Swan Lake ballet. Music by Tchaikovsky. Recorded 2015. Libretto by Yuri Grigorovich after the scenario by Vladimir Begishev and Vasily Geltser. Choreography by Yuri Grigorovich after Marius Petipa, Lev Ivanov, and Alexander Gorsky. Stars Svetlana Zakharova (Odette/Odile), Denis Rodkin (Prince Siegfried), Artemy Belyakov (The Evil Genius), Yekaterina Barykina (The Princess Mother), Alexei Loparevich (The Tutor), and Igor Tsvirko (The Fool). Other dancers include: Kristina Kretova and Elizaveta Kruteleva (Friends to the Prince), Alexander Fadeyechev (Master of Ceremonies), Angelina Karpova (Hungrian Bride), Anna Rebetskaya (Russian Bride), Anna Tikhomirova (Spanish Bride), Daria Khokhlova (Neapolitan Brife), and Maria Semenyachenko (Polish Bride). The Three Swans are Angelina Karpova, Olga Marchenkova, and Ana Turazashvili; the Four Swans are Yulia Lunkina, Svetlana Pavlova, Margarita Shrainer, and Anna Voronkova; the Waltz Dancers are Karim Abdullin, Ivan Alexeyev, Dmitry Efremov, Egor Khromushin, Nelli Kobakhidze, Anna Okuneva, Yanina Parienko, and Anna Rebetskaya. Pavel Sorokin conducts the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra. Production design by Simon Virsaladze; lighting by Mikhail Sokolov; filmed by Vincent Bataillon; produced by François Duplat. Released 2015, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: D+
After finishing the renovation of their billion-dollar building late 2011, the Bolshoi published two stupendous A+ recordings with BelAir: a Sleeping Beauty and a Bayadère. These both starred Svetlana Zakharova and had updated mise-en-scène with mostly if not entirely new sets and costumes. I suspect that the Yuri Grigorovich Swan Lake, which goes back to 1969, was the next show up for a similar overhaul. But in January 2013, the month the new Bayadère came out, Grigorovich attained age 86 and an infamous acid attack scandal turned over the Bolshoi fruit basket for a couple of years. So the Grigorovich Swan Lake was not updated. Instead, it was sent out on the road again as a cash cow that, among other miracles, managed to milk Lincoln Center in New York for two sold-out weeks in July 2014. Meanwhile, I suspect the folks at BelAir were grinding their teeth waiting to continue their contract to record another Bolshoi ballet. And so BelAir found themselves filming in January 2015 not something new, but one of the more decrepit titles still in the Bolshoi repertory.
New York newspaper critics were not kind to the Grigorovich Swan Lake in 2014, but all seemed to agree that conductor Pavel Sorokin and the Bolshoi orchestra did a sparkling job with Tchaikovsky's music. Sorokin et. al. do a terrific job on subject disc as well, and videographer Vincent Bataillon honors them with this nice shot of the oboe player beginning the ballet with his mournful solo:
Below is the grim, dark set for Siegfried's castle and ballroom. The Bolshoi stage is big, and you can see the videographer's dilemma here. If you take extensive whole stage shots, which many balletomanes insist is the the only correct way to film a ballet, then 1080 lines of resolution is not enough to let the viewer see any fine detail or even identify most of the dancers. This would quickly get frustrating for all but the most fanatical ballet fans. (When 4K resolution films of ballet titles come along, I predict that full-stage shots in the great ballet theaters will finally be feasible.) But if the videographer moves in closer, then the crudeness and ugliness of the sets in this production becomes increasingly obvious.
Designer Virsaladze created several special scrims which drop down from the fly into the middle of the stage in several scenes. Below we see a scrim which stands for the Royal Family. In the mid-range shot below with Knights of the Royal Clan and the Master of Ceremonies, it's distressing clear how old, poorly executed, and out-of-date the designs are in this production:
Below is Prince Siegfried (Denis Rodkin) in one of the few close shots in the video. It's hard to believe the Bolshoi would dress their lead male dancer in such a cheap-looking and ill-fitting garment. This costume probably looks acceptable to a live audience, but nobody is going to be impressed with this in a HT. There is a deep "V" on the front of Siegfied's tunic, and this design is carried over to most of the other costumes:
Below are some of Siegfried's friends. The dull taupe-colored dress worn by the girls are covered with a kind of "fishnet." Caught in the fishnet are what appear to be shards of metallic film:
The Queen's costume is especially hideous: