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La Bayadère Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080i/60
  • Audio Codec: PCM 2.0 (48kHz/24-bit) DTS-HD Master Audio (96kHz/24-bit)
  • Subtitles: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: Opus Arte
  • Blu-ray Release Date: February 22, 2011
  • List Price: $45.98

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Overall
[Rating:5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Performance

[Rating:5/5]

It is unusual that a classic mainstream ballet can be rethought and reworked so successfully that it improves on the original. This is one of those rare occasions as Natalia Makarova, herself a legendary prima ballerina, has taken La Bayadère, which was originally conceived and choreographed by Marius Petipa, the Russian ballet choreography of the 19th century and turned into her own masterpiece.  The story is very basic. An Indian warrior Solor falls in love with a temple dancer Nikiya who is La Bayadère. However, it has been decided that he will marry the Rajah’s daughter Gamzatti.  Nikiya is bitten by a poisonous snake provided by the Rajah and although she dies, Solor never forgets her. Ultimately, they are reunited in death when the temple where Solor and Gamzatti are to be married is destroyed.

The show-stopper of this ballet is the famous “Kingdom of the Shades” scene in Act II where a troupe of Nikiya look-alikes appear to Solor in an opium-induced vision.  While this is an old story, shades of Orpheus and Eurydice, the effect of this choreography is mesmerizing and breath-taking, unlike anything else in the traditional ballet repertoire, putting even the ballet de cygnes from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake to the side.

This production is blessed by the superb corps de ballet of the Royal Ballet Covent Garden, headed by an amazing group of principals: Tamara Rojo (Nikiya), Carlos Acosta (Solor), Marianela Núñez (Gamzatti), and in the cameo role of the Bronze Idol, José Martin. The Leopold Minkus score, while a fairly routine piece of music, supports the dancers extremely well, and is sympathetically conducted by maestro Valeriy Ovsyanikov.

Video Quality

[Rating:5/5]

The scenes and sets are largely magnificent and atmospheric. The destruction of the temple by artificial lightning amid flashing strobes is a little hokey but is offset by everything that has preceded it. The costumes are as good as it gets and are extremely photogenic. The videographer nails the key moments in the performance with judicious close ups, mixed with panoramic stage shots.  Ballet is a challenging art form to get right on the screen. The overall video production values are as good as I have seen. Viewers do get a great seat in the theater and are rewarded with the best shots possible.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

The soundtrack in DTS-HD Master Audio  is never less than adequate. There is surprisingly little stage noise since I have heard other productions from this same venue that have been obtrusively noisy. Surround effects are refreshingly absent. You are always directed to what is on stage which is as it should be.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3/5]

There is a sampling of interviews with the prima ballerina, some of the corps de ballet, a gratuitous rehearsal sequence which is about three times too long, and a brief voice over interview with choreographer Makarova superimposed on an old press release photo.

The Definitive Word

Overall

[Rating:5/5]

This is not only the lone BD version of this work but I would submit that it would be pointless to try to improve on a performance so vividly captured with dancers at the tops of their respective games.  There are alternative SD performances of the same production but this is a very visual work and  the sharp images of Blu-ray give this version “a leg up”.  For those whose ballet exposure is limited the holiday season’s The Nutcracker or the hackneyed Giselle, La Bayadère should not be missed. It wears well with repeated viewings and while the pairing of the reticent Rojo and athletic Acosta does not recall that of Fonteyn and Nureyev, they acquit themselves quite well.  Highly recommended.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product]B004DEKP0O[/amazon-product]

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

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