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Tchaikovsky - Swan Lake - Zurich Ballet [Blu-Ray] [2010] [Region Free]

4.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: Paulina Semionova, Stanislav Jermakov, Karin Pellmont, Arsen Mehrabyan, Zürcher Ballett
  • Directors: Andy Sommer
  • Producers: François Duplat
  • Format: Classical, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Region: All Regions (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: Bel Air Classiques
  • DVD Release Date: 28 Jun. 2010
  • Run Time: 130 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003CN97YW
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 168,540 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Product Description

Choreography by Heintz Spoerli - Zurich Ballet / Zurich Opera Orchestra / Fedoseyev

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Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
To get the technical side of this recording out of the way to start with, the quality of the recording is very good with believable sonics (DTS) and sympathetic camera work so purchasing with recording quality in mind is a safe option.

What may be more of a gamble is the interpretation of the story itself as seen through the mind of Heinz Spoerli, the choreographer. His interpretation is a deliberate decision to rid the ballet of all unnecessary detail as regards superfluous characterisations and scenery as he sees it and thus focus on the fundamentals of the story. By so doing it is intended to make this a more concentrated and effective production. Other artistic producers have taken the same line of course - The Otello opera at Barcelona and the Don Giovanni production at Aix-en-Provence spring to mind as very successful similar approaches. In each of those cases the drama is thrown squarely onto the main protagonists and in each case there is certainly an increased tension in the dramatic interplay.

So does it work here? Not for everyone if the split opinions/reviews here are anything to go by. What is not in doubt is the high level of technical and artistic skill demonstrated by the key players. The corps de ballet are well rehearsed although I do find some of the choreography to be a little lacking in grace - this may well be the result of distortions resulting from the use of wide angle lenses however. The orchestral playing is also well up to the task.

However, for me there is a lack of interaction here which makes this a very cool experience. There is a preponderance of slow tempi throughout which leads to an emphasis on appropriately skilful dancing but also a lack of sheer passion.
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I feel a bit guilty about giving this DVD only three stars, especially because the previous reviewer liked it so much. After all, a new production of Swan Lake is always welcome. Most of the choreography for the Zurich Ballet's Swan Lake is by Heinz Spoerli, and his intention to give us a modern version (but with classical ballet's vocabulary) is certainly to be applauded. So why only three stars?
Heinz Spoerli seems to have felt that he has to defend classical ballet in general and Swan Lake in particular against those who believe that the 19th century repertory is dusty and old fashioned (Tutus, tights and tiaras, silly I-you-love-Pantomime etc). So in order to avoid these accusations most of the potentially embarrassing elements have been eliminated (but not the tutus), leaving us with a very modern, minimalist stage and gloomy atmosphere that could have been interesting had the dancers been given the opportunity to do something with it. But the ballet as a whole looks strangely dry and bloodless, the dancers like neutral bodies, not characters. The Zurich Ballet company apparently has not had much experience with this kind of repertory - they dance mostly neoclassical works, which probably explains why this production looks so abstract. I was disappointed to see how the corps de ballet on this DVD dances not so much to the music but to some imaginary metronome, but maybe Mr. Spoerli's own choreography and the orchestra playing were encouraging them to do so (the orchestra is very good, but plays sometimes in a very straight way).
Polina Semionova as Odette/Odile is guesting from Berlin. She has wonderful russian schooling and plastique and an elegiac style.
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Beautyfully danced and the story well told. I have seen the ballet danced by The Royal Ballet of Copenhagen more than once, The Bolshoi, The Marinsky Ballet and excertps of the ballet by La Scala Ballet. This version is absolutely among the best ones.
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I was lucky to get my copy last week, however it was well worth the wait. This version Has a modern look to it, although the story is the same. The Zurich Ballet is world class, the dancing is amongst the best I have seen on bluray. Also the orchestra was well recorded and sounded very natural. Viewed on my 8 foot projection screen, some of the camera angles put you right amongst the artists, especially the scenes with the Corps etc. The lighting was difficult at times, but overall the minimalist stage setting worked. Its well worth the 5 stars, and is better than the other two versions that I have. Recommended.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x92a649fc) out of 5 stars 14 reviews
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92e9e708) out of 5 stars The Case for Depth and Elegance in Emotion and Beauty 4 July 2010
By William D. Larson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
If you are like me--and you may well be--, your interest in this dvd and in this review can probably summed up in two words: Polina Semionova (Odette/Odile). I was thinking that this production might be a star-turn for her, but that is not the case. This is not your father's (or mother's) "Swan Lake", as it turns out. Semionova is just as wonderful as you or I would expect, and is the most swan-like and sad Odette that I have seen, but this production is more than she.

"Choreography by Heinz Spoerli after Marius Petipa" the enclosed booklet states: We shall aver that it is WELL "after Petipa". I shall describe the choreography as "Petipa infused with Balanchine", and to fine effect. But I am getting ahead of myself. Spoerli has rethought this ballet from the ground up, especially the role of Rothbart, whom we see right away as, in fact, Siegfried's mentor. He still possesses his magical powers but is no swamp creature, rather a magician who seems to be jealous of Siegfried: a relationship similar to Iago's with Othello. (And that is all I shall explore here about the dramatic structure.) This is an exceedingly elegant production and realization thereof, very atmospheric. All the colors (basically blues with some red) tend to be muted, giving a dream-like effect; and perhaps that is the intention here: that this entire drama is a dream of Siegfried's in which he explores his complex relationship with Rothbart and his love for someone perhaps unobtainable. Or perhaps, if this indeed be a dream, Rothbart is but Siegfried's own dark side, with whom he wrestles, as he explores his own complex feelings and fallibility surrounding Odette: could be--you decide for yourself. I am much impressed with Spoerli's choreography, especially in ensemble scenes. (The second and fourth acts are bathed in a soft blue light from top to bottom that gives the swans a mesmerizing effect. Excellent corps work by the way, complimenting the choreography.) Both the lighting and sets (semi-abstract) enhance this understated elegance.

As for the dancers: Semionova, with her physical allure and elegance of movement, is, in my thinking, an unapproachable choice for this production. I love how her Odette is never mechanical in the least and never in a hurry: She makes the most out of every gesture, every step, and embodies the role at the emotional level. She draws you into the drama. Her Odile is certainly not as flashy as some others nor as sexy, but entirely appropriate to this concept. We can easily see how Siegfried is convinced that she is indeed (somehow) his beloved Odette. (And in one of those places where Spoerli accedes entirely to Petipa, Semionova easily pulls off her thirty-two fouettes, with the first ten of them or so being doubles--just to let us know that she is as capable of as much bravura as anyone you could name.) I will say pretty much the same for Stanislav Jermakov as Siegfried: never mechanical, and although not, apparently, the world's greatest bravura dancer, this is not a bravura-centered concept and his technique is certainly strong. He too is convincing at the emotional level while still understated. I think that Arsen Mehrabyan is exceedingly well-cast as Rothbart: menacing and enigmatic. I am going to repeat myself here: Great choreography for the corps and excellently danced.

This is a film of a live production (hooray!), filmed in HD (hooray again). I wish to express my appreciation to the cinematographers and the editor: Many interesting camera angles and cuts and a few well-chosen close-ups. This "technical" crew seems to have a fine artistic sensibility for filming ballet: much appreciated, as I said. Oh yes, Vladimir Fedoseyev, the conductor: Very obvious attentiveness and sympathy for the music and dancers (though I would have preferred some faster tempi in some of the bravura variations).

In sum, a dark and dream-like emotive rethinking of this classic, superbly danced. I highly recommend it.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x93f7e6fc) out of 5 stars How to ruin a masterpiece 22 Jan. 2012
By Brek Renzelman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
My friend bought this DVD recently at Amazon and showed it to me. He was very upset over his disappointment with the production and wanted me either to commiserate with him or to help him find some sort of redeeming qualities here. I entered upon the prospect of viewing this DVD with a completely open mind, as I really had no emotional investment. Unfortunately I came to be just as disappointed as he was, in the end.

My friend first had me read choreographer Heinz Spoerli's essay included in the DVD's booklet. Even though I am a professional classical musician who has extensive experience performing the works of contemporary composers who, I have discovered, can sometimes be self-absorbed, pompous asses, I was in an exceptionally charitable mood on this occasion, and I was entirely willing to give Herr Spoerli the benefit of the doubt: He writes like a self-absorbed, pompous ass, but maybe he has something worthwhile to say in his choreography, once the toe shoes actually hit the boards.

Spoerli tells us his aim in this production was to give us a Swan Lake for our modern times. As I was to discover when I watched the DVD, this apparently means a lot of walking around on stage. (Is this ballet or walking aerobics?) There seemed to be interminably long stretches with very little for the clearly accomplished dancers of the Zurich company to busy themselves with.

(By the way, I don't much care who was flown in to dance the Odette/Odile role in a production like this that is touted as a rethinking or reenvisioning of a classic. This production either stands or falls as an ensemble event, and in my opinion no amount of star power trotting out the steps for the lead role is going to have any real relevance to the whole unless her part is also reimagined. It isn't really, so if you want a balletomane's detailed account of how the lead acquitted herself, look elsewhere.)

Spoerli also seems to believe that Tchaikovsky's music can safely be ignored or even defied. We are hearing some of the most danceable music on earth, but when Spoerli is not having the dancers walk around the stage aimlessly or configuring them in tiresome grid patterns (arms thrust out in an almost windmill-like formation -- mechanical, "modern" swans?), he is at other times deliberately nullifying Tchaikovsky's musical storytelling. Case in point: Tchaikovsky gives us a series of trumpet volleys introducing guest dancers at the ball, who dance their bit and then move on; and after the final volley, the low brass of the orchestra violently interrupt with an abrupt, descending scale landing on a massive percussion "boom-CHICK" -- emphasis on the "CHICK" because it is syncopated (after the beat) and extremely attention-grabbing. This is meant to be the most dramatic moment in the entire ballet, the entrance of the black swan. But where is she? For ten or more agonizingly tedious seconds we are forced to watch members of the corps de ballet AND the prince WALK AROUND THE STAGE until the musical cue for our ballerina has faded into memory. She deigns to show up only after any remaining suspense has been drained from this sad little production.

This is the greatest music ever written for the ballet, and what does Spoerli do with it?

This choreographer doomed the good efforts of these dancers (and of the orchestra), and he did the unthinkable and rendered the music irrelevant. Good players and a divine musical blueprint do not necessarily make for a good play. Don't waste your money here. I wish I could get back the time I spent watching this ill-conceived production.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92fa7324) out of 5 stars Drained lake 3 Aug. 2010
By Andrin K. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray
I feel a bit guilty about giving this DVD only three stars. After all, a new production of Swan Lake is always welcome. Most of the choreography for the Zurich Ballet's Swan Lake is by Heinz Spoerli, and his intention to give us a modern version (but with classical ballet's vocabulary) is certainly to be applauded. So why only three stars?
Heinz Spoerli seems to feel that he has to defend classical ballet in general and Swan Lake in particular against those who believe that the 19th century repertory is dusty and old fashioned (tutus, tights and tiaras, silly I-you-love-Pantomime etc). So in order to avoid these accusations most of the potentially embarrassing elements have been eliminated (but not the tutus), leaving us with a very modern, minimalist stage and gloomy atmosphere that could have been interesting had the dancers been given the opportunity to do something with it. But the ballet as a whole looks strangely dry and bloodless, the dancers like neutral bodies, not characters. The Zurich Ballet company apparently has not had much experience with this kind of repertory - they dance mostly neoclassical works, which probably explains why this performance looks so abstract. I was disappointed to see the corps de ballet dancers on this DVD dancing to some imaginary metronome instead of the music, but maybe Mr. Spoerli's own choreography and the orchestra playing were encouraging them to do so (the orchestra is very good, but plays in a rather straight way).
Polina Semionova as Odette/Odile is guesting from Berlin. She has wonderful Russian schooling and plastique and an elegiac style.
Although I did not like the production as a whole, there are some beautiful details: for example at the end Odette disappears in some sort of rain and Siegfried follows her, which looks much more subtle and poetic than jumping in a lake which we don't see and striking a pose at the back of the stage to demonstrate that she and Siegfried are united in death. The lighting design is very good as well.
All in all I think this should maybe not be anybody's first Swan Lake - it is not a good introduction because it is so weak in the acting department and there is not much left of the original choreography. On the other hand this is a rethought and rechoreographed Swan Lake, presented with cool elegance. It is definitely interesting for people who have already seen a more traditional version or who do indeed think that ballet is anachronistic nonsense.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92e9ebc4) out of 5 stars New Swan on the block 21 Aug. 2014
By Jeff Wolf - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
Picture Swan Lake as an abstraction, reduced to essentials. Eliminate stage sets to indicate time or place. Rely on lighting to supply design. Prohibit simple props such as crossbows. Forget mimed gestures to explain plot. Dress everyone, except for the mythical swan maidens, in contemporary costumes. Focus on Prince Siegfried's development by cutting the cast so the same dancer portrays both his mentor and his antagonist.

Bring in Tchaikovsky expert Vladimir Fedoseyev to draw forth glorious sound from the Zürich Opera Orchestra. Keep key elements of the 1895 Petipa/Ivanov choreography, but spice it up a bit. Cut, splice, and re-order a few dances just enough to keep complacent viewers alert.

Add a young ballerina who runs off with the show, a vivacious and well-drilled corps de ballet, an ending that suddenly chills the spine, a Blu-ray recording of vivid color and detail, and you have a production well worth the experience -- although that endorsement comes with two major reservations.

First, this undertaking presumes an audience thoroughly familiar with Swan Lake. I can't guess what someone who didn't already know the story would think was happening, from beginning to end. Even after having seen 12 or 13 other Swan Lake productions before this, I felt off-kilter throughout Act I.

Second, the Rothbart-like hostility that Siegfried's mentor displays toward the young prince from the outset doesn't work and cripples what could otherwise have been a refreshing modern vision of a classic. Pointless posturing between the two in the first act distracts from the lively corps de ballet and evokes the more questionable elements of Nureyev's Swan Lake. Fortunately, the Nureyev touches are not carried out to the degree that they are in the Paris Opera disc Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake [Blu-ray]. And later on, the Siegfried-Rothbart relationship is depicted in a more conventional attitude, if remaining less conventional in style.

Despite the marred Act I, much of great value shines through, there and in what follows. The dancing is marvelous. The corps de ballet, its soloists, the beautifully depicted swan maidens, Stanislav Jermakov as Siegfried, Arsen Mehrabyan as Rothbart -- all acquit themselves well. There are no weak links. But rising above the rest is Polina Semionova, who appeared as the Black Swan with Roberto Bolle Tchaikovsky Gala [Blu-ray] in La Scala's Tchaikovsky Gala.

Born in Moscow and now principal ballerina with the American Ballet Theatre, Semionova has all the technique in the world, but doesn't use it as an end in itself. Rather, she employs her skill to animate character. Unlike the stereotypically aloof prima ballerina who remains enclosed in a world of her own, seemingly oblivious of her fellow dancers and distanced from the audience by the proscenium arches, Semionova actually acknowledges the theater crowd's applause by making eye contact ... and smiling! She looks as though she's really enjoying herself, despite the rigorous effort her dual role demands.

Establishing contact with the audience doesn't damage the onstage illusion when action resumes, but instead makes Semionova more sympathetic as Odette, more alluring as Odile. Only 25 at the time of this 2009 recording, she triumphs. Not yet to the level of Svetlana Zakharova in La Scala's Swan Lake Swan Lake, but heading in that direction. Semionova's performance by itself justifies acquiring this disc.

So does the ending, which I won't ruin by describing. It delivers a more powerful frisson every time I see it.

The first act is beyond all repair, and because of its flaws, I cannot give the Zürich production an unqualified recommendation. It shouldn't be anyone's first or only Swan Lake. But it's one to which I will return and that I hope lovers of this ballet will consider.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x945268e8) out of 5 stars only for semionova 4 Jan. 2011
By M. Paley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
Polina Semionova is one of the greatest ballerinas in the world, and so this production has one thing going for it.
Otherwise, it is boring and sterile, danced on a bare (and sometimes darkish) stage, with a reduced number of
swans. Inexplicably, the evil magician Rothbart is also a friend of the Prince's and is present in most of the
court scenes as well as lakeside. The choreography is merely competent. Semionova deserves better and so do we.
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