Here is a delightful collection of studio recordings of the Kirov Ballet from 1991. There is no audience and having seen some of the dancers perform the same pieces with an audience present it does make a difference. However the dancing is almost perfection and a delight to watch. Just remember that this is VHS films transferred to DVD and although this has been done fairly sympathetically the picture quality is naturally a little less than one would expect of today's equipment. Another point you may find irritating is that full credits are given before and after each ballet film; I like this as there is no other feature information on the DVD about the Kirov and it allows you to identify who is doing what more readily. The booklet tells you only who dances what (the same information with a little less detail is available on the back of the DVD) with a potted history of the ballet in Russia. Unfortunately no information is given about the ballets themselves other than the choreographers and composers. The navigation system also takes a little getting used to with a system of scrolling buttons activated by highlighting the arrows round them and the OK button, but it does work quite nicely.
The DVD contains seven films of a range of extracts and full ballets, filmed in the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg and accompanied by the Mariinsky Orchestra conducted by Viktor Fedotov.
Chopiniana is the first of these. The music has been orchestrated from the piano pieces and works beautifully in this setting. Remember that Diaghilev renamed the ballet to Les Sylphides and it is by this name that we often see it performed today. In it Altynai Asylmuratova dances the Mazurka and the Waltz No. 7. Konstantin Zaklinsky is a very fine male soloist and you should also watch for the delightful Yelena Pankova in Waltz No. 11, and Anna Polikarpova in the Prelude. The Kirov Corps de Ballet is exquisite in this and the whole production is one of my three favourites on this DVD.
Next we have Petrushka. Most disappointingly this is not the original story of the Petrushka puppet, but new choreography by Oleg Vinogradov. I have to say I wasn't particularly keen on this as it has strong communistic overtones in its style of dancing. It is danced by Vyatislav Okunev and Sergei Vikharev (who portrays Petrushka as a sort of freedom fighter).
Barber's Adagio is another ballet choreographed by Oleg Vinogradov, danced by Yelena Yevteva and Eldar Aliev.
Le Corsaire is not the full ballet but the pas de deux as choreographed by Rudolf Nureyev. Here it is danced by Lyubov Kunakova and Faroukh Ruzimatov. The former is dressed in a rather prettily garish dinnerplate style tutu which matches Ruzimatov's costume in colour if not in style! She is excellent in a fun and electric performance and Ruzimatov's style is also as exciting in the pas de deux as he is in the original pas de trois in the full length ballet. Watch for Kunakova's final leap into Ruzimatov's arms for the lift - she's incredibly fast! This was another ballet I loved.
The Fairy Doll is danced by Larissa Lezhnina with Dmitry Grusdev and Yaroslav Fadayev. Although the dancing is excellent I didn't like the music so much and I found the style of the choreography by N and S Legat a little trying as it is a mime of a doll with two clowns vying for her attention.
I absolutely love the Markitenka Pas de Six danced wonderfully by Yelena Pankova, Sergei Vikharev and four other senior dancers from the Kirov. The music by Pugni is fun and Pankova's delicious lightness and grace is outstanding here. Remember that Markitenka is also known as La Vivandiere.
I also loved Paquita with Yulia Makhalina and Igor Zelensky in the lead. Again we see Pankova and Sitnikova along with a galaxy of stars from the Kirov dancing a delightful pastiche. Although the Variations are a little untidy here and there the Pas de Trois with Pankova, Sitnikova and Grigory Chicherin is one of my favourite moments in this ballet.
This whole DVD is one to have in your collection if you enjoy ballet as the Kirov from this period is second to none. You can buy it from www.amazon.com and if you are not in the USA and would like to buy a copy which can be played on DVD players in other countries, you can buy it from www.amazon.co.uk.