Classical Music Masterpieces in HD Episode 13

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Classical Music Masterpieces in HD Episode 13
On this episode of Classical Music Masterpieces in HD:  7 Great Ballets

in the above playlist #1 -5
#6-7 - see further below.

1. Ballet excelsior in HD 
Roberto Bolle, Marta Romagna, la Scala

Excelsior is a tribute to the scientific and industrial progress of the 19th century, from the electric light to the telegraph, steam engine, and Suez Canal. As such it foreshadows the Futurism movement.

In the newly unified Italy of post-Risorgimento, the wonders of inventions such as the steamboat, or Volta's pile, the titanic works of the Mont Cenis tunnel or the Suez channel had to convey hope, all evoked in the spectacular ballet with monumental special effects. Impressive the assemblies of civilized nations, stretched at full gallop toward a bright future, waving fraternal flags from all over the world, in forerunners choreographic tableau with 500 elements on the scene.

In the first act, among other scenes, you will see a pleasant village on the banks of the river Weser, near the city of Bremen.

The landlord and landlady of a tavern on the river bank joyfully watch the return of their son Valentino, who, with his companions, has won the victory in a regatta. The winning boat arrives at the bank, and is received by the exulting crowd; Valentino and Fanny, his fiancée, dance, and all drink to the health of the winners. The captain of the losing boat challenges Valentino for the next day: each rowing alone, this time Valentino will be the loser.

But a mysterious man, who is lying on the river bank, sneers and scoffs at the challenge; it is Obscurantism, who shows the astonished oarsmen a strange boat which is rapidly moving up the river as if impelled by infernal powers. This is the steam boat, the new invention of Denis Papin, and the Genius of Evil incites the spirits of the oarsmen against it; they see in it a threat to their own interests. Papin's boat is broken to pieces by the ferocious crowd, and the unfortunate inventor, about to succumb, seizes the robes of Light, who has risen out of the water to come to his aid.

Once more, Progress has defeated Obscurantism in the laboratory of Alessandro Volta who discovered electricity in Como.

In the second act In the desert. A caravan of men, women and children is assailed by a terrible gale of wind: it is the Simoon which raises the sand, overthrows animals and men, and produces a thick darkness. The caravan, and a band of thieves who have been trying to rob it, are overswept and heaped up one on top of the other in this tremendous upheaval of nature. Obscurantism wanders about the desert, the only one to rejoice in all this ruin and extermination.

But Light appears, and shows a point on the horizon: the way by which men can reach their destination without having to face the dangers of the desert. The scene of desolation disappears; a wide canal flows between two sandy banks, on which all the civilised peoples of Europe are gathered together rejoicing. This is the Suez Canal, another triumph of Progress, another victory of Light over Obscurantism. Men from all parts of the world dance in joy, while evening comes and Light reappears among the exulting people. Still unconquered by the great discoveries, the Genius of the Shadows now wanders about near the tunnelling work under Mont-Cenis.

The last charge of explosive is ready, the barrier that still separates the Italian excavators from their French companions falls. But no sound is heard, and engineers and workmen fear that they have gone astray as they bored into the rock, and doubt the success of the great undertaking. But a far-off detonation is heard to indicate that the task has been properly accomplished.

The French workmen jump down from the gap that is opened in the rock by strokes of the pick-axe, and embrace their companions amid the general exultation, they celebrate the triumphant conclusion of the enormous undertaking. Majestically, the monument erected to the glory of the tunnelling of Mont-Cenis, and to the Genius of the human race, rises in the middle of the stage.

Obscurantism is furious, and has to watch, in impotent rage, the triumph of the eternal enemy Light, who with an imperious gesture shows the people of the world united in brotherly love; all is over for the Genius of the Shadows, while for the Genius of Civilisation much remains still to be done. At another gesture of Light, the earth opens out under the feet of Obscurantism, engulfing him.

Although very covert, there was also a mention of the role of people not yet "civilized" and the question of the abolition of slavery in the allegoric Pas de deux of the Slave and Civilization, in this revival entrusted to Roberto Bolle's sculptural physicality.

2. Strauss ballet Fledermaus or la Chauve-souris 
la Scala, Alessandra Ferri

Roland Petit, the distinguished French choreographer, created the Ballet La Chauve-souris in 1979 for the Ballet Nationale de Marseille. Its premiere was given in Monte Carlo. Star dancer and choreographer Luigi Bonino played the same part of Ulrich in Tokyo and later repeated the role in this production by the La Scala company. The present version is directed for the stage by Bonino and Jean-Philippe Halnaut, under the Italian Title 'Il pipistrello'. It includes further changes to the staging. The story of the ballet is loosely based upon that of the original operetta die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss. Mr. Petit transposed die Fledermaus's scenes at the ball to Paris's own Maxim's.

At the heart, the story remains the same. A man with a beautiful wife (Johann danced by Massimo Murru) has grown too accustomed to her, as men do, even bored. Johann's wife Bella (Alessandra Ferri) solicits her husband's attention to no avail. He prefers even the newspaper to her company. In the evening however Johann has other plans. He likes to slip out to Maxim's to dance, flirt and seduce.

While Johann is ignoring her, Bella - as attractive women, married or not, always do - has an admirer. In this case, the admirer is their children's tutor Ulrich (danced by Luigi Bonino).

When Johann has disappeared to Maxim's, Bella calls Ulrich to the house. Ulrich sees his chance and goes in for the kill, hoping to seduce Bella the same evening. But for the moment, Bella cannot bring herself to betray her husband. Ulrich has a backup plan; he wants to disguise Bella and take her out to Maxim's where she can see Johann's womanizing for herself.
Ulrich's hidden agenda is that when Bella has seen Johann's infidelity, she will be easy prey for himself.

Curiously, when Ulrich and Bella reach Maxim's, Bella makes a tremendous impression on all the men there, including her own husband. Johann leaves all the other delicious ladies and starts courting his own Bella. But Johann doesn't realize that the gorgeous woman he is wooing is his own wife.

When Ulrich sees his plan falling apart, he makes arrangements for Johann to be arrested and put in jail.
Johann has these strange bat wings with which he flies away in the night. When he is in jail, Bella drops by with the magistrate and seduces him into allowing her into Johann's cell. When in the jail, Ulrich brings Bella a giant pair of scissors and Bella cuts away Johann's bat wings. After his release from jail, Johann is grounded at home where he gets carpet slippers for a future of domestic bliss.

The expert choreography of Roland Petit produces a sparkling and colourful ballet. The dancing here is brilliant; not a moment of boredom! It would be difficult for anyone not to enjoy this supremely happy work.
The parts of Johann and of Bella, are danced by Massimo Murru and Alessandra Ferri, the star couple (also in real life) of La Scala Ballet. Their performances are exemplary - great dancing and visual acting. Luigi Bonino, of course, created the part of Ulrich and must be counted as the star performer with his Charlie Chaplin-esqe facial expressions. Yes in this ballet he has outdanced and outperformed everybody else.

The ballet contains some of Johann Strauss's most memorable tunes. These have been woven expertly by Douglas Gamley who has not hesitated to incorporate music from other works by Strauss. The end-result is ballet music of the first order. Set to Strauss' beautiful music, each note is spot on with Petit's choreography, as if the music was made for the ballet, note for note! Alessandra Ferri (as Bella) is a stunning lead in her dual-persona role, possessing the ideal dancer's body with expressive talents; riddled with sultriness. Kevin Rhodes conducts the La Scala Orchestra with verve.

The sets and costumes, designed by Jean-Michel Wilmotte (adapted by Jean-Michel Désiré) and Luisa Spinatelli, (the queen of good taste who also designed the immensely beautiful costumes for the ballet Paquita viewable on this channel) are all very pretty - especially Ferri's multiple costumes, ranging from housewife to showgirl-esque, as well as Murru's bat-like adornment. The roles of the members of the company are taxing but a very high standard is achieved.

But the best in this ballet is the choreography by Roland Petit and danced by La Scala, this is an unforgettable ballet - a modern gem. Petit's characteristic quirkiness, sexiness, inventiveness, and genius shine through and through in this production.

This is an under-known gem. For some reason, Petit's Le jeune homme et la mort, Carmen, and L'Arlesienne have become widely-known ballets, but this hasn't reached international renown. This is a stunning, unforgettable ballet, paired with breathtaking music! Roland Petit has left us and will be sorely missed, for there has never been and will never be another like him!

English: Maya Plisetskaya in 2011
 Maya Plisetskaya in 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3. The Little Humpbacked Horse movie/ballet in HD
Maya Plisetskaya

The Little Humpbacked Horse is based on a Russian folk tale for children, but the latest adaptation for the stage by Ratmansky is fresh, fun and very creative, with a wide audience appeal. The Little Humpbacked Horse is a delightfully joyous ballet, perfect for both children and those who are children at heart. Ratmansky's choreography for The Little Humpbacked Horse is innovative, whimsical and endlessly witty. Ratmansky has created many vibrant characters for this ballet, including horses and seahorses. His use of mime to tell the story is brilliant, and fortunately all the dancers mime very clearly. The score, composed by Rodion Shchechin, is wonderfully danceable. The crazy costumes and sets add a sort of comic book/cartoon flavor which suits this ballet very well.

"The Little Humpbacked Horse" ("Koniok Gorbunok") began life as a fairy tale written in 1834 by Pyotr Pavlovich Yershov. For 20 years in the 19th century it was politically incorrect, since it treated its Tsar as a ninny and polished him off in a vat of boiling water. It also holds a vital place in Russian ballet history. An 1864 St. Petersburg staging, with music by Cesare Pugni and choreography by Arthur Saint-Léon, is famous as the first ballet to treat Russian mythology, remaining an enduring success. The ballet masters Marius Petipa and Alexander Gorsky made successive revisions in 1895 and the early 20th century, and some of theys individual dances have survived to the present days.

The ballet underwent several revisions; ballet versions of this story were choreographed by Arthur Saint-Leon and Marius Petipa in the nineteenth century, and Alexander Gorsky in the early twentieth century.
In 1960 the composer, Rodion Shchedrin, (the future husband of Bolshoi prima ballerina, Maya Plisetskaya) composed new music for The Little Humpbacked Horse. This adaptation of the story was choreographed by Alexander Radunsky. It was famously danced by Maya Plisetskaya and her partner, Vladimir Vasiliev. It is to Shchedrin's very danceable music that Alexei Ratmanksy cheographed his version of the fairytale for the Mariinsky Ballet in 2009.

The Little Humpbacked Horse is the story of Ivan, who lives with his two brothers and elderly father in a small house on the edge of a field. Ivan's brothers make fun of his wide-eyed innocence and refer to him as Ivan the Fool. At the beginning of the ballet, Ivan discovers that a young mare has been trampling his father's crops. Ivan gives the mare her freedom and she rewards him with two stallions and a magical little humpbacked horse. Then a flock of firebirds arrive and Ivan plucks a lucky feather from the tail of one of the birds.

While Ivan and the Little Humpbacked Horse are encountering the firebirds, Ivan's brothers steal his stallions and try to sell them to the Tsar. Ivan arrives in time to convince the Tsar that the stallions are his. The Tsar gives Ivan a position at the palace in return for the horses. This infuriates the Tsar's chief servant, the power hungry Gentleman of the Bedchamber.

While Ivan is sleeping, the Gentleman of the Bedchamber steals his firebird feather. He gives it to the Tsar, who sees a vision of a beautiful Tsar Maiden living at the faraway home of the firebirds. The Tsar decides he must have the Tsar Maiden as his wife, and Ivan and the Little Humpbacked Horse are sent to bring her back to the Tsar.

Ivan finds the Tsar Maiden, and they fall in love. Ivan, however, fulfills his duty and brings her to the Tsar's palace. There the Tsar Maiden tells the Tsar that she will only marry him if he gives her a ring that lies at the bottom of the sea. Ivan and the Little Humpbacked Horse travel to the undersea kingdom and retrieve the ring. The Tsar Maiden, still not wanting to marry the old and ugly Tsar, tells him that if he jumps into a cauldron of boiling water, he will become young and handsome. The Gentleman of the Bedchamber says that Ivan should try out the cauldron first, and pushes Ivan into the boiling water. Due to the magic of the Little Humpbacked Horse, Ivan is transformed into a prince. Seeing this, the Tsar jumps into the boiling water and dies. Ivan becomes the new Tsar and celebrates by marrying the Tsar Maiden.

Statue of Alessandra Ferri as 'Juliet' by Nath...
Statue of Alessandra Ferri as 'Juliet' by Nathan David Inside the Royal Ballet School. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
4. Ballet Giselle in HD La Scala

Principal dancers:
Giselle: Alessandra Ferri
Albrecht: Massimo Murru
Hilarion: Maurizio Vanadia
Myrtha: Isabel Seabra
Bathilde: Mairizia Luceri
Wilfried: Bryan Hewinson
Music by Adolphe Adam
Conductor: Paul Connelly

The ballet is set in the Rhineland of the Middle Ages during the grape harvest. When the curtain rises on the first act, the cottage of Giselle and her mother Berthe are seen on one side, and opposite is seen the cottage of Duke Albrecht of Slesia, a nobleman who has disguised himself as a peasant named Loys, in order to sow a few wild oats before his marriage to Bathilde, the daughter of the Prince of Courland. Against the advice of his squire Wilfrid, Albrecht flirts with Giselle, who falls completely in love with him. Hilarion, another peasant who is also in love with Giselle and warns the girl against trusting the stranger, but Giselle refuses to listen. Albrecht and Giselle dance a love duet, with Giselle picking the petals from a daisy to divine her lover's sincerity. The couple is interrupted by Giselle's mother, who, worried about her daughter's fragile health, ushers the girl into the cottage.

But Giselle agrees to marry the man, despite the romantic advancements of Hilarion, who suspects that Albrecht is an impostor. Giselle wants badly to dance, but her mother warns her that she has a weak heart.
Horns are heard in the distance and Loys (Albrecht) retreats from the scene. A hunting party enters and refreshments are served. Among the hunters are Bathilde and her father. Giselle returns to the scene, dances for the party, and receives a necklace from Bathilde. When the party departs, Loys (Albrecht) reappears with the grape harvesters. A celebration begins. Giselle and the harvesters dance but the merriment is brought to a halt by Hilarion who, having investigated the Duke's cottage now brandishes the nobleman's horn and sword. The horn is sounded, and the hunting party returns. The truth about Loys (Albrecht) is learned and Giselle goes mad and dies. Although Giselle takes Albrecht's sword, her death is actually a result of her weak heart.

The second act is set in a moonlit glade near Giselle's grave. Hilarion is mourning Giselle's death. He is frightened from the glade by the Wilis, female spirits who, jilted before their wedding day, rise from their graves at night and seek revenge upon men by dancing them to death. Giselle is summoned from her grave and welcomed by the supernatural creatures who then quickly disappear. Albrecht enters searching for Giselle's grave, and she appears before him. He begs forgiveness. Giselle, her love undiminished, readily forgives him and the two dance. The scene ends with Albrecht in pursuit of Giselle as she disappears into the forest.

Hilarion enters pursued by the Wilis, who throw him to his death in a nearby lake. The Wilis then surround Albrecht and sentence him to death. He begs to be spared but Myrtha the queen of the Wilis refuses. Giselle protects him from the Wilis when they force him to dance. Day breaks and the Wilis retreat to their graves when their power is lost, but Giselle's love has saved Albrecht. By not succumbing to feelings of vengeance and hatred that define the Wilis, Giselle is freed from any association with them, and returns to her grave to rest in peace.

The ballet ends with Albrecht, realizing that Giselle has saved his life, crying at her grave.

English: Roberto Bolle as Solor in the Royal B...
Roberto Bolle as Solor in the Royal Ballet production of La Bayadere. Cropped from scillystuff's original file. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
5. Ballet "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in HD  Roberto Bolle, Alessandra Ferri, La Scala

Act I
A forest near Athens, one Midsummer Eve.
The first act takes place in a forest near the Duke's palace. Oberon , king of the Fairies, and Titania, his queen, quarrel over the Indian child they both want..Oberon orders Puck to bring the flower pierced by Cupid's arrow (which causes anyone coming under its influence to fall in love with the first person the eyes behold) and, while Titania is asleep and unknowing, he casts the flower's spell over her. Meanwhile, Helena , wandering in the wood, meets Demetrius, whom she loves but who does not love her. Demetrius rejects her and goes his way. Oberon watches and tells Puck to use the flower on Demetrius that he may return Helena's affection. Another couple, Hermia and Lysander, very much in love, are also wandering in the forest. They become separated. Puck, eager to carry out Oberon's orders, mistakenly anoints Lysander. Helena appears, and Lysander, under the flower's spell, at once and to her amazement tells her how much he loves her. Hermia now returns. She is astonished and then dismayed to see Lysander paying attention only to Helena. Puck manages to bring Demetrius, too, under the flower's spell, much to the delight of Helena, who doesn't care for Lysander at all. Demetrius and Lysander, now both in love with Helena, begin to quarrel over her. Puck, at Oberon's order, has separated Bottom, away from his companions, transformed his head into that of an ass, and placed him at the feet of the sleeping Titania. Awakening, Titania sees Bottom, and pays him close and loving attention. At last Oberon, his anger being over, has Bottom sent away and releases Titania from her spell. Hermia now gets no attention while Helena too much . The men, completely at odds, quarrel seriously and begin to fight. Puck with his magic causes them to separate, lose one another and wander apart in the forest, until exhausted they fall asleep, with Puck arranging for Helena to fall asleep beside Demetrius and Lysander (his spell removed) by Hermia. The Duke and Hippolyta discover the lovers asleep in the forest, awaken them, find that their differences are resolved and proclaim a triple wedding for themselves and the two couples.

Act II
At the Court of Theseus.
The second act opens in the Duke's palace with parades, dancing and divertissements in honor of the newly married couples. When the celebrations are over and the mortals retire, we return to the domain of Oberon and Titania, who are now reunited and at peace. At last Puck, having put order into disorder, sweeps away the remnants of the night's doings. The fireflies twinkle in the night and reclaim the forest.

English: THE KREMLIN, MOSCOW. Awarding state d...
THE KREMLIN, MOSCOW. Awarding state decorations. Diana Vishneva, soloist with the State Academic Maryinsky Theatre, is awarded the honorary title of People\'s Artist of Russia.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

6. Tchaikovsky Sleeping Beauty in HD 
Roberto Bolle, Diana Vishneva, la Scala
View Here

First act
In a magical Kingdom, a princess named Aurora was born as daughter of King and Queen. The Kingdom had a Fairy of Protection, the Lilac Fairy. She and all of her maidens were invited to celebrate Princess Aurora's birth. Unfortunately the royal family forgot to invite also the wicked fairy, Carabosse. Carabosse is distraught by their neglect. She and her crew crash the party anyway, but with evil intentions. She disguises herself as a beautiful fairy and pretends to enjoy the festivities. However, the evil Fairy casts a spell over Princess Aurora saying that on her 16th birthday she will prick her finger and die. Quick to save the Princess, the Lilac Fairy casts another spell saying that she will only fall asleep after pricking her finger.

Sixteen years later, the royal family celebrates Princess Aurora's 16th birthday. Since the night of her birth, the King had ordered that all sharp objects be kept out of the kingdom so she could not hurt herself. His rules were broken, however, on the night of her party. The evil Carabosse disguises herself again, this time as a beautiful seamstress, and presents Princess Aurora with a beautiful tapestry or a spindle or a flower bouquet, depending on the choreography, as gift but with an hidden sharp needle. Enchanted by its beauty, Princess Aurora grabs the gift and pricks her finger on the hidden needle that Carabosse secretly embedded. Carabosse laughs in victory and runs out of the castle. Remembering the spell she had cast before, Lilac Fairy appears to make sure Princess Aurora fell asleep. Lilac Fairy casts a spell on the entire family and court to fall asleep ensuring them of their safety.

Second act
One hundred years later in a dark forest, a Prince by the name of Florimund is hunting together with some friends. Lilac Fairy waits until he is alone and ventures out to him. He tells her that he is lonely and is in need of love. She has the perfect idea. She presents an image of Princess Aurora to him and he instantly falls in love. (in the ballet this is represented by a sequence of pas de deux).
She leads him to the abandoned castle to rescue the beautiful Princess (and put an end to the evil fairy, Carabosse). Lilac Fairy reveals the hidden castle to Prince Florimund. Just when Prince Florimund steps into the castle doorway, Carabosse appears before him. She will not let him pass and they both engage in a short battle where Prince Florimund overpowers her and races into the castle. There he sees all the member of Aurora's family as well as the members of the court asleep. Knowing the only way to break the spell, he quickly finds Princess Aurora and kisses her. The spell is broken and Carabosse is finally defeated. Princess Aurora and her entire family wake up from their deep sleep. Princess Aurora accepts Prince Florimund's proposal for marriage and her family approves.

Third act
This act sports some of the most riveting and variegated music of the entire ballet; including the final apotheosis. This is Tchaikovsky at his best. The castle is filled with music and laughter as the family and maids clean the dusty old castle for the wedding. The wedding is attended by the Prince's family as well as the fairies. Among Aurora's friends each couple performs a different ballet in honor of the wedding. And like every great fairytale, the two seal their marriage with a kiss and live happily ever after.

Edouard Deldevez (1817-1897), French composer,...
Edouard Deldevez (1817-1897), French composer, conductor, & violinist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
7. Paquita in HD, Opera Nacional de Paris
Edouard Deldevez
View Here

Paquita is an improbable story in the best cheer-the-hero, hiss-the-villain tradition about a Spanish commoner girl (Paquita) in love with a nobleman (Lucien) whom she cannot marry because of the difference in their social classes.

The dastardly Iñigo, the head of the gipsy group wanting the lovely Paquita (who was brought up by Gypsies after having been kidnapped by them as little girl) for himself, and his nasty friend Don Lopez de Mendoza governor of Saragozza, tries to crush her affair with the dashing French officer Lucien d'Hervilly by means of poison.

Not only Paquita foils the plot, but she also finds out through a medallion that she is actually Lucien's relative — not his sister, fortunately, which renders the marriage between the two, possible. Now that all gets sorted out, then the divertissement begins, and all the dances there have absolutely nothing to do with the plot.
The full-length "Paquita" __ originally staged for the Opera in 1846 by the composer Édouard-Marie-Ernest Delvedez and the choreographer Joseph Mazilier — is one of those old works whose story ballet aficionados would never expect to see it danced.

But in the early 1970s the French choreographer Pierre Lacotte, after staging his version of the original 1832 "Sylphide," has subsequently made quite a career out of reinventing the 19th century. Among other works, Mr. Lacotte brought back to life Paquita to the stage in 2001, and the Parisians loved it.

But much of the merits belong to the Russians who needed to keep this frolic going in St. Petersburg into the 20th century. As with "Giselle," its salvage involved an extensive overhaul. Just as the choreography for the "Giselle" needed changes, even bigger changes were made to "Paquita" by the Petipa-Minkus team, some of them set to music added to its original score by Petipa's long-term musical colleague and breakfast-buddy Ludwig Minkus. The two actually succeeded in turning this old "ham" into a real ballet.

And when even the Kirov-Maryinsky Ballet dropped the complete ballet from repertory after the Bolshevik Revolution, the company kept some pure-dance Petipa-Minkus chunks glowingly alive, some of which have entered international ballet repertory since the 1970s. Mr. Lacotte, definitely no authenticist, included those Russian chunks. Many ballet goers will know the "Spanish" final grand pas classique for Paquita, Lucien and female corps de ballet; some will know the classical pas de trois for one man and two women; but few will know the handsome ensemble polonaise.

Though there is no much of inspiration in Mr. Lacotte's choreography consisting primarily in nicely putting together existing bits and pieces, one crucial element of his staging is nothing less than glorious: the designs, by Luisa Spinatelli. Immensely beautiful costumes of an unique taste from any viewpoint, style, colors, workmanship etc.

But there may be a problem with the Paris Opera dancing. No company is more elegant in presentation, and the level of technique is exceptionally efficient in academic terms. At the same time, no company illustrates more completely the difference between academicism and classicism. The Paris dancers respond to the music without apparently finding any pleasure from, or point in, doing so. At no point dancers give the impression of getting emotionally involved with their acting; instead, they stay dry like ritz crackers. They exhibit line, placement and synchronism as if these points of ballet style were matters for point-scoring correctness rather than individual inflection. A rather soulless perfection. Compare this with the "Giselle" rendition at La Scala (also viewable in this channel) and you will understand what the real essence of inspired ballet as opposed to uninspired technical perfection is all about.