miliosr

The Millepied Era at the Paris Opera Ballet

140 posts in this topic

If Abbagnato wants to be successful running the Opera di Roma it might behoove her to learn to be more diplomatic. She's lucky Lefevre promoted her as a parting gift IMO.

Yes Abbagnato has always been fiercely critical of Lefevre (and her programming choices) but the reactions to her promotion to etoile were rather polarised. I find Mme quite confusing generally though. Manuel Legris was too conservative to run the POB, Laurent Hilaire, whilst great, worried her because he might be too into the modern, yet Nicolas Le Riche, who has similar tastes in repoirtoire to Hilaire anyway, was her preferred choice if the job couldn't go to an outsider. I think it's safe to say Abbagnato won't be dancing in the Grand Foyer or in a metro station anytime soon though so I'm not sure why Millepied's a hit already.

Brigitte Lefevre's interview in Télérama, where she admits feeling stung by a remark from Millepied. There's also an interview in Têtu (not online, excerpt on Dansomanie) where Lefevre briefly mentions she has found the unkindness from dancers difficult.

Share this post


Link to post

Loosely translated, Madame Lefevre's comments about Millepied are as follows:

"I was hurt when he told the press he wanted to bring modernity to the Opera. It has not pleased me. The little girl in me winced: She [the little girl] wanted to be told that she had worked". That last bit about "she had worked" is a bad translation. I think what Lefevre was expressing was that she had been successful with her programming or management. Maybe one of our French correspondents can provide a better translation.

Share this post


Link to post

Loosely translated, Madame Lefevre's comments about Millepied are as follows:

"I was hurt when he told the press he wanted to bring modernity to the Opera. It has not pleased me. The little girl in me winced: She [the little girl] wanted to be told that she had worked". That last bit about "she had worked" is a bad translation. I think what Lefevre was expressing was that she had been successful with her programming or management. Maybe one of our French correspondents can provide a better translation.

I would translate it ("bien travaillé") as "done a good job." It's often used a compliment in the sense of "Well done!"

Share this post


Link to post

Loosely translated, Madame Lefevre's comments about Millepied are as follows:

"I was hurt when he told the press he wanted to bring modernity to the Opera. It has not pleased me. The little girl in me winced: She [the little girl] wanted to be told that she had worked". That last bit about "she had worked" is a bad translation. I think what Lefevre was expressing was that she had been successful with her programming or management. Maybe one of our French correspondents can provide a better translation.

I would translate it ("bien travaillé") as "done a good job." It's often used a compliment in the sense of "Well done!"

Yes, and I think it was refering to the efforts she made to bring modernity to the ballet wink1.gif

Share this post


Link to post

Loosely translated, Madame Lefevre's comments about Millepied are as follows:

"I was hurt when he told the press he wanted to bring modernity to the Opera. It has not pleased me. The little girl in me winced: She [the little girl] wanted to be told that she had worked". That last bit about "she had worked" is a bad translation. I think what Lefevre was expressing was that she had been successful with her programming or management. Maybe one of our French correspondents can provide a better translation.

I would translate it ("bien travaillé") as "done a good job." It's often used a compliment in the sense of "Well done!"

Yes, and I think it was refering to the efforts she made to bring modernity to the ballet wink1.gif

All of this is quite hilarious. She is of course right: she made every effort to "bring modernity to the Opéra", simultaneously destroying the past greatness of this institution and making it what it is today. When her replacement by Millepied was announced a year ago my first thought was that she is being replaced not because of the damage she inflicted but because she hasn't damaged enough.

Share this post


Link to post

Can anyone point me in the direction of a list of POB directors since World War II? I'm looking for a list with names and lengths of tenure. I did a Google search but couldn't find one.

Share this post


Link to post

It leaves a gap in the Lifar years... i thought this was the short time that Balanchine was there... It is confusing... In what capacity was Balanchine at the POB? Was it no more than any other choreographer invited to mount a single piece on the POB? Had thought it was a more significant position...

I see here http://balanchine.com/george-balanchine/. He was ballet master there for 6 months... But what does that mean? Was that not his official job title at NYCB even though we think of him as artistic director? It seems like we had this discussion once before on ballet alert...

Share this post


Link to post

Thank you cinnamonswirl!

Here are the directors since 1947 (w/ estimated lengths of tenure in parentheses after each name):

Serge Lifar (11 years)

George Skibine (3 years)

Michel Descombey (7 years)

John Taras (1 year)

Claude Bessy (1 year)

Raymond Franchetti (6 years)

Violette Verdy (3 years)

Rosella Hightower (3 years)

Rudolf Nureyev (6 years)

Patrick Dupond (4 years)

Brigitte Lefevre (19 years)

With the exception of Serge Lifar and Madame Lefevre, the historical pattern for directors at the POB has been one of shortish-to-short tenures. We will see where Benjmain Millepied ends up falling on the continuum.

Share this post


Link to post

Thank you cinnamonswirl!

Here are the directors since 1947 (w/ estimated lengths of tenure in parentheses after each name):

Serge Lifar (11 years)

George Skibine (3 years)

Michel Descombey (7 years)

John Taras (1 year)

Claude Bessy (1 year)

Raymond Franchetti (6 years)

Violette Verdy (3 years)

Rosella Hightower (3 years)

Rudolf Nureyev (6 years)

Patrick Dupond (4 years)

Brigitte Lefevre (19 years)

With the exception of Serge Lifar and Madame Lefevre, the historical pattern for directors at the POB has been one of shortish-to-short tenures. We will see where Benjmain Millepied ends up falling on the continuum.

Thanks for this list -- it's interesting to see the data set out like this. I'm thinking, though, that if Nureyev hadn't died, he might have been a long-term director, in some form or another. I know that he himself was a restless individual, but he seemed to find the POB an organic home base.

Share this post


Link to post

Presuming Benjamin Millepied bucks the general historical trend at the POB, he will have significant promotional opportunities given the number of etoiles retiring in the next few years. Here are the retirees in the next 3 years (ordered by rank and age by 12/31/14):

Aurelie Dupont (41)

Laetitia Pujol (39)

Marie- Agnes Gillot (39)

And the male retirees in the next 2-5 years:

Benjamin Pech (40)

Herve Moreau (37)

Jeremie Belingard (39)

Karl Paquette (38)

With the vacancy left by Nicolas Le Riche's recent retirement, that presents Millepied with the opportunity for as many as 8 promotions to etoile in the next 5 years. Interestingly, there will be significant retirements among the premiere danseuses within the next 5 years regardless of promotions to etoile:

Nolwenn Daniel (41)

Melanie Hurel (39)

Stephanie Romberg (39)

Muriel Zusperreguy (37)

Of the premiere danseurs, only 1 of 7 -- Emmanuel Thibault (at 40) -- is nearing retirement age. Most of the remaining premiere danseurs are young (with some of them -- Pierre-Arthur Raveau [23] and Francois Alu [21] -- being quite young.)

Hard to know which way Millepied will go but he certainly won't lack for opportunities to shape the company! (Perhaps the biggest question is whether he bucks the exam and starts appointing people from sujet to etoile. Madame Lefevre certainly caused some heartburn when she named Mathieu Ganio as etoile when he was a 20-year-old sujet. Decisions, decisions . . .)

Share this post


Link to post

The number of Etoiles has never been fixed. It's a numerus clausus including Etoiles and Premiers Danseurs. So there is no obligation to promote any Etoile so soon as one is retiring. There was a time, not that long ago, where there was more Premiers danseurs than Etoiles but in the past ten years some Etoiles were promoted at a later age so it changed the distribution among the two grades as the nomination to Etoile doesn't free a position of Premier danseur.

What is interesting is how many Premiers danseurs positions will be opened at the next concours... As to bypass the position of Premier danseur, well it would raise the question of the concours existence.

Share this post


Link to post
As to bypass the position of Premier danseur, well it would raise the question of the concours existence.

Exactly. If you're Millepied, what battles do you take on? He wants to change the repertory and the experience at the Garnier (i.e. pre-performance "happenings" in the foyer) and diversify the company's ranks (I don't know how he will achieve that since he won't control the school). That's a lot to attempt without trying to overturn the exams as well. Whatever the concours may or may not be, it's actually much more rational in its end results than what you see with promotions at, say, ABT.

Share this post


Link to post

A minor point: it is the general administrator who appoints Etoiles. The director de la danse submits a a list of names which he or she considers worthy of the promotion and the final decision is made by the general administrator. Nor does there have to be a particular number of Etoiles as far as I am aware. I remember a time when there are far fewer than today.

As for the Concours, it may be worth bearing in mind that it can also be used as a disciplinary process. The dancer (who may have missed class repeatedly, put on weight, etc.,etc.) performs two variations in front of the jury - no spectators - and the jury is asked whether the dancer should be retained and if so, at the same rank or lower. That certainly used to be the case.

Share this post


Link to post

What purpose does the concours du promotion serve though? It goes against today's ethics, particularly with regards to equal opportunities in the workplace (the POB penalises you if you're sick) but some of the dancers with the most potential are stuck in the corps anyway. I'm not sure there is even much discussion involved either. There's a possible ten points per variation then ten for your performance over the past year, like an appraisal of sorts. As some have pointed out, including Brigitte Lefevre, if somebody on the panel doesn't know you, then you probably won't score above 20.

There used to be a limit on how many etoiles there could be under Hugues Gall, which Gerard Mortier lifted because it caused various problems when there were injuries or if somebody had a reduced schedule. Marie-Agnes Gillot's promotion to etoile was controversial for this reason, somebody else had been lined up by the public. The increase in the number of etoiles is criticised heavily in Paris though, not just because there's a lot of them now but because of the payroll (it's public money, it comes with this sort of criticism!).

It'll be interesting to see how Millepied fares with France's new Minister of Culture too. I didn't like the last one (letting Laurent Hilaire go just one example of her many, many failings) but the new French Government isn't, shall we say, afraid of following orders where cuts are concerned.

Share this post


Link to post

What purpose does the concours du promotion serve though? It goes against today's ethics, particularly with regards to equal opportunities in the workplace (the POB penalises you if you're sick) but some of the dancers with the most potential are stuck in the corps anyway. I'm not sure there is even much discussion involved either.

Keep in mind that competitive exams like the Concours are part of French life in a way that isn't really true in Anglo-Saxon countries. Most French, whatever their field, will have gone through a similar process at least once - le bac, at the end of high school. If you want to do post-grad study, or join the civil service, you will sit at least 1, if not multiple exams.

Most of the dancers I've talked to think the Concours is more fair because it isn't just the AD who is making promotion decisions. It's a whole panel of people who (theoretically) have equal votes. Yes, it is is more unfair in that great work throughout the season could be outweighed by a disastrous performance during the Concours. But if the AD/general administrator of the opera/director of dance/whomever you consider the decision-maker dislikes you, under the Concours you have a better shot of getting promoted than at a company like NYCB or ABT.

Share this post


Link to post

The concours promotes fairness in theory, sure, but there are still brilliant dancers trapped in the corps who aren't given opportunities to gain experience specifically because of their contract. 10/30 points will depend on whether each member of the panel knows - or likes - you, it doesn't give injured or ill dancere a chance (which is just sick in 2014), doesn't test partnering and does nothing for dancers who don't excel at short variations. Not every Giselle on the gala circuit makes a great Giselle.

Plus, how do you judge it fairly if it's as much about technique as it is 'artistry'? A lot of the dancers enter with modern and contemporary dance for their optional variation.

Share this post


Link to post

Without sounding like Pollyanna, it seems that the promotion "system" in most companies we talk about here is flawed in some way -- who do we think is doing a really good job with this right now, and why?

Share this post


Link to post

As for the Concours, it may be worth bearing in mind that it can also be used as a disciplinary process. The dancer (who may have missed class repeatedly, put on weight, etc.,etc.) performs two variations in front of the jury - no spectators - and the jury is asked whether the dancer should be retained and if so, at the same rank or lower. That certainly used to be the case.

the concours is opened to the public and that's perhaps why it makes such a buzz among ballet fans who manage to attend. They know what happens during the day of the event but it's only a part of the selection criteria. They don't know what happens in the studio, they only see some of what happens on stage...

Despite all the flaws of any concours systems, it’s difficult to say which other ways is fairest, especially in a company with more than 150 dancers… The question about promotion and non promotion of dancers occurs in all big companies even without this system.

What I find interesting in the POB concours is the composition of the jury with equal distribution between 5 elected (by the company dancers) dancers (at least Sujet) and administrative staff, 5 as well, the AD, a representative of the Opera director, a ballet master and 2 external dance personalities. Also, a trade union representative is attending the whole event.

Share this post


Link to post

From Alastair Macaulay's latest review of New York City Ballet:

"There are five companies with outstanding strong and influential classical styles in ballet: the Mariinsky of St. Petersburg, the Bolshoi of Moscow, the Royal Danes of Copenhagen, the Royal of London and City Ballet."

Me-ouch Paris! (Obviously, ABT -- the final member of the Big 7 -- is a mongrel when it comes to style.)

Share this post


Link to post

If I recall correctly, this is not the first time Macaulay has made this pointed omission. I guess it's another of his ingrained prejudices, but one that strikes me as indefensible. (If he were interested, I could introduce him to some New Yorkers who were convinced that all dancing in pointe shoes looked clumsy and awkward...until they saw the Paris Opera Ballet.)

But if it's controversial statements we're after, I'll add that there are other companies I would also rank ahead of ABT.

Share this post


Link to post

I wonder if it comes down to identifiable "style", (though leaving Paris out is absurd..)... I'm not sure how I would differentiate ABT's style from various other companies.... So many of their dancers are trained elsewhere... and I'm not sure the resident choreographer has had time yet to imprint a style...

Share this post


Link to post

When I was first interested in ballet, in the mid-70s, that was the list, as well. Paris was omitted -- although that was before POB's resurgence. I'd also say that the RDB style has changed quite a bit in the last ten, twenty years. I've seen photos of recent performances that look very ... different.

Share this post


Link to post

You're not suggesting that Alastair Macaulay is stuck in the mid-1970s, are you? wink1.gif

Share this post


Link to post