ica Classics has released several DVDs of remastered performances in the BBC archives. One of them is a DVD of two one-act ballets by John Cranko, "The Lady and the Fool" and "Pineapple Poll."
For "The Lady and the Fool," Cranko had a master in conductor Charles Mackerras, so well known for his Janacek performances and recordings, who created the score from excerpts of early Verdi arias and combined them seamlessly. Because the music is early Verdi, the bel canto lineage from Donizetti and Bellini is clear, and I don't think it was a coincidence how similar the music was in feel to "La Sonnambula" in the part where Moondog carried the (temporarily) lifeless Bootface, nor that it looked like a quote from the Balanchine ballet with its similar court setting, or like the "Apollo" sunburst where La Capricciosa, the lovely Svetlana Beriosova, was partnered simultaneously by the three suitors, Signor Midas (David Shields), Capitano Adoncino (Bob Stevenson), and The Prince of Arroganza (the frighteningly handsome Peter Wright).
The clowns were of the European tradition, with a lot of pathos and mime, which most ballet companies today avoid like the plague, sadly, and their central dance together was clever and viscerally live. While romantic ballet rivalries aren't unique, they're usually delegated to minor or secondary characters, with either tragic or make-fun-of-the-old-guy results, but they rarely focus on how friendships are impacted when a friend pairs up. I found it moving, and I wish there was a market for it to be revived. I already have it cast for PNB in my head, and I could see this going over very well with kids, too, on a family matinee with "Fancy Free" and maybe "Tarantella."
I didn't get more than 1/3 through "Pineapple Poll," before I dozed off -- I will give it another try -- but in the parts I did see, Merle Park's performance was sparkling, and David Blair was fantastic in his solo.
I couldn't but help think about how in one DVD from British ballet in 1959 were three of the most foremost stagers of the classics: Hynd -- PNB performs his "Sleeping Beauty" -- and Wright -- his version was filmed for the Dutch National Ballet's DVD of "Sleeping Beauty" with Sylve -- and Blair, whose "Swan Lake" is mourned still by ABT fans and was the first version I saw.
Unless allergic to narrative ballet, I would call this DVD a must-have for ballet DVD collectors.