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Mendelssohn: Le Songe [Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080i/60
  • Audio Codec: PCM 2.0, DTS-HD Master Audio 4.1
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: ArtHaus Musik
  • Blu-ray Release Date: August 30, 2011
  • List Price: $39.99

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Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:0/5]

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 Film

[Rating:4/5]

A Midsummer’s Night Dream, as originally conceived by William Shakespeare, is a pastiche of stories about royal lovers, Theseus and Hippolyta, immortal lovers, Oberon and Titania, and common lovers, Lysander, Hermia, Demetrius and Helena.  Toss in a company of everyday artisans who get injected into a play about impossible love, and you have the makings of a first class comedy. A Midsummer’s Night Dream has been reworked as a ballet at least four times with either original music or a score based on Felix Mendelssohn’s orchestral piece, best known for its traditional wedding march. Jean-Christophe Maillot, choreographer and director of Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo has now added his own vision of this piece, mixing elements of the Mendelssohn score with modern contributions by Daniel Teruggi and Bertrand Maillot. The result, Le Songe or The Dream premiered in 2005 and this Blu-ray disc captures Monte Carlo performances from 2008.  To set the record straight, Maillot’s realization of A Midsummer’s Night Dream, while true to the story, is a combination of ballet, slapstick comedy, and Cirque du Soleil stage effects. While extremely well shot and recorded, Le Songe is a far less traditional view of this piece than were its predecessors by Frederick Ashton or George Balanchine.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

The camera work is excellent and conveys the drama on stage with good effect.  The close ups are stunning and the kinetics of dance, such as they are in this piece, captured without artifact.  The choreography ranges wid ely from classical technique to modern, gynmastic-inspired, runs, vaults, somersaults, and the like.  The costumes are also an interesting study in contrasts with the fairies looking somewhat demonic and the humans in more classic garb.  The color palette is gorgeous. The sets are abstract but work well with the stage direction.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

Interestingly, the high-definition soundtrack is DTS-HD Master Audio 4.1, omitting the usual center channel. Since the music was pre-recorded, and there  is little dialogue, this does not seem detrimental to the overall sonic effect. In fact, there is one forest scene in which the surround channels pick up a swirling lion’s roar to startling effect.  The few vocal selections included, in German rather than Shakespeare’s English, are quite clearly reproduced.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:0/5]

When a new work like Le Songe comes along, I find it regrettable that there are no extras whatsoever. I, for one, would like to know what the choreographer was thinking about and how he got his concepts across to his performers. It would also have been interesting to see this work in rehearsal. Ah well, maybe next time.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

I have seen the previous traditional Ashton and Balanchine realizations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. These are visually beautiful pieces in which no new ground is broken stylistically or conceptually. By all means, ballet-lovers should have at least one of them (there is a Pacific Northwest Ballet Blu-ray on Opus Arte that is lovely to behold).  But, turning the page, I think that this Monte Carlo production is more interesting and provocative to the point of highlighting the sexuality in this mythic story that is often underplayed in other realizations. The scores of the modern scenes do not resemble Mendelssohn in the least but do provide some welcome mood shifting  even if they are not as pleasing to the ear. The choreography will elicit some divided opinion among traditionalists, but will be embraced by modernists who want to see the envelope pushed. It is never less than interesting and, in several of the the pas de deux, pretty darn amazing. What aids the cause of the production immensely is the outstanding camera work which keeps a complex staging moving along at a good clip for an hour and forty minutes. Those who are Cirque du Soleil fans, and there are many of you out there, will appreciate the interludes of the “rude mechanicals” which are bits of quite clever physical comedy – Shakespeare himself would have chuckled.  Perhaps not the first recommendation for those wishing a standard ballet version of A Midsummer’s Night Dream, but a worthy alternative for the new millennium generation.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product]B005A0FDLG[/amazon-product]

[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B005A0FDLG[/amazon-product]

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:0/5]

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