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Three Ballets by Kenneth MacMillan: Elite Syncopations/The Judas Tree/Concerto: 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: BBC/Opus Arte
  • Blu-ray Release Date: November 16, 2010
  • List Price: $45.98

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Three Ballets by Kenneth MacMillan: Elite Syncopations/The Judas Tree/Concerto -

Purchase Three Ballets by Kenneth MacMillan: Concerto/Elite Syncopations/The Judas Tree on Blu-ray at CD Universe

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Overall
[Rating:4.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
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:4.5/5]

Kenneth MacMillan choreographed Three Ballets: Elite Syncopations, The Judas Tree, Concerto between 1966 and 1992, the year of his untimely death.  Macmillan directed the Royal Ballet for a decade and stepped down to become its principal choreographer. Besides the three ballets on this disc, he is well known for his adaptation of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, performed by dance  legends, Rudolf Nureyev and Dame Margot Fonteyn, a video that I have watched for many years on videotape. These three ballets were recorded in performance, March 2010 at the Royal Opera House, Convent Garden, and feature the RB’s principal corps de ballet. They present significant contrasts in music and dance styles, from rag-time (Elite Syncopations), classical piano concerto (Concerto), to edgy modernism (The Judas Tree).

Concerto (1966), the earliest ballet, is also the most traditionally choreographed in three movements corresponding to those of the Shostakovich piano concerto. It is an abstract  recital with no story line-just elegant and disarmingly simple  dance routines. The first and second are elegant pas de deux, the third an ensemble piece.

Elite Syncopations (1974) is a set of short dance routines based on the music of Scott Joplin and his rag-time contemporaries. The dancers in fanciful fin du siècle costumes alternate ensemble pieces with those featuring the principals.   Highlights include Sarah Lamb and Valery Hristov in  “Bethena,” and Steven McRae’s “Friday Night.” The light-heartedness of this program is ever present and  it is obvious that a good time was had by all.

The Judas Tree (1992) is a raw, tense piece with violent undertones set to a stark contemporary score.  The gritty construction scene is populated by male dancers until a single ballerina enters the scene. The some-times violent action depicted is not for the faint of heart. This ballet projects a dark fascination that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Video Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

The videography ranges from excellent (Elite Syncopations) to stunning (Concerto). Ballet, even in its slower dances, is constantly in motion, challenging the cameramen to maintain proper focus.  Fortunately, they are consistently aimed right where you want it — on the dancers.  Unlike other lively art forms, ballet dancers are not only graceful human beings, but beautiful to behold.  The camera work treats these performers extremely well as the screen captures attest.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

The soundtrack in DTS-HD-Master Audio is variable.  There is a stage band in Elite Syncopations which sounds a little distant;  the pit orchestra in the other two selections is well recorded.  As a warning note, the stage microphones do pick up a good bit of noise generated by the dancers’ footwork, something that you might not notice in the theater.  The surround channels convey a good bit of hall ambience, successfully conveying a you-are-there perspective.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3/5]

In a somewhat unusual move, the three episodes’ informative materials are introductions to the actual performances. They feature interviews with some of the dancers, Monica Mason the RB’s director  and MacMillan’s widow but all are quite brief and do little to illuminate  the  otherwise excellent productions.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4.5/5]

This is the first Blu-ray offering of these three MacMillan ballets presented by one of the world’s premier corps du ballet. High definition camera work confers significant benefits  to ballet performances.   You will marvel as these stunning dancers handle some truly challenging choreography without missing a step. While the ballets can be watched in any order, I would recommend viewing them chronologically to see the progression of MacMillan’s choreography over 25 years. Balletomanes of all ages will enjoy this BBC/Opus Arte program, although I would exercise some parental guidance for The Judas Tree. All in all, this is how ballet videos should be made.

Additional Screen Captures:

[amazon-product]B0041UG69Y[/amazon-product]

BestBuy.com:
Three Ballets by Kenneth MacMillan: Elite Syncopations/The Judas Tree/Concerto -

Purchase Three Ballets by Kenneth MacMillan: Concerto/Elite Syncopations/The Judas Tree on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

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