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Paris Opera Ballet


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#1 Alexander

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Posted 04 January 2002 - 03:12 PM

For the record POB has given some outstanding performances recently. I November The Prodigal Son with Nicolas Leriche and Agnès Letestu, which was filmed and broadcast by Arte Wednesday night. I suspect video recordings will be in circulation soon.
Blanca Li has created the choreography for a new production of Schéhérazade with sets and costumes by Christian Lacroix. Choreography was so, so but the over-all performance by the company - and the orchestra in particular - was astounding and had a real taste of what the Ballets Russes premieres must have been like in the beginning of last century: A spectacle - more than a 'ballet' - to be savoured by le tout Paris.

#2 Alexandra

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Posted 04 January 2002 - 04:40 PM

Thank you, Alexander. It sounds like an interesting program (the middle two ballets were faune and Faun, the Nijinsky and Robbins back to back). I thought the point about it capturing one part of the Ballet Russe experience -- the excitement, the chicness of it, was very interesting.

Estelle, Terry, or anyone else, did you see this?

#3 Estelle

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Posted 04 January 2002 - 07:58 PM

I attended the performance on Dec 28 (just after the competition), and on the whole I was a bit disappointed.

I really love "Pétrouchka" (the wonderful sets and costumes by Benois, the tenths of small roles with amusing little details in the crowd, the whole atmosphere...) bu didn't find Laurent Hilaire very convincing in the main role, he was far from being as moving as Kader Belarbi that I had seen in the same role about 4 years ago. On the other hand, Maurin was very good as the Doll.

Showing the two versions of "Afternoon of a faun" back to back was an interesting idea, but I found that hearing the score twice made me feel a bit sleepy (well, perhaps having seen about 120 variations in the day didn't help biggrin.gif )
Yann Bridard was interesting as Nijinsky's faun, but I think he needs some more maturity to really fill the role (but on the whole, I think he's an interesting dancer, adding more and more depths and presence to his roles).

I was looking forward to seeing Robbins'"Afternoon of a faun": it had entered the POB's repertory in 1974 (danced by Denard and Thesmar, another cast was Nureyev and Pontois), but hadn't been danced since the 1970s. But what I saw looked a bit insignificant to me. I suspect that it might be a problem of casting: the dancers were Karl Paquette (a premier danseur promoted last year, and about whom I'd have trouble saying anything positive) and Juliette Gernez (a very young coryphée), and it looked a little too much like "Ken meets Barbie in the dance studio"... What is the casting policy for it at the NYCB? For this series of performances, most of the casts were very young dancers from the corps de ballet (by the way, it seems that this season the direction wants to give more roles to corps de ballet dancers- or perhaps it's just that there aren't enough principals and the premiers danseurs already are too busy with "La Bayadère", which was danced at the same time at Bastille... biggrin.gif ), unlike the casts in the 1970s who were more mature dancers.

The audience, whose reactions had been quite tepid for the first ballets of the evening, was very enthusiastic for Blanca Li's "Sheherazade", but I was in the minority and really didn't like it much. It used Rimsky-Korsakov's score, which was for me the only positive point. There was no plot,
only some "atmospheres" in five tableaux and three main characters, a couple of soloists and a female dancer called "Sheherazade" in the program notes.

Blanca Li doesn't come from a ballet background (she started as a competition gymnast, then studied Graham technique, then did some flamenco...) and her previous works were mostly theatrical, but it seems that for that ballet she tried to use some ballet vocabulary (especially pointes). The result was somewhat awkward, with a falsely balletic style and a limited vocabulary, and I found her handling of the corps de ballet quite weak (unisson most of the time). In the main roles, José Martinez managed to be excellent in spite of the poor choreography, but Delphine Moussin was a bit off, and there wasn't much chemistry between them. Laure Muret, as Sheherazade, had a role which was mostly crossing the stage with her bizarre costume from time to time.

While the sets by Thierry Leproust (variations on some oriental themes) were interesting, one of the worst elements of the ballet was for me the costumes by Christian Lacroix. Last season, his costumes for "Jewels" were quite good (even if it was a bit frustrating to note that 75% of the press coverage was about the costumes only...), but those ones were among the ugliest ones and less suited for dance I've seen on a ballet stage.
After a while, I started to think that some of the costumes for the female corps de ballet in the second tableau probably were an inconscious allegory for housework: some kind of featherduster on the head, sleeves looking like dustcloth, and line-breaking sweatpants (below a skirt) because it's more comfortable to run the vaccum cleaner. José Martinez had a bizzarely disssymmetric costume (see:
http://www.imagidans...heherazade.html )
and the costumes for the male corps de ballet were worse.

The fifth tableau was supposed to depict and orgy, and I found it especially long, repetitive and ridiculous. I remember some comments of people shocked by some position of the female dancer in the pas de deux of "Agon" (with legs wide open), well, that work was one million times worse from that point of view, and had any possible clumsy and inelegant movement (and the costumes of the female dancers, with flesh-colored tops which made them look almost bare-breasted, were quite unflattering).

I haven't seen the "Homage to Kochno" program ("Mavra", "The prodigal son", and "The seven capital sins"). A small correction to Alexander's post: the cast which was filmed was *Jérémie Bélingard* and Agnès Letestu, not Nicolas Le Riche (back from an injury after several months of absence).

#4 Alexander

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Posted 05 January 2002 - 02:35 PM

estelle, thanks. i didnt realise it was belingaard that they filmed. why him, do you think, and not leriche?
i have to say i disagree with you on the costumes for scheherazade. not all were great but some of them were astounding - if you ask me. especially for the men, actually.
the choreography was nothing special, i agree, and i wondered why she wanted to avoid the plot when she obviously couldnt get around it?!
i found bridard very good in faune.

#5 Estelle

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Posted 05 January 2002 - 05:21 PM

[quote]Originally posted by Alexander:
estelle, thanks. i didnt realise it was belingaard that they filmed. why him, do you think, and not leriche?

Well, I have no idea. I found it a bit surprising too, as Le Riche is more well known than Bélingard... And I don't know on which evening it was filmed. I'm looking forward to seeing the video (which was recorded for me by some friend).

[quote]
i have to say i disagree with you on the costumes for scheherazade. not all were great but some of them were astounding - if you ask me. especially for the men, actually.


Well, les goûts et les couleurs... wink.gif

[quote]
the choreography was nothing special, i agree, and i wondered why she wanted to avoid the plot when she obviously couldnt get around it?!
i found bridard very good in faune.


There were periods when Bridard almost wasn't cast, but he has danced a bit more recently (as Bottom in Neumeier's "Dream", as Frollo in Petit's "Notre-Dame"...) and is a very good dancer. He rarely is cast in "prince" roles (while he'd have the silhouette for it), but I don't know if it's his choice, or if the direction considers that he's not good at it. By the way, there's an article about him at:

http://www.cultureki...ter/bridard.htm

[ January 05, 2002: Message edited by: Estelle ]



#6 Françoise

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Posted 10 January 2002 - 01:30 PM

They film Belingard, because the son role is a role for a small dancer. They gave the role to Le Riche for the first evening, but for a video, they want to be conform to the Balanchine trust and choose a "small" dancer. I think he was absolutely excellent in the role. I don't see unfortunately Le Riche, but the highlights I saw on television show me a dancer high jumped but not at all a Prodigal son.

#7 Estelle

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Posted 10 January 2002 - 07:08 PM

Thanks for the information. But was Lifar, who premiered the role, a small dancer, or was it a "tradition" which started later? It seems to me that there have been dancers of various heights performing that role at the POB: rather small like Quilleré, average as Legris or Belarbi, and taller ones like Jude (I don't know the exact heights of dancers, so perhaps it's just a false impression, but Jude looked taller to me).

#8 Alexandra

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Posted 10 January 2002 - 08:38 PM

I think Lifar was rather short, but that's just from seeing him as an older man standing next to young dancers whose heights I knew. (About 5'5; just a guess, and I can't do centimeters frown.gif ) Jude was quite tall. ABT brought him in to partner Cynthia Gregory for a short time -- at least 5'10 or 11 (about as tall as Dowell).

Estelle, one of my theories is that one of the signs that a ballet is either unloved by the current administration or simply has passed its prime -- when its aesthetic is no longer really alive, when it's not important -- is that the casting breaks down. When a ballet is fresh people want to see THOSE dancers. Often, there's only one cast. When people are tired of it, or something else new comes along, it's like a bone thrown to the dogs. Everyone gets a crack at it. Some of them may be very good, but it loses its association with a particular body.

#9 Estelle

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Posted 11 January 2002 - 05:38 AM

[quote]Originally posted by alexandra:

Jude was quite tall. ABT brought him in to partner Cynthia Gregory for a short time -- at least 5'10 or 11 (about as tall as Dowell).


I also thought he was tall because he used to partner Platel often, and she's relatively tall.
Jude was said to have been a good interpret of "Prodigal son", unfortunately I haven't seen him in that role (as far as I know, before the Homage to Kochno it last was danced in Paris in 1993, and a few times on tour later, I saw it with Belarbi and Platel in a tour in Montpellier).

The reviews about the "Homage to Kochno" were mixed: the most controversial piece was "The seven capital sins", by Laurent Pelly (staging and costumes) and Laura Scozzi (choreography): some people loved it, while many others found it a bit vulgar and hollow. Also the mixture or ballet and opera in a single program seems to have been not very successful with the audience. Unfortunately, most of the ballets with plots by Kochno ("Zephire et Flore", "Les matelots", "Jeux d'enfants", "La Chatte", "Union pacific"...) have been lost, the only other one remaining in the POB's repertory is the lovely Petit's "Les Forains" (but it has been danced two seasons ago).


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