I was surprised to get a msg from Amazon asking me to write a review for this Swan Lake. Obviously, I must be one of the early buyers and perhaps there has not been a rush of buyers and reviewers. It puzzled me because Maya Plisetskaya is arguably the greatest dancer of our generation. Some compare her position in ballet to Maria Callas' in opera, unequaled and unchallenged in their respective spheres.
However, for people who may not be familiar with Plisetskaya, I can understand the price tag could be a "show stopper". Maybe she's not current enough for the younger ballet enthusiasts. I would suggest watching a few clips on Youtube of Plisetskaya dancing in her prime to convince them what a phenomenon Maya Plisetskaya was and still is.
I was fortunate to have seen her perform Swan Lake in San Francisco in 1959, the first time she was allowed to leave the Soviet Union to tour with the Bolshoi. She was in her early 30's by then. This DVD is a 1976 performance to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Swan Lake at the Bolshoi. Maya Plisetskaya was 51. Think about it.
For the sake of comparison, I viewed her earlier version taped in late 1950's with the Bolshoi. Trying very hard to be objective, I really couldn't see she had lost anything. Unbelievable! With age, she had deepened her emotional expressiveness a great deal, especially in Act 4. You could see the Swan Queen was so wounded even physically that you couldn't withhold your emphathy. I also liked the "happy ending" that the Russians favor over the sad one. When she stepped in front of the prince to protect him from getting killed, timed perfectly to the music, it was overwhelmingly moving.
The taping of this performance was not world class as the cliche goes. There were moments I'd like to put my hands around the necks of the lighting designer, the sound technician, and a few in the audience (for some very inconsiderate coughing). What clots! But the audience (in the Kremlin Palace Theatre, not the Bolshoi) was super enthusiastic. Maya was getting flowers thrown to her feet starting at the end of the Act II curtain calls.
Yes, the corps de ballet and the principal dancers and soloists all showed up to play this evening. Also, Bogatirev dancing the prince was wonderful. Fluid, lyrical, handsome with a great body. The corps was precise, beautiful, and held their lines straight as a ruler. I had again compared them to the Swan Lake of the Royal Ballet and the recent ABT performances. I have to give edge to the Bolshoi.
No, this may not be the Swan Lake for the ages. But for the dancing and the occasion, I could not rate it less than 5 stars. Most of all, it was for Maya Plisetskaya, a teasure to last for our days.