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Nutcracker by Mariinsky Ballet on Decca DVD

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Mine came yesterday and I had a chance to flip through the main segments, until I can thoroughly enjoy it on the weekend.

I must admit that I've adored this off-beat production since first seeing it at the Mariinsky soon after its premiere in 2001. At first glance, this is a magnificently-filmed pantomime-ballet, with first-rate performances by the principals, Irina Golub as Masha, Leonid Sarafanov as the Prince (appearing in only the pdd) and fabulous Anton Adasinsky as Drosselmeyer. Golub's childlike charm and sparkling dancing almost made me forget the ideal interpreter of this role, Natalia Sologub (no longer with the troupe) whose fluidity is hard to top. The most delightful surprise is the eloquently expansive performance of Ekaterina Kondaurova as the Queen of Snows. Chemiakin's luxurious sets and costumes can be admired well enough, although a bit of the 'WOW Factor' from seeing them in a live performance is lost. I also wished that the editing of the Snowflakes Waltz would have allowed us to appreciate the choreographic patterns a bit better, instead of flitting between long shots, middle shots and close ups so quickly. The Mariinsky's orchestra plays as beautifully as would be expected, led by Maestro Gergiev at his usual brisk pace.

My main complaint is with the credits...or lack thereof. The accompanying booklet and on-screen credits cite only the names of dancers essaying Masha, the Prince, Drosselmeyer, Snow Queen and a few of the minor non-dancing characters in Act I. Why on earth mention the names of the two walk-on-role kitchen maids, yet leave us guessing as to the identities of the Act 1 Mechanical Doll solos and all of the Act 2 divertissement soloists?

Here's my initial guess-list on who dances those roles. Anyone else who knows the true identity of these dancers please chime in:

Act I Dolls:

Prussian Soldier - Anton Pimonov?

Markitanka - Julia Kasenkova

Two Dervishes - ???? and ????

Act II Diverts:

Two Spanish Matadors: Islom Baimuratov and ????

Snake Lady (Arabian): Kondaurova (again a triumph...perfect!)

Chinese Trio: Andrei Ivanov, flanked by Tatyana Nekipelova and Julia Kasenkova

Three Russian Petrushkas: Nikolai Zubkovsky, Maxim Zuzin & ????

Three Bumblebees (Flutes music): l to rt: Elena Schmill, Elena Vasyukovich, Jana Selina

Five Pulchinellas (from Mother Ginger's skirt): impossible to name, due to facemasks

Four Demi-solo ladies in Flowers Waltz: Elena Androsova, Daria Vasnetsova, Daria Sukhorukova & Ekaterina Petina

Please DO chime in & correct me. This is frustrating.

A word of warning: this is NOT the fairyland Nutcracker to buy for little children! But for adults who can appreciate sophisticated, witty designs, it's a winner. All in all, this is a first-class recording of a very special production.

p.s. This is a 'basics-only' DVD. Considering the steep price, it's a shame that Decca could not have included one or two behind-the-scenes mini-documentaries, e.g., interviews with Chemyakin and the leading dancers or a look at the Mariinsky's costumes/prop-making shops (as this is a designs-uber-alles production, if there ever was one!). Perhaps the North American or Japanese editions of this DVD will be a bit more generous?

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I have a question: Is Irina Golub really as good as Masha? I watched a Swan Lake DVD in which she was in a Pas de Trois with Ekaterina Osmolkina and she had an extreme class-like facial expression of concentration. There was no joy whatsoever.

I am thinking about buying this DVD but am unsure. Then again, how much does Masha appear in this ballet? ...

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Legwarmer, Masha carries the ballet, being on the stage practically throughout the work. She and the transformed Nutccracker Prince dance the Sugarplum pdd, for example.

Golub is surprisingly wonderful in this. I've never been her greatest fan -- she has an unnatural, constant 'wide-eyed wonder/Disney Princess' expression when on the stage, IMO -- but the director of this video was able to extract a multitude of expressions from her this time and, of course, Golub has always been a very fine technician. The result is a first-class interpretation.

Sarafanov appears only in the final pdd and is dazzling.

As mentioned earlier, Kondaurova is in her element as leader of the Snowflakes.

I'd just love to know who dances the Act I dolls and the Act II diverts. :smilie_mondieu:

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I think we have to be careful about ballet videos, because we are watching a stage production through the eyes of a video camera and director. Things that read well in a theater can come across goofy or exaggerated in a TV closeup. I think we had a similar discussion about Laetitia Pujol's expressions in Emeralds on the POD video of Jewels. It's like watching a stage play on TV.

FWIW, I've seen Irina Golub on-stage dancing Gamzatti, and there was certainly no end of expression in her dancing and acting.


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FWIW, I've seen Irina Golub on-stage dancing Gamzatti, and there was certainly no end of expression in her dancing and acting.

Then again, what isn't there on the DVD (facial expression) can barely be there in the theater, can it? If a dancer doesn't smile honestly, you catch it on DVD and in the theater likewise.

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Sorry if I was not clear the first time.

My problem is with Golub live, on stage. Even her Juliet has that dumb kewpie-doll smile and wide eyes all of the time.

My delight came in seeing various expressions on Irina Golub's face in the film. My point is that the director of the Nutcracker film must have worked magic on Golub, 'cause I've never seen her this good live, on the stage.

Good for Irina Golub. She is progressing. Up 'til now, I have thought of the Young Girl in Spectre de la Rose as her ideal role...which ain't saying too much, if you get my drift.

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Just FYI - heard from my family in Russia that all of my guesses above are correct, e.g., Pimonov & Kasenkova as the Act I dolls, etc, etc. However, my question marks remain a mystery (the two dervishes in Act I and the 3rd 'Petrushka' in Act II). At least we now know the identity of 90% of the soloists on this DVD! :excl:

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Natalia, you're right--if you're used to the Balanchine-choreographed version of The Nutcracker that is a Christmas-season staple, this version will be quite a shock to you! It's small wonder that the version of this ballet the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet will perform in the USA late this year is the famous Vassily Vainonen version from 1934.

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