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Paris perfs. POB 12/29 (2) 12/30-- Bolshoi 1/5-1/6/08reviews


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#1 chiapuris

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Posted 30 December 2007 - 04:07 AM

#1
Paris Opera Nutcracker 12/29/07
Clara Nolwenn Daniel
Drosselmeyer/the Prince Christophe Duquenne
Luisa Charline Giezendanner
Fritz Gil Isoart
Father Vincent Cordier
Mother Nathalie Aubin
Grandfather Ludovic Heiden
Grandmother Cecile Sciaux

Today I saw Paquita in a matinee at the Palais Garnier, and the Nutcracker at the Bastille Opera in the evening. Since I'm seeing Paquita a second time tomorrow I'll wait to review the Paquitas together and start with Casse-Noisette.

This is the production Nureyev created for the Paris Opera in 1985.
The choreography is his own, listed in the program as 'after' M Petipa and L Ivanov,
the décor and costumes are by Nicholas Georgiadis, and the lighting by Rui De Matos Machado.

Some of us (including me) have a fixed notion (probably wrong) of what to expect from Nureyev as a dance maker: “challenge the dancers for their own good; pack those measures with hurdles that are good for them”. There's no sense of saying anything further in that vein. He packs those measures.

Since I hadn't seen the POB production before, and I haven't read any program notes on Nureyev's conception for the Nutcracker libretto, I can only go by the titles given to the scenes in the program. Reading them after the show, I'm under the impression
the choreographer was trying to make the story coherent and in that line of thought, jettisoned parts of the Nutcracker story which to others make sense.
An effort toward (aesthetic) coherence is: Act 1, Scene 1: the Street; Act 2, Scene 6 (final scene): the Street. Like an ABA sonata form? I guess B is the problem.

The first act, after the street scene, takes place in the darkest, most depressing house imaginable. Even the tree (which doesn't grow and seemed colorless) is in no way a vision for joy or celebration.
Drosselmeyer is like an entertaining uncle, with no particular malevolence about him. Aging in this production is all about decrepitude. Vide the grandfather's long, long and inept dance. Scenery-wise, brown, brown everywhere. I associate Georgiadis' earlier designs with opulence. Not his Nutcracker designs. The lighting in the first act is very bright, but most of it directed to the floor so that the feet look over-accented.This is poorly expressed, but that's my distinct impression.

I could find little charm in the choreography of the party scene.
The POB School students were, nevertheless, full of charm.

Scene 2: the Salon.
Scene 3: the Christmas Tree.
Scene 4: the Combat.

Scene 5: the Kingdom of Snow.
Finally! Formalism in costumes and choreography and tutus and diadems and tiaras with two soloists (Geraldine Wiart and Charline Giesendanner) leading the twenty four corps de ballet snowflakes, together embodying a vision appropriate for the Tchaikovsky music accompanying it.
End of first act.

The first scene of the second act is a pas de deux for Clara and the Prince in the land of snow, to the music (in other productions) given to the angels. Since there is no traditional precedent for this pdd, this is a fully Nureyevian choreographic morsel striving for, I guess, ecstasy.

The second scene is called The Nightmare. Clara is back in her big living room chair, where the mice first attacked her, and is menaced by a corps of sixteen dancers dressed as bats, four of each wearing huge head caricature masks of respectively, her father, her mother, her grandfather, and her grandmother. Now the party scene begins to make sense.
Life has been very ugly for Clara.

Scene 3: The Voyage
Clara still in her chair is entertained by a Spanish ensemble led by Luisa and Fritz as Spanish dancers with three additional couples.

Then follows an Arab Danse with Grandfather and Grandmother (yes, yes), a large tray and an additional five dancers- a couple and three women.

Next is a Russian Dance led by Mother and Father and four additional couples.

A Chinese Danse for three men (no relatives involved), much canon movement, follows.

Concluding the Voyage scene is a Pastorale (no relatives involved) for two women and a man (Celine Palacio, Pauline Verdusen and Adrien Bodet).

Scene 4: The Ball
The Waltz of the flowers opens the ball. The twelve couples are in golden tutus and white tights, all bewigged in white. Formalism regnant. Nary the perfume of a flower.

The grand pas de deux follows with Clara's variation to the music of the Sugar Plum fairy.

Scene 5: Clara's Awakening
Music that follows the pdd with the brief reappearance of the dancers of the various divertissements.

Scene 6: The Street
Back to the beginning. Drosselmeyer appears exiting the home. Clara opens the door, comes outside with her nutcracker doll, sits by the doorstep and cradles her doll. End.


When I bought the tickets (through POpera website) I had expected to see Myriam Ould-Braham as Clara and Jeremie Belingard as Drosselmeyer/Prince. The long run of the
Nutcracker in Nov-Dec. had six casts planned and added replacements. In Oct. the Opera announced the guest appearance of Svetlana Lunkina of the Bolshoi for two perfs., including the new year's eve. perf. of the 31st. (The tickets are double the regular price; but you get a glass of champagne- an expensive glass!)

The 29th cast had Nolwenn Daniel as Clara and Christophe Duquenne as Drosselmeyer/Prince.
Daniel was exquisite in the Grand Pas de Deux with Duquenne as her noble and very able partner.

She was perhaps not ideally cast as the young Clara; that is no fault of her own.
Daniel was simply not physically convincing as an immature developing girl. It's as if the role requires qualities incompatible in one being.

She was brilliant in the first pdd, meeting all of its technical demands and finding beyond them a purity of line and fullness of gesture that was very moving. Duquenne created a handsome figure, attentive and caring for his partner.

The corps of the Paris Ballet is, as always, a joy to watch. Classic in demeanor, reserved in manner, their erect carriages execute port de bras and pas with a definition and articulation that spell out an eminently readable language of gesture.

#2 carbro

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Posted 30 December 2007 - 02:45 PM

Wonderful review, chiapuris, and thanks much. I have only seen Nureyev's Nutcracker in selected excerpts, but I am familiar with some of his other stagings, and I totally agree with you about his choreography.

Scenery-wise, brown, brown everywhere. I associate Georgiadis' earlier designs with opulence. Not his Nutcracker designs.

I was wondering, while watching NYCB's Nut this season, about the muted colors in the first act. The girls' dresses are dusty shades of mauve, taupe and gray, and the women's tend toward earth tones. When I think of little girls' (and grown-up girls') holiday dresses, I think in terms of bright colors. Then it dawned on me that the muted palette used for the Stahlbaum's home scene was a deliberate contrast against the Kingdom of the Sweets, where we get an explosion of color. It's a subtler version of the transformation we get from the black-and-white Kansas to the Technicolor Land of Oz. :thumbsup: Does Georgiadis' color scheme work to a similar effect?

I look forward to reading about the Paquitas.

#3 zerbinetta

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Posted 30 December 2007 - 06:18 PM

A wonderfully funny review! I hadn't seen RN's Nut in a very long time but you brought it back to me so clearly.

I never want to see it again.

#4 chiapuris

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 04:44 AM

#2 Paquita
Adaptation and choreography Pierre Lacotte after J Mazillier (1846) and M Petipa (1881)
Music E Delvedez and L Minkus
Music orchestration and supervision David Coleman
Décor and costumes Luisa Spinatelli
Lighting Philippe Albaric

12/29/07
Paquita Melanie Hurel
Lucien d'Hervilly Mathias Heymann
Inigo Gil Isoart
Don Lopez Jean-Marie Didiere
Dona Serafina Sarah Kora Dayanova
Two Spanish dancers Alexandra Cardinale, Lucie Clement
Pas De Trois Mathilde Froustey, Laurene Levy, Simone Valastro
Two Officers Julien Meyzindi, Gregory Dominiak

12/30/07
Paquita Melanie Hurel
Lucien d'Hervilly Mathias Heymann
Inigo Julien Meyzindi
Don Lopez Jean-Marie Didiere
Dona Serafina Peggy Dursart
Two Spanish dancers Alexandra Cardinale, Lucie Clement
Pas De Trois Muriel Zusperreguy, Laurene Levy, Gregory Gaillard
Two Officers Audric Bezard, Gregory Dominiak

I expected to see different casts within two consecutive days: Cozette/Bullion/Bezard on the 29th and Hurel/Heymann/Isoart on the 30th.

As it turned out, I saw the H team twice with no complaints whatsoever. A top-rate team Hurel and Heymann! As a matter of fact I may have enjoyed the Sunday performance even more than that of Saturday because of ancillary casting, such as the dancing of Julien Meyzindi as the villainous Inigo. In Saturday's performance he had appeared in a demi-soloist role as one of the two officers in the 2nd act Mazurka. I remembered him from some years ago in a POB Sleeping Beauty where he had a variation that seemed to me outstanding. I found him extremely impressive today as Inigo.

Paquita is a reconstruction by POB's Pierre Lacotte of a two-act ballet that blossomed in different periods. Starting life as a mid-19th French ballet by Mazillier, it fell by the wayside in its country of origin. Then it found a re-vivification under Petipa in Russia in the 1880's, with additional music by Minkus and refurbished 2nd act choreography by Petipa.

The first act harkens back to the Romantic ballet's era. The story involves the murder of
a nobleman, his wife and child, at the hands of bandits in Saragossa during the Napoleonic era. The daughter however survived and was brought up by gypsies. She has a medallion with her father's portrait as the only link to her family. The medallion portrait eventually serves to prove to her father's brother (whose son she loves) that she is a member of the d'Hervilly family and not a gypsy. The story is beside the point, really.

The point is, that a reconstruction of an old ballet, leaving out the significant issues of aesthetic 'purity' and the integrity of art forms and many other questions, allows us to enjoy the plethora of ensembles, group dances, ballabiles, and other large-scale classically-based group stagings that, in the evolution of ballet towards a chamber dance scale, seem to be missing in contemporary choreographies.

Which is to say, I find the reconstruction of Paquita a great addition to the repertory of a company like the Paris Opera Ballet with its 154 members. Ballet needs the yin/yang of
large group/soloist, for either to make artistic/balletic sense.

To personalize it further, I think that Paquita offers a wonderful program for a ballet evening/matinee with its fullness of forms for classical dance.

Moreover, its two acts are aesthetically different from each other. The first act emphasizes the batterie and petit allegro work typically surviving in Bournonville choreography that derives from its precedent French source: the Paris Opera.

Its first scene, set in the outdoors, presents a wealth of group dances interspersed with variations. This scene alone is worth the price of admission. There are three Spanish dances, the Pas de Manteaux set for the men (bullfighters with capes, originally set by Mazillier for women en travesti), a pas de trois (with Petipa's hand in it), and a villager group dance with children from the POB School in it.

The last is a really charming dance with very little children running around the dancers, a boy around the woman, a girl around the man, until they exit: the female dancer holding the hand of the boy, the male dancer holding the hand of the girl.

Interspersed in these are Paquita's Gypsy variation, Lucien's variation, pas de deux,
Inigo's variation, and many other mimed and danced pieces.

The second scene of the first act is almost entirely mime in the den of Inigo.
Lacotte states he found a manuscript with the written notation for the mime of this scene. (The scene covers the attempted murder of Lucien by Inigo on orders from Don Lopez and becomes a scene of comedy through the wits of Paquita).

The second act takes place indoors, in the palace of the French Governor of Saragossa.
This act culminates with the Grand Pas of Petipa/Minkus that is the most familiar part of Paquita everywhere.

Before the Grand Pas there is a treasure house of group dances starting with a Quadrille, Mazurka, Galop, then a pas de deux (after Paquita is revealed to be of the d'Hervilly family), followed by a Waltz and a Polonaise.

The Mazurka, at present, is danced by the men of the corps de ballet.
If anyone has seen the POB DVD of Paquita, you'll see the Mazurka danced by students of the POB School. This custom was started at the Mariinsky in St Petersburg in the 19th c. and continued with the POB in 2001 and only recently changed for the men.

Then the Grand Pas.
For me, the Grand Pas, especially the formation of the diagonal line of maroon-bodiced tutued dancers preceded by six peacock-blue-bodiced tutued dancers and headed by Paquita, in cream and gold, and Lucien --all in tendu en avant en efface-- is the iconic image of 19th c. ballet classicism.

The costumes and the décor of Luisa Spinatelli were well nigh perfect.

Melanie Hurel as Paquita was beautiful in the role on Saturday.
Melanie Hurel was beautiful in the role on Sunday.

A well-rounded dancer, she danced with a lot of inflection, clearly, securely throughout,
and with gorgeous, nonchalant finishes. Her mime was clear and crisp, her double work well-placed.

Mathias Heymann as Lucien makes a handsome physical appearance. His miming in the opening scene on Saturday, seemed to me, a little too busy; he did too much, like he was anxious not to look uninvolved. Only after his first solo, did the audience react like:
“Where did he come from? Wow!” (At least I did). He woke up the audience. Enormous applause.

After his Grand Pas variation everyone knew him as a marvel. Thunderous applause.

Since I know nothing of his history, (I don't even know his rank in the company) I found him to be a dancer of virtuosic ability, a caring and secure partner in double work, and a charismatic personality. His overhead lifts in the pas de deux were immaculate.

The two made a harmonious couple.

Inigo on Saturday was danced very well by Gil Isoart. Surprisingly, we also saw him on Sat. night at the Bastille as Fritz in Nutcracker.
(Unless the management is not announcing substitutions.
I had the feeling I saw the same women dancers in the pas de trois both nights. Since only one dancer was different in the program each night I wouldn't know the right name)

For me, the group dances of both acts held special interest because they are revelatory of a company. The Pas de Manteaux of the 1st act and the Mazurka of the 2nd act gave a chance to see the results of relatively uniform school training. Moreover, it was instructive to see the diversity of body types among the men of the company, creating a harmonious total ensemble, notwithstanding differences in height, size, etc.

Kudos to the corps de ballet. Ballets like Paquita permit us to view the enormous depth and width of training in the classical dance tradition. May it long continue.

#5 cygneblanc

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 06:36 AM

Thans a lot Chiapuris :wallbash: I also find that Georgiadis' designs for this ballet aren't the best. Actually, they are more than surprising when one knows designs he made for others Nureev's productions.

I see we have a similar view of NW as Clara. The corps seemed to be better for the performance you attended than the for the one I saw.

As for Paquita, mens are dancing the mazurka this year because POB pupils (9-13 years old) who should dance it are involved in the Nutcracker. There are very strict laws that are prohibing children to perform too often.

#6 chiapuris

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 09:33 AM

I see we have a similar view of NW as Clara.


Thanks for your comments, carbro, and zerbinetta, and cygneblanc.

carbro, I think my answer to your hypothetical question is no, although I can see what you're suggesting would be a good approach.

zerbinetta, frustration at seeing what dancers have to do for their art makes for funny reviews. I view ballet and its practioners very seriously.

cygneblanc, can you tell me anything at all about Mathias Heymann? I'll see performances of POB every three years or so, so I remain in the dark about the up-coming ranks in the company.

#7 cygneblanc

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 09:55 AM

He's 20 years old and he's on a very fast track to become a big star.

He gratuated from POB's school in june 2004 and was given a permanent position in the corps de ballet as a quadrille. He was promoted to the rank of coryphée in december 2005, to to the rank of sujet in december 2006, and this year to the rank of premier danseur (first soloist). The last rank of the hierarchy is "etoile". He 's seen, as a his fellow Mathieu Ganio, as as prodigy. I hope he doesn't get what he gets too earlier in his career and that he won't be burnt by injuries or something else. He has already danced the main part, or Colas, in Ashton's La fille mal gardée and Basilio in Nureev's Don Quixote.

Some of you may have seen when he was younger because he competed in YAGP in 2001. He won a scholarschip to Harid's

http://www.yagp.org/...m=4Conservatory SI.

#8 chiapuris

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Posted 01 January 2008 - 12:55 PM

He's 20 years old and he's on a very fast track to become a big star.


Thank you for your succinct 'on a very fast track' synopsis of Heymann's career so far.
He's a young dancer with a huge future.

I just read your 11-12-07 review of the Daniel/Duquenne CN performance.
It's interesting to hear comments from someone who is obviously more familiar with
the capabilities and other performances of the dancers they're reviewing.

I liked them as soloists and together (they complemented each other), but had never seen them before.

#9 JMcN

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Posted 02 January 2008 - 02:52 AM

I saw the final performance of La Fille Mal Gardee in July, with Mathias Heymann as Colas - he was terrific. I gather he was also the only Colas in the run who did the bum-lift in Act 2 (the fields). On the basis of that one performance, I was bery taken with him and think he is definitely one to watch out for.

#10 chiapuris

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 04:17 AM

#3 Bolshoi in Paris 5-1-08

Corsaire (Production premiere 21 June 2007)
Choreography Marius Petipa (1899)
Reconstitution Alexiei Ratmansky, Iouri Burlaka
Music Adolph Adam plus musical additions by L. Delibes, C Pugni, P von Oldenburg, R Drigo, A Zabel, J Garber
Decors Boris Kaminski
Costumes Elena Zaitseva after original designs of Evgeni Ponomarev
Lighting Damir Ismagilov

Medora Svetlana Zakharova
Conrad Nikolai Tsiskaridze
Gulnare Ekaterina Shipulina
Birbanto Andrei Merkuriev
Pas de Deux des Esclaves Nina Kaptsova, Ivan Vasiliev
Pas de Trois des Odalisques Olga Stabletsova, Anna Leonova, Natalia Osipova
Grand Pas des Eventails Artem Shpilevski (with Medora) and six demi-soloists:
Anna Rebetskaya, Yulia Lunkina, Svetlana Gnedova, Alesia Boyko, Anastasia Stashkevitch, Anna Tikhomirova.

What a grand evening! What an entertaining 'reconstitution'!

Ratmansky writes in the souvenir book that 'reconstruction' is an inaccurate term for the process used, because of the lacunae that remain when all that's known is put together. Reconstitution implies that new materials that fit the voids become a part of the process for bringing to life an old work.

I found it an absorbing three-acter (timed at two hours and forty minutes, not including two twenty-minute intermissions).

Since I'm seeing it again today I'd like to reserve my comments on the work after the second viewing and concentrate on the dancers of the opening night cast, who, for the most part were stellar.

Zakharova, a superstar, a physical beauty, as well and a very good dancer, seems to grow better with time. I used to fault her for mannerisms, which I no longer see. I had felt earlier that she thrived on physical feats, even if they interfered with the dance flow of a work. The six o'clocks are still in evidence but nothing wrong with that. I noticed last night how impeccable her port de bras work has become. How fluidly and unforced her dance phrases develop.

She was delightful in the demi-caractere variation en travesti - with white boots and a horn when she shouts, at the end, the Russian equivalent of
All Aboard, or whatever the phrase is.

The consistency of her work throughout the evening was exemplary and of a very high standard..

Her Conrad, Nikolai Tsiskaridze, another superstar, comported himself honorably as a partner, although some of his mime was unclear and he had an off day in his variation, which comes in the second scene of Act 1 (and in the old version is a pdt with Ali, the slave).

Her third act partner, in the Grand pas des eventails, Artem Shpilevsky, although handsome in appearance was an adequate partner, with some descents from lifts looking awkward and precarious. He too had an off day in his variation. Since this is my first view of him, I can't tell if he can do better. I certainly hope so.

Beyond these tempered comments I have unqualified praise for the other men and women soloists. Andrei Merkuriev was superbly unruly and pirate-like giving the part a strong characterization.

Nina Kaptsova and Ivan Vasiliev were absolutely first-rate in the opening act pas de deux.
I remember seeing Ms Kaptsova as Aurora at the Bolshoi Theatre and Mr. Vasiliev winning gold in the Junior division at the 2005 Moscow Competition.
Wonderful artists both.

The Odalisques trio in the second act serves as a showcase for the Bolshoi talent pool. What riches! Osipova with her buoyant leap forward and the others
(whom I can't identify) with their exquisite musical phrasing and crystalline articulation.

Then of course comes the Jardin Anime scene, in which Gulnare, the ebullient Ekaterina Shipulina, shone like a bright ray of light, along with Zakharova.
The tutus for this scene appear to me to be some of the most beautiful I've ever seen. They are covered with some off-white, creamy silk that is light and billows with the slightest movement. Architecture with tutus. The demi-soloists for this scene were the same that appear in the next act Pas des Eventails save for Anna Rebetskaya who is replaced by the beautiful Chinara Alizade,

The children participating in this scene and others throughout the evening came from several Paris schools other than the POB School.

The Paris audience is not prone to interrupting a scene with applause.
They were very generous in their appreciation at the end of the ballet. Many curtain calls.

More somewhat later on today's performance. Going home tomorrow. It's hard to leave Paris.

#11 Ostrich

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 05:07 AM

Fascinating, thanks chiapuris. Keep it up! :dunno:

#12 naomikage

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 05:32 PM

Inigo on Saturday was danced very well by Gil Isoart. Surprisingly, we also saw him on Sat. night at the Bastille as Fritz in Nutcracker.
(Unless the management is not announcing substitutions.


I saw the same performances as you.. Paquita 12/29 and 30 matinee and Nutcracker 29 soiree, and I got approximately the same impression as you. Matthias is a revelation and I think he will make an etoile in the not so distant future.

Mentioning of cast of Fritz in Nutcracker, Gil Isoart was replaced by Axel Ibot, a young sujet. I think this is a last minute change as the casting list announced no changes. He is a flexible dancer with sweet character.

#13 bart

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 06:27 PM

Thank you, chiapuris and all of you. You make me wish I were in Paris -- even more than usual. :excl:

#14 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 06:30 PM

Paris Opera Nutcracker 12/29/07
This is the production Nureyev created for the Paris Opera in 1985.
The choreography is his own, listed in the program as 'after' M Petipa and L Ivanov,

Wow...the more stories i read on the "Nutcracker" the more amazed i get. Honestly, i would have never guessed that this ballet has been so liberally changed by almost everybody. (With my profound respect for the BT's for which certain choregraphy/choreographer/company production could be their prefered choice)

#15 papeetepatrick

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 07:07 PM

Wow...the more stories i read on the "Nutcracker" the more amazed i get. Honestly, i would have never guessed that this ballet has been so liberally changed by almost everybody.


I'd been thinking the same thing, and although I was already part of BT last Christmas, it was these discussions this year that made me realize how flexible the piece is, a real phenomenon.


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