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"Don Quichotte" at the Paris Opera, May 8


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#1 Estelle

Estelle

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Posted 08 May 2002 - 03:00 PM

This evening I attended a performance of Nureyev's production of "Don Quichotte" at the Opera Bastille, with Marie-Agnès Gillot and José Martinez in the main roles.

It's getting a bit late now and I'll post my impressions tomorrow (briefly: I really don't like much this ballet, but the dancers were great), but first of all I'd like to say a big THANKS to the direction of the Opera for an unusual event. For once, I had decided to try to get last-minute seats at the box-office. My fiance and I went there around 6:45 PM (the performance started at 7:30 PM), but there was a long file of people standing... and no seat could be sold because of a big problem with their computer system. We waited and waited, and at 7:25 PM we were ready to leave. But an official of the Opera came, and, perhaps moved by the sight of tenths of sad-eyed balletomanes waiting for a miracle to happen, said that exceptionally, the people queuing would be able to get a seat *for free*, provided that we would stay in line, walk slowly and make as little noise as possible when entering the room and trying to find available seats. So we did, and so for the first time in my life I attended a POB performance for free, in a seat at the last row of the orchestra. I've often criticized the policy of the Paris Opera, but this time I'm very thankful for their generous gesture! :)

#2 Estelle

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Posted 11 May 2002 - 03:07 PM

Nureyev's production entered the POB's repertory in 1981, nine years after he had staged a first version for the Australian Ballet, and has been danced quite regularly since then, as it was its 143th performance on May 8. This season, the sets and costumes, which used to be by Nicholas Georgiadis, have been changed: the sets were by Alexandre Beliaev, and the costumes by Elena Rivkona.

"Don Quichotte" is not a ballet I feel much attracted to: before that performance, I had seen it only once, by a Russian company (I think it was the Grand Ballet Classique de Moscou) touring to Grenoble, and had disliked quite a lot the score and the complicated plot. My opinion didn't improve much after seeing that production: for me, it is barely more than an opportunity to show great dancing, virtuosity and Spanish-flavored character dance, plus a few comical moments, but from a dramatic point of view it'd be hard to make anything moving or interesting with such a far-fetched plot... And I'm afraid the humor didn't work well on me (for example, did they really need to have Gamache wear too much lipstick and an horrendous green costume to be funny?)

So my main motivation in attending it was that it was an opportunity to see many dancers of the company, as there are two big roles, plus many supporting roles with decent variations. From that point of view, I wasn't disappointed. The Spanish born Jose Martinez was an elegant and proud Basilio (perhaps a little bit too restrained, though), and the premiere danseuse Marie-Agnes Gillot, who had danced her first Kitri a few days ago, was a virtuoso Kitri with a strong personality and a great stage presence. Gillot is especially tall (about 5'9''), and rather large shouldered, so that there are not many suitable male partners for her in the company, but Martinez partnered her very well.

Christophe Duquenne was an Espada with much panache, while Nathalie Rique, back from a three-year absence for health reasons, was sometimes a little bit tentative but had much style as the street dancers. One of the most enjoyable moments of the evening was seeing the charming and musical Fanny Fiat as Cupid
in the third act (even in the corps de ballet as one of the "girls of Barcelona" in the first act, she attracted the attention), she was a delight to watch. In the same act, Melanie Hurel, Myriam Ould-Braham and Dorothee Gilbert were a lobely trio, while Emilie Cozette was technically good as the Queen of Dryads but left me somewhat cold (also that whole part was lit very poorly). In the last act, the young quadrille Dorothee Gilbert displayed a radiant smile and a great musicality, making me regret once again that there was only one available position of coryphee at the last competition.

I should also mention Jean-Marie Didiere as Don Quichotte, showing once again that his great acting talents, Fabien Roques as Sancho Panca Laurent Queval as Gamache, Yann Saiz as the Gypsy,
and Nathalie Aubin and Vanessa Legassy as Kitri's friends- plus the excellent corps de ballet.

The company also performs a Stravinsky mixed bill during the same period in Garnier, and it must be a bit hard for some dancers to rehearse all the roles. The most striking example is Marie-Agnes Gillot, who danced three different roles in "Don Quichotte" (Kitri, Queen of Dryads and the Street dancer), and will also dance a role in "Violin Concerto". There are at least six different casts for "Don Quichotte", plus two for the other program, and one wonders how the dancers can be coached properly for the roles (and also it isn't especially surprising that the number of injured dancers is growing).


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