Jump to content
This Site Uses Cookies. If You Want to Disable Cookies, Please See Your Browser Documentation. ×

Recommended Posts

The Paris Opera Ballet's production of John Neumeier's The Lady of the Camellias will be shown at Canadian cinemas on Saturday, March 28.

Marguerite Gautier: Agnès Letestu

Armand Duval: Stéphane Bullion

Monsieur Duval: Michaël Denard

Manon Lescaut: Delphine Moussin

Des Grieux: José Martinez

Prudence Duvernoy: Dorothée Gilbert

Gaston Rieux: Karl Paquette

Olympia: Eve Grinsztajn

Le Duc: Laurent Novis

Nanine: Béatrice Martel

Le Comte de N.: Simon Valastro

Screenings will take place at Empire Theatres at 1:00 p.m. local time.

Participating cities: St. John's, Halifax, Sydney, Fredericton, Saint John, Moncton, Charlottetown, St. Catharines, North York, Mississauga, Ottawa, London, Kitchener, Kingston, Richmond Hill, Burlington, Bolton, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, North Vancouver and Victoria.


Screenings will also take place at Landmark Cinemas in Winnipeg, Calgary, Kelowna and Nanaimo at 11:00 a.m. local time.


It's also showing at the Princess Twin in Waterloo at 1:00 p.m.: www.princesscinemas.com

and the Ridge Theatre in Vancouver, www.festivalcinemas.ca, at 10:00 am PT.

I'd post a link to the trailer, but it's too pokey, so here's the DVD preview from the Opus Arte instead.


Link to comment

United Airlines is having fare sales to Europe, and I'd been looking to see what ballets would be performed in Paris and London during the time I had free. (Alas, not much.) When I saw this listed, I still had John Cranko in mind, and after I had gotten up early to get to the 10am showing and saw that it was Neumeier's, I was ready to cry, since his "Mahler's Third Symphony" was the most painfully boring ballet I've ever seen. But, after a slow start, I was very glad I saw this production.

Cranko Neumeier doesn't show any more ability to move crowds around in interesting ways than he did in the Mahler, but there were a number of pas de deux for all of the main couples that displayed a wide range of emotion and style, and passion without the excesses of MacMillan in similar material. The ending pas de trois with Marguerite, Manon Lescaut, and Des Grieux was quite moving, and during it, in what had been a silent audience of 80, there were sniffles and tears. I particularly liked the idea of the ballet within the ballet, and apart from some early, short, and obvious mirror dancing by Marguerite/Manon and Armand/Des Grieux, which, thankfully, passed quickly, Marguerite's gradual understanding of Manon was a beautiful dramatic element. The scene/pas between Marguerite and Papa Duval (Michael Denard) was as emotionally dramatic as its Verdian operatic counterpart in "La Traviata": gesture suits the changing relationship and understanding between the two beautifully.

First and foremost, kudos to the two pianists who played the all-Chopin score and whose names I thought were on the printed cast list sheet at the cinema.

According to this article

And in the ensuing confusion about who was then to make the film, Neumeier himself decreed that it was to be Letestu or no one, an understandable reaction, especially when one considers the costumes, crinolines several inches above the ankle, thus intensifying the importance of having a ballerina with exquisite feet. Agnès Letestu, who is as beautiful to look at as she is in movement, is the personification of a perfect nineteenth century lithograph.

While the choreographer, who also staged the production, is the authority, in my opinion, Letestu was most convincingly tubercular, and except from the opening scene in which Des Grieux meets her, she had the appeal and stature of a governess. In sections, such as the pas de deux in the country, her legs were very expressive, but from the waist up -- chest, arms, shoulders, neck -- she was stiff and unexpressive throughout. How she ever had the sensuality or charm to become a top courtesan is beyond me, and she played Marguerite as a victim, which limited the pathos.

Delphine Moussin's Manon Lescaut had all of the dance qualities to have been a believable Marguerite, particularly in her final ballet scene (the death of Manon) and in the final pas de trois. Her upper body was expressive, and her entire body moved as one. In the pas de deux with Armand, I think she could have expressed the feverishness of illness and love that is built into the choreography, but which was, in my opinion, only partly expressed by Letestu.

As secondary leads in lighter roles, Dorothee Gilbert was the sensual Prudence Duvernoy, a wonderful pairing with Karl Paquette's Gaston Rieux, the life forces contrasting with Marguerite and Armand. I think it was Simon Valastro's Le Comte de N. who flirted with Prudence in one scene, which I found quite brave: I wouldn't have had the nerve with Paquette holding a riding crop. Eve Grinsztajn danced fully as Olympia; I wish she had showed this lushness and spark in the "Raymonda" Act III I saw last spring at POB.

The lighting was very dark, and Stephane Bullion's Armand was dressed mainly in black. Not all of his dancing was clear or visible, but he certainly kept in character throughout, and was a believable, ardent young pup in love.

The stage looked bare -- I think this was filmed at Opera Bastille -- and it's hard to imagine how some of the action, such as Marguerite writing in her diary, looking in the mirror, putting on rouge for her last public appearance, all which was very clear on screen, would have registered to the back of the house. I did love, though, how Armand knocked over the big white wicker garden chair after he learned that Marguerite was returning to Paris and Le Duc.

Set and costume designer Jürgen Rose's costumes for the women were stunners.

Link to comment
it's hard to imagine how some of the action, such as Marguerite writing in her diary, looking in the mirror, putting on rouge for her last public appearance, all which was very clear on screen, would have registered to the back of the house.

I'd be interested to hear how this bit of action was played in this production.

When I saw Val Caniparoli's Lady of the Camelllias, performed by Ballet Florida, Tina Martin's Marguerite sat downstage at her dressing table FACING the audience, staring at her reflection in her mirror, which was actually an empty frame. As she applied her make-up, her facial expression, the slump of he shoulders, the strain of her neck, the hollow, black-rimmed eyes, were somehow entirely visible in a 2000 seat house. This was the moment, I believe, that she realized she was dying. As perfomed by Tina Martin, the effect was both intimate and devastating.

Link to comment

Well, Letestu was dying pretty much from the beginning, and the only surprise for a first-time viewer was that she hadn't died in prior episodes. The coughing gesture is built into the action; it wasn't an artistic decision on Letestu's part.

The setting -- very bare -- was a dressing table and a divan placed horizontally, so that she could sit at the end and write or apply her make-up. There was a mirror to the right facing the stage. From the way it was filmed, it seemed rather far upstage. When all of the couples, including the Hungarian dancers, were on stage for "Raymonda Act III" last year, the stage looked bare. If this was performed at Opera Bastille, an ocean of a stage, it's hard to imagine how this intimate setting would read.

Letestu's body language was very clear and much as you described in the Ballet Florida production. It was the stage business that looked like it would be too small to carry.

Link to comment

We saw this production in Paris a couple of years ago, and it was shown at the Garnier. The lighting was fine and seemed quite bright to us. The friend I was with and another friend had seen it about 18 years earlier at a ballet festival in Copenhagen and they had never stopped going on about it since!

My friend and I saw two performances. On the first night, I thought it was pleasant and that was about it. On the second night we saw Agnes Le Testu and guest Jiri Bubenicek. It was one of the most unforgettable nights I have ever spent in a theatre. I couldn't really hear the music at the end because I and everyone around me was sobbing. We sobbed all through the curtain calls and standing ovation (I gather it is quite unusual to have a standing ovation in Paris; I think the technical crew gave up on the audience in the end because they brought the house lights up and left the curtain up - but we still wouldn't leave!) and all the way back to our hotel. To this day, I can't quite fathom how someone standing at the side of the stage reading a book could have such a profound effect on me. What a shame this cast wasn't filmed.

Link to comment

Helene's comments about Cranko and Neumeier made me go back to the documentary M. for Marcia for Marcia Haydee's very brief observations on the creation of the ballet. My German is poor, so I'll rely on the subtitle translation.

Yes, the choreographers were the most important thing in my life because I only became what I am because of the choreographers. Cranko loved me and did everything for me. MacMillan created great things for me. When Cranko died, Neumeier came along. When I was depressed and didn't want to dance anymore, Neumeier took me and created The Lady of the Camellias and A Streetcar Named Desire.

I don't think it's surprising that the ballet is vaguely Cranko-esque, given that Neumeier had done his dancing in Stuttgart and was making this ballet for the Stuttgart Ballet as a vehicle for Haydee. (The ballet is subtitled 'For Marcia.') His notes to the ballet suggest that it is something like a tribute to Cranko. (Here you'll have to pardon my lousy translation from German.)

The path of the ballet The Lady of the Camellias actually began with the funeral of John Cranko in 1973. At the time I promised to help Marcia Haydée and the Stuttgart Ballet if I could. After she had become ballet director of the ensemble, she asked me immediately to choreograph pieces for the company, in particular a evening-length work.


On the other hand, Cranko (and MacMillan) did things I don't think Neumeier would consider, such as using orchestrations of various and sundry pieces to cobble together a score. Neumeier will certainly use multiple composers in a single piece, but he usually uses their music as written. He may have only used the second movement of Choping's First Piano Concerto, but I was happy to get the Second Piano Concerto in its entirety. Hats off to the pianists for coping with the difficult assignment.

It's interesting that what to many of us appears to be Letestu's upper-body stiffness strikes others as fragility and vulnerability. This was certainly the reaction of my (non-dancing) companion, who thought she was perfect for the part. But Helene's observation that Letestu lacks "the sensuality or charm to become a top courtesan" is a very interesting one. Do choreographers simply take it for granted that audiences know who Marguerite is supposed to be?

Like Helene, I had difficulty getting a fix on Bullion's solo dancing because of his dark costume. But it does seem to me that several of the Hamburg Ballet's Armands dance it with greater virtuosity. I would be tempted to blame Bullion's greater height, except that from a technical standpoint Martinez eclipsed Hamburg's significantly shorter Des Grieuxs. Nevertheless, I found Bullion extremely affecting, and the fact that he's nearly a decade younger than Letestu helped put his character across on screen. By the end I was having the good cry I failed to have at a screening of the Royal Ballet's Manon a month earlier.

I suppose it's also worth mentioning that when it came to the reaction of the screening audience at the final credits, the loudest applause by far was reserved for Neumeier himself.

Link to comment
First and foremost, kudos to the two pianists who played the all-Chopin score and whose names I thought were on the printed cast list sheet at the cinema.

Thanks to the back cover of the DVD version I finally know that they were Emmanuel Strosser and Frédéric Vaysse-Knitter. At the screening their names had flitted past too quickly.

Link to comment

:) I have this DVD, it is filmed on a set, and in one sense is a little dated. The action, moves in and out as a memory, and the choreography is very similar. The costumes for the Paris production had also been improved, but still could be seen to represent the original designs.

The new production in Paris, was equally as good if not better. The first cast were Aurelie Dupont, and Manuel Legris, and they were fantastic. You can see some excerps on YouTube. The costumes had been much improved, but still represented the original designs. The whole production was much more glamerous than the original comparing it with the Haydee DVD,. I think also that Aurelie Dupont gave an equally dramantic and well acted version. However, she was on Maternity leave when it was filmed the following year, with Agnes Letestu and Stephane Bullion (replacing Herve Moreau) who were I think the original 2 nd cast.

Stephane Bullion also partnered Isabelle Clairavola during the same run, but actually seemed far less passionate than with Agnes Letestu, I loved his portrayal of the role, which I saw on the date it was actually filmed.

At the Opera Garnier, for their version, two platforms were placed each end of the orchestra pit, and the dancers came out of the stage side boxes, with some action happening right in front of the audience, if you reached out out your hand you could have touched them. You felt as though you were in the middle of the action.

However, I do have a criticsium of the stage lighting at the Paris Opera in general, as I have personally found,

the lighting to be far too dark. It is fine to have visual effect and ambeance, but when you simply cannot see, the lighting design is at fault. This would in no way help in a film. Perhaps a word in the direction of the Chief Lighting Engineer is needed.

Link to comment
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...