Talbot/Wheeldon: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland [The Royal Ballet] Blu-ray Review
- Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080i/60
- Audio Codec: PCM 2.0, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish
- Region: ABC (Region-Free)
- Rating: Not Rated
- Discs: 1
- Studio: Opus Arte
- Blu-ray Release Date: October 25, 2011
- List Price: $39.99
Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures
(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)
Talk about tales as old as time, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland certainly qualifies. This is the first entirely new ballet for The Royal Ballet in many years, combining Christopher Wheeldon’s choreography with Joby Talbot’s orchestral score. It uses numerous special staging effects and the action splendidly captured by the videographers. Prima ballerina Lauren Cuthbertson plays Alice as a good bit older than the heroine of the Lewis G. Carroll story. There is a large and very talented corps de ballet, included Sergei Poluinin (Jack of Knaves), Edward Watson (White Rabbit), Zenaida Yanowsky (Queen of Hearts) and Steven McRae (Mad Hatter). The Royal Opera House Orchestra is capably led by veteran British conductor Barry Wordsworth. In the Opus Arte, tradition, recording values are extraordinarily high with spectacular camera work and audio engineering. This March 2011 performance at the Royal Opera House was captured just one month after the work’s world premiere.
It is challenging to mount a new work, particularly so as there are no precedents to act as guideposts. In trying to keep the mood appropriately light-hearted, there is an awful lot of stage business which requires good balance to prevent distracting viewers from the ballet itself. The close ups are beautiful, and yes, you do see the dancers sweat. Colors are well handled and the stage varies from the spare and the bare to a riot of colors. Dance sequences are well handled and you get a good sense of the theatrics of this production. The Knave of Hearts and Queen of Hearts sequences are particular highlights, reflecting the perfect marriage of dance and music.
While Talbot’s score is rightfully considered new music, it smacks of minimalism, a dash of Prokofiev, a splash of Tchaikovsky and a few others who have written for the dance. Bottom line, it is most listenable and well-suited to the choreography. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 recording is atmospheric and presents the music as it might well have been heard from a good center seat on the main floor.
“Being Alice” is an interesting 30-minute featurette on the making of this ballet with an excellent account of the artists’ perspective. Given the novelty of this work, such extras should be required in all similar circumstances.
The Definitive Word
This retelling of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland will have great appeal for balletomanes of all ages. The production values are substantial and great care was invested in both sight and sound recording. Ballerina Cuthbertson deserves standing “O’s” for her tour de force since she is on stage for much of the nearly two hour running time. If I am permitted to don my “critical” hat for a moment, all is not perfection for this Wonderland ballet. A few issues keep this BD off my limited “5 disc” list. First, the dance is periodically sacrificed for the special effects. Second, the choreography is a pastiche of styles, including “the worm” in the harem sequence, a fact that might not delight traditionalists. Third, there is not enough variety in Alice’s choreography. Finally, the decision to change the opening and concluding time periods is cute but trite as Alice is not a story about love and lust. I am certain that some of these cavils will be dealt with in revision, almost always the rule with new productions. These reservations aside, and they are relatively minor, this ballet is an outright winner. There is enough over-the-topism to keep viewers engaged. The score may be derivative but unlike a lot of the new era ballet scores that I have been subjected to, this one is both danceable and listenable. OK, perhaps the “Survivor Island” ram’s horn gets a bit old. No matter, The Nutcracker might get a little nervous about its status as “the” holiday ballet.
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