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Ballet - and opera - in movie theaters


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#1 Pamela Moberg

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Posted 29 May 2011 - 01:54 PM

Just spoke to DD - she was very excited after having seen Bolshoi Coppelia with Natalia Osipova. One cannot but be in awe of modern technique, now it is possible to see -as in this case - the Bolshoi in a small little community in the wilderness. And for a rather modest amount of money. There are though, certain requirements for the movie venues to be allowed these broadcasts. They must install good quality screens and possess a perfect sound system to do justice to the music. According to her, it felt more like being in a proper theater than at the movies and she warmly recommended the performance. :clapping:

#2 PeggyR

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Posted 29 May 2011 - 08:06 PM

Just spoke to DD - she was very excited after having seen Bolshoi Coppelia with Natalia Osipova. One cannot but be in awe of modern technique, now it is possible to see -as in this case - the Bolshoi in a small little community in the wilderness. And for a rather modest amount of money. There are though, certain requirements for the movie venues to be allowed these broadcasts. They must install good quality screens and possess a perfect sound system to do justice to the music. According to her, it felt more like being in a proper theater than at the movies and she warmly recommended the performance. :clapping:

Completely agree, although I would add one more element to make the experience complete: an audience. Finally, a venue close to me has started showing the Opera/Ballet/Shakespeare in Cinema transmissions, and today's Coppelia was the first one I've attended. In a theater that holds about 350, the audience numbered...17. I was almost in tears. Granted, it was 8 am on a Sunday morning of a holiday weekend, but still...

I was talking to the ticket person (who had plenty of time for a chat) and she said in an effort to build an audience, they'll be showing some transmissions for free (e.g., this Thursday, free Aida! Luckily I'm on vacation this week -- hate to pass up a free Aida.).

As to the ballet itself -- good fun, particularly Gennadi Yanin's funny Coppelius. Must say, though, that as much as I admire Osipova, all that non-stop energy is kind of exhausting to watch for two hours.

#3 Pamela Moberg

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 04:08 PM

17 in the audience - well, the mind boggles. But taken into consideration that most horrible hour, it was not bad. But it all stands to perfect reason. Those screenings are in real time, we are so close to Moscow here, just a couple of hours by air. DD saw her movie starting at 5 p.m. which means that they were actually starting their performance at 7 p.m. in Moscow. So that means that if we were to see a performance from the Met here, it would be at an impossible hour. Cant work it out in my head, but somewhere in the house we have a clock that shows all the time differences in the world, must check that. By the way, it is 2 a.m. here right now :blink:

#4 puppytreats

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Posted 31 May 2011 - 05:22 PM

17 in the audience - well, the mind boggles. But taken into consideration that most horrible hour, it was not bad. But it all stands to perfect reason. Those screenings are in real time, we are so close to Moscow here, just a couple of hours by air. DD saw her movie starting at 5 p.m. which means that they were actually starting their performance at 7 p.m. in Moscow. So that means that if we were to see a performance from the Met here, it would be at an impossible hour. Cant work it out in my head, but somewhere in the house we have a clock that shows all the time differences in the world, must check that. By the way, it is 2 a.m. here right now :blink:


I saw it in NYC at 11 a.m. EST in a full theatre (discussed in my post on another forum). Many had to wait for returned tickets to get in, as noted in the Times article.

#5 volcanohunter

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Posted 01 June 2011 - 07:07 AM

Must say, though, that as much as I admire Osipova, all that non-stop energy is kind of exhausting to watch for two hours.

I have to agree with you. Her Swanilda is one scary girlfriend, she's so ferocious. (Perhaps it's not that difficult to understand how Franz could be draw to a quiet, bookish girl.) Osipova displays a couple of my pet peeves: raising the leg so high à la seconde that the torso is whacked out of position and the supporting leg is turned in, and a couronne position with elbows locked straight and hands bent at the wrists at almost a 90 degree angle. Of course, she is not unique in this regard; I can point an accusing finger at an awful lot of dancers for doing the same thing. What is unique is her enormous jump, which is literally breathtaking to behold.

My non-dancing date came away much more impressed by Vyacheslav Lopatin, and I can't disagree with that either. His jumps are weightless, his turns are silky smooth, and he has a sweet naïveté that's completely right for the role.

As I was watching the first act, it occurred to me that this performance would probably become the new standard on video. Though the mazurka looked a little ragged, the csardas looked fantastic.

By the second act, though, I wasn't so sure anymore. This had to be the least spooky version of Coppelius' workshop I'd ever seen: a stately sitting room with a few flasks neatly placed on a side table, populated by equally stately looking "dolls." I don't fault Gennadi Yanin in any way, for he must be the least malevolent and most subtle Coppelius I've seen in a very long time, and his acting registered best on the big screen. But being accustomed primarily to descendents of the Royal Ballet production, I found the Bolshoi's mime to be less vivid and less specific than what I'm used to seeing. I gather there's a bit of leeway in this area. During the first intermission Sergei Vikharev explained that while the dance steps in Sergeyev's score are recorded in Stepanov notation, the mime is described in longhand in Russian.

In the third act I was really puzzled by having young students of the Bolshoi school as the brides and bridegrooms. Surely pre-pubescent marriage was not the norm in the Austrian Empire. The variations were danced by Anastasia Stashkevich (Dawn), Anna Nikulina (Prayer), Anastasia Yatsenko (Work) and Anna Tikhomirova (Folly). I thought that Nikulina's downcast eyes looked nervous rather than serene. Perhaps she shouldn't have been raising her legs higher than she could comfortably control either. I was also a little thrown by the Folly variation to the valse from the third act of Sylvia, not just because the music was alien to the rest of the score, but because it struck me as an odd symbol to insert into a wedding pas de deux.

There were a couple of big improvements over the Bolshoi's stream of Don Quixote a couple of months ago. This time around there was no distortion in the aspect ratio, so everyone looked true to size, and there were no interruptions in the stream itself, so there weren't serious issues with synchronization. I do think there was a tiny discrepancy between picture and sound (heel stamping seemed to occur a split second on screen before it did on the soundtrack), and this presents a challenge in any attempt to broadcast ballet live into cinemas. I also have no complaints about the camera work this time, except perhaps that they followed the dancers in motion so closely that it was impossible to gauge just how quickly they were moving through space, much like the way that close-ups of figure skaters on TV obscure how quickly they're moving over the ice.

Hopefully the spelling of "Enricco" Cecchetti will be corrected in the opening credits. I definitely intend to buy a DVD if it comes out.

The stream in my city was on a three-hour time delay and was playing at two locations. I'd put attendance at about 35 people where I was, and it had been about the same at the other location for Don Quixote. This time around, though, there were more children in the audience, which is encouraging.

#6 abatt

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Posted 06 June 2011 - 08:05 AM

I went to the encore performance yesterday at Big Cinema Manhattan. My guess is tha they sold approx. 40% of the seats. I'm enjoying these broadcasts very much. Coppelia will never be one of my favorite ballets, but I enjoyed seeing the Bolshoi production. There is far less dancing for Franz in this production than the one at NYCB.

#7 Kristen

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 08:23 AM

Interesting that VolcanoHunter mentioned no distortion of their bodies. I saw both DonQ and Coppelia at a small (empty!) theater in central Florida and the distortion was pronounced both times. I have to wonder if it's a small screen problem? Bottom line, if Osipova were that short and wide, she'd be unemployed! Fortunately, I saw her dance Don Q live at the Met last year (phenomenal)and I'm well aware that the video is distorting her.

#8 abatt

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 08:41 AM

I also thought the video presentation created distortions. I think they are using a wide angle lens, which may be responsible for the distortion.

#9 volcanohunter

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 09:10 AM

It may be that people complained to the Cineplex chain in Canada about the picture quality, and that it was fixed for this screening. It's not the first time I've seen it happen. I'd watched several Opus Arte ballet presentations at a particular venue that looked terrific. But when it came to the Cojocaru/Kobborg/Nuñez Giselle the aspect ratio was suddenly all wrong, and everyone looked very squat, with limbs that looked unnaturally elongated when extended to the side. This was extremely frustrating and continued for several presentations, even though everyone I complained to about it--the multiplex manager, the person organizing the presentations for the movie chain and the people at the company providing the stream--assured me that they'd heard of the problem and were working to fix it. I've since seen all of the offending performances on DVD, and the problem was not in the film itself but in how it had been projected. My guess would be that Coppelia was being filmed with the 16:9 ratio of widescreen television in mind, but was being projected in the wider 1.85:1 or even 2.39:1 ratio typically used for screening movies.

You'll have to excuse me since I'm not well versed in the subject, but after the "humpty-dumpty" Giselle had been screened, I mentioned it to my brother-in-law who works in video production, and his best guess was that the aspect ratios of the film and projector didn't match.

#10 puppytreats

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 10:18 AM

Interesting that VolcanoHunter mentioned no distortion of their bodies. I saw both DonQ and Coppelia at a small (empty!) theater in central Florida and the distortion was pronounced both times. I have to wonder if it's a small screen problem? Bottom line, if Osipova were that short and wide, she'd be unemployed! Fortunately, I saw her dance Don Q live at the Met last year (phenomenal)and I'm well aware that the video is distorting her.


I posted a question on these boards (another forum) regarding how thick the legs appeared on the screen. I could not believe that the Russian dancers were so thick, especially when weight is discussed so often in connection with the Russians.

Strangely, I saw some dancers leaving the Met last night, and they appeared so much thinner in street clothing than onstage in tights, as viewed from the front row of the orchestra. Apparently, even in person, distortions in perception can occur.

#11 canbelto

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Posted 25 June 2011 - 07:27 AM

I thought the re-transmission of Swan Lake was by far the Bolshoi's poorest showing in their HD series. I could find very little value either in Grigorovich's production or Alexandrova's Odette/Odile. I was so disappointed. I thought I had sat through some bad productions of Swan Lake until I saw Grigorovich's. An absolutely unmusical butchering of the score, robbed the ballet of any poetry or meaning. Ugh on all levels.

#12 PeggyR

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Posted 27 June 2011 - 05:54 AM

I thought the re-transmission of Swan Lake was by far the Bolshoi's poorest showing in their HD series. I could find very little value either in Grigorovich's production or Alexandrova's Odette/Odile. I was so disappointed. I thought I had sat through some bad productions of Swan Lake until I saw Grigorovich's. An absolutely unmusical butchering of the score, robbed the ballet of any poetry or meaning. Ugh on all levels.

Aside from any other problems, the biggest disappointments for me were the national dances in the third act. I think it was a huge mistake putting the dancers on pointe -- looked like routine, bland variations with minimal ‘ethnic diversity’; e.g., fan = Spanish; tambourines = Italian (plus the tambourines had their noisy bits removed and made no sound at all, which was a little disconcerting – what’s the point of a tambourine without the jingly stuff?).

Still, it was Swan Lake and it only cost me $16, so I'm not complaining.

#13 canbelto

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Posted 29 June 2011 - 10:07 AM

I hated the pointe shoe Act 3 dances, but what I hated more was the cutting of the apotheosis in Act 4 (some of Tchaikovsky's greatest music) and other musical arrangements/cuts that disfigured the ballet completely, the weird non-entrance of Odette/the swans in the lakeside scene, and the constant presence of the hammy Evil Genius that robbed the scenes between Odette/Siegfried of all romance. This is a Swan Lake with no lake, no love, no poetry. I can't believe that it's such a popular production in Russia.


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