'The Firebird' is short at less than an hour or so, but is a great ballet. Not just the most accessible of Stravinsky's ballets (musically and choreographically, especially when compared to the notoriously difficult 'Rite of Spring') but also one of Stravinsky's most accessible overall works.
Even with Valery Gergiev, who conducts Russian music better than any conductor known to me, conducting, this production is somewhat of a disappointment. It's a long way from awful or unwatchable, but Stravinsky's masterwork did deserve better than this very mixed bag of a performance, with its large merits but just as large debits.
Where it shines is in the musical values. It's sensitively and intensely played by the top-notch orchestra, and Gergiev conducts with immense expertise and fire, the passion and very emotive (and sometimes wild) connection to the music always apparent. Some of the choreography is elegant and virtuosic, and there is evidence of emotion and passion if not coming consistently.
Regarding the dancing, the women do fare better than the men. Greta Hodgkinson is a truly magnificent Firebird and after the orchestral playing and conducting one of the best assets of the production. The princess is very gracefully danced by Rebekkah Rimsay. The video directing is unobtrusive, expansive and intimate and the picture quality is always clear.
Sound however is less good, unfortunately often sounding muffled, and lacking in vivid volume, which does undermine the intensity of especially Kastchei's music. While some of the choreography impresses, there is also some simplistic and unimaginative parts as well, with Kastchei having little more than posturing.
Visually the production throughout looks it struggled badly with a low budget, the limitations being abundantly clear in a sparse and minimalist set that fails to give a clear time and place as well as any magic, cheap props and less than enchanting special effects that would look more at home in an amateurishly made low-budget film from the 50s or 60s.
Aleksandar Antonijevic dances wonderfully and powerfully, but dramatically makes for a too careful and expressionless Prince. Worse is Rex Harrington, his whole performance, not helped by clichéd and cheap costuming and make-up, is little more than un-threatening grimacing.
In summary, excellent musically, inconsistent choreographically and disastrous visually. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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