Friday, 2 February 2007

Tchaikovsky on TV

Finally managed to catch up on episode 1 of Charles Hazelwood's docu-drama about Tchaikovsky which was broadcast on BBC last Saturday, with the 2nd and final part tomorrow.

Ed Stoppard did a pretty good job of re-creating the composer, but I found the mix of Charles Hazelwood's talking head, contemporary Russian musicians playing the composer's music (cue lots of brooding shots of Hazelwood conducting) and the dramatised sections all made for an uneasy whole.

Why could they not have made a pair of programmes, one a proper documentary and the other a proper drama. The dramatised bits were rather confusing as they kept returning to the image of Tchaikovsky dying, which was rather melodramatic and unhelpful. The remainder seemed to rather dwell on the composer's homosexuality. Goodness knows how accurate these re-constructions were, but they seemed a little over the top to me. Surely we'd have been better off with someone reading the composer's letters and someone describing the milieu. It was almost as if the dramatised bits were put in to restrict the amount of screen time that Hazelwood had to discuss the composer's putative sex life. And it always annoys me when people use the word gay to describe someone in the past, for me the word gay describes a modern milieu and is unhelpful when referring to past centuries.

The musical performance sections included dancing from the ballets. I did have the unworthy thought that, given that they had gone to the trouble of reconstructing aspects of Tchaikovsky's life, they should have found a dumpy Italian ballerina to dance Petipa's choreography. After all, the long-limbed lithe ballerina is a 20th century invention. The reason why tutus replace the longer skirts that French ballet dancers had worn was because the Milanese school, which dominated early 19th century ballet, mainly produced rather short legged, dumpy dancer (who were technically very brilliant).

Still, we plan to watch/record the 2nd episode.

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