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Firebird / Pulcinella DVD

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This release offers two short ballets by Stravinsky, The Firebird from 1909-10 and Pulcinella written a decade later, the former based on three Russian fairytales. This 1982 production by the Royal Danish Ballet was choreographed by Glen Tetley, for whom "The Firebird is a symbol of our innermost dreams and longing for freedom and true love". His interpretation has a dreamlike atmosphere, the designs echoing Jean Cocteau's La Belle et La Bete, the languorous, sensual dance evoking an understated fairytale eroticism in parallel with the shimmering score. Pulcinella comes from Stravinsky's neo-classical period and is inspired by the Italian commedia dell'arte of the 17th and 18th centuries. The story, an almost slapstick series of romantic confusions and complications amid the streets of Naples, is brought to life in this 1988 Scapino Ballet production with an enchanting mixture of dance and mime. The design is boldly colourful and Nils Christe's choreography filled with character and playful good humour. The music comes from an enthusiastic LSO under Claudio Abbado, with vocal soloists of the calibre of John Shirley-Quirk. The two works make an attractive programme. On the DVD: Other than a trailer for other Arthaus DVDs there are no special features. Reflecting the age of the material, the sound is unremarkable PCM stereo and the picture conventional 4:3. There is some audio distortion on Pulcinella, particularly on the vocal parts. The image has rich, vibrant colours and is reasonably detailed, but is also grainy and shows compression artefacts. Firebird has a smoother image, largely due to the focus being soft. The booklet contains useful notes and a full scene breakdown. The disc is encoded for regions 2 and 5. --Gary S. Dalkin

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