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Nouvel An à l'Opèra de Bastille - Nutcracker, POB


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#1 Legwarmer

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Posted 02 January 2008 - 11:12 AM

31st December 2008.

Casting:

Clara - Svetlana Lunkina (invited)
Drosselmeyer / Le Prince - Jérémie Bélingard
Luisa - Géraldine Wiart
Fritz - Mallory Gaudion

Le Père - Vincent Cordier
La Mère - Nathalie Aubin
Le Grand-père - Stéphane Elizabé
La Grand-mère - Cécile Sciaux

Le Royaume des Neiges: Deux Flacons - Myriam Ould-Braham, Ludmilla Pagliero

Danse Espagnole: Aurélia Bellet, Vanessa Legassy, Karine Villagrassa, Bruno Bouché, Vincent Chaillet, Axel Ibot
Danse Arabe: Isabelle Ciaravola, Christophe Duquenne, Charlotte Ranson, Valentine Colasante, Marina Guizien
Danse Russe: Natacha Gilles, Carole Maison, Christine Peltzer, Amandine Albisson, Yann Chailloux, Florimond Lorieux, Samuel Murez, Alexis Saramite
Danse Chinoise: Josua Hoffalt, Yong-Geol Kim, Nicolas Paul
Pastorale: Christelle Garnier, Ludmilla Pagliero, Bruno Bouché

Maitres de ballet: Clotilde Vayer, Laurent Hilaire
Direction Musicale: Kevin Rhodes

//

First of all, I only recently got around to informing myself on the Paris Opera Ballet. I watched some documentaries and was absolutely thrilled by Nurejev's work - beforehand, I had never thought them special. Well, that's what happens when you are "ignorant" (Latin for: lacking knowledge).
I didn't know about the casting until I bought the programme and I was thrilled to see that Svetlana Lunkina was invited for Clara. Can anybody imagine my emotions - seeing the Nutcracker on New Year's Eve in Paris, with the best Corps de Ballet in the world, and one of the finest principals there are - from the Bolshoi - and such a dear and beautiful one as Lunkina?
I have to admit I only admired pictures of her, but I found her casted as Clara an extremely good idea. She would match perfectly.

And she did. Her stage presence is very interesting: she doesn't grab your eye aggressively, she invites you to watch her and captivates you... it seems that her artistry gently pours over your mind and your soul instead of violently shaking you (as was the case with Zakharova in Giselle, 2006). She was so young, so fresh, so naive. Her emotions were honest and not 'attached' to her face, she was very original (or so she seemed). Every second there was something going on about her, another emotion washing away the previous. It was wonderful. I sat there and stared at her with my mouth open, ha ha. Later on, in the Second Act, she was completely changed: she matured a well-proportioned amount, suddenly she was royal and set. Stable. I had always thought that Clara would have to smile throughout both acts, but I was so wrong! Svetlana Lunkina had a relaxed facial expression that showed how well she dominated herself, what a great princess she had become, ... I cannot find words for this miracle. Not for one second was she dull to look at, not a single negative thought crossed my mind.
Her variations in the Second Act were technically brilliant, her Russian arms wonderful and her beautiful lines and feet to die for. But overall, it was 'put together'. Her whole presence would fit perfectly into the ballet. She took me with her on her voyage, she gently took me by my hand and brought me to her wonderland.
What pleased me was that she wasn't too boney - I was used to the ribs being visible, as I saw with Zakharova, Saidakova and Semionova.

As to Le Prince, I have to admit that I didn't pay much attention to him. Sometimes I'd look at him and see that there was, for my taste, proper admiration for Clara. He looked very... Spanish? Passionate? I don't know if I'd say he's put perfectly into this ballet, but the two of them definitely meshed very well. (And this is something I say rarely because to me, most male dancers aren't good actors) Their dancing was so synchronized! I have never seen such a technically perfect Pas de Deux. They were wonderful, just wonderful. Jérémie mastered the technically very demanding Nurejev choreography well as the steps seemed very complicated (and especially demanding in comparison to other choreographers. Nurejev does challange male dancers, and I appreciate this a lot). Overall, I believe he did well.

The Madames of the First Act were all so beautiful; the French definitely know whom to place as Madames. The whole setting was beautiful; it was Csar Russia in its finest. It was not too small or too big and very home-y. It felt comfortable, warm and a perfect place for such a Christmas miracle to happen. The children were extremely 'real'. They fought and laughed and danced together, and I was surprised to see an expression of childish anger and roughness on the face of one little ballerina-in-the-making... the children made it all even more precious, even more real. It might be strange to say that the Nutcracker needs to be close to reality, but in order to bring the audience into heaven, "down to earth" is needed. Then again, the staging was not boring or normal in any way, it was still very special and beautiful. It was so warm... Nurejev is a genius... he definitely is. If I compare this setting to that of the Bolshoi's (2003, New Year's Eve performance with Nina Kaptsova), there is all the difference there could be.
Moreover, the Grand-père was funny... the idea that an actually strict, classical ballet could be funny, amusing and classical at the same time completely skipped my mind.

Now, I had huge estimations for Myriam but she disappointed me a lot. There was no expression of joy on her face but she seemed too neutral. The other dancer, Ludmilla Pagliero, was very dashing indeed. (But I have to say that the head piece wasn't exactly helping Myriam's beauty.) What I disliked is that you could distinguish those Corps dancers who loved dancing from those who were overly concentrated and not in the making of a fairy tale.
Oh, the setting! Oh, it was so beautiful... what a fairy tale. I had never understood how ballet could create such a thing, I had always read about it and thought: "Why, I never had the feeling I was in a fairy tale!" But this time, I definitely have. Oh, the snow! Oh, these costumes! Oh, this setting!

The First Act was over too soon, but the Second Act was extremely beautiful, too. The Waltz of the Flowers was very classic as to the setting and the costumes, but the choreography wasn't too stricly classic - it seemed to be the counterpart to all the gold. It was still classic, but the steps weren't what I was used to, and it was very original. Have I mentioned Nurejev being a genius?

I'm afraid the Spanish Dance didn't move me; Géraldine Wiart lacked the needed passion for a dazzling Spanish performance. But overall, the choreography was beautiful and the costumes weren't the 'usual' red and black, but rather a bordeaux meshed with black... beautiful.

The Arabian Dance! Dear God, it was... so different. I had never thought that one could even 'think' of such an original thing. Isabelle Ciaravola was ... I have no words. What a dancer. It was so amorous, so sensual and erotic in a subtle manner. The fact that it was all these things in a subtle manner actually makes it 'good' and not cheap or trashy or unsuited for such a ballet. How could two dancers have such a chemistry? How could they take me with them into 101 Arabian Nights, into a completely different setting and wonderland? How could they make me actually feel in this different world? They made me realise what it was all about, these Arabian Nights, and my heart opened up for such unexpected emotions... no, honestly. Isabelle is ... I will never forget these minutes. Never.

The Russian Dance was very amusing and funny - a satire practically. I loved how, at the end of the Second Act, (I believe it was) Nathalie Aubin crossed herself and made this wonderful facial expression - rolling her eyes and crazily falling backwards into the arms of Vincent Cordier - I laughed. It was gorgeous. No, Nathalie had wonderful faces to pull and it was just amusing and nice to watch and funny.

The Chinese Dance, I'm afraid, didn't really touch me except for the brilliant choreography (is it meant to express anything? I reckon, no).

The Pastorale, in other stagings the Parisian Dance, was, I'm afraid, not as well rehearsed as the other dances. I believe Nurejev's love for two females dancing with a male is very challenging for these dancers and I have a lot of respect for those who can put up with the needed technical and musical skills - but Christelle and Ludmilla didn't exactly mesh.

Corps: Wonderfully synchronized except for very few parts. Overall, the Snow Flakes were much better than the Waltz, but the Waltz didn't touch me as much because the dancers didn't seem to enjoy it - and they weren't as synchronized. I honestly cannot compare their performance to any other Corps because those live performances I can well remember captured my attention for the principal, Zakharova, for example - and when I saw the Royal Ballet, I was absolutely disappointed by the Corps' performance. I can only compare two DVDs, that of Swan Lake with the Kirov and with the POB - and the POB one is definitely more synchronized and dashing.
One thing is extremely remarkable, though, and I had known this before but refused to accept it: the French aren't good jumpers. Nurejev loved grand jetes, he himself performed them well (DVDs), but maybe he himself refused to see that the school of the Opera doesn't teach enough technique in that area.
I only saw one dancer with hands I didn't like. But: the second Svetlana Lunkina danced again, I saw a great difference between her arms and the POB ones and I have to say, hers are so much more beautiful. They were so soft, so wonderful. It was the same matter with the jetes.
The male Corps was wonderfully synchronized, too, something MANY other companies completely lack. But on the other hand, they were all very noisy (especially when compared with Lunkina who was as light and silent as a feather). Sometimes, their landings' noise would fit in perfectly with the music, ha ha ha...

Audience: Shocking! Not one flower for Lunkina, only a few "bravo"s and not a single audience member stood up while applauding. I felt so sorry for her, because in Moscow, people would get up and stay close to the orchestra pit until the very, very last curtain call and they would shout "bravo" for ages and send the ballerina many flowers. The French audience seemed very arrogant, I'm afraid, and not very thankful.

In the end, it was the perfect performance, the perfect staging: A Corps technically thrilling, a very Russian and to-die-for ballerina, a Prince whom I didn't ignore (and that says something), a choreography that seemed fresh but classical at the same time, costumes that were too beautiful to be true, a stage that was decorated so wonderfully that I couldn't believe my eyes - ladies and gentlemen, and : a fairy tale. A fairy tale set in a very Russian era, a fairy tale so human that it took the whole audience with it.

#2 Azulynn

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Posted 02 January 2008 - 02:59 PM

Legwarmer, I'm afraid you're making some very quick statements about the POB dancers ; Myriam Ould-Braham was actually replaced in this performance by Géraldine Wiart (although it was unannounced) as one of the two Snowflakes, as a regular balletgoer stated on a French forum.

#3 cygneblanc

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Posted 02 January 2008 - 05:12 PM

Thanks a lot for that review.

It's always interesting to read a review with a fresher vision. I wonder how much my glance is distorded by habits. It seems there is a consensus among Frenchs to acknowledge a lack of rigour in POB's corps and a lot of synchronization problems and it looks as they were almost none the day you were in. You made me smile with your comment about Ladies in the first act because one of them who usually dance in contemporary works was as happy to get that part as me when I'm going to work every morning. She'll be happy to learn she's a good actor!

Please don't see the reception of Miss Lunkina as an offense, because here standing ovations and flowers are very rare: you generaly get them the day you're retired or when you're promoted "etoile".

#4 papeetepatrick

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Posted 02 January 2008 - 07:43 PM

legwarmer--I loved your review and want to see POB very much myself. I hadn't known anything about this 'Nutcracker' and it just sounds gorgeous. But this is probably the company I would most want to see of those I haven't, and I wish I could see a number of their works.

#5 Estelle

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 12:45 AM

Thanks for your review, legwarmer. It seems to have been a very memorable evening for you ! :smilie_mondieu:

Azulynn, thanks for the correction about the casting. But really one can't blame legwarmer for trusting the casting which was printed by the POB, and indeed it shows that unannounced changes can be somewhat misleading, as most of the audience doesn't know the faces of the dancers (especially people coming from abroad, as legwarmer)...

cygneblanc and Azulynn, have you seen Ms Lunkina in that role too ? Was she planned to be invited from the start, or was it because not enough POB dancers were available for that role ? There have been so many cast changes at the POB in the last weeks (unfortunately, probably because of injuries- what an idea to put the two biggest classical productions at the same time, moreover in the period of the corps de ballet Concours...) that I've stopped counting them... And the number of available étoiles who can actually dance big classical roles seems quite low in this period (injuries, maternity leaves, étoiles who are in their 40s and don't dance much like Moussin, Romoli, Belarbi...)

#6 cygneblanc

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 02:07 AM

No, I didn't. casts weren't known when sales began. But SL isn't a last minute addition. And yeah, the idea of having the two biggest classical productions at the same time is strange, especially when one knows that children are needed in both. Youngest POB 's school pupils who won't perform in school performances were privated of an interesting opportunity to be on stage.

#7 Legwarmer

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 03:13 AM

Legwarmer, I'm afraid you're making some very quick statements about the POB dancers ; Myriam Ould-Braham was actually replaced in this performance by Géraldine Wiart (although it was unannounced) as one of the two Snowflakes, as a regular balletgoer stated on a French forum.


Oh, I am so sorry! My eye is not taught enough to recognize new dancers. As I said, I am very new on the field of the POB and there are so many dancers! I could not possibly distinguish Myriam from Géraldine. Then again, their hair colour matched and well ... I'm sorry. I have to correct what I said: One of the Snow Flakes, Géraldine, must have been nervous and a bit thrown-off for replacing such a part and therefore looked very concentrated.

It seems there is a consensus among Frenchs to acknowledge a lack of rigour in POB's corps and a lot of synchronization problems and it looks as they were almost none the day you were in.


They were rare, yes. But the Waltz of the Flowers had, in comparison, an astonishing amount of 'mistakes'.

You made me smile with your comment about Ladies in the first act because one of them who usually dance in contemporary works was as happy to get that part as me when I'm going to work every morning. She'll be happy to learn she's a good actor!


Wait, could you explain further on? Are you actually part of the troupe? Please forgive my lack of knowledge, I might seem very stupid to you...

There have been so many cast changes at the POB in the last weeks (unfortunately, probably because of injuries- what an idea to put the two biggest classical productions at the same time, moreover in the period of the corps de ballet Concours...)


Oh, yay, now I feel intelligent for I've read about this on this board already, ha ha ha! No, really, doesn't their repertoire include many, many modern and off-pointe works this season? Then, my question is: could anybody explain what the Concours is about? I read (somewhere on this board) that the Corps is being ranked and that some are promoted. Is it official, meaning, is there an audience? What pieces are danced?

And the number of available étoiles who can actually dance big classical roles seems quite low in this period (injuries, maternity leaves, étoiles who are in their 40s and don't dance much like Moussin, Romoli, Belarbi...)


Now, I have always wondered about that! Doesn't the Kirov have many principle dancers, too, who don't dance much anymore (Irma Nioradze)? I reckon it's the same with Staatsballett Berlin and Viara Natcheva / Bettina Thiel.

Was the Nouvel An à l'Opéra Garnier danced by a POB Etoile, or was somebody invited, too?

#8 Estelle

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 05:15 AM

Oh, yay, now I feel intelligent for I've read about this on this board already, ha ha ha! No, really, doesn't their repertoire include many, many modern and off-pointe works this season? Then, my question is: could anybody explain what the Concours is about? I read (somewhere on this board) that the Corps is being ranked and that some are promoted. Is it official, meaning, is there an audience? What pieces are danced?


There are 5 categories of dancers at the POB: étoiles (principals), premiers danseurs, sujets, coryphées and quadrilles. The étoiles are chosen directly by the director of the Paris Opera (generally it's a premier danseur, but not always: for example, Manuel Legris, Laurent Hilaire and Mathieu Ganio were only sujets when they were promoted). For the other categories, the promotions are decided by an internal competition called the Concours, which takes place every year (in the last years, it was in december). Not all dancers participate in it (I don't know the rules exactly, but usually those who don't participate are injured or pregnant dancers, and also dancers a bit old who don't expect any promotion any longer).

Each dancer must dance two variations from the POB repertory: one variation is compulsory, it's the same for each category (e.g. one variation for the male quadrilles, one for the female quadrilles, etc.) and one is chosen by the dancer himself/ herself. There is a pianist on stage to accompany the dancers.
It is not a public event: there is some audience, but one must get an invitation to get into the theater this day, so the audience includes mostly some families and friends of dancers and some critics. Applauses are forbidden (in order not to influence the jury). The jury includes the Paris Opera director, the director of dance, the ballet master, some dancers elected by the corps de ballet (who of course don't participate in the competition- in general, they are étoiles or premiers danseurs, or some senior corps de ballet members) and some "exterior" people chosen by the direction (e.g. this year I think Nikolaj Hubbe was part of the jury).
The number of promotions is fixed in advance (and some years there is zero position available in some categories), I think it depends on the number of retirements in the previous year but it seems more complicated and I never really understood how it works.

There often is a lot of controversy about the results of the Concours... It is supposed to take into account the performance on the day of the competition itself and also the work of the dancer during the season, but there always are some rather surprising or controversial promotions (as in any company, I guess). On the positive side, it can give an opportunity to be seen (by the direction and the critics) to some dancers of the corps de ballet who rarely get to perform solo roles, and also it is an incentive to work some difficult variations. On the negative side, an unlucky dancer who is sick or injured the day of the Concours has to wait one more year to have any hope to be promoted, and two variations might not be very significative of a dancers's qualities or shortcomings, and also there sometimes are some rather complicated motivations for the votes (it can happen that for example there is only one position and two dancers are considered as the most likely to be promoted, but their respective supporters among the jury can't reach an agreement and so a third dancer, less interesting, is promoted because it was the only way to get a majority... For example, it was what was said to have happened about 15 years ago with the promotion of Nathalie Riqué (now retired) to première danseuse, when everybody expected Letestu or Moussin's promotion.) Also there's the problem that some dancers get promoted but then almost never get the roles corresponding to their new status if the direction doesn't appreciate them...

#9 cygneblanc

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 06:42 AM

Oh no, Legwarmer, you don't look stupid at all. I'm not of a member of POB, but some dancers have attended the same performing art school and/or the same ballet schools I attended during my childhood and some are friends. You have some dancers in the corps de ballet that usually dance only in neoclassic or contemporary works for a variety of reasons, and it seems that fine with the direction. But they sometimes have to dance in larger classical productions requiring a large corps de ballet as now when both Paquita and the Nutcracker are performed simultaneously. They dance in the corps for these production because they have to, and the Ladies part in Nutcracker are seen as being quite boring. That's why some weren't very motivated to dance them !

#10 Legwarmer

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Posted 05 January 2008 - 08:23 AM

Oh, cygneblanc, thanks for the explanation. That's the problem with being new to a board: sometimes, phrases or jokes can't be understood... now, tell your friends they all looked splendid. No, really, I saw the ladies and thought - "The POB most certainly knows how to chose beautiful ballerinas."

So the Corps dancers can decide whether they want to dance classical repertoire or modern repertoire? Is this balanced or are too many dancers fond of modern works?

Estelle, thanks a lot for giving me some insight. This is something one can barely find out over the Internet, you see? I'm very very interested in how this company "works", if you understand what I mean. I'd kill to have some 'behind the scenes' stories...

Also there's the problem that some dancers get promoted but then almost never get the roles corresponding to their new status if the direction doesn't appreciate them...


Now, that truly is an error in the system. What does your new sujet status help when you cannot dance more solos? The Paris Opera Ballet seems to be a huge company, though...

#11 cygneblanc

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Posted 05 January 2008 - 12:53 PM

Legwarmer, if you wish to have an insight view of the compagny, you should definitively see Nils Tavernier's movie tout près des étoiles.
http://www.amazon.fr...

There is an american version which I think has some subtitles in English. Can anyone confirm that ?
http://www.amazon.co...i...5631&sr=1-1

Otherwise, officially dancers have to dance what they're told to dance. That's what they're being paid for. But it appears that some of them don't usually dance the corps de ballet's parts in classical works. Although there are enough dancers to dance all these parts, a lot of them are filled by "surnumeraires" (dancers with a one year contract) or school pupils. Actually, and according to who you're, you can choose to appear rather or only in a type of works, but it has to do with internal politic, and how you're liked...a hard subject. Generally, always more dancers are becoming very fond of contemporary works, or at least, in the creative process involved, and-or by their relations with choregraphers. That's because of this reason that Maurice Bejart was so popular among POB's dancers.

#12 Legwarmer

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Posted 05 January 2008 - 01:07 PM

I wish I could see more of Bejart's pieces! I saw "Serait-ce la mort?" at the Malakhov & Friends Gala 2007, (you have to know that I usually hate modern choreographies) and I was deeply touched and very impressed.

As to the internal politics: yes, how does it all function? What "type" of ballerina is liked at the POB? I know this is hard to answer, but I could imagine that the Bolshoi for example wouldn't exactly allow a non-super-skinny ballerina on stage, whereas the Royal Opera House has numerous dancers who don't look as though they were malnourished. What type of face is preferred?

By the way, I just found this:

http://www.danceview...acker.html#more

... and I am astonished. I cannot say anything about the dancers criticized, but I completely disagree with his view on Nurejev's choreography and the setting / costumes. To me, his choreography shows me a completely different interpretation of Tchaikovsky's music which is nicely fresh and new to me... I don't know, I disagree. ): But isn't this what ballet is there for? I wonder what type of Nutcracker Mr. Haegeman prefers.

#13 Estelle

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 06:15 AM

Now, that truly is an error in the system. What does your new sujet status help when you cannot dance more solos? The Paris Opera Ballet seems to be a huge company, though...


Well, at least you are better paid as a sujet than as a coryphée (for example), and also in general you are
obliged less often to perform small corps de ballet roles which are not considered very interesting... But
it must be frustrating indeed to get promoted and yet don't get interesting roles.

Also now there are far more premiers danseurs than there used to be a few years ago, so it's likely they
get fewer roles for each...

#14 Legwarmer

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 08:18 AM

That's another interesting point: would one prefer to have a few dancers who perform very, very often or rather a huge variety of dancers but therefore not see them often enough?


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