PROKOFIEFF: Romeo & Juliet ballet, Blu-ray (2014)

by | Oct 28, 2014 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

PROKOFIEFF: Romeo & Juliet ballet, Blu-ray (2014)

Conductor: Valery Gergiev/ Mariinsky Orchestra
Dancers: Diana Vishneva, Vladimir Shklyarov & Mariinsky Ballet
Choreography: Leonid Lavrovsky
Studio: Mariinsky MAR0552 (2 discs: Blu-ray & DVD) [10/14/14] (Distr. by Naxos)
Video: 1.78:1 for 16:9 1080i HD
Audio: 24-bit PCM stereo only
Menus in English
No Region Code
No extras
Length: 152 minutes
Rating: *****

This makes for a somewhat difficult comparison with both the 2007 and the 2012 Royal Ballet productions (which were quite different from one another) with the famed choreography of Kenneth MacMillan, and this Mariinsky production, which is quite different from the production of the same ballet at the Bolshoi. (The documentary on MacMillan is very worth watching on the 2012 Blu-ray.) Here is our review of the second Royal Ballet Blu-ray.

I’m not a ballet maven and won’t analyze the differences between the Russian choreography and that of MacMillan, but on two counts I found this new Russian production to be the most enjoyable in spite of a couple of technical problems. The British Blu-ray looks quite murky and the sets are rather Victorian-looking, with lots of drapery and realistic decorations, while the Russian stage is openly fakey-looking, with poorly-painted backdrops, they are much brighter and more colorful and one doesn’t have to squint to see details. The sound on the British production, although the standard DTS-HD MA 5.1, is also rather murky, whereas the sound on the Mariinsky production, although only 24-bit PCM stereo, is extremely clean and detailed, and translates well to a pseudo surround field with ProLogic II or its equivalent. One online reviewer says the stereo playback only is inadequate in terms of the recent recording date, but I somewhat disagree.

The other technical squibble is a very loud white noise which comes in briefly three times on the left channel only (and only on the Blu-ray disc) during the opening menu sequence. Don’t know how a disc got released with such a serious problem, but it did. Seems to have been a problem in the manufacturing of all the Blu-rays. However, it does not continue during the ballet, so don’t bother returning it.

The music is what makes or breaks a ballet, and Prokofieff’s terrific score for Romeo and Juliet is surely one of the finest ever. It has gained a major place in the repertory as instrumental-only performances of the suites or the complete ballet. Often I am completely lost in viewing a ballet as to what is going on onstage, but in Romeo and Juliet most everything is very clear, especially with reading the short provided synopsis. MacMillan stressed the deeply felt emotions of the two major dancers in their movements, and felt that the Russians rushed thru things and lost that.

However, I found the Mariinsky production paced very well, and was done with grace and beauty. All the dancers are strong and appropriate. Diana Vishneva as Juliette is especially beautiful and a wonderful actress as well. She may be a bit old to play opposite the boyish-looking Shklyarov, but she communicates the young girl’s attributes convincingly. The cameras stay on Gergiev and his musicians in the cramped pit during the introductions to the various acts, before the curtain goes up. There are more scenes in front of the curtain in the Mariinsky production than in the Royal Ballet. Altogether a great production that shines on Blu-ray.

—John Sunier

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