A compilation of performances including extracts from 'Raymonda', 'Romeo And Juliet' and 'Swan Lake'. Also an interview with Maya Plisetskaya about her life and career.
This DVD has two parts. The first, 71 minutes long, called “In Performance,” is a visual retrospective of Maya Plisetskaya’s career; an assemblage of film clips highlighting the virtuosity of her dancing and variety of the roles she assumed. She was an outstanding dancer, combining technical brilliance with a keen understanding of the characters she played. Plisetskaya not only had charisma, she had dramatic flare and stage presence. Blessed with an extremely flexible body, she was capable of bending backwards to a remarkable degree, a feat used to great effect when combined with high leaps. In her roles as a swan, Odette and The Dying Swan, she could produce a ripple that undulated through the length of her arms effectively creating the illusion of beating wings.
Plisetskaya graduated from the Moscow Bolshoi Ballet School in 1943, when she joined the Bolshoi Ballet as a soloist. Two years later, she became a Ballerina and danced the standard ballerina roles, including Raymonda, Odette/Odile, Kitri, Juliet, and Princess Aurora. In the early 1960s, Plisetskaya was hailed prima ballerina assoluta of the Bolshoi. Julia Lukjanova, in the accompanying booklet, describes Plisetskaya as the “Maria Callas of the ballet.” Unlike Callas, Plisetskaya has lived a long life, and by changing the direction of her career, has enjoyed a long professional life. Plisetskaya was instrumental in expanding the Bolshoi’s repertoire to include modern and experimental works, some of which are glimpsed in this video.
With the exception of three works (the Bach Prélude, Saint-Saëns’s The Dying Swan, and Ravel’s Boléro), glimpses are all we get, leaving the viewer begging for more. The snippets from the full-length ballets, most filmed before an audience—a few on soundstages, reveal dancing on an extraordinary level. The film quality varies from acceptable to quite good; some segments are in black and white, others in color. The picture is full screen (NTSC 4: 3), and although the sound format is described as PCM stereo, many segments are monophonic.
The second part of the DVD, titled “In Conversation,” is a lengthy (53 minutes) aural memoir by Ms. Plisetskaya and her husband, composer/conductor Rodion Shchedrin. Additional clips of her dancing are included, as well as a number of still photographs of events and people in her professional and personal lives. She and her husband tell of life in the Soviet Union, how she was stalked by the KGB, how her father was murdered and her mother imprisoned, and how she was denied an international career by the Soviet government. Shchedrin’s outpouring of devotion and affection for his wife is a touching finale to this very interesting interview.
The two sections, the dance retrospective and the interview, are accessed separately from the main menu. The dance portion is divided into 12 chapters; the interview has 19 chapters. Subtitles for the interview are available in four languages (English, German, French and Spanish). Both parts are pleasures to watch. The film clips of her dancing, many of which are regrettably brief, allow us to glimpse her extraordinary talent; the conversation is interesting and it, too, leaves the viewer wishing for more. If you love ballet, spending two hours with Maya Plisetskaya is a valentine.