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39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spartacus reinvented, 3 Jan 2009
By 
Marc Haegeman "Marc Haegeman" (Gent, Belgium) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Spartacus: The Bolshoi Ballet (Klinichev) [DVD] [2008] (DVD)
In recent years Yuri Grigorovich's 1968 "Spartacus" had become something of a problem child in the Bolshoi Ballet's repertory. Ever since Irek Mukhamedov stopped dancing the title role, they had a hard time finding somebody to tackle it in a satisfactory way. With guest star Carlos Acosta they finally did.

Cuban-born Carlos Acosta learned the role in 2007 with legendary Spartacus interpreter Mikhail Lavrovsky and danced it to great success in Moscow before he conquered the London Coliseum as well as the Palais Garnier in Paris (where this film was shot) with it. By the dynamism of his dancing Acosta gives the ballet its vitality back, by the sincerity of his acting he invests the character with a meaning again, and by his technical brilliance he upgrades Grigorovich's choreography. It's been some time since we saw a Spartacus so full of anger and hatred, putting his whole being into his leap for freedom. Although differently, Acosta gives sense to the choreography just as much as it first interpreters did. "Spartacus" has long since ceased to be the Soviet propaganda piece it once could be taken for and although its interpreters continue to move on this same outsized, superhuman scale, an artist like Acosta remains above all a very human Spartacus with whom we, today, anywhere in the world, can completely associate with. As a performance it is utterly exciting as well as profoundly moving, and it's great to have it preserved on video.

"Spartacus" isn't completely saved, though, because Alexander Volchkov's Crassus remains far too meek and gentle to portray the unbalanced Roman despot who mercilessly crushes the rebels. On the other hand, the female leads of Phrygia and Aegina are still in safe hands with the current crop of Bolshoi ballerinas. The petite Nina Kaptsova is an excellent Phrygia, fragile and expressive, while Maria Allash is in her element as Aegina. The Bolshoi company performs for the rest with plenty of energy and conviction.

Filmed live in Paris at the Palais Garnier in January 2008, it's a shame that the Bolshoi's own orchestra wasn't used for this release. Pavel Klinichev conducts the Orchestra Colonne, which lacks conviction and energy and cannot hide its unfamiliarity with Khatchaturian's score.

Directed by Ross MacGibbon and shot by the French Bel Air Media team, close-ups are sparingly used and aren't too distracting. Bonus features include clips of studio rehearsals and interviews with Acosta, his co-stars Kaptsova, Allash and Volchkov, choreographer Yuri Grigorovich, Bolshoi Ballet artistic director Alexei Ratmansky, and the Paris Opera Ballet's Brigitte Lefèvre. Acosta talks about his beginnings in Havana and his personal affinity with the role of the Thracian rebel.

All in all a fine new release. Collectors owning previous versions of the ballet with Vladimir Vasiliev and Irek Mukhamedov, can safely invest in it, as Acosta is a completely different Spartacus and on his own well worth the admission price.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spartacus inherited, 19 Feb 2009
By 
Jose Brito (Estoril,Portugal) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Spartacus: The Bolshoi Ballet (Klinichev) [DVD] [2008] (DVD)
When Grigorovich took the challenge of choreographing Khachaturian's Spartacus - who had searched the story of this rebelled slave in Appian and Plutarch,more than in Giovaniolli's novel as basis for his ballet score -he would be the third coreographer to do so,after Yakobson in 1956 and Moiseev,in 58.
In 1963 he finally staged this 3rd productin of Spartacus,for Bolshoi.The leading role does demand an exceptional physically gifted dancer in order to give life to the extremely violent choreography with its "jetés" and leap sequences,not to mention strength.Mikhail Lavrovsky,Vladimir Vasiliev and Irek Mukhamedov became legendary interpreters of Grigorovich's Spartacus.Two dancers,young Ivan Vasiliev - possibly one exceptional Spartacus to be - and cuban Carlos Acosta have the courage to dance the part,nowadays.
Carlos Acosta,internationally recognised ballet dancer,even foot injured,gives,live from Palais Garnier,an accurate interpretation of this demanding role,after Moscow and London.His generosity,his inner capability of giving the rebelious slave a soul through dancing,is absolutely remarkable,and technically too,though injured as I previously said.
His partenaire Kaptsova is neither Semenyaka nor Bessmertnova but portrays a fragile,tender Phrygia.
Allash's Aegina,quite convincing,follows Bilova's steps who danced the two Mukhamedov versions.The weakest part is Volshkov's Crassus,for far from being a cruel despot the role requires, is galaxies away from Vetrov's or Taranda's energic,violent dancing.The orchestra plays proficiently.The Bolshoi corps,alas,does not bear the masculine quality male Bolshoi dancers used to have...I did think of majorettes,once or twice.
The filming is excellent,the blu-ray DVD image exceptional.Still,Vasiliev and Mukhamedov remain unsurpassed.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Carlos Acosta - Spartacas, 9 Jan 2009
By 
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This review is from: Spartacus: The Bolshoi Ballet (Klinichev) [DVD] [2008] (DVD)
I bought this DVD because I saw Carlos Acosta perform this live at the London Coliseum. Anyone who was there that night and experienced the standing ovation at the end of the performance cannot fail to wish to capture the magic of that night. I am a ballet goer of (too) many seasons and this was the most phenomenal male performance I have ever seen.

DVD will never capture the live performance and you have to accept that. However, this is as good as you are going to get in terms of capturing Carlos's physical power. I have seen him in many Royal Ballet performances, but Spartacus surpassed them all.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spartacus reinvented, 3 Jan 2009
By 
Marc Haegeman "Marc Haegeman" (Gent, Belgium) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
In recent years Yuri Grigorovich's 1968 "Spartacus" had become something of a problem child in the Bolshoi Ballet's repertory. Ever since Irek Mukhamedov stopped dancing the title role, they had a hard time finding somebody to tackle it in a satisfactory way. With guest star Carlos Acosta they finally did.

Cuban-born Carlos Acosta learned the role in 2007 with legendary Spartacus interpreter Mikhail Lavrovsky and danced it to great success in Moscow before he conquered the London Coliseum as well as the Palais Garnier in Paris (where this film was shot) with it. By the dynamism of his dancing Acosta gives the ballet its vitality back, by the sincerity of his acting he invests the character with a meaning again, and by his technical brilliance he upgrades Grigorovich's choreography. It's been some time since we saw a Spartacus so full of anger and hatred, putting his whole being into his leap for freedom. Although differently, Acosta gives sense to the choreography just as much as it first interpreters did. "Spartacus" has long since ceased to be the Soviet propaganda piece it once could be taken for and although its interpreters continue to move on this same outsized, superhuman scale, an artist like Acosta remains above all a very human Spartacus with whom we, today, anywhere in the world, can completely associate with. As a performance it is utterly exciting as well as profoundly moving, and it's great to have it preserved on video.

"Spartacus" isn't completely saved, though, because Alexander Volchkov's Crassus remains far too meek and gentle to portray the unbalanced Roman despot who mercilessly crushes the rebels. On the other hand, the female leads of Phrygia and Aegina are still in safe hands with the current crop of Bolshoi ballerinas. The petite Nina Kaptsova is an excellent Phrygia, fragile and expressive, while Maria Allash is in her element as Aegina. The Bolshoi company performs for the rest with plenty of energy and conviction.

Filmed live in Paris at the Palais Garnier in January 2008, it's a shame that the Bolshoi's own orchestra wasn't used for this release. Pavel Klinichev conducts the Orchestra Colonne, which lacks conviction and energy and cannot hide its unfamiliarity with Khatchaturian's score.

Directed by Ross MacGibbon and shot by the French Bel Air Media team, close-ups are sparingly used and aren't too distracting. Bonus features include clips of studio rehearsals and interviews with Acosta, his co-stars Kaptsova, Allash and Volchkov, choreographer Yuri Grigorovich, Bolshoi Ballet artistic director Alexei Ratmansky, and the Paris Opera Ballet's Brigitte Lefèvre. Acosta talks about his beginnings in Havana and his personal affinity with the role of the Thracian rebel.

All in all a fine new release. Collectors owning previous versions of the ballet with Vladimir Vasiliev and Irek Mukhamedov, can safely invest in it, as Acosta is a completely different Spartacus and on his own well worth the admission price.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine new Spartacus for the modern age continuing the sequence of fine recorded Russian productions, 9 Oct 2011
By 
I. Giles (Argyll, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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The previous Bolshoi Ballet version of Spartacus was a marvellous production with marvellous dancing. Inevitably however, as recording techniques have developed, it clearly lacked the benefits of the modern technology. This new production therefore has strong claims to be considered seriously particularly bearing in mind the quality of the star dancers and the continuing high reputation maintained by the Bolshoi Corps de Ballet.

Acosta had been asked by the Bolshoi to dance the role of Spartacus for some years before it became possible to put this into action, such were the complications of timetabling. The role of Spartacus was a dream for Acosta and he sees this as the culmination of his career and a suitable high point before his retirement. As he was 35 years old at the time of this series of performances this was his last chance to fulfil his dream role, one that he identifies very closely with on all sorts of levels that he explains in the bonus interview.

The four previous star interpreters of the role brought different emphases' to the part. Vasiliev portrayed Spartacus as a thinker, Lavrovsky stressed machismo, Mukhamedov portrayed a selfless hero whereas Acosta concentrates on a lust for freedom. In his month's preparation for the role in Moscow, Acosta was coached by Lavrovsky who also stayed in the wings to give last minute guidance on the first night. Apparently the whole of the non-participating Bolshoi members watched the first performance from the wings, presumably in admiration as well as with curiosity.

This new Acosta version is very fine indeed with Acosta bringing a humanity as well as the lust for freedom to his interpretation of Spartacus as well as his considerable strength. This was recorded only 3 years after his fine portrayal of Romeo and the extra psychological dimension of that role may well have deepened his view of Spartacus.

Phrygia, as portrayed by Nina Kaptsova, makes a totally effective fragile partner who also demonstrates a considerable psychological strength to match that of Acosta. Her admiration for Acosta is clear in the bonus interview as she describes Acosta as that very rare thing - a real man.

Aegina is shown as a character of driven determination, a driving force to match and support Crassus and is effectively portrayed by Maria Allash. Crassus, portrayed by Alexander Volchkov, also has strength of a tyrannical and cruel nature. His too is a physically demanding role with many leaps and turns plus the requirement to match Acosta's one-armed lift of Phrygia with his own of Aegina.

The corps de ballet offer exhilarating machismo choreography for the men with spectacular panoramic use of the whole stage area. The more feminine choreography provided for the female corps also makes telling use of the large stage area. This awareness of spectacle is a characteristic of Grigorovich's choreography and is at its most spectacular in this ballet. Large scale synchronised dancing such as seen here is something of a speciality of this ballet company and is carried out with telling precision on this recording.

There are two interesting bonuses included in the form of the 'Making of Spartacus' headed mainly with the four star dancers, the choreographer Grigorovich and director Ratmansky covering this production of Spartacus. It includes rehearsal sequences inter-cut with performance extracts. There is also an interview specifically with Acosta which makes an interesting biographical resume of his career.

The camera work of this recording is excellent giving a nice balance between detailed close shots and panoramic views. The sound is offered in excellent DTS-HD surround and stereo.

Overall I would strongly recommend this production as unlikely to be surpassed for a long time and where the technical advantages of a good modern recording are so apparent. These attractions are likely to be more than sufficient to balance any perceived shortcomings where ballet enthusiasts have developed strong loyalties to particular productions and interpretations over repeated viewings of earlier recordings.

Owners of earlier recordings will have the luxury of owning yet another fine interpretation to add to them while newcomers will have the pleasure of owning an example of an outstanding modern interpretation given a fine modern recording. For these reasons it seems reasonable to recommend this as a 5 star modern addition to a fine sequence of memorable recordings.

............................................

Some dialogue from the comments section that may offer further help:

I thought that you might like to know that before I buy a recording I now look through all the reviews to see if you have posted one. Your assessments and opinions are invaluable. Thank you. (US review)

I particularly like your format of review. They give the prospective purchaser an idea of the style of the playing and relevant comparisons. They are succinct. Keep up the good work! (UK review)

I'm sure there are many other serious collectors, besides myself, who wait for your synopsis and opinion before spending their hard-earned money on new releases...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely splendid. The most exciting performance of 'Spartacus' I've ever seen., 29 May 2014
By 
P. Eaves "writer" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Spartacus: The Bolshoi Ballet (Klinichev) [DVD] [2008] (DVD)
This DVD held me spellbound throughout. Acosta is Spartacus, his dancing is superb, as are all the other performers. Altogether a wonderful production which I shall watch again and again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, 4 Sep 2012
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This review is from: Spartacus: The Bolshoi Ballet (Klinichev) [DVD] [2008] (DVD)
As he said in his interview, Carlos Acosta put his life, his hardships and his experiences into Spartacus. He was a slave and he was driven to bring freedom to his fellow slaves. He was 35 when he danced the part and probably at the peak of his emotional and physical abilities. I thought his portrayal of Spartacus so human and so moving and when he smiles we feel blessed. I found the portrayal of Crassus clever. He showed his rages and his madness. Allash was a magnificent Aegina, proud, sexy but never crossed the line. For me the weekness was Kaptsova as Phrygia. She maybe a beautiful dancer but her fault was that she could not bare to touch the sweaty body of Acosta. She always carefully placed her hand on his body taking away any show of passion for him. Altogether it was an outstanding production with a corp de ballet to match.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The ultimate in MEN DANCING!, 11 Aug 2011
By 
Cherry Radford (Brighton, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Spartacus: The Bolshoi Ballet (Klinichev) [DVD] [2008] (DVD)
The ultimate in men dancing! And that's what you need to be for this incredibly arduous lead role: a MAN (I read somewhere that it has them vomiting in the wings). I saw young Ivan Vasiliev as Spartacus - stunning. But Carlos is also superb, bringing something personal to the role.

Passionate dancing, an exciting and heartrending story, Khachaturian's divine music: a fabulous night in.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spartacus, 3 Mar 2011
By 
J. Staveley "Madbard" (West Sussex, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Spartacus: The Bolshoi Ballet (Klinichev) [DVD] [2008] (DVD)
Absolutely brilliant - Carlos Acosta the perfect Spartacus and supported by the wonderful Bolshoi. I will definitely be watching this again and again.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spartacus reinvented, 21 Feb 2009
By 
Jose Brito (Estoril,Portugal) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
When Grigorovich took the challenge of choreographing Khachaturian's Spartacus - who had searched the story of this rebelled slave in Appian and Plutarch,more than in Giovaniolli's novel as basis for his ballet score -he would be the third choreographer to do so,after Yakobson in 1956 and Moiseev,in 58.
In 1963 he finally staged this 3rd productin of Spartacus,for Bolshoi.The leading role does demand an exceptional physically gifted dancer in order to give life to the extremely violent choreography with its "jetés" and leap sequences,not to mention strength.Mikhail Lavrovsky,Vladimir Vasiliev and Irek Mukhamedov became legendary interpreters of Grigorovich's Spartacus.Two dancers,young Ivan Vasiliev - possibly one exceptional Spartacus to be - and cuban Carlos Acosta have the courage to dance the part,nowadays.
Carlos Acosta,internationally recognised ballet dancer,even foot injured,gives,live from Palais Garnier,an unforgettable interpretation of this demanding role,after Moscow and London.His generosity,his inner capability of giving the rebelious slave a soul trough dancing,is absolutely transcendent,and technically too,though injured.
His partenaire Kaptsova is neither Semenyaka nor Bessmertnova but portrays a fragile,tender Phrygia.
Allash's Aegina,quite convincing,follows Bilova's steps(she danced the two Mukhamedov versions).The weakest part is Volshkov's Crassus,far from being a cruel despot the role requires.Too young and light,is far away from Vetrov's energic,violent dancing.The orchestra...weak.
The Bolshoi corps,alas, does not bear the masculine quality male Bolshoi dancers used to have...I did think of majorettes,once or twice.
The filming is excellent,the blu-ray DVD image exceptional.This said,Vasiliev and Mukhamedov remain unsurpassed.
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