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Not perfect by all means, but I thought it was very good
Spartacus is a ballet I saw and heard in its entirety only recently. I found myself very taken by it, the music is just beautiful and it has a quite unique story. Long-time fans of the ballet may find this 1977 performance a disappointment, ballet fans who love good choreography and dancing will find much to like. Me, I thought the performance itself was very good and much better than the rating that it has at the moment on IMDb.
I can definitely understand any disappointment anybody would share, as the performance does have its problems. The way it's shot is rather irritating, especially the ideas of having slow motion for Spartacus' leaps and double exposure images in an attempt to give the battle scenes a bigger feel. The faded and darkly-lit picture also gives a somewhat dated look. I'm usually not one to fuss about cuts, but it depends on the nature of the cuts. Spartacus has one of those stories that stands out so much from the rest that anything that is cut may have a risk of making it less coherent. I did find that to be the case with this Spartacus, Act 2 fared the worst in this regard.
However, the costumes and sets look nice and appropriate. The way the performance is staged is highly effective, the choreography is classical and elegant but also in keeping with the story's nature while the contrasting conflicts that the story and characters convey are powerfully and movingly done. It is impeccable musically, the beautiful music is performed with appropriate forcefulness, nuance and poise by the orchestra, and the conducting keeps everything together with no obvious problem, he keeps the drama of the music and story alive but accommodates the dancers admirably also. I have nothing to complain about the dancing either, with the Corps-De-Ballet dancing with affecting grace.
The performances of Vladimir Vasiliev and Maris Liepa are the main reasons to watch. Vasiliev's Spartacus is hugely compelling, he acts mainly through his dancing but does so with great authority and vigour. You do wish that there was more evidence about showcasing Liepa's talent, but this makes do and show fluid, masculine dancing and an extremely well-acted characterisation. Natalia Bessmertnova's Phrygia is beautiful and elegant, some may find her a little cold but considering the character somewhat that wasn't inappropriate.
All in all, very good but not without its flaws. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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