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Petit's Proust Ballet


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Until reading another thread on the POB forum, I did not know that Paris had a full-evening ballet, by Roland Petit, based on Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu (translated as "In Search of Lost Time" in the latest series of translations available from Penguin). Even better, they are, according to Azulynn, filming it this spring.

Sophia kindly included a link to the POB website, with a long summary of the ballet.

This is a 2 acts and 13 scenes ballet inspired by Proust's In search of lost time.

If you can read french, you'll find on the POB website a presentation of the ballet and its 13 scenes:


Cast: http://www.operadeparis.fr/Saison0607/Spectacle.asp?Id=996

The first 7 scenes are gathered under the title: "Proustian images of paradise." The final 6, under the title "Proustian images of hell." The accompanying description suggests that the choreography -- like Tudor's Lilac Garden -- deals with recognizable situations rather than complicated elaborations of plot. However, there is the implication that knowledge of quite specific plot details might in fact be necessary to understanding and appreciating what Petit has in mind. Certainly, the average viewer would need some idea of who Swann, Odette (not the swan; Petipa fans might get confused here), St. Loup, Albertine, Morel, Charlus, and the duchesse de Guermantes might be.

This got me thinking about how you deal with such a vast work -- and SO MUCH PLOT -- in a non-verbal mediuim like dance. Do we get a characterization of EACH of the members of Mme. Verdurin's "little clan" during Scene I? How can the the aging duchesse de Guermantes in the last scene have the significance she seems intended to have if we don't have young Marcel's obsession with her much earlier on? How can you leave out the duc de Guermantes, one of the great haracters in French literature? How do you portray Mme. Verdurin's subsequent marriage (a surprise in the last volume, and one which occurs decades after we first meet this character) to the Prince de Guermantes?

Has anyone seen this ballet -- either as a whole or one or more of its parts? What did you think? Do you know anything more about plans for a video release?

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I think Tableau VII is the one I mentioned in the Potential Storylines for Ballets some months back. It's on the video 'Natasha' with Makarova and Denys Ganio. I looked back quickly and saw that I'd thought it was part of a larger work, but I've done no further research. I believe Mel had mentioned it earlier in the thread.

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Here's the casting:

ALBERTINE Eleonora Abbagnato ou Isabelle Ciraravolla

UN DANSEUR Hervé Moreau ou Manuel Legris

MOREL Benjamin Pech ou Stéphane Bullion

MONSIEUR CHARLUS Manuel Legris ou Stéphane Phavorin

SAINT LOUP Mathieu Ganio ou Hervé Moreau

LA DUCHESSE Stéphanie Romberg

PAS DE DEUX (LA PETITE PHRASE DE VINTEUIL) Laura Hecquet ou Mathilde Froustey et Christophe Duquenne ou Yann Saïz

Les Étoiles, les Premiers Danseurs et le Corps de Ballet

Link to POB website
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Detailed casting for Proust has finally been posted on the Paris Opera web site. If it holds, the filmed version will feature:

Albertine: Eleonora Abbagnato

Andrée: Caroline Bance

Young Proust: Hervé Moreau

Morel: Benjamin Pech

Saint-Loup: Mathieu Ganio

Charlus: Manuel Legris

Odette: Eve Grinsztajn

Swann: Alexis Renaud

The Duchess: Stéphanie Romberg

pas de deux: Laura Hecquet - Christophe Duquenne

Gilberte: Mathilde Froustey

Topless: Peggy Dursort

So, Benjamin Pech will drop his pants, while Peggy Dursort goes topless. Naturally, there will be lots of simulated sex to go around.

For those interested, here are a couple of New York Times reviews from the 1983 run of Proust at the Met.

French Company Opens in Petit's 'Proust' (with Mathieu Ganio's parents as Albertine and Proust)

Natalia Makarova in 'Proust' (with Richard Cragun in the title role)

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France 2 evening news included a brief segment on Proust today, March 9. Skip ahead to the second last report in broadcast ("Le pari ambitieux de Roland Petit"). It includes comments from Eleonora Abbagnato and Petit in between perfomance footage.


The report will be available under Les éditions précédents for the next week.

Since I will not have the opportunity to see this run live, I'm glad that the ballet is being recorded, though I can't help wishing that the film would feature Isabelle Ciaravola as Albertine. I know that Petit has admired Abbagnato since her student days, but Ciaravola has those long, stretchy legs which remind me of Petit muses such as Dominique Khalfouni and Lucia Lacarra, and which I'm sure would serve the Prisonnière pas de deux beautifully.

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This, from Anna Kisselgoff's 1983 review, sounds hopeful:

For someone who has not read Proust, the action onstage might not seem too specific. And yet its emotional connotations are always clear. Nonetheless, this is a ballet that seeks out atmosphere and much of it comes from Mr. Petit's brilliant idea of accompanying each scene with music that is mentioned in the novel or associated with Proust and his contemporaries.
By the way, a belated thanks to volcanohunter for posting those two links to earlier performances. :clapping:
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Well, let's not forget that Kisselgoff has more tolerance for certain expressionist choreographers than other critics - she vigorously defended Eifman's work.

Croce also wrote on the Proust ballet - she loathed it. So triangulate from there - if you tend to agree more with Croce; I would approach the Petit with caution.

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For what it's worth, Clement Crisp in the Financial Times wrote that the production is worth crossing the Channel for ("A memorable event. Vaut le voyage."), and Pia Catton in the New York Sun wrote, "Seeing his work in this theater, with these dancers, made me wonder why we don't get more of his work in America...But the reality is that the Petit sensibility is so direct and sometimes so piercing that it can make Americans squirm." Somehow I doubt that Joel Lobenthal would have been so complimentary. So yeah, it would depend on how you react to expressionistic choreography.

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Well, let's not forget that Kisselgoff has more tolerance for certain expressionist choreographers than other critics - she vigorously defended Eifman's work.
This particular set of statements, which does not address the choreography directly, seems non-objectionable. I'd be very interesting to see how Petit integrates Proust's own musical references into the larger theater piece. One of the small frustrations with Proust is that, although certain music -- especially Gabriel Faure's -- figure prominently in the Narrator's memory, the reader can't actually hear them while reading.
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