Le Corsaire (Kirov Ballet) (1989)

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Released 2-Oct-2000

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Ballet Main Menu Audio & Animation
Booklet
Listing-Cast & Crew
Synopsis
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1989
Running Time 85:36
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Colin Nears
Studio
Distributor

Warner Vision
Starring Yevgeny Neff
Altynai Asylmuratova
Yelena Pankova
Konstantin Zaklinksy
Faroukh Ruzimatov
Case Super Jewel
RPI $39.95 Music Various


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    The history of  Le Corsaire is complicated.

    Its origins are from a poem by Byron written in 1814 called The Corsair. This work is a tragedy whose main character is Conrad, a pirate who leaves his home and his love, Medora, because of the pain he suffered as a youth. This pain is not explained in the poem. After a time, Conrad is wounded and captured by the unmerciful Pasha Seyd who threatens him with torture and death. Seyd has a concubine, Gulnare who falls in love with Conrad, murders Seyd and releases Conrad only to be killed in the process. Only pausing briefly to give Gulnare a single kiss, Conrad sails home to Medora only to find that she too has died while he has been away.

    The first performance of Le Corsaire as a ballet was in 1837 at the King's Theatre in London. The choreography for the performance was by Francois Albert and the music composed by Nicholas Bochsa. In that performance, the original story was re-worked somewhat.

    The next re-work of  this ballet was by Joseph Mazilier, whose version was first performed in 1856. The music in this version was from Adolphe Adam and it was performed at the Paris Opera to unexpected success. In this version, the tragic ending was replaced with a happy one and the character Medora was re-worked to become a major feature.

    The story was again adapted in 1858 by Jules Perrot who added several new dances and cast Marius Petipa in the title role. Petipa, an emerging choreographer, loved this ballet and created several versions of it starting in 1863 and finishing in 1899. The version presented on this DVD is essentially the same as Petipa's final, 1899 version.

    In this translation, performed by The Kirov Ballet in 1989, there are three acts plus a prologue and an epilogue. The following is a synopsis by act.

PROLOGUE

   Conrad and the corsairs, including Ali and Birbanto are caught in a storm which damages their ship and forces it ashore.

ACT I, Scene 1 - The Sea Shore

   Conrad and his friends are washed ashore and forced to hide to prevent them from being captured by the evil slave trader Lankedem who is out looking for potential slaves. Several young, free-spirited Greek women appear and discover the shipwrecked corsairs. Seeing a corrupt squad of Turkish soldiers, the Greek woman hide the corsairs only to be captured by the Turks and sold to Lankedem as slaves. The corsairs emerge from hiding and vow to free the women.

ACT I, Scene 2 - The Slave Market

   We are now at a bustling market where the wealthy Seid Pasha is shopping. He approaches the slave market where he meets Lankedem who shows him his stable of exotic women. Seid buys one of the Greek women, Gulnara, for his harem and then spots Conrad's love Medora. He starts to bid for her with Lankedem when an unknown trader arrives and begins to compete with him. It is Conrad in disguise and he wins the bidding war, starts a melee and escapes with Medora and the other captive women. His men also capture Lankedem.

ACT II, Scene 1 - The Corsairs' Cave

   The corsairs return to their cave happy that their hoax was a success and with the treasures they stole. During celebrations, Conrad and Medora fall in love but things go pear-shaped when the women want to be released. Conrad has promised the women their freedom but Bibanto and the others disagree. A fight breaks out but eventually the women are released. Sensing an opportunity for himself, Lankedem strikes a deal with the disgruntled Bibanto. In exchange for his freedom he tells of a potion that, when sprinkled in flowers, will cause the victim to fall asleep. The potion is obtained and Lankedem tricks Medora into giving Conrad a bunch of affected flowers. Conrad smells the flowers and immediately falls asleep. Medora is surrounded by the rebel corsairs and taken prisoner by Lankedem. Once again Conrad must save his beloved Medora.

ACT III, Scene 1 - Seid Pashas Harem

   Lankedem arrives at Seid's Harem to sell Medora to him. Seid's staff warn him of the approach of mysterious pilgrims. The pilgrims arrive during the evening prayer. The head of the pilgrims leads the prayer keeping everyone distracted while his companions disable the house guards. The leader is Conrad, again in disguise and he is soon reunited with Medora and recaptures the vile Lankedem and his booty.

EPILOGUE

   The ballet closes with Conrad, Medora, Ali and Gulnara sailing away in search of new adventures.

   I recently saw the New Zealand Ballet Company perform Dracula, which I enjoyed immensely. I was keen to see another ballet and to see how this art form would translate to DVD. The music, choreography, costumes and set design in this Le Corsaire are all very good. I particularly enjoyed the first two acts where I think the story is stronger. The prima ballerina Altynai Asylmuratova is a real stand out, being very graceful and dynamic. This is a large production,  performed on a large stage, with a large company and would no doubt have been a wonderful experience live. Sadly, this DVD doesn't do it justice. Read on to see why.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer for this DVD is not 16x9 enhanced and is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

    This transfer is taken from a low quality source, in this case video, and suffers greatly as a result. The image is VERY soft. There are several examples where the details of a performer's face cannot be clearly distinguished - see 6:52-7:00 and 14:41-14:47 for examples of this. There is another section in which the brightness level fluctuates slightly and the sharpness level varies between a tight shot and a long shot, see 17:42-18:00 for an example. Because of the soft image, detail levels are low. This is a shame as the costumes looked like they were quite detailed and beautifully made.

   This ballet is set in Greece during the Turkish occupation and the costumes reflect this. For much of the performance, the dancers have bare legs and midriffs which, in a better transfer, would allow you to see how much effort goes into making their leaps and turns so graceful. Having seen ballet live, I can tell you that the dancers work very hard indeed!

   Despite its humble video origins, shadow detail is acceptable as is the black level.

    Colour saturation and contrast are subdued but in the appropriate ball park, as are skin tones. The costumes are largely earth colours, which is just as well as the moment a strong red is shown, in this case against a blue background, bleeding occurs (see 16:37-16:50 and 27:48-27:56 for examples of this artefact).

   I noticed one occurrence of analogue video tracking marks during the period 67:38-67:44. It occurred in the background and so would most likely go unnoticed during normal viewing. There are several periods in which pixelization can be seen on the outstretched arms of performers. I noted some at 16:41 and again between 23:12-23:20.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    You can have any audio format you like with this DVD provided it is Dolby Digital 2.0!

   The audio quality fares much better than the video although that isn't really saying much. It is hard to actually write anything about this soundtrack. The most I can say is that it is utilitarian. It sounds not dissimilar to the cheaper classical CDs that are released by labels such as Naxos, Belart and Adagio.

   Being stereo, the music is firmly locked to the front of the soundstage. I noticed very little use of the two channels to highlight different instruments or parts of the orchestra. You can clearly hear applause, woo hoos and Bravos as well as minor thuds from jumping dancers. In this regard the soundtrack accurately reproduces what you experience at a live performance.

    Nobody asked the subwoofer to do anything, so after about 15 minutes it went to sleep and stayed that way!

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The extras on this DVD are limited to a booklet, some minor animation and sound on the main menu, a cast and crew listing and an act/scene synopsis with chapter selection.

Booklet

   The booklet is quite well-written although the font used is quite small, which may pose a minor problem for some. It contains a cast and crew listing page, a synopsis of each act and a short history of Le Corsaire the ballet.

Cast and Crew Listing

   The names of the cast and crew are all shown on one page. The only information presented is the role performed by the individual.

Act/Scene Synopsis and Chapter Selection

   In this section a very brief description of a scene is displayed on the left of the screen and a small boxed image of the scene shown to the right. The small images can be selected which takes you to the appropriate chapter.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    I was unable to find any reference to this DVD in Region 1 and can only assume that it is not available there.

Summary

    The Kirov Ballet: Le Corsaire The Kirov Ballet is a good ballet ruined by a bad video transfer. The audio quality is unremarkable. Extras? Well there are some.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© John Richardson (read my bio)
Saturday, September 30, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5006DD, using RGB output
DisplayGrundig M70-281. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSherwood 8090R
SpeakersMains and Rears: Tannoy Mercury M1. Centre: Tannoy Mercury MC. Subwoofer: Polk Audio PSW-120

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