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Sleeping Beauty, w/ Sylve, Dutch National Ballet


art076

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I just received & viewed this DVD.  OK -- most of you, I believe, are going to scream at what I'm about to write: 

So this is the famous Sofiane Sylve about whom so many balletomanes and critics have waxed on eloquently?

Sorry but I cannot stand Sylve's Aurora. To me, she's the antithesis of the elegant, aristocratic, porcelain-pure Kirov Classic style...which should be THE style for that most 'imperial' of ballets, Sleeping Beauty!

Clearly you haven't looked at a picture of Carlotta Brianza lately.

Your "Kirov Classic style" is, of course, a constantly evolving thing. Lezhnina, for instance, would probably look strange if she returned to Petersburg right now. (At least that's what she told me.) There's every reason to believe this process has been going on as long as the company exists. A 125 years ago the Mariinsky people thought the company would go to the dogs if Virginia Zucchi were to set foot on stage.

You are right Sylve's Aurora has a little less porcelain and a little more girl power than you're used to. Would I like every Aurora to be this way? No. Am I glad I saw this Aurora? Yes. What's so good about a strong tradition like the Belle au Bois Dormant tradition it can handle this.

p.s.s. - Just curious why Sylve, a French ballerina (born in Nice), did not go through the POB school and system? That is not mentioned in the DVD's 'extra feature' on her life & career. I can't help but think that her unique physical qualities didn't  allow her to 'fit a mold' at the POB school in Nanterre...

Allow me to quote from a public source, i.e. my December 20, 2002 interview with Sylve in the Dutch weekly HP De Tijd (formerly an affiliate of Time magazine), "Dance is my Home":

"At age eight I left home [her parents had just divorced] so as to live closer to a school that allowed for ballet training half the day. My grandmère moved along with me, and that's why I was pretty much raised by my grandmother. My teacher [sylvie Maradei] became a kind of surrogate mother to me, and I spent a lot of time at her place. If these two wonderful women had not taken care of me this way I doubt I would have made it. A couple of times I was invited to come to the school of the Paris Opéra, the best school in France. But when I took a look at that building with those hard glass walls I knew I would never be able to survive there, all by myself. I would have been totally on my own."

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I agree with Herman about Lezhnina looking out of place among the current Kirov company. What's more, she looked out of place even when she was principal at the Kirov. Lezhnina looked very different from Makhalina, Asylmuratova, Mezentseva, Ivanova, Ayupova ... Me, I always thought Lezhnina was too porcelain china doll for my taste :lol:

Also, is there a "classic Kirov style" for this role? Irina Kopakova and Natalia Dudlinskaya were both strong muscular dancers. The Kirov choreography also completely eliminates fishdives, something that annoys me.

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I agree with Herman about Lezhnina looking out of place among the current Kirov company. What's more, she looked out of place even when she was principal at the Kirov. Lezhnina looked very different from Makhalina, Asylmuratova, Mezentseva, Ivanova, Ayupova ... Me, I always thought Lezhnina was too porcelain china doll for my taste  :lol:

Also, is there a "classic Kirov style" for this role? Irina Kopakova and Natalia Dudlinskaya were both strong muscular dancers. The Kirov choreography also completely eliminates fishdives, something that annoys me.

I have to say I don't see a similarity at all between Kolpakova and Dudiinskaya. They're different physical types, different employ, and were generally cast differently. Kolpakova was known for her lyricism, Dudinskaya was a bravura dancer. Aurora was one of Kolpakova's greatest roles, and in her day, she and Fonteyn were the two Great Auroras.

I agree that classical style is always evolving, but in the great companies there's also a connection from generation to generation. There was a clear Aurora line at the Kirov in the second half of the 20th century -- Kolpakova, Sizova, Lezhnina. Others danced the role, of course, but that delicacy and porcelain qualty is something that is revered in some circles :dunno: The ballet wasn't "Kitri has a Birthday!" Aurora is a specfic type -- more compact, as they say now (classically proportioned, 90 degree arabesque, not because they couldn't get the leg higher but because it suited the role). Any long-legged Aurora looks "off" to me, because the lines aren't symmetrical. But others wouldn't care a fig about that!

I saw Lezhniina in the early 1990s and would say that she fit beautifully into the company. Nor was she viewed as an oddball. Rather, there was excitement that the company had yet another Aurora in the Kolpakova-Sizova line. The glory of that generation of ballerinas is that there was such a range of types, yet all recognizably Kirov. I think Lezhnina might look out of place at the Kirov now -- but so do Makhalina and Ayupova, and so would Asylmuratova! Not that there aren't dancers like that still in the company, but theirs do not seem to be the preferred styles at the moment.

Canbelto, the fiishdives were added in Diaghilev's London production, so the Kirov really isn't elminating them. The arms en couronne in the Rose Adagio were also an English addition, and Kirov ballerinas usually don't do them (at least,, not those I've seen). Sylve does -- but this is Dutch production was staged by an Englishman.

Back to the safer ground of the production on this DVD :) -- I just watched it again, and one thing I really admire about it is that, when Aurora falls asleep after priicking her finger, the court just doesn't go dark; it's nuclear winter! The ancient birth-death-resurrection myth is really clear (without intruding too much, or Making a Point). The dancers generally have beautiful stage manners and make me believe they're at court, and the Queen (Alexandra Radius?) is a Queen!

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There is a lot of mime (more than the Lezhina/Kirov, and the Durante/RB productions, I believe), but I don't think they have completely restored all of the mime, though it's the most I've seen on video. The scene I use to judge this is mainly the first Carabosse scene.

I liked Princess Florine, but Bluebird did not have enough ballon and ease (compare to the dancer on Lezhina/Kirov), and looked like he was getting really tired at the end of his entrechet-six series. It's also the shorter male variation.

--Andre

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The extended mime scene that usually opens Act I is missing from this production; instead the curtain goes straight up on the "famous" Waltz with no mime about the King threatening to punish old ladies with illegal spindles.

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I just got my dvd yesterday; I really enjoy it! Two good friends of mine are in it :) For me it is the best recording, quality of a Sleeping Beauty dvd / video I have seen yet. I like the thunder and lightning in the scenes with Caraboose. The pas de quatre in Act III is also nice, it has some good variations for the men, I particularily like the first male variation. I am not really crazy about the scenery in Act I, "The Spell." It is a little too orange for me. But, I recommend this dvd to everyone here at Ballet Alert, or at least to take a look at it. The special features with Sir Peter Wright and Sylve are interesting as well.

One other thing I like is that a lot of the music in Act II was kept and restored. Some versions tend to cut this out. (When the prince gets to the palace to try and find Aurora.)

Oooh, and I like the costumes too. I think that Caraboose's goblins costumes are cool! (creepy kind of)

:)

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Art, I believe that is the correct ballet. There's also a short excerpt from it in Sylve's 7-turn fouette video from the Dutch National Ballet website. The dancing and music in it are so exciting that I'm looking forward to the day I can watch it in its entirety.

--Andre

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I was struck by what Peter Wright said about how "Aurora" should be interpretated in each of the Acts---In Act 1 she should be girlish, in Act 2 remote and womanly in Act 3. These are the qualities I missed in Silve's performance. I can sympathize with him, however, he was probably recalling Fonteyn. I did, however, enjoy the technical aspects of her dancing very much. I was disappointed in the camera work---most of the time I felt as though I was sitting in the 'cheap seats'---I had the urge to reach for my opera glasses.

One thing I must add---the excerpt of Silve dancing 'Dewdrop' is worth the price of the DVD.

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I just viewed this dvd and loved it! I particularly loved the stately, opulent production, and Sylve's wonderfully down-to-earth Aurora. Along with Asylmuratova she's been the Aurora I have on video that conveys the actual sweetness of Aurora without seeming overly cute and precious. Sylve has some wobbly, uncertain moments in the Rose Adagio but somehow I didnt mind them, mostly because I felt that her adorable personality more than made up for this. She seems to be one of those dancers (Cojocaru is another) for whom charm comes naturally.

The costumes are stunning, if a bit too fussy. I liked the longer-length tutus. And Gael Lambiotte is really wonderful -- very handsome. The Vision Scene was lovely, although upon closer examination the corps' final lineup had some blemishes.

Highly recommended. I also LOVE the gorgeous photo of Olga Spessivtseva during the overture.

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Ok, I have read most of your reviews. Seems as most of you liked the production which really astonish me. I have watched the DVD a couple of times and I have really really tried to like it and take it onto my heart. The only thing I find it is that the production is too dark so I actually have fallen asleep several times watching it :) . I find the same phenomenon with the other Sir Peter Wright production of Swan Lake with the Royal Swedish Ballet DVD. The settings and the dancers, costumes melt together into one big orangey background and you are constantly waiting for something for the foreground. (In the Swan Lake DVD, it was a big grey background instead of orange though :cool: )

The funny thing is that the live-stage version of Swan Lake was very very beautiful (it literally took my breath away when I saw it) so I would expect that it is the same phenomenon with the Sleeping Beauty.

I just had a very hard time neglecting the whole oreangey-mass and concentrate on the dancing...

I definitely agree with those who didn't like the gown of the lilac fairy. I think those long sheets on her arms made her look like a scarecrow (forcing her to have har arms right out from the body all the time) more than a graceful and yet powerful fairy. Also, I suppose I have a different picture of the lilac fairy in my mind: a mild and kind fairy rather than a fairy with power.

I was actually more content with the extra material featuring an interview with Ms Sylve.

Sometimes the reality doesn't meet up with expectations I suppose and in this case I had set too high expectations :o

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It feels odd (and perhaps it's futile) to be contributing to a thread some 15 years after the last contribution. But this DVD of the Dutch National Ballet's 2003 recording of Sleeping Beauty is still for sale and still selling. I'm not surprised, because I've just seen it and love it.

I sympathise with Susanne and any others who generally find Peter Wright's productions too dark; but where I find him a consistent winner is in the way that dance and movement combine as drama. I also agree with those who are especially impressed by the Vision Scene, which surely is one of the great production challenges of this ballet.

So some of the merits (NOT an exhaustive list):
1) Strong characterful performances from all the principals and from the movement and gestures of the extras in the scenes at court. The latter participate, and communicate with one another.
2) Some excellent ensemble numbers. I especially liked the Friends Dance in Act I, for its lively pacing and strong dancing from the small group.
3) The Vision Scene. This is FAR more dramatically convincing and cohesive than in the Sergeyev version made famous by the Kirov/Mariinsky and other Russian companies. I find that Wright's interpretation compares favourably with the historical reconstructions of recent years by Ratmansky and Vikharev.
4) A large part of the mime scenes and roles restored. This is especially beneficial to the dramatic function and character of the Lilac Fairy; but it gives the entire ballet a much stronger sense of being dramatic theatre without words than do any of the Soviet-era productions that are still common in Russian companies.
5) The encounter between the Lilac Fairy and Carabosse in the enchanted wood is superb! Economy as a virtue, even in this most spectacular of ballets.
6) The orchestra is strong and characterful. It's nowhere near as accomplished as the Mariinsky Ballet orchestra (which one is?); but it's better than Paris.
7) The general pacing of action and music moves things along in a way that always focuses on drama and characters, largely because it has such a sure sense of direction and purpose.

Some demerits (a more exhaustive list, for I don't find there are many of these):
1) The cuts. With nearly three hours of music, the complete score makes for a very long evening. But cuts almost always produce loss. To me, the ones that made loss a little too obvious included the mime scene at the beginning of Act I (where the three women with spindles are found), the Finale of Act II, the opening March in Act III, some of the character dances in Act III, and — sadly and as usual — a truncated Apotheosis (i.e. just the introductory and concluding statements of that old melody, so superbly scored by Tchaikovsky).
The cut at the end of Act II is interesting in that it seems designed to deal with what can be a bit of a problem with the original — the bursting into life of the entire court when Desiré kisses Aurora, accompanied by a short outburst of joy from the orchestra — and that's it. So, this production replaces that with the Entracte for solo violin and orchestra, which is rarely played, but which on this occasion gives Desiré and Aurora time together, before they get married in the final act. Sounds like a good (even morally healthy) idea! But I'm not convinced by the result.
That said, the cuts do not show the level of anti-dramatic thinking that one can see in quite a few heavily cut performances by Russian companies. (I'm thinking especially of the Bolshoi's film of around 2017.)
2) In some of the faster music the sound gets a bit tangled. This has nothing to do with the competence of the players, but is almost always because things are driven too hard. I especially found that towards the end of the Prologue, when Carabosse is in full flight and then when the Lilac Fairy comes on. In the few minutes before Carabosse leaves, it's all too hasty. This matters, because Tchaikovsky carefully weaves distinct details which tell you in music that, although the Lilac Fairy is in charge, Carabosse's evil has not entirely gone away.

But overall, this DVD is a winner — one of my favourites among several films of SB that I have seen. And as many commentating here have remarked, the extras are well worthwhile.

 

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15 hours ago, cyclingmartin said:

A large part of the mime scenes and roles restored. This is especially beneficial to the dramatic function and character of the Lilac Fairy; but it gives the entire ballet a much stronger sense of being dramatic theatre without words than do any of the Soviet-era productions that are still common in Russian companies.

This is the thing I like the best about this version! My DVD has a little extra wherein the mime is explained to a group of school children who then go on to do it themselves. It's charming, but it also really helped me grok the Lilac Fairy as a mimed role rather than a danced one. 

There are aspects of the production—e.g., the women dancers' headdresses—that are evocative of the Javanese court. I'm a little uneasy about that given the history of Dutch colonial rule in Indonesia. That being said, it's a gorgeous production. Here's a look: 

 

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Thank you, @Kathleen O'Connell. That's a lovely clip that you posted, which captures so well the musical, choreographic and dramatic characteristics of the production. Now, here's a lovely example of the UK and the USA being countries divided by their common language — I had to look up what "grok" means. It's so appropriate for things such as your "getting" (a VERY inadequate word) the Lilac Fairy, and for so many things to do with artistic insight. I wonder how many folks this side of the pond would know what it means . . . 

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