious, everything a SPF should be. But most of all, the variations were breathtaking. After you've seen Edward Villela's Candy Cane all others pale in comparison. Arthur Mitchell makes the most of a variation that could have veered easily into camp. And the corps de ballet is the biggest surprise. They are dancing on a tiny soundstage, and I could imagine them feeling cramped, but the corps dance with trademark Balanchine attack and brio. The conductor sets almost impossibly fast paces for them (one has a feeling they needed to make the 90 minute timeslot without running over) but the corps de ballet rise to the challenge.

Despite a certain artificiality and less than ideal filming conditions, as well as cuts in the ballet, this video remains one of my favorite Nutcracker videos.

#19 canbelto

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Posted 16 December 2010 - 12:51 PM

Last but not least:

NYCB - Nutcracker (Kistler, Nichols, Woetzel)

Choreography: George Balanchine


George Balanchine's Nutcracker was presented as a feature film, and the "big draw" was Macauley Culkin as the Prince. I understand it did very poorly commercially, which is a crying shame because of all the Nutcracker videos, this one is my favorite.

It has flaws. Culkin does no harm as the Prince but the bright red lipstick and a certain stiffness make him look awkward and out of place. Also, as this was a studio film, and not a staged performance, I think some of the stage flats could have been made more three-dimensional, to give the film a more "movie" look. And the film suffers from some of the usual business in camera-work -- all jump and cutting off dancers at the knees and whatnot. Not a lot of it, but enough to occasionally be annoying.

But as a preservation of Balanchine's Nutcracker, this film must be counted as a major success. I've already spoken a lot about why I love Balanchine's Nutcracker, but this film at times even enhanced the work, if possible. For instance, during the Snowflakes scene the Snowflakes are filmed through a lens that make them literally sparkle. Their soft blue romantic tutus, their shiny crowns, their silvery snowball wands, all are filmed in such a way that they seem to be from another world. Emile Ardolino, the director, knew how to make dancers look good. In the Kingdom of the Sweets Darcey Kistler also seems to really glow. It's enchanting.

The performance is also extremely strong. I saw Kistler as the SPF much later in her career, and most of the time she grabbed the Cavalier's hand as if her life depended on it, and grimly tried to complete her supported pirouettes without much success. What a change it was to see her sail through the role in the film, and also emanate true graciousness and charm. Damian Woetzel -- how handsome he is! What a good partner too. The Cavalier role is so short but Woetzel made the most of it. And Kyra Nichols is taller and statelier than most Dewdrops (I'm used to this being a role for the short whiz-bang allegro dancers), but she also is so confident and joyful in her dancing. Wendy Whelan does a wonderful job as Coffee too.

Overall this film captures the charm, joy, and magic of Balanchine's Nutcracker and it remains my favorite video of this holiday classic. It's also available on dvd for pennies. :thumbsup:

#20 canbelto

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Posted 16 December 2010 - 07:28 PM

If I were to rank the Nutcrackers here is how it'd go:

Top Tier:

1. Nutcracker (NYCB) - Kistler, Woetzel, Nichols. A faithful recreation of Balanchine's final version of the Nutcracker, and a strong performance. Highly recommended.

2. Nutcracker (NYCB) - Playhouse 90 television special. Despite being filmed on a tiny soundstage, and some unfortunate cuts in the ballet, captures the NYCB in maybe the company's peak, and has the added bonus of Balanchine's wonderfully humane Drosselmeyer.

3. Nutcracker (Kirov) - Lezhnina, Baranov. Vainonen's version is my favorite of the "adult" Nutcrackers because of its sweet, uncomplicated romanticism. Lezhnina's Clara is a true charmer.

-----

Middle Tier:

4. Nutcracker (Royal Ballet, both of Peter Wright's versions) - The earlier Wright version has more original Ivanov choreography, the latter has stronger performances, but both versions suffer from a certain crippling stuffiness and seriousness. Still, very interesting for the historical perpsective.

5. Nutcracker (San Francisco Ballet) - an EXTREMELY strong first act, wonderful performances by the dancers, and some charmingly choreographed divertissements compensate somewhat for the dreary Act 2 production values, and the muddled concept of having the Sugar Plum Fairy with almost no dancing and an adult "dream Clara" that pops out of a box.

-----

Low Tier:

6. Nutcracker (ABT) - The concept definitely has an ick factor, and the intensity of Kirkland somehow seems wrong for this innocent role. The production is very pretty, and the choreography borrows a lot from Vainonen, but in the end, I just can't get over the fact that Drosselmeyer seems to have a thing for Clara.

7. Nutcracker (Paris Opera Ballet) - the charms of Elisabeth Maurin, Laurent Hilaire, and the elegant POB corps are offset by truly atrocious choreography and a muddled, creepy "concept" Nutcracker.

8. Nutcracker (Bolshoi Ballet) - ugh, what a busy, fussy, charmless production. All 200 Bolshoi dancers seem to be onstage at all times, and any sense of intimacy is lost. Unfortunate.

----

Bottom of the Barrel:

9. Nutcracker - Christmas special with Villela, McBride, Hayden. No explanation necessary.

#21 AlbanyGirl

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 12:29 PM

I don't know how to post a quote in the format I see you all posting so I'll just cut and paste regarding NYCB's Nutcracker - Adams, Kent, Mitchell, Villela, Balanchine (1958)

Canbelto, where oh where did you get this video/DVD?! Don't see it on Amazon..... Any help is appreciated. Thank you.

#22 Birdsall

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 03:47 PM

AlbanyGirl, at the bottom right corner you see "quote" buttons. You hit that and the person's whole quote appears in your reply box and you can edit it. Just wanting to be helpful.

However, someone else can hopefully explain the difference between pressing the "MultiQuote" button and the "Quote" button. Whenever I press either one I seem to get the same result (the entire person's posting as a quote).

#23 AlbanyGirl

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 07:48 PM

AlbanyGirl, at the bottom right corner you see "quote" buttons. You hit that and the person's whole quote appears in your reply box and you can edit it. Just wanting to be helpful.

However, someone else can hopefully explain the difference between pressing the "MultiQuote" button and the "Quote" button. Whenever I press either one I seem to get the same result (the entire person's posting as a quote).


Thank you, Birdsall.

#24 AlbanyGirl

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Posted 09 September 2012 - 05:40 AM

NYCB's Nutcracker - Adams, Kent, Mitchell, Villela, Balanchine (1958)

Choreography: George Balanchine


This was a Playhouse 90 special, but unlike the other Christmas special I just reviewed (horror!), this is an invaluable video. Yes for the sake of TV Balanchine had to make some cuts (the Prince's mime in Act 2), and there's an annoying narration by June Lockhart. And the dancers are obviously cramped by dancing on a tiny soundstage. The growing tree in particular looks cheesy under such cramped conditions. The second act suffers the most, with its array of cardboard gingerbread houses that look really cheap.

But this video is an absolutely wonderful Nutcracker video. It's an interesting point of comparison how Balanchine changed his Nut over the years. In 1958 it was still relatively new, and there are some differences. Coffee (Arabian) is danced by a male smoking a hookah. The Grand Pas de Deux is not danced with one cavalier, but with four supporting cavaliers. I much prefer Balanchine's final version of the Grand Pas de Deux.

Yet this video is unmistakably Balanchine's Nutcracker, with all of Balanchine's charming touches. The charming beginning has Clara and her brother pushing each other to peak through the door of the party. Real children populate the party, and they act like kids too. I always love the children and adults dancing together, with the children imitating the adults. Balanchine himself plays the Drosselmeyer and he's an absolute delight -- not at all sinister, but dotty, eccentric, and most of all, extremely kind. I love the moment when he tenderly fixes the Nutcracker, but not before blowing his nose on a hanky. Little touches like that are heartwarming without being corny. The mouse fight scene includes the seven-headed mouse king and the cheerleading mice, who sit bleacher-like and cheer on their mouse king as if it were a football game (always one of my favorite moments of the ballet). The angels, Candy Cane, the Marzipan sheperdesses, and Mother Ginger never lose their charm. And most of all, the wondrous choreography for the Snowflakes and the Waltz of the Flowers is all there. Balanchine's Nutcracker for me never loses its charm, its wonder, its humor, its magic.

Balanchine was often criticized for making great ballets with ugly decor and costumes. Nutcracker is one ballet where this is untrue. Like Cristian, I adore the soft, flowing romantic tutus for the snowflakes -- gives a real impression of snow flying around. I love the look of the Stahlbaum home -- not too fancy, not too shabby, just the right amount of coziness. I love the Flowers costumes, with their multilayered pink and lavender romantic tutus. And most of all Balanchine managed to create mice that are cute. Furry, rotund, they're more funny than scary. In 1958 the snowflakes aren't yet carrying their snowflake wands, but the magical effect is there.

The best part of this video is that it's an indicator of how strong of a company the NYCB was in 1958. Not a bad performance in the whole video, from the corps to the soloists. Allegra Kent, tiny and enchanting, zips through the choreography of Dewdrop as if it were child's play. Diana Adams is regal, gracious, everything a SPF should be. But most of all, the variations were breathtaking. After you've seen Edward Villela's Candy Cane all others pale in comparison. Arthur Mitchell makes the most of a variation that could have veered easily into camp. And the corps de ballet is the biggest surprise. They are dancing on a tiny soundstage, and I could imagine them feeling cramped, but the corps dance with trademark Balanchine attack and brio. The conductor sets almost impossibly fast paces for them (one has a feeling they needed to make the 90 minute timeslot without running over) but the corps de ballet rise to the challenge.

Despite a certain artificiality and less than ideal filming conditions, as well as cuts in the ballet, this video remains one of my favorite Nutcracker videos.


[font=helvetica, arial, sans-serif][size=4]Doing this post over with the quote format so Canbelto receives an email and can respond.[/size][/font]

[font=helvetica, arial, sans-serif][size=4]Canbelto, where oh where did you get this video/DVD?! Don't see it on Amazon..... Any help is appreciated. Thank you. [/size][/font]

#25 canbelto

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Posted 09 September 2012 - 05:44 AM

This video is what we call a private circulation.

#26 AlbanyGirl

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Posted 09 September 2012 - 06:08 AM

This video is what we call a private circulation.


And therefore unavailable?


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