Treasures of the Russian Ballet

Galina Ulanova, Maya Plisetskaya, Vladimir Vasiliev… – Ballet du Bolshoï

Though ballet had its genesis in the courts of Europe, it was in Russia that it evolved into the art form most familiar to us today – particularly in the development of the story ballet or balet-dram culminating in tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, Slepping Beauty and Nutcracker trio of masterworks. Of equal significance was the level of training that was to produce dancers of extraodinary ability. Nijinsky, Pavlova, Karsavina and Massine were just a few of the dancers whose fame spread internationally.

These stars were seen outside of Russia, often in Hastily organised tours. Diaghilev's Ballets russes had their Paris and London seasons in the early 1900s and even undertook a United States tour for the 1916/17 season concluding with performances at New York's Metropolitan Opera House.

Fans of Kirov will particularly welcome the inclusion here of the first act of The Stone Flower danced by principals of early perfomances. The ballet, first choregraphed by Leonid Lavrovsky for the Bolshoi Ballet, was noot well received and was quickly dropped from the repertoire. Soon after, Yuri Grigorovich mounted the work for the Kirov in a version that enjoyed both critical and public favour. It was also this ballet that highlighted the ascendant partnership of dancers Yuri Soloviev et Alla Sizova, two of the brightest young stars.

Soloviev was one of three dancers who dominated the company's male contingent, the other two being Mikhail Baryshnikov and Rudolf Nureyev. The dancers were not terribly competitive. Nureyev and Soloviev were friends and roomates for a period while Baryshnikov was relatively new to the company and was yet to achieve his super-star status.

These selections also display the versatility of the Bolshoi dancers. Plisetskaya's brilliant, high-flying Don Qixote Kitri is a far cry from the celebrated Odette in Swan Lake, yet both have been hailed as definitive. Maximova, whose impish charm delighted in her lighter roles, is equally effective as a Giselle. Struchkova's Ciderella sails through the air in her solos while providing sheer dance poetry in her pas de deux flawlessly partenered by Lavrovsky. Timofeyeva made her auspicious debut as the Swan Queen, but the sheer exuberance and athleticism exhibited in the Gayaneh excerpt is that of a dancer intent on dazzling. Those who experienced Vasiliev's powerful Spartacus, a theatrical tour de force, would hardly recognise the dancer who excelled in such comic roles as Basilio earlier in his career.

Perhaps the most celebrated and beloved of all Russian ballerinas was Galina Ulanova. Her career was launched with the Kirov Ballet, but in 1944 she moved to the Bolshoi where she ultimately became the company's prima ballerina assoluta. She was the most lyrical of dancers with innately musical legato phrasing and plasticity. She was, moreover, a continuing inspiration to the company's young dancers with a particular strong influence upon Maximova, who thrived under her tutelage. For the Russians, Ulanova came as close to artistic sainthood as any dancer in its history.

The Stone Flower: (Choreography by Yuri Grigorovich, Music by Pokofiev)
Yuri Soloviev (Danila)
Alla Sizova (Katerina, Danila's fiancee)
Alla Osipenko (Mistress of Copper Mountain)
Anatoli Gridin (Severyan, a cruel overseer)
Leningrad Kirov Ballet
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Niazi conductor


Swan Lake (Choreography by Lev Ivanov and Alexander Gorsky, Music by Tchaikovsky)
Galina Ulanova (Odette, The Swan queen)
Nikolai Fadeyechev (Prince Siegfried)
Bolshoi Ballet
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Yuri Faier conductor


Cinderella: (Choreography by Rostislav Zakharov, Music by Prokofiev)
Raisa Struchkova (Cinderella)
Mikhail Lavrovsky (The Prince)
Bolshoi Ballet
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Alexander Kopylov conductor
Algis Zhuraytis conductor


Giselle: (Choreography by Jean Coralli & Jules Perrot, Music d'Adolphe Adam)
Ekaterina Maximova (Giselle)
Maris Liepa (Prince Albrecht)
Bolshoi Ballet
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Alexander Kopylov conductor
Algis Zhuraytis conductor


Gayaneh: (Choreography by Nina Anisimova, Music by Khachaturian)
Nina Timoteyeva (Gayaneh)
Nikolai Fadeyechev (Armen, her brother)
Bolshoi Ballet
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Alexander Kopylov conductor
Algis Zhuraytis conductor


Don Quixote: (Choreography by Alexander Gorsky, Music by Minkus)
Maya Plisetskaya (Kitri)
Vladimir Vasiliev (Basilio, a barber in love with Kitri)
Bolshoi Ballet
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Alexander Kopylov conductor
Algis Zhuraytis conductor

Movie director : Margaret Dale
Collection : ICA Classics
Music genre : Ballet

Duration : 01 h 22 min
Locations : Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (London, Great Britain), BBC Television Centre (London, Great Britain)
Recording date : 1956 (Swan Lake), 1960 (The Stone Flower), 1963 (others)
Production date : 2012
Production : © BBC, under licence to International Classical Artists Ltd



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