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A wonderful traditional presentation of a favourite ballet
on 11 February 2012
This is a first class production of the traditional setting of a much-loved ballet with all the music as expected by Delibes. This apparently unnecessary information is important as there is now a tempting newer version of this ballet by the Paris Ballet on the same label BUT it is not the same at all as, although it has the same title, the music is not the same neither is the story nor choreography.
So if you want the traditional story with traditional choreography as by Ninette de Valois and with the original music by Delibes this Royal ballet version is the version to consider.
The dancing is uniformly excellent - I would call it outstanding, with sharp and humorous characterisation by the young Acosta who oozes good-humoured pleasantness and is partnered by Leanne Benjamin as a likeable and feisty Swanilda plus Luke Heydon as the crusty and somewhat crafty Dr. Coppelius. The whole corps de ballet are faultless in preserving the good humour of this production with excellent ensemble work. The production moves swiftly and has considerable sparkle as a result. Regardless of how many times the performers have performed this ballet there is an unmistakable and deeply rewarding sense of spontaneity about the whole presentation. Throughout it is possible to hear the audience's delighted responses caught by the microphones and they are right to be delighted!
The costumes and staging are traditional and give a brightly sumptuous period feel and the whole effect is totally charming and believable within the context of a rather imaginary creation! The orchestral contribution is well-led by the conductor and is both vivacious and tender as appropriate.
The recording dates from 2000 and is sufficiently well defined as to compete well with early HD productions from that date. The imaging is crisp and there is no sign of movement blur. The colours are bright and clearly presented and this underlines the nature of the performance.
The sound is full-ranging and of good clarity with the following provisos. The surround sound is described as surround 5.1 but that is not accurate as there is no centre or sub-woofer signal at all so the 'surround' sound is really stereo with rear speakers. The playback level is also lower than usual but the fundamental sound is completely realistic and convincing when played at about 5-dB more volume than normal. The lack of centre and separate sub-woofer channels is not a problem given the volume boost. Most non-surround playback systems will automatically convert to standard stereo without problem.
There is a short historic bonus but this will not be a deciding factor for most.
I would suggest that this is about as definitive a presentation as we have a right to expect and in addition, gratifyingly, there is no need to make any allowance for the age of the recording in either imaging or sound either. It therefore seems reasonable to award this disc the full 5 stars in the expectation that most purchasers will find this wonderful entertainment to be enjoyed at any level.