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Gérard Mortier to become the next Paris Opera director?


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#1 Estelle

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Posted 08 December 2001 - 04:31 PM

http://www.lemonde.f...253712-,00.html

According to this article by Renaud Machard, the French minister of culture, Catherine Tasca, should annonce on Dec. 10 that Gerard Mortier, former director of the Salzburg festival, should become the successor of Hugues Gall as the next Paris Opera director in 2004. Before that, he should become in 2002 "director délégué" to prepare for the transition. Hugues Gall has been the Paris Opera director since 1995, and will be 64 in 2004 (there is an official age limit of 65).

I don't know if the change will have any influence on the dance policy at the Paris Opera. In general, the Paris Opera directors deal mostly with the opera, and the dance policy depends mostly on the director of dance (presently Brigitte Lefevre). However, the director of dance is chosen by the PO director (for example, Patrick Dupond left when Hugues Gall became the director), and there also are some choices involving both the opera and the ballet (for example, which productions take place in Garnier and which take place in Bastille; the financial policy; the advertising...) Also the director is a member of the jury for the annual competition of the corps de ballet.

Are the opera fans here familiar with Mr Mortier?
Has hehad any involvement with dance?

Some other POB news: the annual competition will take place on Dec 28. The available positions will be (I'm not 100% sure that it's official):
-two positions of premiere danseuse
-zero position of premier danseur
-two positions of female sujets
-one position of male sujet
-one position of female coryphee
-one position of male coryphee

Those figures seem quite low, especially when considering that sometimes not all the positions are given (for example, last year there were two positions of premiere danseuse but only one dancer was promoted to that category). There already are
7 premieres danseuses in the company (Averty, Rique, Moussin, Fallou, Osta, Gillot, Abbagnato) but two of them (Fallou, Rique) have been absent from the stage for several reasons, and some are likely to get promoted as principals soon.
And it must be especially frustrating for the female quadrilles (the lowest category): they are at least 25, and will have to compete for the only position of female coryphee!

From what I've been told, the compulsory variations will be from "Suite en blanc" (female sujets), "Etudes" (female coryphees), "The Sleeping Beauty" (female quafrilles), "Paquita" (male coryphees) and "Napoli" (male quadrilles).
It is a bit surprising to see "Napoli" in the last, as it hasn't been performed by the company for at least 15 years- if only they could stage some Bournonville for real!

#2 Françoise

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Posted 09 December 2001 - 06:46 PM

They never dance Mirages since ten years too and male coryphee have it to pass sujet last year.

#3 Alymer

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Posted 14 December 2001 - 12:13 PM

I think it's easy to underestimate the influence Hugues Gall has on the ballet at the Opera. When he was one of Rolf Lieberman's assistants he was in charge of the ballet company and to my certain knowledge took a great deal of interest in it. For instance he had strong opinions about individual dancers and ballets, although he didn't necessarily express them publicly. Again, when he was at Geneva, he undoubtedly set the policy for the ballet company.
Without wishing to detract from what Brigitte Lefevre has acomplished, I would strongly suspect that she has worked closely with Gall throughout his time at the Opera. It's not impossible that Dupont's departure and her appointment may have had something to do with Gall's arrival and his preferred way of working.
All I know of Mortier's involvement with dance is that his arrival at the Monnaie resulted in Bejart moving his company to Lausanne. Mortier then invited Mark Morris and his company to Brussels.
On a slightly different topic, it may be that no etoiles will be named immediately to fill the vacancies. It doesn't have to be a fixed number. In 1981 there were just 14; eight men and six women. And although I can't recall exactly, I think when I first saw the company in about 1969, there were fewer still - and all listed in order of seniority,Chauvire being the senior woman and Attilio Labis the first listed man. There was outrage among the etoiles when the listing was made alphabetic.
But my feeling is that an etoile of the Paris Opera should be much more than a principal dancer. And if there's no one that fills the bill, then there should be no nomination until the right dancer comes along.

#4 Estelle

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Posted 14 December 2001 - 05:33 PM

Thanks for your reply, Alymer!

[quote]Originally posted by Alymer:
I think it's easy to underestimate the influence Hugues Gall has on the ballet at the Opera. When he was one of Rolf Lieberman's assistants he was in charge of the ballet company and to my certain knowledge took a great deal of interest in it. For instance he had strong opinions about individual dancers and ballets, although he didn't necessarily express them publicly.


Well, it's hard to know any opinion of him about the ballet, because in all the interviews he gives he talks only about opera and music... (But perhaps it sometimes is the interviewers' fault, or that of the newspapers: they always ask questions about opera, as if ballet was something with no interest). Do you know what kind of dance he is interested in?

[quote]
Again, when he was at Geneva, he undoubtedly set the policy for the ballet company.


I don't know much about the Ballet de Genève, now they seem to be mostly a "contemporary ballet" company, dancing works of Kylian, Naharin, Forsythe, etc. Was it different under Gall's direction?

[quote]
Without wishing to detract from what Brigitte Lefevre has acomplished, I would strongly suspect that she has worked closely with Gall throughout his time at the Opera. It's not impossible that Dupont's departure and her appointment may have had something to do with Gall's arrival and his preferred way of working.


From what was written in the press then, there is no doubt that Dupond's departure was a direct consequence of Gall's arrival... Also it was a few months after the departure of the orchestra director Myung-Whun Chung, which caused quite a lot of debates back then. But do you know who chose Lefèvre? Because she already was there before Dupond's departure: for a while, she was "administrateur de la danse" (Dupond being "directeur de la danse"), then the position of "directeur de la danse" was suppressed, and then Lefèvbre became "directrice de la danse" and there was no "administrateur" any longer. All that was quite strange.

By the way, while the position of directeur de la danse is well-known and the chronology is easy to
find (Lefèvre- Dupond- Noureev- Hightower- Verdy- Franchetti...), I don't know much about the successive "administrateurs de la danse" and their roles. Probably they're supposed to take care of the administrative side and the directeurs de la danse are interested in the artistic side, but for example, I remember reading that when Jean-Albert Cartier was administrateur in the early 90s, it was him who insisted on re-staging some Ballets Russes works like "Le Tricorne" or "Les Biches". So it seems that they have (or had, since that position seems to have disappeared) an artistic influence too...

[quote]
On a slightly different topic, it may be that no etoiles will be named immediately to fill the vacancies. It doesn't have to be a fixed number. In 1981 there were just 14; eight men and six women.


I know that it is not a fixed number (else promotions would have occurred much earlier),
but three female principals is a very low number for such a large company...

[quote]
And although I can't recall exactly, I think when I first saw the company in about 1969, there were fewer still - and all listed in order of seniority,Chauvire being the senior woman and Attilio Labis the first listed man. There was outrage among the etoiles when the listing was made alphabetic.


That's interesting- it still works that way at the Comédie-Française, the actors always are listed by order of seniority, "sociétaires" first and "pensionnaires" second (so that it happens often that the first actor of the list does a very small role, and the main role is listed at the end because it is a young pensionnaire).

[quote]
But my feeling is that an etoile of the Paris Opera should be much more than a principal dancer. And if there's no one that fills the bill, then there should be no nomination until the right dancer comes along.


Perhaps also the company could stop performing until a miracle dancer falls from the sky? wink.gif
I'm kidding. I agree that people shouldn't be promoted just for the sake of numbers (and those that the direction seems to like the best are not among my favorites), but I find that it is worrying that there are fewer and fewer principals. Of course one doesn't find dancers of the caliber of Platel, Guérin, or Loudières every day, but perhaps it is a sign that something has been neglected? Also, it is a bit unfair that some premieres danseuses do dance principal roles all the time (for example nearly all the Esmeraldas recently were premieres danseuses, and also most of the Gamzattis and Nikyias- but perhaps they dance a bit too much, as there are many injuries these days. Will they need to call the sujets and the coryphees to dance the principal roles? wink.gif ),
and yet don't get the recognition for it (for example, in the program notes there are long biographies of the principals and nothing about the premieres danseuses), and still have to dance all the less rewarding traditional roles of premieres danseuses.

#5 Alymer

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Posted 17 December 2001 - 01:44 PM

At the time Hugues Gall was in charge of the Opera in Geneva the ballet company was clasically based, but danced in the main 20th century work or ballets created for that company, in particular by Oscar Araiz who directed the ballet for a while. They also had a relationship with Christopher Bruce. The philosophy behind this was that given the resources it would not be possible to build a first-class company capable of dancing the classics to the highest standards. Therefore, he reasoned, better to have an interesting and varied 'contemporary' repertory performed well with guest companies - for instance the Kirov - to perform the Swan Lakes, etc.
I imagine that he is seldom asked about the ballet in interviews as, in the UK press, only opera ever makes news unless there is a scandal in the ballet. As to his own tastes, all I can really tell you is that when Nureyev originally mounted Kingdom of the Shade for the Opera,M. Gall was very enthusiastic about it. Certainly I have the impression he likes the classics - but to speculate any further about his tastes would be just speculation and probably indiscreet.
The Administrateur de la danse position is one that comes and goes, I think. Nureyev ran the company without one for most of his directorship. Cartier's appointment was made by Pierre Berge when he took over from Andre Larquie as President of the Opera and arond the time he was getting rid of Barenboim who had a contract as music director.
As far as the question of the number of etoiles is concerned, I think I would consider the Premier danseur/se to be the equivalent of a principal dancer in most companies while an etoile is something more and either they are there or they're not. It does however seem unfair that it is only etoiles who get programme biographies.

#6 Alexandra

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Posted 17 December 2001 - 08:28 PM

Thanks you, Estelle and Alymer, for this discussion and for so much background and detail. It's my understanding that Mortier's tastes in dance lean strongly to the contemporary rather than the classical. What that means for POB -- well, we'll just have to wait and see smile.gif

#7 Estelle

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Posted 18 December 2001 - 01:18 PM

[quote]Originally posted by Alymer:
At the time Hugues Gall was in charge of the Opera in Geneva the ballet company was clasically based, but danced in the main 20th century work or ballets created for that company, in particular by Oscar Araiz who directed the ballet for a while. They also had a relationship with Christopher Bruce. The philosophy behind this was that given the resources it would not be possible to build a first-class company capable of dancing the classics to the highest standards. Therefore, he reasoned, better to have an interesting and varied 'contemporary' repertory performed well with guest companies - for instance the Kirov - to perform the Swan Lakes, etc.

That sounds sensible to me... It is better to have a repertory well-suited to the dancers and the company's financial means rather than being too ambitious and ending up with half-bad productions...

[quote]
As far as the question of the number of etoiles is concerned, I think I would consider the Premier danseur/se to be the equivalent of a principal dancer in most companies while an etoile is something more and either they are there or they're not. It does however seem unfair that it is only etoiles who get programme biographies.


Also there definitely is a difference of repertory
between premiers danseurs and etoiles: the premiers danseurs get "big" roles from time to time (Nikyia, Gamzatti, Odette-Odile) but not so often (and for example if I remember correctly they never dance Giselle), but they also dance quite a lot of less big roles, for example the three shades in the last act of "La Bayadere", the pas de trois in "Swan Lake", etc. Also there is a rule saying that the premiere of the work should be danced by the dancer of the highest category for each role (so if an etoile and a premier danseur dance the same role in alternance, the etoile should always dance the premiere), and in general the first cast has more reharsals, is more or less entitled to "keep" the role for the next time it is performed, etc. Also the etoiles can choose their performing dates to some extent, and the premiers danseurs get what remains. So, even if the etoiles officially are "premier danseur etoile", there is quite a difference of status.

#8 Viviane

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Posted 18 December 2001 - 04:16 PM

Estelle,
I think, with Gérard Mortier, you only can guess what he's up about !
Although mainly focused on music and opéra, he is unpredictable and controversial, these are the only words that really suits him. I don't mean this in a bad sense, he just has -to my humble opinion- a very creative vision.
He has always had his very own, dynamic views on the performing arts and the way they can interact.
For a lot of people this is shocking, others find it surprising...and only time will tell if his guidance was really outstanding for the period.

Mortier was still very young (39 ?) when he became director of 'De Munt' and his renewals for the Opera were already radical .... in only one year !

I have no answer on the question about his current vision on dance...
I can only repeat Alymer.... yes...after 25 years at 'De Munt' in Brussels, and about six years under Mortier's directorship, Béjart left with clacking doors.
Who's to blame for it is not clear anymore..and there was also a financial problem....at least I can't remember more..(I was too busy with 2 little children at that time !).
But I never forgive him to let Béjart go away...due to this, dance became something very marginal in my life. Oh, yes there was Mark Morris...and I loved him...but most of the public didn't and we had a turbulent time with a 'booing' public... Although I loved Morris, he was - surely in that time-context- no substitute for Béjart...and too many people wanted him to be that. He was simply not such a magnetising mega-event performer who attracked full-coaches to Brussels.
But time now learns us that the choice of Morris in the late 80-ties was a bit of a visionair choice !

I do know that Mr.Mortier is far from a traditionalist -rather obstinate- and we can only hope that he'll keep on to the POB-heritage in all honors, but I'm sure he -as with all projects he's involved with- want to leave his mark on the company. And maybe it's good to know that he's a magician to find sponsor-money !
He's a man of vision ....and I hope we will like his quirks of the brain.
I think the Parisian Opéra will start a new age now.
Well...Mortier surely will brush away the cobwebs... smile.gif


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