2015 Gala des Étoiles dance recital at the Teatro alla Scala. Stars dancers (alphabetical order) Roberto Bolle, Claudio Coviello, Marlon Dino, Maria Eichwald, Melissa Hamilton, Lucia Lacarra, Nicoletta Manni, Massimo Murru, Leonid Sarafanov, Alina Somova, Ivan Vasiliev, Maria Vinogradova, Svetlana Zakharova, and Mick Zeni. David Coleman conducts the Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala. Directed for TV by Lorena Sardi. Released 2016, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A (see qualifications below)
A ballet gala is a series of short selections from famous dance productions with top artists (home-based and guests) performing with minimum sets and props. Ballet patrons — wined, dined, and primed — cheer on the stars, especially the home favorites. Let's jump right into screenshots for each selection:
1. Three Preludes with Lucia Lacarra and Marlon Dino; choreography by Ben Stevenson; music by Sergei Rachmaninov; solo piano by Roberto Cominati. I'm in Dallas, Texas, and I'm so proud! Out of the entire world of dance, this Gala opens with something from Ben, today Director of the Texas Ballet Theater and godfather of dance in Dallas/Fort Worth! Three Preludes is a great choice for this — combining classical purity with strikingly original passages, all covering a smoldering sexuality. Lucia Lacarra and Marlon Dino, a married couple, are stars of the Bavarian State Opera Ballet:
2. L'Histoire de Manon - Pas de Deux, Act I Scene 2 with Melissa Hamilton and Claudio Coviello; choreography by Kenneth Macmillan; music by Jules Massenet. We know Melissa well as a First Soloist with the Royal Ballet and star in Infra. Claudio Coviello is a principal at La Scala. Props help out with this costume drama. (We just got a full ballet version of Manon from the Paris Opera Ballet, and it has Roberto Bolle as guest star):
3. Le Rose Malade with Maria Eichwald and Mick Zeni; ballet by Roland Petit; music by Gustav Mahler. Maria Eichwald is now Principal Dancer at the Stuttgart Ballet. Mick Zeni is a Principal at La Scala. The music is the famous Agagio from Mahler's Symphony No. 5. This seemed to be a favorite of the Gala audience. It's inspired, I think, by a poem in English published in 1794 by William Blake:
O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.
4. Grand Pas Classique with Alina Somova (from the Mariinsky in Saint Petersburg) and Leonid Sarafanov (from the Mikhailovsky in Saint Petersburg); choreography by Victor Gsovsky; music by Daniel-François Auber. A grand pas classique isn't connected to characters or a story---it's made to let star dancers show off technique. First below a classic pose:
The shot next below is the end of an impressive display by Somova of balance, strength, and control. While keeping her weight always on the left leg, she slowly makes 21 "kicks" of various sorts with her left leg (I'm chicken to try to describe this in French). Mixed in with the kicks are a number of complete rotations. Her heel is on the floor except then she rises to pointe for each move---all seemingly without the slightest effort or difficulty:
5. Carmen - Pas de Deux with Polina Semionova and Roberto Bolle; ballet by Roland Petit; music by Georges Bizet. The local god of La Scala is, of course, Roberto Bolle, shown here as Don José:
Polina Semionova, now principal with the American Ballet Theater, is another Russian superstar whom we known well from Caravaggio and other HDVDs. Somehow this costume doesn't become her. Also, I can't see Carmen with pixie-short hair, which also makes Polina's ears look big:
Roberto and Polina dance from Carmen on an empty stage, and this turns out to be one of the weaker selections on the program:
6. The Dying Swan with Svetlana Zakharova; choreography by Mikhail Fokine; music by Camille Saint-Saëns. Zakharova is now a prima ballerina of the Bolshoi in Moscow and the only female Étoile of the La Scala ballet. We know her well from unsurpassed HDVDs by the Bolshoi Ballet of The Sleeping Beauty, La Bayadère, and La fille du pharaon. Zakharova could claim to be the leading ballerina in the world:
7. Don Quixote - Grand Pas de Deux, Act 3 with Nicoletta Manni and Ivan Vasiliev; choreography by Marius Petipa; music by Ludwig Minkus. Nicoletta Manni is a principal at the La Scala Ballet. Ivan Vasiliev was a principal at the Bolshoi and is now principal at the American Ballet Theatre. He excels at leaping and carrying women around over his head. Below we see two famous images from Don Quixote:
8. Light Rain - Pas de Deux with Lucia Lacarra and Marlon Dino; choreography by Gerald Arpino; music by Douglas Adams and Russ Gauthier. Here we see the married couple again in my favorite selection from this gala---an unbelievably sexy pas de deux from Light Rain, a work made famous by The Joffery Ballet:
9. Romeo & Juliet - Pas de Deux, Act 1 Scene 6 with Maria Eichwald and Massimo Murru; choreography by Kenneth MacMillan; music by Sergei Prokofiev. We met Maria Eichwald already. Massimo Murru is the second male La Scala Étoile (along with Bolle). Both Eichwald and Murru are close to retirement and look a bit too old for R&J:
10. Spartacus - Pas de Deux with Maria Vinogradova and Ivan Vasiliev; choreography by Yury Grigorovich; music by Aram Khachaturian. Maria Vinogradovai is now a leading soloist at the Bolshoi. She has the courage to do the amazing lift you see next below:
11. Prototype with Roberto Bolle; concept & choreography by Massimiliano Volpini; original music by Piero Salvatori; music production by Faustro Dasè; visual effects and video editing by Avantgarde Numerique, Xchanges, and VfX Design (hope I got that right). Below Roberto Bolle again in today's version of deus ex machina:
12. Le Corsaire - Pas de Deux with Svetlana Zakharova and Leonid Sarafanov; choreography by Marius Petipa; music by Riccardo Drigo:
13. Dance of the Hours; music by Amilcare Ponchielli. All the dancers come back on stage for a finale.
This is a fine gala show. It has a an amazing number of top ballet stars and probably will give you a good mix of stuff you already know about plus new items. PQ and SQ are good enough if a bit on the dark side. (Maybe 4K with HDR video will help us the better see this kind of material.)
Galas by their fragmented nature do not have the ability to reach an audience emotionally, and the stage is pretty austere throughout. But this would work well for viewing with group of friends while drinking some fine wines or cold margaritas. So as a mixer title, I'll give this an A. For just viewing yourself at home, I'd call this a B.
Here a short clip: