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ENB's Khan Giselle - would you buy a DVD? [NOW DVD released!]

ENB's Khan Giselle - would you buy a DVD?  

84 members have voted

  1. 1. Would you be interested in buying a DVD of English National Ballet's new Giselle by Akram Khan, if there was one?

    • Definitely
      67
    • Maybe
      8
    • No
      10


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I presume this is the one they filmed at Liverpool Empire on opening night 2017.

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Excellent, timed just right for my birthday!  On casting, Stina Quagebeur was the essential for me - I saw a few performances of this and she was the standout.

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On 29/01/2019 at 20:33, alison said:

Ask and ye shall receive, and all that :)  

 

Not that I'm suggesting this poll had any influence on the decision, but 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07N3XD6GL/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1548791057&sr=8-5&keywords=english+national+ballet+dvd

 

Many thanks to Bluebird for spotting this!

Well I will buy it, alongside my classical versions. Why have one when you can have them both. Based on the last ENB release on Opus Arte, Le Corsair, I would recommend buying the blu-ray, it was crystal clear, whilst the DVD was comparatively like viewing it through a net. I upgraded to blu-ray because of this.

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We sat down this evening to watch the Blu-ray of ENB's AK Giselle that arrived in the post this weekend (with the sound turned up to 11, of course - this ballet deserves to be watched as if the ENB Phil was playing in all its glory about 10 yards away).

 

As far as I'm concerned this ballet is a modern masterpiece and a future classic. And I'm pleased to say that the Blu-ray does it full justice. I was a bit worried, as the last ENB release we bought as a Blu-ray (Le Corsaire) was very disappointing; the image quality was surprisingly grainy and lacked resolution, so detail was lost, and there were too many motion artefacts creeping in (limbs momentarily 'disappearing', for example on spins). I'm sure part of the improvement is down to technological advances that have occurred in the interim, but the Giselle recording is pin-sharp in detail, with little or no graininess apparent (apart from the smoke that pervades the stage) even in the dimly-lit scenes; I could see the sweat on James Streeter's brow, and could see the strands of Stina Quagebeur's glorious, back-lit hair as floated back and forth as she breathed.

 

The sound quality was also fantastic - from the shattering fog-horn blasts of the arrival of the Landlords, to the quiet of gentle static, and even to silence in the last PDD; the only part I felt didn't quite live up to its impact in the theatre was the staccato, machine-gun bass during the killing of Hilarion.

 

But, to me, best of all was the editing. This is a difficult ballet to follow on first viewing in the theatre. It is not easy to distinguish and recognise all the characters (unless one is familiar with the dancers), and some important plot points (eg the Landlord's instructions to Hilarion at the end of Act 1) can easily be missed. However, the editing, with its judicious use of close-ups (something I'm not usually too fond of) helps convey those key moments beautifully. I've seen this production in the theatre many times, and in the cinema several, and I still picked up something this evening I had not noticed before - there is a brief attempt by Myrtha to get Giselle to bow her head to her (recapitulating a similar scene in Act 1).

 

Of course, unlike recent Royal Ballet Blu-ray/DVD releases, which are essentially the linear broadcast stream sent to the cinemas, this performance was not broadcast live and would have been edited at leisure for eventual release in the cinema and on disc. However, this begs the question "why don't the Royal Ballet edit their recordings to best overall effect for release on disc rather than simply re-use the broadcast stream - with the odd replacement from the 'practice' performance - which by necessity reflects and is compromised by the limitations of being mixed 'live'?"

 

I cannot imagine the ENB Giselle was edited/mixed as it was being performed - it's too good - which implies that every camera would have had a complete record of its view of the performance from which to construct the released version. I find it difficult to believe that the ROH could not operate the same way, and would only capture the actual mix/edit that went out on the night.

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Thanks for this helpful review Nogoat, you have convinced me to splash out for the dvd.It really helps to know that the editing has been done without being to the detriment of the dancing.

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On 15/11/2016 at 23:10, alison said:

Thought we might as well use the Poll feature for a change!  I'm thinking probably the Rojo/Streeter/Corrales/Quagebeur cast, but open to alternatives.  All views welcome, no included, so as to get an accurate idea of potential interest.

 

You can add any comments below.

Just to let everyone know, Akram Khans Giselle, English National Ballet is being shown on BBC 4, next Sunday 31st March 19 at 7:00pm.

I already purchased the blue ray,  so I guess its the same cast, but it is certainly worth watching for those who have not already.

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On 27/03/2019 at 12:41, Stevie said:

Hi Rob S, just as an aside, I have posted that Akram Khans Giselle is on BBC4 this coming Sunday at 7:00 pm. I already have it on blu-ray, but worth watching

 

I watched this but I am afraid I can't agree that it was a worthwhile way to spend 1½ hours !  I found it very depressing, all shade and no light, and lacking the beauty of form and musicality of the original upon which it is  supposedly based. I realise it is not supposed to be a classical ballet, but I found nothing to be gained from moving away from that approach. Parts are really, really slow moving, and most of the rest is a very repetitive melange of angst-ridden  choreography and mind-numbing sound (apart from when there is no music or sound at all).

 

On 27/03/2019 at 13:54, Rob S said:

I have that on blu ray too, great stickography from the Wilis 😀

 

I didn't like the sticks, especially when the ladies had to have them in their mouths, or when they were used for a gratuitous,  protracted torture of Hilarion. 

 

There was no explanatory synopsis provided with the BBC screening, so I would think anyone unfamiliar with the original story (and many who were) would be at a loss to  know what was supposed to be happening. 

 

I wonder if this production would have got so much praise from the critics if it had been presented as  a wholly stand-alone work? I tend to think that "re-imagining" a  well-known classic  is rather a cheap way to claim greater attention and kudos than the new work would have achieved in its own right. Matthew Bourne does this all the time, of course, and I feel much the same about his stuff.

 

 

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12 minutes ago, Richard LH said:

I watched this but I am afraid I can't agree that it was a worthwhile way to spend 1½ hours !  I found it very depressing, all shade and no light, and lacking the beauty of form and musicality of the original upon which it is  supposedly based. I realise it is not supposed to be a classical ballet, but I found nothing to be gained from moving away from that approach. Parts are really, really slow moving, and most of the rest is a very repetitive melange of angst-ridden  choreography and mind-numbing sound (apart from when there is no music or sound at all).

 

I didn't like the sticks, especially when the ladies had to have them in their mouths, or when they were used for a gratuitous,  protracted torture of Hilarion. 

 

There was no explanatory synopsis provided with the BBC screening, so I would think anyone unfamiliar with the original story (and many who were) would be at a loss to  know what was supposed to be happening. 

 

I wonder if this production would have got so much praise from the critics if it had been presented as  a wholly stand-alone work? I tend to think that "re-imagining" a  well-known classic  is rather a cheap way to claim greater attention and kudos than the new work would have achieved in its own right. Matthew Bourne does this all the time, of course, and I feel much the same about his stuff.

 

I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it, Richard LH. I haven't watched the broadcast yet, but I've seen it live twice. I think its weakness (and it's a significant one) is the story-telling, so it's a great pity there was no synopsis. (Why do so many of these broadcasts not provide a synopsis?!). But other than that, I find it has a dark beauty and forceful power all of its own - distantly related to but very different from the original. And I love the music and choreography (but then I love almost everything Khan has done). Unlike with Matthew Bourne (in so far as I have seen his productions), I think Khan really does both imagine and 're-imagine', and uses dance in ways both powerful and poetic. I'm only (very!) sorry that his own dancing days are drawing to a close.

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Posted (edited)

P.S. Sorry - just realised this is the DVD thread rather than the broadcast thread! But my comment above largely stands.

Edited by bridiem

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Richard:  Perhaps this might help?   https://giselle.ballet.org.uk/the-story       Did Begoña Cao's magnificently imperious Bathilde make no impression?  (I will admit there was a clear division of opinion chez nous about the whole thing - but I've never been a Wili or, indeed, Bathilde.)

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55 minutes ago, Richard LH said:

or when they were used for a gratuitous,  protracted torture of Hilarion. 

 

Two wrongs don’t make a right etc, but it makes a change from the (IMO) gratuitous abuse of and violence against women to be found in MacMillan and some other contemporary choreographers.

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27 minutes ago, bridiem said:

P.S. Sorry - just realised this is the DVD thread rather than the broadcast thread!

 

Not any more it isn't :) 

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27 minutes ago, Ian Macmillan said:

Richard:  Perhaps this might help?   https://giselle.ballet.org.uk/the-story       Did Begoña Cao's magnificently imperious Bathilde make no impression?  (I will admit there was a clear division of opinion chez nous about the whole thing - but I've never been a Wili or, indeed, Bathilde.)

 

Ian, thanks, I was aware of the "re-imagined" story myself, and just made the point about others who might not be.

I did notice Begona Cao, probably for all the wrong reasons....

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17 minutes ago, JohnS said:

I thought there was a very thought provoking review of the production in last week’s links:

https://www.dancelog.nyc/rebuilding-giselle/

 

Thanks, John.  I'd managed to miss that one in my trawling.

 

I only saw perhaps the last 1/4 hour of this, but I was struck by how compelling it was seen in close-up, when you could see the expressions so well (I've always been up at Second Circle or balcony level when I've watched it live).  I'll have to have a look at my recording fully to be able to assess the success of the whole production.  However, I do agree that leaving out the libretto (something which I think was also done for the Royal Ballet Swan Lake at Christmas?) was a mistake.

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The Blu-ray has 28 minutes of bonus features, giving a great insight into the whole process, together with a booklet with a very detailed synopsis, which I see that someone has kindly posted a transcript here. So if sufficiently attracted, the Blu-ray is selling well and has only been topped in the Amazon best sellers list of its category by the DVD of the same production.

Begona Cao is notable for her stage presence  and posture, but with insufficient choreography in this production, with which to demonstrate her great dancing skills, whilst Tamara shows that she still has all the attributes. I just hope that it is equally well received when it goes on tour and to the Bolshoi Theatre. I have never had the misfortune to meet a Wili, but from folklore, I gather that they would not be pretty things in white dressed, so maybe this version gets closer to legend.

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29 minutes ago, JohnS said:

I thought there was a very thought provoking review of the production in last week’s links:

https://www.dancelog.nyc/rebuilding-giselle/

 

JohnS thanks for that, it includes a lot of criticism that I agree with, but says it much more eloquently than I could.

 

The writer Leigh Witchel found some redeeming aspects  in Act 2 but I am afraid even those escaped me.  I think I need to feel  some form of empathy or sympathy with at least one character in a ballet, whereas I didn't really have any for these - they all seemed pretty horrible, even Giselle, in the way she attacked the other women for example. Failing that, if characters are lacking, or if the story is rather weak, I would hope to be uplifted by the beauty of dance in itself - which for me was lacking here.

 

Frankly, after the first quarter of an hour, I was thinking how much more of this is there to go? something I rarely find in a dance production.  By the end, I felt I had suffered some 1½ hours of mild, slow torture - along with the participants. But perhaps that was the reaction  Khan was hoping for.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Richard LH said:

 

I watched this but I am afraid I can't agree that it was a worthwhile way to spend 1½ hours !  I found it very depressing, all shade and no light, and lacking the beauty of form and musicality of the original upon which it is  supposedly based. I realise it is not supposed to be a classical ballet, but I found nothing to be gained from moving away from that approach. Parts are really, really slow moving, and most of the rest is a very repetitive melange of angst-ridden  choreography and mind-numbing sound (apart from when there is no music or sound at all).

 

 

I didn't like the sticks, especially when the ladies had to have them in their mouths, or when they were used for a gratuitous,  protracted torture of Hilarion. 

 

There was no explanatory synopsis provided with the BBC screening, so I would think anyone unfamiliar with the original story (and many who were) would be at a loss to  know what was supposed to be happening. 

 

I wonder if this production would have got so much praise from the critics if it had been presented as  a wholly stand-alone work? I tend to think that "re-imagining" a  well-known classic  is rather a cheap way to claim greater attention and kudos than the new work would have achieved in its own right. Matthew Bourne does this all the time, of course, and I feel much the same about his stuff.

 

 

Is that the same Mathew Bourne with a travelling tape recorder in place of an orchestra and short term contract dancers instead of in house dance school developed dancers, if so I can understand what you feel for his stuff. However this company has totally different production standards.

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I’ve found Akram Khan’s Giselle absolutely gripping in the theatre and the cinema relays and terrifying in Hilarion’s prolonged torture and death.  But there are questions which Leigh Witchel eloquently asks, as Richard says. 

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I found Leigh Witchel’s review a characteristically interesting counterpoint to the overwhelmingly positive press - and audience reaction - this Giselle has received, but to me it mostly illustrates the dangers of providing or reading detailed programme notes. Unencumbered by the commentary contained therein, I found it a gripping, beautifully choreographed and very moving work.

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So did I, Lizbie 1, when seeing it live in the theatre.  Watching it on television I found it pretty tedious and slow at times - in fact I actually nodded off once!  I would definitely not buy a DVD.

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Just now, jm365 said:

So did I, Lizbie 1, when seeing it live in the theatre.  Watching it on television I found it pretty tedious and slow at times - in fact I actually nodded off once!  I would definitely not buy a DVD.

 

Good point - I was talking about seeing it at Sadler’s Wells. I haven’t seen the recorded version: only live performance does it for me, generally speaking.

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I love, love, love Akram Khan's Giselle and the broadcast last night only enhanced my love of it even more.

 

I saw the first "preview" performance in Manchester plus the official first night and another performance and I saw it 4 times in Liverpool, including the 2 nights that were filmed.

 

What came across strongly to me watching last night was that "live" the lighting is much darker and much of the time the dancers are quite shadowy if not in silhouette.  Last night's broadcast made Giselle implying pregnancy much clearer.  Tamara Rojo was my favourite of the Khan Giselles and James Streeter, for me, is the definitive Albrecht.  Last night watching them in close-up I found their acting clear but never of the top and they both broke my heart.  Jeffrey Cirio was much more sinister in close-up as Hilarion - just WOW! Stina Quagebeur was just as terrifying as I remember and the corps of Wilis were outstanding.

 

It's not often that I am as taken with a filmed production as I am with watching a performance live, but along with Christopher Bruce's Swansong this performance achieved that.  

 

3 hours ago, Richard LH said:

 

 

I wonder if this production would have got so much praise from the critics if it had been presented as  a wholly stand-alone work? I tend to think that "re-imagining" a  well-known classic  is rather a cheap way to claim greater attention and kudos than the new work would have achieved in its own right. Matthew Bourne does this all the time, of course, and I feel much the same about his stuff.

 

 

 

I suspect it would have got just as much praise from the critics as Akram Khan is very highly regarded and has had enormous success worldwide with his own company performing his productions.  His solo piece Desh remains one of my all-time favourite dance-watching highlights with Until the Lions running it a close second.

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1 hour ago, Jan McNulty said:

I love, love, love Akram Khan's Giselle and the broadcast last night only enhanced my love of it even more.

 

I saw the first "preview" performance in Manchester plus the official first night and another performance and I saw it 4 times in Liverpool, including the 2 nights that were filmed.

 

What came across strongly to me watching last night was that "live" the lighting is much darker and much of the time the dancers are quite shadowy if not in silhouette.  Last night's broadcast made Giselle implying pregnancy much clearer.  Tamara Rojo was my favourite of the Khan Giselles and James Streeter, for me, is the definitive Albrecht.  Last night watching them in close-up I found their acting clear but never of the top and they both broke my heart.  Jeffrey Cirio was much more sinister in close-up as Hilarion - just WOW! Stina Quagebeur was just as terrifying as I remember and the corps of Wilis were outstanding.

 

It's not often that I am as taken with a filmed production as I am with watching a performance live, but along with Christopher Bruce's Swansong this performance achieved that.  

 

 

I suspect it would have got just as much praise from the critics as Akram Khan is very highly regarded and has had enormous success worldwide with his own company performing his productions.  His solo piece Desh remains one of my all-time favourite dance-watching highlights with Until the Lions running it a close second.

As strongly implied in the term 'critic', it is clear that they  get paid to be critical, whereas people like us write a critique about what we have enjoyed without prejudice or commercial interest. A critic finds fault whilst a critique looks for structure to find out what is working. I am right there with Jan on this one, having room for the classical version and the contemporary.

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5 hours ago, Ian Macmillan said:

Richard:  Perhaps this might help?   https://giselle.ballet.org.uk/the-story       Did Begoña Cao's magnificently imperious Bathilde make no impression?  (I will admit there was a clear division of opinion chez nous about the whole thing - but I've never been a Wili or, indeed, Bathilde.)

Ian, and I hope you never are.

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1 hour ago, Jan McNulty said:

I suspect it would have got just as much praise from the critics as Akram Khan is very highly regarded and has had enormous success worldwide with his own company performing his productions.

 

I would hope critics judge the work on its own merits  rather than according it praise based on a choreographer's other work, or that of the company concerned. In any event, it appears there was  no previous full-length ballet from Akram Khan  to influence them -   the  New York Times describes the origins of the work thus: "Glamorous ballerina takes over beleaguered ballet company, suffering from budget cuts and a second-string reputation. She hires a contemporary dance choreographer, who has almost no experience working with classically trained performers, to re-envision one of ballet’s most famous and best-loved pieces".

 

In fact I may have overstated the degree of praise that the work has gained - on further reading,  various published reviews are pretty mixed. 

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Posted (edited)
17 minutes ago, Richard LH said:

I would hope critics judge the work on its own merits  rather than according it praise based on a choreographer's other work, or that of the company concerned

 

It seems clear to me that Jan’s reasoning was not that this Giselle garnered good reviews because Akram Khan’s previous works were highly praised, but rather that this track record demonstrates his talent and skill.

Edited by Lizbie1
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1 minute ago, Richard LH said:

 

I would hope critics judge the work on its own merits  rather than according it praise based on a choreographer's other work, or that of the company concerned. In any event, it appears there was  no previous full-length ballet from Akram Khan  to influence them -   the  New York Times describes the origins of the work thus: "Glamorous ballerina takes over beleaguered ballet company, suffering from budget cuts and a second-string reputation. She hires a contemporary dance choreographer, who has almost no experience working with classically trained performers, to re-envision one of ballet’s most famous and best-loved pieces".

 

In fact I may have overstated the degree of praise that the work has gained - on further reading,  various published reviews are pretty mixed. 

I invariably trust my own enjoyment as apposed to media reviews. I actually enjoy 'The Rite of Spring' and Swan Lake didnt turn out to bad either.

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Posted (edited)
37 minutes ago, Lizbie1 said:

 

It seems clear to me that Jan’s reasoning was not that this Giselle garnered good reviews because Akram Khan’s previous works were highly praised, but rather that this track record demonstrates his talent and skill.

 

Apologies, Jan, if I misunderstood. But my point was also that he had no previous track record in full length ballet.

Edited by Richard LH

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