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POB: Guerin retires, Kirov/ Bolshoi guests for "La Bayadere"

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Some news from the Paris Opera:

-the etoile (principal) Isabelle Guerin had her farewell performance in Petit's "Notre-Dame de Paris" on October 8, dancing the role of Esmeralda, partnered by Massimo

Murru (guest dancer for La Scala de Milan)

as Quasimodo, standing an injured Nicolas Le Riche, Manuel Legris as Frollo, and Yann Saiz as Phebus.

Guerin was supposed to have her farewell performance in July in "Romeo and Juliet", but had to cancel her performances because she was injured. This time, she was technically no longer a principal of the company (sometimes the POB administrative rules really are stupid), and so was considered as a "guest dancer"- for example, unlike what happens usually with official retirements of principals, there was no special poster of her in the program booklet.

But at least she got to dance the main role (unlike Carole Arbo earlier this year, who had her farewell performance in "Other dances", which was in the middle of the program) and, from what I've read, was warmly applaused by all the audience. She might come back this year in Preljocaj's "Le Parc".

-the next program of the season will be Mats Ek's "Giselle", and then there will be Nureyev's "La Bayadere". And two Russian dancers will be invited: Svetlana Zakharova from the Kirov Ballet will dance the role of Nikiya (partnered by Jean-Guillaume Bart as Solor),

and Nikolai Tsiskaridze from the Bolshoi ballet will dance the role of Solor (partnering Marie-Agnes Gillot and Stephanie Romberg). This is a bit unusual, as there seldom are guest dancers at the Paris Opera: apart from Murru in "Notre-Dame de Paris", the only ones I remember reading about were Alessandra Ferri in some Petit ballets and "Fall river legend" and Altinai Assylmuratova in "La Bayadere" (and also Sylvie Guillem, of course).

I wonder how they will get used to the POB style: it's interesting to see dancers from abroad, but I think it'd be better to see them with their own companies...

It seems to me that now the POB has to face a real lack of female principals. Only three are remaining: Elisabeth Maurin (38, principal since 1988), Agnes Letestu (30, principal since 1997) and Aurelie Dupont (28, principal since 1998). I can't help feeling a bit old thinking about all the dancers who retired or left since 1996 (Loudieres, Legree, Pietregalla, Platel, Arbo, Gaida, Guerin ). There were periods when there were as much as eight female principals, and three

seems to be really unsufficient for such a large company.

Actually, the three other casts for "Notre Dame de Paris" besides that with Guerin included premieres danseuses in the main role: Marie-Agnes Gillot, Eleonora Abbagnato and Clairemarie Osta. All three of them will dance "La Bayadere", dancing both principal roles (Gillot and Abbagnato will both dance Nikiya and Gamzatti, Osta will dance only Gamzatti), and less important roles. The premiere danseuse Delphine Moussin will be dancing Nikiya and Gamzatti- now she's about 32 and is considered as too old to be promoted, which I consider as a pity as she's proven her talent in nearly all the great roles of the repertory without getting the full recognition she deserves. The premiere danseuse Laetitia Pujol and the sujet Stephanie Romberg will be dancing Gamzatti too.

There were some expectations of promotion of Marie-Agnes Gillot when she did the season premiere of "Notre Dame de Paris", but it wasn't fulfilled. Perhaps she will be promoted when she dances the season premiere of "Bayadere" (next to Agnes Letestu and Jose Martinez)?

The lack of principals might be a problem soon for male dancers too: Laurent Hilaire almost hasn't danced during the last season because of injuries, and won't be cast until January at least; Nicolas Le Riche is injured now; Kader Belarbi doesn't dance much in the classical repertory, and Manuel Legris, Jose Martinez and Jean-Guillaume Bart dance nearly all the main male roles.

[Edited to correct a mistake: I had written incorectly that N. Tsiskaridze was from the Kirov Ballet too. Thanks to Marc Haegeman for pointing this out.]

[ 10-22-2001: Message edited by: Estelle ]

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Thanks for your news Estelle. Yes, it's unexpected that those two Russian stars will be guesting with the POB in La Bayadere.

Besides Asylmuratova (I saw her Swan Lake with Laurent Hilaire with POB in 1994) and Ferri who you mentioned have guested in Paris in the past, I remember Irek Mukhamedov also guested with POB in 1989 (?) when he was still a Bolshoi dancer before he joined the Royal Ballet.

[ 10-23-2001: Message edited by: Kevin Ng ]

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The dancers scheduled for performances on 19th and 21st of November are Delphine Moussin as Nikiya, Laetitia Pujol as Gamzatti and Jean-Guillaume Bart as Solor.

Zakharova dances on 1st,4th & 5th December and Tsiskaridze on 29th,31st December and 4th January. I found these dates elsewhere on the internet, and therefore cannot vouch for accuracy.

By the way, I don't think Mukhamedov ever got to dance with POB. If memory serves me correctly he was to have danced Sleeping Beauty in December 1989, but for whatever reason, never actually appeared.

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The castings are on the POB web site, but it's a bit difficult to find as some links don't work (one has to go to "calendrier 2001-2002" and then click on "La bayadere", and then on "distribution"). Mashinka, you're right about the casts on Nov 19 and 21. Also on those days the three variations will be danced respectively by Eleonora Abbagnato, Clairemarie Osta and Muriel Halle, the slave by Karl Paquette, and the golden idol by Benjamin Pech on Nov 19 and Jeremie Belingard on Nov 21.

The casts for the main three characters will be:

Letestu (N)- Martinez - Gillot (G): Nov 17, 23, 25, 28

Moussin (N)- Bart- Pujol (G): Nov 19, 21

Dupont (N)- Legris- Abbagnato (G): Nov 26, 30

Dupont (N)- Legris- Pujol (G): Dec 9, 22, 24

Zakharova (N)- Bart- Moussin (G): Dec 1, 4, 5

Abbagnato (N)- to be announced- Osta (G): Dec 12, 26

Gillot (N)- Tsiskaridze- Romberg (G): Dec 29, 31, Jan 4

Maurin (N)- Pech- Osta (G): Dec 30, Jan 3, 5

It is interesting to note that the only dancers who had danced it in 1992 when it entered the company's repertory were Manuel Legris and Elisabeth Maurin (who were in the second cast with Monique Loudieres, the first one being Guerin- Hilaire- Platel).

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The casts have just been announced for two other programs which will take place in november and december: a "Homage to Kochno" including both ballet ("The prodigal son") and operas ("Mavra", "The seven capital sins"), and a mixed bill with Robbins' and Nijinsky's versions of "Afternoon of a faun", Fokine's "Petrouchka" and a new work by Blanca Li.

The main roles for "The prodigal son" will be danced by:

-Nicolas Le Riche and Agnes Letestu

-Kader Belarbi and Marie-Agnes Gillot

-Jeremie Belingard and Agnes Letestu

-Benjamin Pech and Karin Averty

The main dancing role in "The seven capital sins" will be danced in alternance by Elisabeth Maurin and Clairemarie Osta.

The are numerous casts for the mixed bill,

including quite a lot of sujets and even coryphees in big roles. The casts for Petrouchka (Petrouchka- Doll- Moor) will be:

-Laurent Hilaire (finally back!)- Elisabeth Maurin- Wilfried Romoli

-Kader Belarbi/ Karin Averty/ Yann Bridard

-Lionel Delanoe/ Clairemarie Osta/ Jean-Christophe Guerri (coryphee) or Herve Dirmann (sujet)

-Kader Belarbi/ Laure Muret (sujet- nice to see her back after her maternity leave)/ Stephane Phavorin (sujet)

Nijinsky's faun will be danced by:

-Jean Guillaume Bart and Karin Averty

-Wilfried Romoli and Laurence Laffon (coryphee)

-Yann Bridard and Amelie Lamoureux (coryphee)

-Stephane Bullion (coryphee) and Laurence Laffon

Robbins' faun will be danced by:

-Nicolas Le Riche and Eleonora Abbagnato

-Karl Paquette and Laetitia Pujol

-Herve Moreau (sujet) and Juliette Gernez (coryphee)

-Yann Saiz (sujet) and Emilie Cozette (coryphee)

The main roles in Li's new work will be danced by:

-Agnes Letestu and Jose Martinez

-Delphine Moussin and Benjamin Pech or Stephane Phavorin

I suspect that by the beginning of january, some dancers will be pretty exhausted...

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Colin, there have just been some changes in the castings announced on the POB web site. The cast for nov 19 remains the same, except that Fanny Fiat is dancing the third variation instead of Muriel Halle. But the new cast for Nov 21 is:

Agnes Letestu (Nikiya), Marie-Agnes Gillot (Gamzatti), Jose Martinez (Solor), Benjamin Pech (golden idol), Yann Bridard (slave), Abbagnato/ Osta/ Fiat (variations).

So you'll get to see two very different casts- please let us know about your impressions!

Another big change is that Moussin, Bart and Pujol will be dancing on Nov 25 instead of Letestu, Martinez and Gillot. There also are some changes in secondary roles.

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Some other cast changes are announced on the POB web site. It seems that, unfortunately, Marie-Agnes Gillot is injured. On nov 17, she couldn't dance Gamzatti, and the role was danced by Eleonora Abbagnato. Abbagnato will dance all the Gamzattis that Gillot was supposed to dance, so she will perform on Nov 21, 23, 26, 28, and 30 (and will also dance Nikya on Dec 12 and 26).

Gillot still is scheduled to dance Nikiya later, let's hope that before then, she will fully recover! She's had a very busy year, dancing in nearly all the productions.

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Yes, Irek Mukhamedov has danced one performance in Sleeping Beauty/Nureyev production at the POB with Isabelle Guérin. At this time, there was a strike, as usual in Paris during Christmas:-)!!

But he really danced because I saw him. He didn't have the POB style at all, but made some nice things, and he danced the Nureyev choreography (different compared to the Grigorovitch one. And Guérin was delightful in this part. Very good "souvenir"!

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Thanks for the information Jean-Luc, as a great admirer of the pure style of the POB, I don't doubt that Mukhamedov was less than ideal. Nikolai Tsiskaridze, who will be dancing with the company in December, is a far more elegant dancer and will I am sure, blend well with the company. La Bayadere is his best role and he is certain to impress. I am very envious. I wish he was guesting in London!

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Obviously you're absolutely right about Tsiskaridzé!

It's so unusual to have guest artists in Paris Opera, that I'm going to see Zaccharova and Tsiskaridzé. The most difficult thing for guest artists like them is to learn and dance the Nureyev's choreography. Anyway, I'm sure Tsiskaridzé will be fabulous in this part, but I'm wondering how will be Gillot as Nikiya... She would be a splendid Gamzatti, but unfortunately, she is injured. That's dancer's life!

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