Choreography by Rudolf Nureyev
Performers: Paris Opera Ballet, Paris Opera Orchestra/Vello Pähn
Studio: Opus Arte OA HF5001 D
Video: 16:9 anamorphic color 1080i HD
Audio: DTS 5.0 surround, DTS 2.0
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian
Extras: Illustrated synopsis; Cast gallery
Length: 145 minutes
It didn’t take long after the premiere of the complete version of Swan Lake in St. Petersburg in 1895 for the work to become the best-known standard ballet in the repertory worldwide. In 1984 Rudolf Nureyev reworked Swan Lake for the Paris Opera Ballet, and that is the version seen in this hi-def disc. He introduced some rather Freudian subtexts plus mirrored identities. The Prince’s tutor – who was before a buffoonish character – now is a very in-charge presence who later also plays the evil sorcerer Rothbart, who has cast his swan spell on poor Odette. And the dancer of shy and withdrawn Odette becomes the blatantly sexual black swan Odile in the third act.
I began with the illustrated synopsis in the extra features. And well I did, because I had never fully grasped all the complexities of the scenario even though I’ve seen the ballet several times. This is a most useful feature which should be a part of every ballet and opera DVD. The emotional anguish of the Prince and Odette is of course apparent, but I’m afraid I’ve never fully understood the many subtle plot threads that are supposed to be communicated by the mime and dance of the ballet’s story. Or stylized set pieces, such as the fog on the dance floor in the final scene which is supposed to be the lake into which the Prince falls in his madness at loosing Odette. Oh, oh, did I do a spoiler there? Sorry.
Again, the hi-def and detailed images are just perfect although much of the ballet is shown in very long shots from an above angle, as though from the balcony circle of the theater. Nureyev has adjusted the already-impressive lines of swans in the older version into spectacular geometric shapes. There seem to be more swans than any production of the ballet I had previously seen. With the shots from above one gets a sort of very classy Busby Berkeley-type visual presentation of the swans. And from a more distant viewing position their individual movements appear all exactly alike in precise and breathtaking fashion. With the terrific DTS surround this is a truly transporting ballet experience.
– John Sunier