Tuesday night The Royal Danish Theater launched their new project: live transmissions to 31 cinemas all over the country. Bournonville's "Napoli" had the honour of being the very first in a hopefully long row of transmissions. Next time will not be until the season 2014-15 and the project will include both ballet, opera and theatre.
Tuesday's premiere was a very mixed experience. On the positive side: sound and picture were of an astonishingly high quality! The pictures had a depth and sharpness which I have hardly seen before. Apart from that I really can't think of anything favourable to say about the way the transmission was made: It was deeply frustrating to watch! And here I'm only talking about the camera work, not about the performance in itself or the dancers.
The intention has clearly been to make a kind of movie out of the ballet: The camera is much more concerned about the story than about the dance. In act 3, where you finally get a lot of dance you don't see half of it because the camera is much more in love with the people watching the dance. Furthermore they switch camera angle every 5 seconds, which apart from being hard on your eye muscles often goes straight against the phrasing of the music and the flow of the dance.
Camera men these days seem to love close-ups, or at least they want to focus on only one person at a time. I'm totally aware of, that in a ballet like Napoli you have to make a choice: there are a million stories going on at the same time, especially in act 1, and neither the eye nor the camera is capable of of capturing them all. But after 20 minutes of faces and upper bodies filling out most of the screen you actually yearn for a zoom-out!
Neither the mime nor the make-up are made for a close-up, and a kiss on stage is simply better from a distance than in a long and insisting zoom-in, where you get painfully aware of the dancers' struggle not to make a smear of their make-up. The narrow framing of the dancers has the further effect that their heads are bobbing out of the picture all the time.
Act 2 is getting far better off than the two framing acts, mainly because the story is simpler and more focused. It is actually breathtakingly beautyfull to watch, no matter whether you like the idea of Hübbe's new staging or not!
If they are going to make a dvd out of this, I hope they have some more footage they can piece together to a more coherent whole and to make justice to the dance which was rather stepmotherly treated!