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Heading to NYPL: Which Balanchine videos are must sees?


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#16 Jack Reed

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Posted 05 June 2012 - 04:11 PM

The mid-60s films of Don Q and Midsummer are particularly good choices, not least for the great dancing of their large casts, but there are a couple of surprises:

Act I and Act III after scene i of Don Q may still be afflicted with a strong buzz in the audio, which interfered with the experience at first when the film was premiered at the Kennedy Center a few years ago. It's a steady noise, though, and I found I could adapt to it, tune it out, and enjoy the performance anyway. Alternatively, depending, in my experience, how the equipment is working during your NYPL visit, you may be able to skip around in the recording, and omit parts. (Or repeat favorites!)

The Midsummer recording Farrell presented at the Baryshnikov Arts Center a few years ago had only a minor technical quirk - it was a half-tone sharp, and therefore about 4% fast, maybe hardly noticeable - but it had a wonderful concluding fountain scene, never mounted in a theater as far as I know, but performed only in the downtown studio where the film was made.

#17 SimonA

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Posted 21 June 2012 - 05:48 PM

I just returned from New York and wanted to share a few observations from my visit to the NYPL. I watched fewer videos than I hoped, mainly because I kept re-watching the Farrell/Ludlow Concerto Barocco. Truly a sublime performance.

That Farrell/Morris/Ludlow Concerto Barocco is available at the library on a stand-alone videocassette (MGZIC 9-1022) and a cassette entitled "Le New York City Ballet," that also includes Glinkaiana: Divertimento Brillante (McBride/Villella) and Apollo (Martins, Farrell, Morris, von Aroldingen) (MZIC 9-1777 and MGZHB 20-454). Unfortunately, the cassette (MZIC 9-1777) had a thick static line just above ankle height through all the performances that was very distracting. I did not see the other copy (MGZHB 20-454), and it may not have the same issue. The video on the stand-alone cassette of Concerto Barocco (MGZIC 9-1022) was faded but otherwise fine.

The Adams/Le Clerq Concerto Barocco (MGZIDVD 5-118) was in great shape. Crystal clear video. And, as Paul Parish observed, what a wonderful comparison with the Farrell video.

The 1966 BBC Apollo with d'Amboise, Farrell, Govrin, Neary, and von Aroldingen (MGZIA 4-4106 RNC) was also in great shape. The picture is bright and sharp, and the performance was filmed against a white background with minimally intrusive camera work, so everything comes through with great clarity. There's also some wonderful rehearsal footage with both Balanchine and Stravinsky.

The Martins Apollo on the "Le New York City Ballet" cassette, which I referenced above, is not as well-served on film, aside from the static issue. It's much more darkly shot, with more "cinematic effects," like the use of shadow and close-ups. It's not overly distracting, but it's not as "clean" as the BBC Apollo film. The final pose on the staircase, for example, is all in shadow, except for light emanating from the dancers' limbs.

The Farrell performance is similar on both films. The point of comparison is, obviously, d'Amboise and Martins. I preferred d'Amboise: wilder, more impetuous, with a stronger transformation. Martins, much more controlled, is already the archetypal god-figure from birth.

The 1967 Midsummer Night's Dream at the library (MGZIDVD 5-5955) is not a great print. It looks like it was transferred to DVD with the left and right margins cut off. I thought it may have been a playback issue, but switching from 4:3 to 16:9 mode didn't fix it. (I did not notice the pitch issue Jack mentioned, but I don't have perfect pitch.) That being said, it doesn't lose too much of the picture, and I still was able to enjoy the performance. What a treat to be able to watch Farrell, Villella, Mitchell, Kent, d'Amboise, et al., in this.

There's so much else that I didn't have time to see! Can't wait to come back.

#18 Helene

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Posted 21 June 2012 - 11:30 PM

That's a great report, SimonA! It never occurred to me that there would be such a variation in the quality of the tapes, as opposed to the filming.


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