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Charles Le Clainche,
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This Splendid Production Is An Example Of How The Bolshoi Has Become A Ballet Troupe That Outranks Most Others.
Yuri Grigorovich, artistic director and principal choreographer for the Bolshoi Theatre (1964/1995), creates one of his finest works with this intensely spirited piece, one that requires the utmost of competence from all dancers; its soloists, to be sure, but also each member dancing with the Bolshoi's exceptional corps de ballet, valuable adjuncts to the most assiduous musicological research performed by the Theatre Orchestra's conductor, Algis Zhuraitis. It was Abram Stassevich, conductor for Sergei Prokofiev's score for director Sergei Eisenstein's momentous IVAN THE TERRIBLE, PART II (1958), who proposed to Grigorovich that he transfigure IVAN, along with its music, into a full-length dramaturgic dance work. As theatre director of the Bolshoi, Grigorovich commissioned a distinguished Soviet composer as well as professor of composition, Mikhail I. Tchulaka, to create balletic scoring based upon Eisenstein's cinema masterpiece. It is cobbled from 377 fragments from Prokofiev's Ivan Part II musical design in addition to other pieces by the great composer. It will be readily perceived that the Grigorovich production is very much different from Eisenstein's tragedy in its use of symbol to unveil Ivan's inner tumult, very distinctly delineated through the incessantly exciting performance of the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra led by Zhuraitis. Initially released through Corinth Films in 1988, and subsequently by Kultur, the ballet narrative cogently depicts events from the life of the 16th century Russian ruler, and its first Tsar, Ivan IV (Yuri Vladimirov) during his momentous attempt to eliminate the dominating, time-honoured feudal power of the boyars, an entrenched aristocracy of nobles. A confederacy of boyars forcefully resisted the young Tsar, resulting in the murder of Ivan's wife, Tsarina Anastasia (Natalia Bessmertnova), all of this being artfully staged through the Bolshoi company's support of the Grigorovich choreography that closely conforms to Eisenstein's film, notably in its adherence to the tightly assembled score of Prokofiev. The three lead dancers, Vladimirov, Bessmertnova, and Boris Akimov as Ivan's close friend and adviser, Prince Kurbsky, reprise their roles of original cast members. Their efforts here, as with that of the entire company, is stunning in its execution of Grigorovich's difficult patterns, and rather more praiseworthy than the later filmed version released upon Arthaus. Grigorovich's choreography is quite original, as evinced through its focus toward appropriate inclusion of a variety of pieces by Prokofiev, such as his Third Symphony, Russian Overture, and pages from both of the Eisenstein Ivans, along with that of his Alexander Nevsky. Preservation of this balletic performance upon film is most valuable, its romantic imagery making of it a worthy companion to the Eisenstein set. This same taping can yet be located upon a Kultur VHS, as well as a DVD from the same company. Each format provides very fine audio and visual quality.
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