Customer Review

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A most enjoyable and well recorded alternative to more 'traditional' settings, 13 May 2012
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This review is from: Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker/ The Mouse King (Arthaus Musik: 108054) [Blu-ray] [2012][Region Free] (Blu-ray)
This version of the Nutcracker Ballet by Wayne Eagling and Toer van Schayk was created as long ago as 1996 and has been a popular and regular part of the Dutch Ballet repertoire ever since. It differs from the Petipa based versions in several ways as described in some detail below and which may or may not be a problem for non-Dutch purchasers.

The setting is placed in Amsterdam in 1810 rather than a small German town. The time of the action is on the eve of St. Nicholas rather than Christmas Eve. This is because there was no tradition of giving Christmas presents in the Netherlands at the beginning of the 19th century. Neither of these changes seems to me to require very much adjustment on the part of the viewer - just a little flexibility, even though the use of ice skates for some of the initial dancing outside Clara's house may come as more of a surprise! It reminded me of my eldest daughter's experience of living in Holland several years ago where temporary outdoors skating rinks were a regular feature of Dutch winter life.

More importantly there are major changes to the 2nd act where, instead of being set in the Kingdom of Sweets, Clara dreams that she has been transported to a land through a magical lantern where people from Clara's life and the 1st act party reappear. These also arrive through the magic lantern lens which forms a central part of the backdrop scenery. The travellers include the Mouse King whose curse, when killed by the Nutcracker doll, is cancelled thus enabling the Nutcracker doll to return to its former role as a Prince. The result of these changes is a much closer story link between the two acts but at the expense of the more familiar character dances. Instead, the same musical sequence is used for alternative character dances with quite different choreography and which I personally enjoyed very much. The concept of these significant changes is significant and will be a major factor for future purchasers to consider.

The scenery settings are sumptuous apart from the correctly conceived and somewhat austere setting of Clara's own home which is contrasted with the party setting of act 1 and the magical setting of act 2. To my eyes it all seems totally acceptable for Amsterdam in 1810 and also visually attractive. The same can be said of the costumes throughout. The dancing as performed by Anna Tsygankova as Clara, Matthew Golding as the Prince and James Stout as the Nutcracker is expertly done and the choreography is both interesting and delightful in my opinion. The corps de ballet are of the same high standard as are all the other highlighted members of the cast such as the Mouse King, his entourage and the various party guests and family members.

The music is well played by the orchestra under the baton of Ermanno Florio and this is well presented in clear, full sound in both DTS-HD 5.1 and stereo. The imaging is crisp and precise without any evidence of movement blur. The camera work provides a satisfying balance of close detail and more panoramic views.

There is a 27 minute bonus feature which focuses on interviews with the choreographers, the dancers and provides plenty of backstage footage. This is an interesting bonus and is well done as an illuminating addition to the performance of this production.

I and my wife enjoyed this production very much indeed. We both found it to be a refreshing experience to be enjoyed as an equally satisfying alternative to the more traditional Petipa-based versions or the Peter Wright Royal Ballet version for example. Much will depend on individual purchaser's responses to the overall concepts of the Dutch setting and the use of a magic lantern as a sort of time machine to link the two acts together into more of a continuous story line and as described above.

Provided that this necessary flexibility to the production can be achieved I would suggest that this is a very worthwhile and enjoyable 5 star experience and would expect it to give much pleasure to many future purchasers.

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

Retirement Home Residents LOVE this Blu-Ray, especially those with a Dutch Heritage!
It is brilliantly done, with a huge Canadian Content, from the Conductor to one of the Choreographers to two of the Male Dancers, all of whom are interviewed in the Bonus Documentary. It is a pleasure to see an alternative Cultural Setting, with Sinter Klaas and Zvart Piet doing their Dutch thing! (Is Piet in Blackface, or is he actually Black? Hard to tell.)
Nice Review, Ian, thank you! (U.S. review)

An interesting Review with lots of useful detail - thank you , Ian! (U.K. review)

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...
Thank you (UK review)

I'd also add to this. When you in particular review a particular CD, I pay pretty close attention. I would say the characteristics of your reviews I value the most are the detail and general sense of balance and fairness that comes across. That's a great help. Thanks for taking the time on your reviews. (US review)

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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 24 May 2012 22:59:20 BDT
An interesting Review with lots of useful detail - thank you , Ian!

In reply to an earlier post on 25 May 2012 12:37:07 BDT
I. Giles says:
Thanks for the appreciation John. it makes the time spent so much more worthwhile.
Ian
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Review Details

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Reviewer

I. Giles
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   

Location: Argyll, Scotland

Top Reviewer Ranking: 11