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Tchaikovsky - Swan Lake / American Ballet Theatre, Murphy, Corella
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104 of 116 people found the following review helpful
on August 20, 2005
Format: DVD
American Ballet Theatre's Swan Lake, as presented on PBS' Dance in America series, is a must-have for any serious ballet lover. The settings & costumes are fresh and new. The age-old story of love, betrayal, and redemption is set to Tchaikovsky's lush score with some new music and a new scene. Of course the cornerstone of any ballet is the dancing. Gillian Murphy is absolutely remarkable as Odette/Odile, soft and vulnerable as the Swan Queen in acts 2 & 4 and hard, brilliant, dazzling as Odile in act 3. Angel Corella's Prince Siegfried is a perfect match for her. He is a brilliant dancer and a good actor, although I would have liked to have seen what Ethan Stiefel could have done with the part. The chemistry between Murphy & Corella is palpable. However, I have an old VHS of Swan Lake with Natalia Markova & Ivan Nagy, and I must say there has never in my opinion been a danseur noble to compare with Nagy. He was Siegfried incarnate.

Herman Cornejo also shines in the small role of Benno, Siegfried's friend, and he and the two female dancers (whose names I confess I don't know) make the first act trio a joy to watch. Georgina Parkinson is just right as the queen mother, stern yet loving. Victor Barbee is wasted in the small role of the master of ceremonies. In his younger days, he was an outstanding Rothbart.

One very unexpected pleasure in this ballet was Marcelo Gomes, who did such a fine job in Le Corsair as the villainous pirate, as the human Rothbart. He was wisely given a dance with the four princesses in which he is so handsome and seductive that they are putty in his hands--and he has an effect on the queen as well! I give him a standing ovation. Brilliant!

Rothbart's dance and a prologue in which we see him seduce the human Odette are two welcome additions, although I wish the prologue had been a little longer.

I have two minor complaints. First of all, the princesses were generically costumed. None of them had an of the flavor of their native countries in their dress. This is, however, not really important, just something I noticed.

Secondly, however, I saw no need to have another dancer as the demon Rothbart complete with green skin and huge, curving horns. One Rothbarth would have been perfect; two is a joke.

I strongly recommend this DVD to any lover of Swan Lake. It's one you'll treasure.
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50 of 54 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
I've had this ballet for quite a while, meaning to write a review on it, but just haven't gotten a "round tuit". If you have never gotten a "round tuit" (There is such a thing), you have not missed a heck of a lot. One of the most important things I wish for you to "get" is, that you should NOT believe everything you read in these reviews (even mine), because they are ALL debatable opinions. Some people give poor reviews because of meanness, I think. One reviewer gave this production a one star rating, then admitted that it included three of the greatest ballet stars "in" this planet. (Statement found in his comment on J. Erickson's review of Swan Lake by the ABT)

A lot has been said about how short the last act is in this version (10 minutes). It IS short, but everything is said (in the the last act) that needs to be said. The whole story of the last act is there, and it has some of the most heart wrenching music Tchaikovsky ever wrote.

You will not find more beautiful sets and costumes in ANY other ballet DVD. The resolution on this DVD is superb, not to be a HI-DEF DVD. Color and lighting is spectacular, but someone did complain about the lighting being too bright in the lakeside scene. I thought it was good. I like to SEE my ballerinas. Gillian Murphy (Odette/Odile) is one of the most beautiful females "on" this planet. Using her own words, she IS soft and vulnerable as Odette, she IS wickedly beautiful, seductive, and completely dynamic as Odile. I have eight versions of Swan Lake, and this is my favorite, even with the short fourth act. In my three Russian versions, none use mime, except when the Prince's Mother tells him he has to get married and pick out a bride. This version uses mime to great effect, and the arm and hand movements are a beautiful art form along with all the other body movements of ballet. Mime helps tell the story. For instance Odette tells Siegfried (Angel Corella) that her tears (and those of the other Swan-Maidens) formed the lake they inhabit. Since the lakes all seem to be quite large, one wonders how long it took to fill them, and since Siegfried went hunting swans with a crossbow, one wonders how many beautiful Swan-Maidens have been slain over the years. We really get involved in our fairy tales, don't we?

A lot of experimentation is found in Swan Lake, and this one is no exception. Yes, people even complain about the use of dance in the prologue, which in this version shows our beautiful Maiden being abducted by a horrible swamp ogre who can transform himself into a suave and debonair Von Rothbart, who transforms her into the Swan-Maiden Odette. Another innovation in this version is the use of a May-Pole in the first act. The girls dance around the May-Pole using ribbons which get so tangled up it's hard to believe they would ever get them untangled, but seeing is believing. Also seen in the first act is the fabulous Fredrick Franklin who is over ninty years old but, still on stage in ballet, playing the part of Siegfried's Tutor. You can see him in the great documentery, Ballets Russes......Ballets Russes

Von Rothbart, played by Marcelo Gomes really mesmerizes all the women in the third act, even including the Queen Mother, played by Georgina Parkinson (formerly with the Royal Ballet). She plays Roseline in Romeo and Juliet......Romeo and Juliet (Royal Ballet)- Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn........ Von Rothbart is very suave and handsome, so I suppose it's normal that all the prospective brides swooned over him. The Russian Dance was a great piece of music for him to dance to, and he was very good, but didn't steal the show, as some have inferred. If anyone stole the show, it was Gillian Murphy, as the Black Swan Odile. She was absolutely magnificent, with those long beautiful legs, and a beautiful figure as well. She said it herself, she was wickedly beautiful.

In the last act, your heart goes out to Siegfried as he tries so desperately to get to his Odette to seek her forgiveness. His desperation is written all over his face. When Odette reaches the lakeside and is about to jump to her death, her heartbreak is also apparent, but she rushes to Siegfried to ask him how he could break his oath. She is so disappointed that she cannot look him in the eyes, so she hides her face from him. He asks for, and receives, her forgiveness but it is too late, so using all the normal mime gestures, she tells him she must kill herself. By then it looks like the curse has already been broken, because the other Swan Maidens have quit obeying the sorcerer, and have begun trying to protect their Queen, but still Odette sacrifices herself with Siegfried following her, to celebrate their love together in paradise.
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42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on April 19, 2006
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
... but i love this Swan Lake! Unlike some other reviewers, i had no problem with the chemistry between Angel Corella (Siegfried) and Gillian Murphy (Odette/Odile). Perhaps i was distracted by their dazzling technique and musicality. I've subjected countless friends to "you've gotta see this" sessions. Some were wowed by the cool theatrical trick in the first act that transforms the evil sorcerer into the charming Rothbart (played by the charismatic Marcelo Gomes). Others couldn't believe that Gillian Murphy would toss a few multiple turns into her 32 fouettes. But the part that got ME was the downright dangerous lift that Angel Corella and Gillian Murphy executed not just once, but three times (she's waaaay past her center of gravity, hanging upside down).Amazing acrobatics aside, i found this performance just plain solid from start to finish. Murphy and Corella are both very complete dancers (both have great extension, beautiful lines, excellent balance, strong jumps, centered spins, etc.). If Murphy seemed a bit "cold," Corella more than made up for it with an expressive interpretation of his role.All that said, i have but one complaint: Like some of my fellow reviewers, i was saddened to see the fourth act shortened to a nub (it was likely axed because the full fourth act represents untold hours of rehearsing for the corps). What a pity: Some of the score's most evocative music was wasted as Siegfried (Angel Corella) stood around, looking majestic. No single interpretation of this classic ballet will please everyone. If you're a staunch traditionalist, this version may disappoint. But if you want to see ABT and its gifted stars at their brilliant best, give this DVD a shot: The dancing is superb and the staging is both creative and beautiful.
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39 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on January 17, 2006
Format: DVD
Will there ever be a definitive Swan Lake? Probably not, since everyone has felt free to remove, rearrange, re-choreograph it since its inception 130+ years ago. That it still remains the world's most popular ballet is probably more due to Tchaikovsky's score and Lev Ivanov (with some Petipa) than anything else. So the question still remains: How true to the "original" can one remain and still retain that universal appeal without stagnation? For Kevin McKenzie and ABT that meant keeping most of Act II intact, and the ending where both Siegfried and Odette leap into that lake, killing Rothbart and breaking the spell. The rest is a mix of old and new--like most companies do--with some good, some bad, and some ugly.

THE GOOD:

Shooting this in HDTV. Finally, clear crisp color, picture, sound, and an aspect ratio wide enough to accomodate a stage. Hooray for technology.

A prologue helps those not familiar with the plot, and I've not seen one since London Festival Ballet's many years ago. (But I, too, sometimes prefer just listening to all that pathos in the music alone with my own images.) At least the "magic of television" lets Odette do a quick change, instead of the puppet swan one gets in the live performance. And splitting the role of Rothbart does let one see how both Odette, Siegfried et.al. can/could be duped by suave, handsome, accomplished Marcelo Gomes vs. poor Isaac Stappas' evil/cartoonish green monster. (This is not a comment on Stappas' dancing--he isn't given much anyways.)

Updating the time period to the 16th century vs. the usual 15th works okay--especially the Act III sets. The dresses are a little voluminous in Act I, esp.if the whole point is to see feet/legs, but they look right for the time period and the dancers are able to move despite the corsetting. The men, of course, look fine. The 16th c. always liked to show off its leg.

And the dancing?...

Unlike many others,past and present, Murphy and Corella have perfect musical phrasing. What a difference that makes to this score! Finally!

Yes Gillian Murphy has great technique. (Has anyone else ever done quadruple multiples in between those fouettes? Maybe Ananiashvili but I forget.) Murphy can balance, turn (in attitude or otherwise), leap, has good extension, and can smirk with the best as evil Odile. But Odette?--see below.

Ah Angel Corella. He saves this ballet. Why? Other dancers can leap and turn: Herman Cornejo of course--the Pas de Trois with his sister Erica and Xiomara Reyes; Marcelo Gomes of course--enjoying Act III's Russian dance with the glazed princesses. Both Cornejo and Gomes are graceful and powerful dancers. If leaping and turning were all, the part would be interchangeable, something ABT knows and exploits. But except for Ivan Nagy (yes, the definitive Siegfried) 30 years ago, no one--and I mean NO ONE else now or past--has the grace and epaulement in partnering that Corella uses. Not just the utilization of upper body/shoulders to stretch and mirror the line; watch how he uses his head to mirror the movements of his partner. He also seems to be one of the few to still do those almost-one-armed croise fouette lifts in Black Swan. (Is it a height differential or upper-body strength problem that prevents most others?) And of course, he can act. Has anyone else ever bothered to pour so much emotion into that reserved moody prince? Something this production's close-ups made sure to capture. One comment I read somewhere said he brings more "focus" to the prince roles. Yes, finally we can feel for Siegfried as much as poor Odette and watch the details of an interpretation that never before has equaled the technical and emotional requirements of its female dancer's. Thankfully, Mr. McKenzie's choreography makes Siegfried more than a pawn or porteur and avoids any freudian overtones. The first act solo (Nureyev's inspired musical interpolation) is a perfect melding of choreography and dancer to convey the emotional "dilemma" McKenzie sets up: Siegfried's need to find a soulmate while confined by the strictures of the court.

Supporting characters/dancers:
Besides the aforementioned Cornejo and Gomes, Georgina Parkinson and Frederick Franklin (still spry at 90), add wonderful nuance to queen and tutor. The white act corps is ok, though not the Kirov of years past. And I've only seen the Royal Ballet's four cygnets ever make an audience gasp and give an encore ovation for perfect synchronization. Act III's ethnic variations and 4 (why 4 not 6?)princesses are rather bland, but Siegfried is supposed to be bored. (However, catch the inside joke as Corella pauses in his final review of the Spanish princess.)

THE BAD:

Principal rapport?
One reviewer called her "glacial". My mother, (no expert on technique, though a long-time viewer) said she was "too cold". I used to think NYCB dancers were robotic in Swan Lake since they learned the steps and then "Balanchined" all drama out of them. Not anymore. Gillian Murphy isn't that: Twice she captures the "deer in headlights" when Odette spots Siegfried. But time after time, when viewed (especially so in slow-mo) Murphy seems to be dancing with herself, or her own frozen image in a mirror. She looks offstage, she grimaces, she contracts in or pulls away her upper body--once visibly giving Siegfried a "cold shoulder"--instead of relaxing back into her partner. All the wonder, ardor and acting of Corella is wasted as it flies past that glacial swan queen. There IS a difference between regal and glacial. Technical control, droopy wrists and undulating arms are not what makes Odette "soft and vulnerable": It's the fragility, wonder, and awakening emotional attachment to her prince and hoped for savior. No rapport means only steps, not story. (NOTE* - Since this was broadcast, I've seen GM's Odette several times live--with AC and not, and her artistic/acting abilities have definately improved. As with most of us, maturity and experience add understanding and nuance.)

Cutting Act IV's music and eliminating the search for stricken Odette hiding amongst her swan maidens. Of course TV timetables mean cutting, though no commercials on PBS should preclude this. And the sad swan music does get preserved live onstage, so why not include it here? DVDs supposedly allow for more space, why not return it?

THE UGLY:
Details ARE visible in HDTV. Stage make-up looks almost grotesque in HDTV close-up. Facial expressions can look overdone. A lead dancer catching cat-naps onstage is also visible in Act III.(Bored, tired, or acting?)The camera sees all. If one is going to tape a live performance, maybe this once the above could be toned down--even if the live audience misses some. The La Scala R&J comes to mind, not HDTV, but close-ups that don't exaggerate.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2007
Format: DVD
If this performance included the full Act IV, I'd give it five stars. But alas, the decision to cut what could have been a beautiful corps piece for the swans was a mistake. The casting was not what I'd expect. Gillian Murphy shows us her breathtaking technique as usual; as Odile, you won't be able to take your eyes off of her, either in her solo variation or in the coda with her sharp fouettes. She is one of the best turners out there. But in terms of acting ability and presence, I don't think she was well suited to Odette. She seems aloof, for lack of a better word. She does better as Odile in general, I think. And I actually liked that she portrayed that character as a steely cold superior being who deigns to give her attention to Siegfried. She is after all the daughter of an evil sorceror who is simply toying with a man until she gets bored with her own game. Too many dancers try to do (overdo?) the kittenish vixen take, so I thought this was a nice departure.

As odd as this might seem, I think Angel Corella was wasted as Siegfried. He has such lightness, such brilliance in his grand allegro work that he just seemed stifled as poor Siegfried. And I personally didn't sense any chemistry between him and Gillian Murphy at all (compare this with his gala performance of the Don Quixote grand pas de deux with Paloma Herrera, and you'll see what I mean).

But thankfully, there was Herman Cornejo and Marcelo Gomes. Now these two know how to steal a show! Cornejo's performance in the pas de troix is perfect in both technique (look how high that man can jump!) and expression (he's the only one who really lets us know that this is indeed a prince's birthday party). And Gomes' dance as Rothbart with the four princesses is priceless! He has more stage presence than most other dancers combined, and he uses it beautifully here and in true charming-villian style. Though I also saw no need to have two Rothbarts when Gomes is more than capable of showing both the charming and downright evil sides to the character, Isaac Stapas did do his job well too.

I still prefer the Russians when it comes to Swan Lake (must be the trademark Kirov graceful arms), but this performance is worth the cost. In fact, I'd recommend buying both this DVD and the Svetlana Zakharova/Roberto Bolle performance of the Bourmeister version. Both are excellent examples of two ways to tell this same story.
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on February 25, 2007
Format: DVD
I have many different versions of this ballet - each one has its own characteristics and charm. This one is not the best I have seen but it does has certain points that make it slightly different from others, and makes it interesting. It also is slightly American as it worries about rights of the individual and in ways being "politically correct". It is disappointing that a large chunk of act III is missing, but overall the dancing is good, costumes beautiful and presentation innovative and enthralling.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2006
Format: DVD
I read the reviews here after I ordered the DVD but before it arrived. By the time I got to watching it, I was convinced that it wasn't going to be very good. I was wrong, and I must say that I have no clue why people are beating up on Gillian Murphy unless it is because they are jealous. I have seen this ballet danced by many ballerinas (both live and on tape) and I think she compares very favorably with all of them. (I won't name names but I have seen more than a few that were downright awful!) Since I have seen Murphy live, but not in any full length roles (and it's been a couple years) I thought maybe she would wow us with her amazing technique and miss the more subtle stuff, but it is very obvious that she understands when to throw multiple turns and when not to. There is absolutely nothing false about her dancing, she is a real pleasure to watch and oozes charisma to boot. The part that I found most touching was how she showed Odette's physical transformation back into a swan at the end of Act II.

Bottom line- If you don't know much about ballet, let Gillian Murphy and Angel Corella introduce you. And if you do know a lot about ballet, revel in this couples abilities. Now order the dvd already!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2009
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
This is my all time favorite performance of Swan Lake. The dancing is flawless with many great stars in this one rendition including Murphy, Angel Corello, Marcelo Gomes and Herman Carnejo. Just watching Carnejo's jumps with the loft he gets is reason enough to get this DVD, but add in Murphy's exciting dancing with her energy and twists and it is unbelievable. Angel Corello with his handsome physique, graceful dancing, well acted facial expressions and incredible charm is an added treat. And then there is the tall, dark and handsome Brazilian star, Marcelo Gomes, in his beautiful purple and gold princely costume with a strong performance of his own. I loved the entire DVD, and have gone back to watch several parts of it over and over many times. In addition, the beautiful music, the richness of colors of the costumes and the majesty of the sets in the Kennedy Center really give this DVD a fresh appeal that sets it apart from older versions of this ballet. There are also revealing interviews with Murphy and Carnejo which really show how humble, charming, and polite they are, which are not qualities you see in many of today's stars in Hollywood. Add to this the pointent and bittersweet remarks of the late President JFK in the opening, and you have a Swan Lake performance that must be added to your collection, even if, you have enjoyed other Swan Lake DVD's previously.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
Just as one finds a DVD or VHS of a production of a classical ballet that seems that it HAS TO BE definitive, along come other releases with perhaps equally sublime performances. How to choose, for example and for starters, among current and vintage male dancers such as Carlos Acosta, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Ángel Corella, Gus van Heerden, Roberto Bolle, Rudolf Nureyev, Erik Bruhn, Edward Vallella, Kevin Haigen, Sergei Polunin, and so, so many others whom it is an injustice not to enumerate, but who, indeed, fortunately for ballet audiences now and in decades past, are so numerous. (I would have listed, for example, in that short list, Yuri Soloviev, a titan among them, but there is, regrettably, too little commercial video documentation of his career; the same also applies, alas, to many other similarly unfortunate cases of great dancers whose work has lacked sufficient documention on film or video.)

The American Ballet Theatre's production, copyrighted 2005, which this DVD records, of Tchaikowsky's "Swan Lake" (Thirteen/WNET New York ID-1987-WNDVD), distributed by Image Entertainment) is a version of the tale and of its choreography (Kevin McKenzie having adapted a bit what Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov had devised for the long standard version) which concludes tragically (but transcendently) rather than have the mortally happy ending sometimes encountered. The slow introduction of Tchaikowsky's score, not the usual practice, is danced, in order to provide some of the backstory of the tale. The ballet as seen here is finely and beautifully costumed and staged, exhibiting NONE of the Neo-trash excesses that designers and their colleagues all too often devise nowadays to spoil their own, Tchaikowsky's, and Petipa's work.

The casting of the production is, indeed, particularly blessed on the male side. Herman Cornejo, as Price Siegfried's friend, Benno, is so spectacular in technic and easy grace, with amazing leaps and other feats of acrobatic skill, that he comes close at times to upstaging even Ángel Corella, one of the great male classical dancers of our day (writing this in 2014), who portrays the Prince. What a treat to have two such consummately superb dancers in the male contingent of this production! Then there is Marcelo Gomes as the human Rothbart (the demonic counterpart of von Rothbart's character being Isaac Stappas). Gomes only merits mention after the others because his role does not abound so many of the star turns that Corella and Cornejo have in so much greater profusion and possibilities, but Gomes, for his part, has an insolent intensity and voraciously pansexual stage presence that seize the viewer's attention when he is "front and centre".

As for Ángel Corella, in his vigourously youthful-looking mid-30s when this American Ballet Theatre "Swan Lake" was filmed on tour in, or on visit to, Washington, D.C., his dancing has a skill and smoothly lithe grace and lyricism of movement, even when lifting and hauling ballerinas without even the slightest trace of effort; when Corella raises the ballerina over his head, manoeuvring her into vertical position upside down above him, one has to admire the man's sheer strength, especially when not even a single muscular twitch, spasm, or tremor is evident, so gracefully does he accomplish this sort of thing (doing so as well, for that matter, as the more obviously ruggèd Carlos Acosta accomplishes such feats so phenomenally well in that dancer's own performances)! Beholding the sheer beauty of Corella's every motion is almost enough to make one weep for joy. Corella overwhelmingly merits his status as such a great star. He acts out the drama with sensitivity and emotion, too (even if by far the most convincing, and certainly most beguiling, moods of his virile stage presence are those of joy and romantic ardour).

Gillian Murphy, who plays the dual (and very contrasting) roles of Odette and Odile, is a ballerina of graceful strength, athletic prowess, and sensibility. She contrasts wonderfully the prevailingly elegiac spirit that pervades Odette's part, and, by contrast, she makes the most of Odile's manipulatively sensual and cynically brittle posing and dazzling virtuosity. It is quite an accomplishment to portray each side of female personae which contrast so starkly as this. The corps de ballet, all of its men and ladies alike, are a joy to behold and the orchestra's playing is admirable in every way.

I hope to acquire yet other DVDs of "Swan Lake" as well as to keep this American Ballet Theatre edition. I am not an expert or scholar of dance, but I am a fairly well informed fan, I think, with numerous dancers as friends over the years (and parents whose ballroom and folk dancing skills were of an high order) who have helped me to appreciate what such terpsichorean-type thespians do on stage. Being on the verge of my 71st birthday, now stiff and increasingly enfeebled by old age that is engulfing me, I all the more rejoice in the prowess and athletic exuberance of dance of any physically demanding kind (from jitterbug and break dance right up to classical ballet). Even if I never were to acquire another DVD of "Swan Lake", I would feel satisfactorily assured and totally content to have just this one.
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25 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
When one goes to Swan Lake, the First Act usually is something one puts up with, anticipating the Second and subsequent delights to follow. In this performance, alas, the First Act proves to be the highlight of the evening, beautifully choreographed and showing-off exceptional dancing by Hernan Cornejo. Unfortunately, it's downhill from there, though the dancing is never less than good. Ms. Murphy, a cool Odette and virtuosic Odile, and Mr. Corella, passionate throughout, dance very well, but seem mismatched: there is little rapport between them. It does not seem as effective a pairing as any of the relatively many on video, notwithstanding their individual merits; Von Rothbart (in Acts II and IV) looks like a refugee demon from Buffy the Vampire Slayer; the national dances in the Third Act are who knows what and by whom, not even reminiscent of Petipa, the Spanish Dance teeters between the ackward and the risible; I don't know whose choreography is done in the last act, but it does not look like Ivanov and, if I recall, reverses the entrances: Siegfried seems to get to the lake before Odette which is weird indeed, and destroys some of the drama of his choreographic search for her from group to group. This is not a production to treasure. The orchestra sounds thin, scrappy in spots, and short on strings and brass. In the past, ABT has done a lot better by Swan Lake.

Elsewhere I've written about the textual problems posed by Swan Lake (if interested, please see my review of the DVD from the Deutsche Staatsoper - Berlin, a very fine performance indeed). This DVD is recommended only to fans of the individual soloists. For a performance of Swan Lake, though, look elsewhere. Overall, the Kirov performance with Galina Mezentseva and Konstantin Zaklinsky probably sets the standard.
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