POB @ Harris Theater in Chicago
Posted 28 June 2012 - 12:25 PM
You mentioned LaRiche as Albrecht. May I ask who danced the title role at your performance and your impressions of the danseuse?
I look forward to seeing this production at the Kennedy Center next week. I'll be thinking about the lighting and other points that you've noted.
Posted 28 June 2012 - 12:36 PM
I really hope you don't see anything in Washington that reminds you of my remarks about lighting, Natalia!
Posted 28 June 2012 - 01:12 PM
Posted 28 June 2012 - 01:44 PM
Posted 28 June 2012 - 01:46 PM
I really hope you don't see anything in Washington that reminds you of my remarks about lighting, Natalia!
I'm wondering if the real lightning wasn't slightly altered by the simulcast? It usually is...
Posted 29 June 2012 - 12:10 PM
In particular, the great Act II pas de deux of Albrecht and (the ghost of) Giselle was very effectively lit this time, so that, pale and otherworldly thought she was, she was always visible to us (if not, as the story they are enacting requires, to him!). Indeed the lighting in nearly the entire act was skillfully adjusted from moment to moment so as to preserve both the visibility of the dancers and the gloom of the night, and I think what went awry last night was that the crew had to cope with a sensitive and therefore complex lighting plan brought in by POB plus a lighting-control system that would not behave. (Indeed, both nights after the stage action of each act had concluded sections of the stage were lit or darkened for an instant without apparent reason.)
It didn't hurt that Dorothee Gilbert and Stephane Bullion, so much better seen tonight, were also more animated than Osta and Le Riche had been last night. This may be a version of the old story, the older dancers deploying movement in knowing ways (Osta and Le Riche are 42 and 40), the younger (29 and 32) exploring with some vigor. Already in the mad scene near the end of Act I Gilbert was fitting details to the music to point up the intensity of her delerium I hadn't noticed from Osta, not that she lacked energy either, but it was more contained and "from within". In the ghostly Act II pas with Albrecht, comparison is more difficult because of the lighting problem, but Gilbert here too seemed (more gently) to be tweaking the role.
At the very end, though, Le Riche's implicative and contemplative conclusion seemed to me more fitting than Bullion's way, dropping an armful of lilies and turning to extend an arm toward us, maybe as though to ask, "What do you make of what has transpired here?"
Visiting the world of this justly famous company's Giselle was richly satisfying. Not only the quality of all the elements of the performance individually but also the high degree of their integration contributed to that.
Posted 01 July 2012 - 03:52 PM
Nitpicking: I had hoped to be surprised by Emilie Cozette in La Cigarette and Dorothee Gilbert in La Flute, but I had issues with both. Emilie Cozette just doesn't seem as 'complete' as her fellow etoiles. Her hands went dead here and there during difficult passages. And for indiscernable reasons, I can't appreciate Dorothee Gilbert's amazing technique. I recognize her talent and artistry, of course, but for me there's something missing. Or maybe tension in her upper body that I find distracting, I'm not sure.
L'Arlesianne struck an odd note after a pure dance piece like Suite En Blanc, but Ciaravola and Belingard danced it beautifully. Her feet are some of the best, as strong as they are wonderfully supple and expressive. I have to stress expressive -- they move like hands. Aside from showing off good feet and legs, I wished it had been Jeune Homme, or another 'dancier' piece. The audience liked it better than I did, I think.
Then, Bolero with Marie-Agnes Gillot. I can't really enthuse enough about her. She's a rare modern example of a dancer who doesn't dance everything, but who is nonetheless extraordinary. Not dancing Giselle and being quite too tall and intense (I would say perhaps more than even Veronika Part or Kondaurova) for similar roles does nothing to diminish her contribution to dance. And outside of issues of type, she is versatile -- as stunning as Myrtha as she is in Bolero. I feel very fortunate to have seen her in both. She danced Bolero fiercely and fearlessly, visceral and spiritual at once. I see Bolero as a piece very illsuited any 'look at me!' attitude, and Gillot danced almost as if unobserved, in effortless command of the audience and the corps. She was very much at home in the music and choreography, and the audience loved it. I didn't count the curtain calls, but there were many.
Another 'moment', beforehand, occured just as my friend and I entered the lobby from the 'back' entrance connecting to the parking garage -- which also happens to be right next to the artist's exit. Who shound emerge but Gillot, dressed down but striking. Recognizing her, I stopped my friend, who then saw her as well, and we stood (likely making the same stupid starstruck face) as she passed not more than a few feet by us. I think we were the only ones to recognize her, making the moment even more serendipitous.
Those of you in New York have much to look forward to!
Posted 01 July 2012 - 04:07 PM
Suite en blanc (Serge Lifar, 1943, 428th and 429th performances)
L'Arlesienne (Roland Petit, 1974 -- National Ballet of Marseille, 1997 -- Paris Opera Ballet, 77th and 78th performances)
Bolero (Maurice Bejart, 1961 -- Ballet du XX siecle, 1970 -- Paris Opera Ballet, 147th and 148th performances)
Kudos to Madame Lefevre for programming a bill that (a) ignored the American dance clerisy which declared these choreographers (especially Bejart and Petit) bad for us in the 70s and 80s, and (b) didn't kow-tow to the Balanchine programming orthodoxy which rests as heavily on America as the heat and humidity did on Chicago on Saturday.
I am going to write this in stages as 3 ballets/six casts is a lot for one post.
I was sitting outside the Harris Theater before the evening show to do a little star gazing (or etoile gazing, if you prefer). Based on what I saw, I would say that French ballet dancers are the most fashionable people in the world and, given the 100 degree temperature and matching humidity, probably the most impractical in terms of Summer wardrobe choices. Still, while the rest of us were suffering under the oppressive heat and humidity, they wore their sweat like the chicest fashion accessory!
Suite en blanc
All told, I thought Suite en blanc showed off the French schooling and style to its maximum possible advantage. Every gesture and movement was so clean and refined and, well, French. Of the two casts, I thought the evening cast was largely superior to the afternoon cast. Karl Paquette was bolder and more dynamic than Mathieu Ganio in the Mazurka, and Ganio and Aurelie Dupont were more engaging in the Adage than Isabelle Ciaravola and (a disappointingly blank) Stephane Bullion. And whoever wrote that Marie-Agnes Gillot owns La Cigarette was exactly right -- her performance obliterated any memory of Emilie Cozette.
I did think that the afternoon cast was superior in the Theme Varie, with Vincent Chaillet being a particular standout. And special mention must go to the four guys in the Pas De Cinq (afternoon and evening shows) -- Cyril Mitilian, Fabien Revillion, Daniel Stokes and Sebastien Bertaud. The fair-haired blonde who vaguely resembles Chase Finlay (sorry, his picture wasn't in the program) was exceptional. Can anyone tell me who he is?
This was my favorite piece both afternoon and evening. Sadly, it got the least applause of the three works on the bill(s). (The applause was still plenty robust, though.)
I'm puzzled as to why Suite en blanc hasn't found a more permanent and stable place in the international ballet repertory. It's so beautiful and there are so many parts available. It seems tailor made for even mid-sized ballet companies. And yet . . . it exists on the periphery. Strange.
Next up: L'Arlesienne
Posted 01 July 2012 - 04:07 PM
Jack Reed is quite correct about the abominable lighting on both Tuesday and Wednesday, sadly; I imagine that this greatly affected his, and the audience's, impression of the performance. The white act should be spectral, not invisible. This was particularly annoying because the superb Marie-Agnes Gillot as Myrthe appears , of course, only in Act II. Tuesday's performance, with the wonderful Isabelle Ciaravola as Giselle, was also simulcast live in Grant Park. Ciaravola, who was an extremely late addition to the roster of etoiles, is so lovely, vibrant, expressive, and deeply engaging that it is absurd--especially with etoiles like Emilie Cozette (!!!!!!!!)-- she was not promoted to the rank years ago. She is one of the rare Giselles who actually makes the hackneyed plot convincing, and who seems to change instantaneously, mercurially, in her mad scene. She also has a tragic mask of a face when required.
Clairemarie Osta, who danced Wednesday, has already had a tremendous farewell in Paris (she sadly has 'aged out', it seems--apparently POB still has that age rule) so this American tour is a unique chance to see this great dancer once more. Her hops on pointe were miraculous for a woman of 42 (they would be good for anyone) and the lightness, sparkle, and brilliance she has always set forth are still there. She was a more subdued, subtle Giselle than many, making small gestures enormously telling (particularly ports de bras and small ballonnes); her Albrecht was the still sterling Nicolas le Riche, who has been an etoile for nearly half his life and who is great at age forty. I would say that Ciaravola was an innocent destroyed; Osta was an old soul wrecked by a tragedy she almost foresaw yet still could not prevent. Fabien Revillon, the man in the Peasant Pas, is one to watch; his bearing is exemplary. Charline Giezendanner, his partner in PP, is a strong, clean, and skillful dancer whose stage face, unfortunately, is hard with a fixed and too-broad grin. She appears to be smirking most of the time. Gillot as Myrthe was remarkable even with lighting that would have disgraced a junior high school play; her amplitude, severity, and implacability are of a degree hardly seen since Martine van Hamel. The voyagees!
The dancing in the mixed repertory program was of an even higher standard; it is a pleasure to see Suite en blanc, which is rarely ever done in the US, and never done with this sort of French perfection. The outre and mannered little port de bras, wrist-flicks, hops, and capricious changes in epaulement which are beyond most American dancers are tossed off by one and all here with nary a hitch and no self-consciousness. Although nearly every dancer in a solo or demi-solo role distinguished him or herself, there were several standouts: Sarah Kora Dayanova as one of the three graces in 'La Sieste'; Alice Renavand in the pas de cinq, with entrechats and other beats DAZZLING and easy (this is also a pas where the men do beats for days, and Renavand was every bit as brilliant as they); Nolwenn Daniel's turns in the 'Serenade'; the sterling Karl Paquette in the 'Mazurka', with great off-balance angles and poses; Gillot in 'La Cigarette', Parisian beyond belief, with excellent fouettes in the later coda.
Then there was Aurelie Dupont in the 'Adagio'...Dupont's maniacal control is, if possible, even smoother and more finished than it was in her younger days--the Gallic nonchalance of her face before and during her several perfect , motionless balances was worth the price of admission all by itself. Ciaravola was beautiful in this part as well (best choreography of the ballet, by far) but Dupont was magisterial. I was particularly impressed by this because I recall the horrendous miscasting (cross-casting, really) in the POB Jewels DVD, with Dupont horribly out of place and character in Rubies (she would be lovely in Emeralds) and Osta, who danced Rubies constantly at one time, instead in the Verdy part, which she did admirably but WHY??? Happily, that was only miscasting, and Dupont is great in anything which even slightly suits her (most things excepting American showgirls....) Cozette continues to be a cipher; she is a good technical dancer and one of the most boring women ever to set foot on stage. her etoile ranking boggles the mind.
"L'Arlesienne" had three different casts, all good; Stephane Bullion danced so all-out it was reckless, and stirring. His physical abandon and fire were overwhelming, but I think the audience responded more deeply to Jeremie Belingard: slightly less breathtaking, but more modulated and subtle as an actor, both facially and choerographically. He also had the benefit of the incredibly sympathetic and moving Ciaravola as his fiancee; Amandine Albisson was also excellent in this role, although it's the man's ballet, with an extended descent into madness and a final mad scene culminating in a suicide leap through a window. Mary Stolper, the principal flutist of Grant Park Symphony (which played for POB) , distinguished herself in many flute soli and obbligati (flute variation in Suite, the Menuet in L'Arlesienne, etc); sadly the rest of the wind section was far, far below her level.
"Bolero", which has several versions (Jorge Donn did it surrounded by men only--the original--and then, much later, by women only, a Bejart resetting), was done here by le Riche, Dupont, and Gillot in different performances. They were all excellent, and the difference with a male or female central figure is mesmerizing. The audience went most berserk, to my surprise, for Gillot, who was terrific but to my mind slightly less amazing than the other two. I would not have expected such sinuous, hypnotic, sensual intensity from Dupont, who made the entire ballet a seamless crescendo beginning to end (which the orchestra was supposed to do with the music and did not come close to...). le Riche burned up the stage in every way; the male corps' pounding the table was FERAL in his performance, in response to his own savage energy. His slide to a split followed by a burning stare at the audience was unforgettable. This becomes either 'ballet is woman' (Balanchine) or 'ballet is man' (Bejart) depending on the casting, which is a remarkable experience.
Posted 01 July 2012 - 08:40 PM
Of course the mixed bill is simpler to light, and Suite en blanc, with its uniform, bright white light looked quite handsome when I saw it Saturday evening. A friend particularly enjoyed its frequent "optical effects" as she called the patterns moving around the stage. (Will everyone reading know the rear third of the stage is an elevated platform reached by broad stairways, left and right, seen in profile, as therefore the dancers are when they ascend and descend? The stage is all in black, as are the male dancers below their waists, if I remember correctly, and this black so well sets off the other color, already identified in the title, it might have been mentioned too.)
But I'm sorry I'm not one of those who got a lot out of it: It was so well performed, I wished to see the dancers in something better, something better motivated by its music. Partly this was because I just had, a couple of days ago: Compared to Lalo, Giselle's music may not be as strong concert material, standing on its own feet, but it infuses that ballet with energy at every moment. (This company can be its own hard act to follow.)
And so I watched Suite en blanc a little wistfully, not disagreeing with those here praising the high quality of the cast. It seemed to me too pretty, and too perfectly danced. That is, until "La Cigarette", with Gillot! Here was a dancer who could raise the whole thing for me, and make the merely resourceful choreography - which I had not seen before, and simply may not have "got" this first time, to be fair - interesting. And better was yet to come - not so much the "Adage", where I got the idea that we were supposed to find it the big deal adagios usually are, but "La Flute", and the reason was that Gilbert's dancing of the flute solo here made it seem - or revealed to me - its musical motivation, as though this was the main part that had got Lifar interested in the first place.
Were Bizet's suites anything more than a pastoral backdrop for the psychodrama of Petit's L'Arlesienne ballet, with its own movement language that mostly made the dancers look ugly to me? They nevertheless performed it with their customary assurance, but I'm sorry to report I got nothing at all out of any of it. My friend got the plot, but why this needed over half an hour, and its own strange movement vocabulary, was lost on me, and the analogy that came to mind of Alban Berg's "cracked" harmonies movingly creating the mental world of the "cracked" title character in his opera Wozzeck didn't help me, because Berg succeeds for me while Petit does not.
Bolero, then, and a near miracle, because the music had never seemed to me to call for choreography any more than Berlioz's Romeo et Juliette had, and yet Maurice Bejart had heard the possibility, maybe even the necessity, of choreography, in the music. That's how it looked to me, at every moment this time (his Romeo looks less consistent); and what added pleasure to see the ballet clearly and to get it powerfully in a good seat instead of struggling with the busy editing interference on the Arte video. (Though I do think the video documents Le Riche at a time when he gave the performance greater tensile strength.) A strong conclusion to the program, for me.
Posted 01 July 2012 - 11:35 PM
Posted 02 July 2012 - 05:30 AM
Posted 02 July 2012 - 06:29 AM
Posted 02 July 2012 - 06:37 AM
Posted 02 July 2012 - 10:04 AM
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