Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday Historical: Treasures of Russian Ballet

First, though, a quick look at the kick-off of the London 2012 Festival yesterday, with the Big Concert next to Stirling Castle in Scotland by Gustavo Dudamel, the Simon Bolivar Orchestra and the kids of the Big Noise in Raploch, which seems to have gone down a storm, so to speak....Yes, it rained.  Of course it did. It wouldn't have been Scotland on the summer solstice otherwise, would it? ;)

We have guests staying, so I'll have to catch up with the concert on TV later, but a snatched glance at the box mid-Beethoven revealed a bedraggled crowd and a lot of damp, shivering Venezuelans getting a hands-on taste of what we still seem to call "Dunkirk spirit". The total effect, though, has been something very, very different.

Here are two reviews that capture the soul of what this extraordinary night was all about. From STV Entertainment and The Telegraph . One calls Beethoven's 'Eroica' Symphony a 'set' (and why not? It works). The other tries to make the concept fit Tory ideology (slightly odd, but hopefully useful). Yet the same atmosphere of joy, passion and transformation comes through both, loud and clear. This shows that El Sistema does reach places that others cannot and is essentially transcendental: you don't need traditional musicological vocabulary or any particular political stance to get the message. Music changes lives. It does. It's been proved again and again. And it could be the biggest force for positive change in society as we know it - if only we were willing to take that message on board and deliver the goods. As The Guardian's review mentions, Richard Holloway, chairman of Sistema Scotland, says: "This will only mean something if it is peppering the whole country." I hope that someone is listening in Westminster.

Medici TV - for which JDCMB readers can, as you know, enjoy a special 15% subscription discount - has a documentary on El Sistema available to watch online: Music to Change Lives, directed by Maria Stodtmeier and Paul Smaczny.

And now, more from Medici for our special Friday Historical - a quick escape from Olympic rain into the magical world of Russian ballet, with a new film bringing together extracts of some of the 20th century's biggest stars. Treasures of the Russian Ballet includes footage of Galina Ulanova in Swan Lake, Alla Sizova in The Stone Flower and Maya Plisetskaya and Vladimir Vasiliev in Don Quixote - and much more besides. The majority of the extracts were filmed at the ROH, incidentally, and are accompanied by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

New! Treasures of the Russian ballet on