Just who wouldn’t want to be wandering about dressed in fluffy chiffon and suddenly encounter a gorgeous man in a forest glade under the moonlight? Um, today, that seems creepy. But not in the 19th century, when you would certainly meet a gentleman on one enchanted evening…« Who can explain it, who can tell you why? Fools give you reasons, wise men never try. »
Notes about the classics that were scheduled for this spring and summer season — La Bayadère, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Giselle — on call from April through July.
After the confinement, filmed rehearsals, and then two live runs in succession, DOES ANYONE STILL WANT TO HEAR ABOUT LA BAYADERE? But maybe you are still Dreaming or Giselling, too?
Here are my notes.
« Some enchanted evening, you may see a stranger across a crowded room. And somehow you know, you know even then, That somehow you’ll see her again and again. »
In La Bayadère, if Ould-Braham’s Nikiya was as soft and naïve and childlike as Giselle. Bleuenn Batistoni’s Gamzatti proved as hard and sleek as a modern-day Bathilde: an oligarch’s brat. [Albeit most of those kinds of women do not lift up their core and fill out the music]. Their interactions were as clear and bright and graphic as in a silent movie (in the good sense).
OB’s mind is racing from the start, telling a story to herself and us, desperate to know how this chapter ends. Partnering with the ardent Francesco Mura was so effortless, so “there in the zone.” He’s one of those who can speak even when his back is turned to you and live when he is off to the side, out of the spotlight. Mura is aflame and in character all the time.
OB snake scene, iridescent, relives their story from a deep place plays with the music and fills out the slow tempi. Only has eyes for Mura and keeps reaching, reaching, her arms outlining the shape of their dances at the temple (just like Giselle. She’s not Nikiya but a Gikiya).
Indeed, Batistoni’s turn at Gamzatti in the second act became an even tougher bitch with a yacht, as cold-blooded as Bathilde can sometimes be: a Bamzatti. There was no hope left for Ould-Braham and Francesco Mura in this cruel world of rich fat cats, and they both knew it.
Park as Nikiya and later as Giselle will channel the same dynamic: sweet girl: finallly infusing some life into her arms in Act 1, then becoming stiff as a board when it gets to the White Act, where she exhibits control but not a drop of the former life of her character. I am a zombie now. Dry, clinical, and never builds up to any fortissimo in the music. A bit too brisk and crisp and efficient a person to incarnate someone once called Nikiya. Could the audience tell it was the same dancer when we got to Act 3?
Good at leaps into her partner’s arms, but then seems to be a dead weight in lifts. When will Park wake up?
Paul Marque broke through a wall this season and finds new freedom in acting through his body. In Act Three: febrile, as “nervosa” as an Italian racecar. Across the acts, he completes a fervent dramatic arc than is anchored in Act 1.
Bourdon’s Gamzatti very contained. The conducting was always too slow for her. Dancing dutifully. Where is her spark?
Midsummer Night Dreams
« Some enchanted evening, someone may be laughing, You may hear her laughing across a crowded room. And night after night, as strange as it seems, The sound of her laughter will sing in your dreams. »
Very baroque-era vivid conducting.
Aurelien Gay as Puck: feather light.
Pagliero’s Titania is clearly a queen, calm and scary. But also a woman, pliant and delightful.
Jeremy Loup-Quer as Oberon has heft and presence. Dances nicely. Smooth, but his solos are kind of like watching class combinations. (Balanchine’s choreography for the role is just that, basically)
First Butterfly Sylvia Saint-Martin displayed no authority and did the steps dutifully.
Paris Opera Ballet School kiddie corps has bounce and go and delicate precision, bravo.
Bezard/Demetrius in a wig worthy of a Trocks parody. Whyyyy? Particularly off-putting in the last act wedding scene. Who would want to marry a guy disguised as Mireille Matthieu?
Bourdon/Hyppolita unmusical fouettés. I miss her warmth and panache. Gone.
Act 2 Divertissement Pas where the couple appears out of nowhere in the “story.” (see plot summary). The way Louvet extends out and gently grasps Ould-Braham’s hand feels as if he wants to hold on to the music. Both pay heed and homage to the courtly aspect of the Mendelssohn score. That delicacy that was prized by audiences after the end of the Ancien Régime can be timeless. Here the ballerina was really an abstract concept: a fully embodied idea, an ideal woman, a bit of perfect porcelain to be gently cupped into warm hands. I like Ould-Braham and Louvet’s new partnership. They give to each other.
Laura Hequet as Helena gestures from without not from within, as is now usual the rare times she takes the stage. It’s painful to watch, as if her vision ends in the studio. Does she coach Park?
Those who catch your eye:
Hannah O’Neill as Hermia and Célia Drouy as Hyppolita. The first is radiant, the second oh so plush! Hope Drouy will not spend her career typecast as Cupid in Don Q.
In the Act II Divertissment, this time with Heloise Bourdon, Louvet is much less reverential and more into gallant and playful give and take. These two had complimentary energy. Here Louvet was more boyish than gentlemanly. I like how he really responds to his actresses these days.
Here the pas de deux had a 20th century energy: teenagers rather than allegories. Teenagers who just want to keep on dancing all night long.
NB Heloise Bourdon was surprisingly stiff at first, as if she hadn’t wanted to be elected prom queen, then slowly softened her way of moving. But this was never to be the legato unspooling that some dancers have naturally. I was counting along to the steps more than I like to. Bourdon is sometimes too direct in attack and maybe also simply a bit discouraged these days. She’s been “always the bridesmaid but never the bride” — AKA not promoted to Etoile — for waaay too long now. A promotion would let her break out and shine as she once used to.
My mind wandered. Why did the brilliant and over-venerated costume designer Karinska assign the same wreath/crown of flowers (specifically Polish in brightness) to both Bottom in Act I and then to the Act II Female Allegory of Love? In order to cut costs by recycling a headdress ? Some kind of inside joke made for Mr. B? Or was this joke invented by Christian Lacroix?
« Some enchanted evening, when you find your true love, When you hear her call across a crowded room, Then fly to her side and make her your own, Or all through your life you may dream all alone.. »
Sae Eun Park/Paul Marque
Sae Eun Park throws all the petals of the daisy already, does not lower the “he loves me” onto her skirt. There goes one of the main elements of the mad scene.
Her authoritative variations get explosions of applause due to obvious technical facility , plus that gentle smile and calm demeanor that are always on display.
What can Paul Marque’s Albrecht do when faced with all this insipid niciness? I’ve been a bad boy? He does try during the mad scene, shows real regret.
Ninon Raux’s Berthe: gentle and dignified and not disdainful.
Park’s mad scene was admired by those around me at the top of the house. Many neophites. They admired from afar but not one of those I surveyed at the end of Act I said they had cried when her character died. Same thing at the end of the ballet while we reconnected and loitered around on the front steps of the Palais Garnier. I asked again. No tears. Only admiration. That’s odd.
On the upside, the Paris Opera has a real thing with bourrées (piétinées), Each night, Myrtha and Giselle gave a plethora of what seemed almost like skateboard or surfing slides. They skimmed over a liquid ground with buttery feet whether forward, backward, or to the side. I think a new standard was set.
In her variations, Hannah O’Neill’s Myrtha gave us a will o’ the wisp of lightly churning jétés. She darted about like the elusive light of a firefly. Alas, where I was sitting behind a cornice meant a blocked view of downstage left, so I missed all of this Wili Queen’s acting for the rest of Act II.
Daniel Stokes’s Hilarion was not desperate enough.
Despite the soaring sweep of the cello, I don’t feel the music in Park-Marque’s Giselle-Albrecht’s pas de deux. Not enough flow. Marque cared, but Park so careful. No abandon. No connection. The outline of precise steps.
Alice Renavand/Mathieu Ganio
Battistoni/Magliono peasant pas: Turns into attitude, curve of the neck, BB swooshes and swirls into her attitudes and hops. As if this all weren’t deliberate or planned but something quite normal. AM’s dance felt earthbound.
Renavand fresh, plush, youthful, beautiful, and effortlessly mastering the technique (i.e. you felt the technique was all there, but didn’t start to analyse it). I like to think that Carlotta Grisi exhaled this same kind of naturalness.
The detail that may have been too much for Renavand’s body to stand five times in a row: instead of quick relevé passes they were breathtakingly high sissones/mini-gargoullades…as if she was trying to dance as hard as Albrecht in order to save him (Mathieu Ganio,, in top form and manly and protective and smitten from start to stop with his Giselle. Just like all the rest of us)
Roxane Stojanov’s Myrtha? Powerful. Knows when a musical combination has its punch-line, knows how to be still yet attract the eye. She continues to be one to watch.
Myriam Ould-Braham/Germain Louvet
Act I :
A gentle and sad and elegant Florent Melac/Hilarion, clearly in utter admiration of the local beauty. Just a nice guy without much of a back story with Giselle but a guy who dreams about what might have been.
Ould-Braham a bit rebellious in her interactions with mum. This strong-minded choice of Albrecht above all will carry into the Second Act. Myrtha will be a kind of hectoring female authority figure. A new kind of mother. So the stage is set.
Peasant pas had the same lightness as the lead couple. As if the village were filled with sprites and fairies.
Peasant pas: finally a guy with a charisma and clean tours en l’air: who is this guy with the lovely deep plié? Axel Magliano from the 11th! This just goes to show you, never give up on a dancer. Like all of us, we can have a day when we are either on or off. Only machines produce perfect copies at every performance.
Bluenn Battistoni light and balanced and effortless. She’s not a machine, just lively and fearless. That spark hasn’t been beaten out of her by management. yet.
O-B’s mad scene: she’s angry-sad, not abstracted, not mad. She challenges Albrecht with continued eye contact.
Both their hearts are broken.
This Hilarion, Florent Melac, weighs his steps and thoughts to the rhythm of the church bells. Never really listened to a Hilarion’s mind before.
Valentine Colasante is one powerful woman. And her Myrtha’s impatience with men kind of inspires me.
O-B and Germain Louvet both so very human. O-B’s “tears” mime so limpid and clear.
GL: all he wants is to catch and hold her one more time. And she also yearns to be caught and cherished. All of their dance is about trying to hold on to their deep connection. This is no zombie Giselle. When the church bells sang the song of dawn, both of their eyes widened in awe and wonder and yearning at the same time. Both of their eyes arms reached out in perfect harmony and together traced the outline of that horizon to the east where the sun began to rise. It was the end, and they clearly both wanted to go back to the beginning of their story.
What would you do, if you could change the past?
« Once you have found her, never let her go. Once you have found her, never let her go. »
The quotations are from the Rogers and Hammerstein Broadway musical called