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"moral harrassment" at the Paris Opera

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viviane - sorry about the email address - i was thinking it was available in one's profile, but it's not. you are right about the website being full of out-of-date info! my fault. :)

you could try private messaging - until i sort out that website!

katherine - i find that expression rather lovely: "intime conviction". in a sense, even the judgement one makes on acceptance and analysis of 'evidence' comes down to one's resulting intimate conviction...

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[Comments on the French legal system drew complaints and have been deleted. A.T.]

Colleagues rang me and said that French national television last night (on TF1, in the programme known as 7 à 8) interviewed a lady whose stage name was Marie-Elise Chalumeau, her real name being Marie-Elise Roper. I do not have televison, so this is hearsay.

The subject: the on-going dispute over the Opera School. Mlle. Roper has just resigned from the corps de ballet, after twenty years, and she attended the School from the age of nine. According to colleagues, the allegations she made were, shall we say, serious. I shall refrain from repeating them here, as I did not see the programme myself, but would be grateful for a report from those who did.

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I saw it Katharine, but since I don't have a lot time today, my summary will be short.

She said she had always been told being too fat, that her teacher had the students being corrected with a wand, not with her hands, that some girls had performed while being injured, especially with some stress fractures, that once a girl during a rehearsal had fainted and nobody had reacted, that when Mrs Bessy was hating you it wasn't good at all for you.

She also said that nobody spoke because everyone was afraid.

They showed a part of a rehearsal of La fille Mal Gardée (students performed this piece during their annual performance last year). Marie-Laetitia Diederichs was playing la fille, and they showed Mrs Bessy while telling to a boy (maybe Jossua Hoffalt, I'm not sure) with sticked out ears to put his ears under his hat, because ears out the the hat weren't looking nice and she made a gesture with her hands to show how the sticked out ears outside the hat were looking bad.

Finally, Miss Roppers said she wouldn't do that again, and she had suffered during all her childhood.

For those of you who live in the USA, you may be interested in reading a book called Little Girls in pretty Boxes by Joan Ryan. It is about gymnastics and figure skating, but it is speaking about exactly the same problems than the ones pointed in the report about the POB school.

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I just make a precision, it's Mrs Ropers and not Miss Ropers, she is one of the lonely artist who take her wife name as stage name. Her birthname was Chalumeau it was Miss Chalumeau who became Mrs Ropers :P She entered in POB in 1985 or 1986.

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Françoise, thanks for the explanation- I remember wondering where Marie-Elise Chalumeau had gone, and also who was this Marie-Elise Ropers? ;)

A link to an article about that topic in "Le Nouvel Observateur" by Raphaël de Gubernatis:


The title is "Des petits rats pris au piège", something like "The "little rats" are caught in a trap". De Gubernatis clearly doesn't like much Claude Bessy's policy, and also criticizes the attitude of the direction of the POB and of the ministery of culture. He mentions some harsh criticisms by

unnamed male POB etoile, and also from the director of a big company (but well, that director seems to think that the only future of the POB is Pina Bausch or Merce Cunningham, so personally I'm a bit cautious about what such people have to say...)

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Two more articles about that topic, in "Le Monde":



But those ones deal not with the POB school, but with other problems mentioned in the initial report by Socialconseil (moral harrassment in some departments of the Paris Opera), and also with some serious security problems.

A brief summary:

It seems that the relationship between the direction of the opera and the unions are getting worse and worse. The union complain about several problems, some cases of moral harrassment (seven cases are being studied), and also some security problems (potential problems of fire, of dangerous chemical substances...

And also both articles mention a very serious accident which happened in may 2002 at the Opera Bastille: a "pont lumière" (I don't know the technical term- well, a bit piece of metal with some lights on, which was above the stage) which suddenly fell on the stage. Fortunately there was no one then, but it seems that there have been some heated debates about it, and about the security of Bastille in general. An expertise (is it the right word?) was done in july and august 2002, and said some emergency repairing was needed, but it would mean that Bastille would need to close because of that. It seems that in fact, some technical parts of Bastille have been dysfunctional since its opening (actually I remember reading that when it was built, many stagehands who had worked in Garnier for decades complained about what was done and said it wouldn't work correctly, nobody listened to them and in fact they often were right...) Hugues Gall doesn't want Bastille to close, and there are disagreements between the ministery of work (which wants

it to close) and the ministery of culture (which doesn't). Now it depends on a decision of the minister of culture- or perhaps of the "inspection du travail" which might force it to close.

Well, it's surprising to learn about all that- and closing Bastille wouldn't be a small thing, as most operas are performed there! But using unsafe material could be very dangerous (the Paris Opera already was condamned a few years ago because some chorists died during a tour a few years ago, because of badly made sets which collapsed

during a rehearsal)...

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