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Raymond Franchetti (dancer, teacher and ballet master) passed away

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The following article on yahoo announces the death of Raymond Franchetti:


He was born in Aubervilliers (a suburb of Paris) in April 1921, had studied with Gustave Ricaux, Olga Preobrajenska and Lioubov Egorova, and had started dancing in 1937 with the Ballets de la Jeunesse, and then with the Ballets de Monte-Carlo (1938, 1943-45) and with the Ballets du Marquis de Cuevas (1946-47). In 1947, he joined the Paris Opera Ballet, being later promoted to premier danseur. Koegler's dictionary says he was "especially admired for character roles". He started teaching at the POB school in 1963, while continuing to dance until 1966. Between 1971 and 1977, he was the director of dance of the Paris Opera Ballet.

Since 1990, he also was one of the teachers of the school of the Ballet National de Marseille.

His son, Jean-Pierre Franchetti, was an étoile of the Paris Opera Ballet between 1971 and 1989.

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Raymond will be missed,

I remember when I was taking his class, everybody would be there, at 11 am, Misha, Rudy, Natalia all the big one and I was watching with big eyes, and I finally was allowed to take that class

I would be behind Rudy (who would arrive always late :( )

I started there taking the night class because during the day I was at POB. You could see all the dancers from all over the world there, it was for me almost better than the show, I could also learn a lot from watching them take class.

Raymond's classes were amazing and I missed him when I moved away from Paris, but every time, until he moved to the south, I would be in Paris I would take his class in cite Veron.

A piece of French Ballet history has left us, we will remember him foundly.

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Thanks for your memories, aubri!

Another article about Franchetti (very similar to the one on yahoo.fr), in "Libération":


and another one in "Le Monde":


I wonder if there are people here (Alymer?) who could talk about Franchetti's action as the POB's director? And also his teaching at the Royal Ballet school?

He came after a troubled period with many changes in the direction, the Opera being closed for renovation for a while, many conflicts, etc. From what is written in Ivor Guest's book, it seems that the annual competition had been suppressed before his arrival (at some moment in the 1960s, I think) and he put that again, but on a voluntary basis. I wonder when it was transformed to the way it works now (from what a former dancer of the 1950s wrote on criticaldance, in the Lifar period the competition was quite different from today: it was compulsory for all dancers, even when there were no available positions, there was a complete ranking of every category, and for each category they also had to dance an ensemble part). Also, before that the dance performances used to happen weekly on wednesdays.

Here are the works which entered the POB's repertory between 1971 and 1977 (of course, perhaps some had been planned before by the previous direction, and I don't know exactly when Franchetti's direction ended), the bold letters means it's still more or less "active" in the repertory:

-"Formes" (Roland Petit, December 1971)

-"La Sylphide" (Lacotte after Taglioni, June 1972)

-"Cantadagio" (Joseph Lazzini, November 1972)

-a new production of "Giselle" by Alicia Alonso (1972)

-"Jeux" (Flemming Flindt, April 1973)

-"L'apprenti sorcier" (Norbert Schmucki, April 1973)

-a Varèse program in May 1973 with

+"Octandre", "Poème électronique", "Arcana" (Félix Blaska)

+"Intégrales, Amériques" (John Butler)

+"Hyperprismes", "Offrandes" (Janine Charrat)

+"Densité 21,5" (Carolyn Carlson)

-"Pas de quatre" (Alicia Alonso's version, September 1973)

-"Un jour ou deux" (Merce Cunningham, November 1973)

-"The prodigal son" (George Balanchine, November 1973)

-"Schéhérazade" (Roland Petit, November 1973)

--"Agon" *, "Orpheus", "Capriccio" (Rubies) (George Balanchine, March 1974)

-"Scherzo fantastique", "Circus Polka" (Jerome Robbins, March 1974)

-"Variations on a simple theme" (McDonald, April 1974)

-"Il y a juste un instant" (Carolyn Carlson, April 1974)

-"Afternoon of a faun" (Jerome Robbins, October 1974)

-the shades act of "La Bayadère" (Rudolf Nureyev after Petipa, October 1974

-"Tristan" (Glen Tetley, November 1974)

-"The Sleeping Beauty" (Alicia Alonso after Petipa, December 1974- it wasn't in the repertory before)

-"Le Loup" *, "La Symphonie fantastique" (Roland Petit, March 1975)

-"Sonatine" , "Le Tombeau de Couperin", "Tzigane" , "La Valse" (George Balanchine, December 1975)

-"Concerto in G" (Jerome Robbins, 1975)

-"Les Noces" (Bronislava Nijinska, March 1976)

--"Afternoon of a faun" (Vaslav Nijinski-

I wonder whose reconstruction? March 1976)

-"Nana," "Mouvances", "La nuit transfigurée" (Roland Petit, May 1976)

-"Ivan the terrible" (Youri Grigorovitch, October 1976)

-pas de deux from "Le Papillon" (Pierre Lacotte, December 1976)

-"Adagietto", "Mahler's lieder" (Oscar Araïz, February 1977)

And the new principals of that period were:

-Jean-Pierre Franchetti (1971- it might be before his father's arrival)

-Michael Denard (1971)

-Ghislaine Thesmar (1972)

-Patrice Bart (1972)

-Jean Guizerix (1973)

-Dominique Khalfouni (1976)

-Charles Jude (1977)

Some other "active" principals during that period were Jacqueline Rayet (she retired in 1974), Claude Bessy (she retired in 1972), Claire Motte, Christiane Vlassi, Nanon Thibon, Wilfride Piollet, Noëlla Pontois, Claudette Scouarnec, Attilio Labis, Cyril Atanassoff, and Georges Piletta.

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Heavens, this is quite frightening because going through that list I realise that I saw the majority of those productions - and this in the days before the Channel Tunnel.

One thing I would say about that repertory is that Rolf Lieberman had a great deal to do with it - especially the Balanchine and Robbins works. He and Mr B had a good personal relationship. For instance, the origin of Chaconne lies with Lieberman's production of Orpheus and Euridice in Hamburg - which he later did in Paris as his first opera production and which, to my absolute fury, I was unable to see.

Imagine; the ballet took place at the end of the opera, the curtain between the stage and the Foyer de la Danse went up during the final chorus and the dancers moved through the singers to begin this beautiful ballet, led by Ghislane Thesmar and Michael Denard - so blonde, so beautiful, so gifted. Lieberman was also important in negotiating with the Ravel estate for music rights for NYCB's Ravel festival I was told.

So, I think that Franchetti was a director de la danse with a great deal of guidance from above. For instance, the Varese evening and the Cunningham creation I'm sure were the idea of M Lieberman and M Gall, who was his assistant in charge of the ballet. You might be interested to know that for both of those performances we sat in a half-empty Palais Garnier. Likewise for Violette Verdy's performance of the Giselle production. Musically, the Varese was one of the most fabulous evenings I've ever had in the theatre and the dancers were equally amazing. Problem was the choreography was was at best, second rate since at that time the house had such a bad reputation that no half-way decent choreographer wanted to work there. Obviously, with Balanchine and Robbins it was a bit different.....

As a teacher, Franchetti was very popular both in France ane at the Royal Ballet. The only thing I know about his teaching is a comment from another french teacher, Rene Bon, who said that, for professionals, Franchetti was ideal, since he always gave them combinations which made them look good and helped to build confidence and this was important if you had to go on stage and give a performance that evening.

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Oh yes, aubri, I had forgotten Yvette Chauviré, she retired in 1972 after her last performance in "Giselle".

Alymer, thanks a lot for sharing your memories about that period (I wonder if it would be a good idea to create a thread about "The POB in the 1970s"?) I always wondered why "Chaconne" never entered the repertory of the company (as a ballet), it would have been logical for it to be danced by the POB as its first version was created there... Does anyone know if there's a reason for it? I wish I had seen the program you depict with Thesmar and Denard, all the more as I've quite a lot of books about Denard but only saw him recently in acting roles...

When you say that "the house had a such a bad reputation", was it because of the level of the dancers, or was it because of the very rigid administration, or both?

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No, Estelle, the technical level of the dancers was superb. To see 'Ameriques' in the Varese programme with all the male etoiles ws just mind-blowing, and at that level there was considerable artistry.

Perhaps less so in the lower ranks. I remember being fascinated by the female corps de ballet in Giselle, Act II - each with a different make-up, hairstyle variant and her own idea of how she should dance. I'm exagerating a bit, but believe me, there was little uniformity - and I'm not talking cookie cutter. They were all different recipies

The reason why it was difficult to get major or even second rank choreographers to work with the company was that the dancers were undisciplined, at senior levels used to getting their own way, and generally prone to playing politics and calling strikes.

I heard from one chorographer who worked with the company a year or so later that when he came to set a variation on one of the male etoiles he gave him the first phrase only to be told "No, I don't do that step. These are the steps I like to do (naming them) and I like to do them in (such and such) order, but you can vary that a little if you wish." And the dancer in question had a superb technique so it wasn't a matter of age or ability. (No, before you ask, it wasn't Denard).

There were also a lot of regulations to do with rank in the company which restricted the way choroeographers could work.

When Hightower came in as director, one of her conditions was that the ballet should give seasons at the Theatre des Champs Elysees because her intention was to 'keep them too busy dancing to play politics'.

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I love the "I want to do these steps" story -- I've been told similar ones. Another is that dancers (perhaps only those of a certain rank?) at one time had the right to take a ten-minute break every hour. And so if a group didn't like the choreographer, they'd arrange to stagger the ten-minute breaks so that there would never be a full cast and rehearsals were effectively prevented from happening.

And I think Hightower had exactly the idea -- if you keep people busy, especially if it's work they respect and enjoy doing, this kind of problem will disappear.

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Thanks for your replies, Alymer and Alexandra. Now of course I'm curious of whom that dancer was! And actually I remember reading about some choreographers complaining (even recently) about the rehearsal conditions, probably the "ten minutes break" doesn't exist any longer (at least I've never heard about it), but the administrative rules are quite complicated and sometimes it's not easy to deal with it.

The regulations with rank still exist to some extent, but it's far less rigid than what it used to be. From what I've read, Nureyev's policy of giving some big roles to young dancers who were only "sujets" wasn't very well accepted at first- the principals complained because they thought it was their roles, and also sometimes it was a bit hard for the sujets to get back in the corps de ballet and dance lower roles while having been a soloist a few days ago, it sometimes caused some bitterness... There are some rules saying, for example, that in the first cast of a ballet, each role must be danced by the dancers with the highest rank of the hierarchy cast in the role (for example, if an etoile and two premieres danseuses dance a role, the etoile must be in the first cast), which might cause quite a lot of problems in case of injury, but in the last few years that rule often has been broken (for exemple, if I remember correctly, last month Eleonora Abbagnato, who is a premiere danseuse, danced the first cast of "Sylvia" while Laetitia Pujol danced only in the second cast).

Keeping the dancers busy to prevent them from playing politics is a good idea indeed! The POB doesn't dance at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees any longer, but that's probably because now there is Bastille. It'd be interesting to know the number of performances each season in the last decades, I've read that it increased quite a lot but have no precise figures.

Also (and that's not specific to the POB), it seems to me that a difficult balance to reach for an artistic director is that to remain motivated, most dancers need to have prospects of "progress", or at least some interesting roles. Of course you can't give a role to a dancer just to please a dancer, but if the dancers get the feeling that they will just be the tenth shade from the left and the fifth swan from the right for several years, it might be discouraring and might lead them to leave the company (I think that might be one of the reasons why several dancers left the POB in recent years to join smaller companies).

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