First-Rate Acting And Fascinating Background Detail Are Combined With Superlative Dancing To Exemplify The Heritage Of The Kirov.
Before the initial worldwide tour of the Leningrad Kirov Ballet in 1961, its rival Bolshoi Ballet troupe was the generally accepted company of choice for the performance of archetypal Russian dance. However, the Kirov brought something fresh with them that charmed balletomanes - - an emphasis upon clarity of line for traditional works, showcasing roles that were filled by an extraordinary assemblage of soloists which, in general, lacked the vigour displayed by Bolshoi dancers. This film was constructed in 1965 following the previous year's second tour by the Kirov, and will receive high marks from many aficionados of dance. It is shot at the Kirov's home, Saint Petersburg's Maryinsky Theatre, being an enactment applying the original 1890 choreography created by Marius Petipa, although there are over an hour of cuts made from Tschaikowsky's score, with several numbers being shortened, while others are excised or repositioned. Lamentably, among these cuts are a portion of the Blue Bird solos (Valeri Panov) as well as the adagio from the Grand Pas de Deux, danced here by Alla Sizova and Yuri Solovyov. Nonetheless, most viewers will accept these deletions as the work is intriguingly untypical in many ways when compared with most filmed ballets, with a result that one's interest is heightened from outstanding set and costume design, along with cinematic special effects that cannot be found with stagebound productions. It is widely printed that Rudolf Nureyev, who had discarded his Soviet citizenship by defecting to the West (leaving the Kirov in 1961), would consider returning to the U.S.S.R. only if he could once again partner Sizova, and it is not difficult to understand the temper of his statement as the prima ballerina, performing here as Princess Aurora, displays ravishing extensions along with her emblematic velvety soft jumps. She is matched by the gifted Solovyov whose singular mastery of elevation is evident dancing as Desire (Prince Charming). Additionally, ballerina Natalia Makarova is pure elegance as Princess Florina while veteran ballerina and coach Natalia Dudinskaya is dramatically convincing as the evil fairy Carabosse, albeit she dances the role en pointe. The well-trained corps de ballet is tantamount to perfection. The striking Vaganova method of arm positioning has long been with the company (wherein it was derived) and it is something wondrous upon which to focus while viewing this film. One of the finest exponents of that school during the 1960s is the incomparable Kaleria Fedicheva, cast here as one of the five good fairies. Fedicheva, who became successful as a highly valued teacher in the United States following her defection, demonstrates here that she is a true balletic blade, cutting through the air as she generates a theatric interpretation of her character. Based upon a late 17th century fairy tale by Charles Perrault, The Sleeping Princess is provided with a fantasy plot line of great intensity in addition to inherent visual appeal, and the unique stagecraft utilized for this production offers not merely proficient employment of machinery, but also an opportunity for vividly interpretive acting and dancing, with skilled film editing being a decisively significant segment of the mix. The film is an artistic achievement for which all engaged in its making may well be pleased. This would include the Leningrad Opera and Ballet Theatre Orchestra, as well as the entire cast of dancers and many others of the production team, as the work's emotional impact reflects the efforts of a combination of diverse talents. Cinematographer Anatoli Nazarov employs numerous closeups and a broad range of camera angles, including overhead, that exhibits (in conjunction with artistic montage effects) especially telling effects fashioned by the design teams. This film has been released upon a less than completely satisfactory DVD, and most viewers will incline toward a 1990 Kultur VHS version that, while rather difficult to locate, and suffering from some colour washout, is yet presented in letterbox format that maintains the original aspect ratio of its Cinemascopic theatrical release prints.
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