Archives de Tag: Ninon Raux

“Some enchanted evening/you may see …” (My spring season at the Paris Opera)

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.

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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.

Bayaderes

« 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. »

April 21

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.

April 3

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?

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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. »

June 30

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.

July 12

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?

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Giselles

« 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.. »

 July 6

 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.

July 11

 Alice Renavand/Mathieu Ganio

Act I

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.

ACT II

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.

July 16

 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.

Act II:

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.

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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
« South Pacific » from 1949.

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Giselle in Paris : Ut Pictura Poesis

Dorothée Gilbert/Mathieu Ganio (February 11th) and Amandine Albisson/Hugo Marchand (February 15th matinée)

Act One(s)

Gilbert/Ganio.Caelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt. Their skies may change, but not the souls of those who chase across the sea. Ceux qui traversent la mer changent de ciel, non d’esprit (Horace, Epistles)

Gilbert’s Giselle, a more fragile and melancholy version of her naïve and loving Lise of La Fille mal gardée, was doomed from the start, like the Flying Dutchman. In those joyous “catch me if you can” jétés and arabesques with Ganio’s equally interiorized and gentle and devoted Albrecht, Gilbert’s suspended phrasing and softened lines started to make me shiver. What I was seeing was the first act as remembered by the ghost of the second. Gestures were quiet, subtle, distilled for both protagonists as in a 19th century sepia print: the couple was already not of this world. I have rarely been so well prepared to enter into the otherworld of Act II. Those on the stage and in the audience were as one soul, drawn into reminiscing together about daisies in tears and about “what might have been.”

La Giselle de Gilbert, une plus fragile et mélancolique version de sa naïve Lise de La Fille mal gardée, était condamnée dès le départ, comme le Hollandais volant. Avec ces joyeux jetés « Attrape-moi si tu peux » et ses arabesques avec l’Albrecht également doux, intériorisé et dévoué de Ganio, Gilbert suspendait le phrasé et adoucissait les lignes […] Et si on assistait au premier acte vu par les yeux du fantôme du deuxième ?

Albisson/Marchand. Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero. Seize the day, and care not to trust in the morrow. Cueille le jour présent, en te fiant le moins possible au lendemain (Horace, Epodes)

At the matinee on the 15th, we enter another world, this time fully in the present, with a joyous and self-assured pair blissfully unaware of what lies in store. Down to earth, they make no secret of their mutual attraction, neither to each other nor before the village. When Albisson’s daisy predicts “he loves me not,” clearly this is the first time a cloud has passed before the sun in her sky. Gilbert’s Giselle seemed to withdraw into a dark place upon her mother’s cautionary tale about the Wilis (the supremely dignified Ninon Raux at both performances). Albisson’s Giselle seemed more bewildered by the brief sensation of being possessed by a force she could not control. “How can such awful things even be possible? Why am I shivering when there is sunlight?” Most often, the Albrechts stand back, turn their backs on mama, and let the heroine have her moment. But here Marchand’s intense concentration on what the mother was describing – as if he, in turn, was experiencing his first glimpse of the shadows to come, possessed by a force he could not control either –made the moment even richer. Aurora and Desiré had just been told that, in the end, they would not live happily ever after. Marchand, as with the daisy, kept on trying to make everything work out. There are some Albrecht’s who try to shush Bathilde over Giselle’s shoulder [“Let me explain later”], and those who don’t. Marchand tried.

Pour la matinée du 15, on entre dans un autre monde, cette fois pleinement dans le présent, avec un duo béatement ignorant de ce que l’avenir leur prépare. […]

La Giselle de Gilbert semblait s’enfoncer dans les ténèbres au moment des avertissements de sa mère sur les Willis (la suprêmement digne Ninon Raux lors des deux représentations). La Giselle d’Albisson semblait plus déconcertée par la brève sensation d’être possédée par une force qu’elle ne pouvait contrôler. « Comment de si horribles choses seraient-elles seulement possibles ? Pourquoi tremblé-je sous le soleil ?»

To Bathilde – rendered unusually attentive, warm, and reactive by Sara Kora Dayanova – Gilbert mimed winding thread (another Lise reference), twirling her fingers delicately downward. Her mad scene had the quality of a skein of silk becoming unravelled and increasingly hopelessly knotted and pulled in all directions. Albisson mimed sewing in big healthy stitches instead. Her physically terrifying mad scene – just how can you fling yourself about and fall down splat like that without injury? — reminded me of the person just served divorce papers who grabs a knife and shreds all her partner’s clothes and smashes all she can get her hands on, and then jumps out the window.

À l’intention de Bathilde – rendue exceptionnellement attentive, chaleureuse et réactive par Sara Kora Dayanova – Gilbert mimait le filage de la laine (une autre référence à Lise), tortillant délicatement ses doigts vers le bas. Sa scène de la folie avait cette qualité de l’écheveau de soie devenant désespérément dénoué et emmêlé à force d’être tiré dans toutes les directions. Albisson mimait plutôt la couture à points larges et décidés. Sa scène de la folie, physiquement terrifiante, – jusqu’où peut-on se démener violemment et s’effondrer à plat sans se blesser ? – m’a rappelé ces personnes recevant les papiers du divorce qui saisissent un couteau, déchiquètent les vêtements de leur partenaire et brisent tout ce qui leur tombe sous la main avant de sauter par la fenêtre.

Second Act(s)

Permitis divis cetera. Leave the rest to the gods. Remettez-vous en aux dieux (Horace, Epodes)

Gilbert’s Act II lived in the realm of tears. The vine-like way she would enfold Ganio in her arms – and I was smitten by the way he interlaced himself into all her gestures and thoughts – defined their couple. They reached for each other. Here, at the same moments, Albisson was less about tears than about how insistently she stretched her arms up towards the heavens just before re-connecting to Marchard’s avid hands. “I remember you swore to love me forever. And now I am certain you were true. The skies know this.”

L’acte II de Gilbert se situait dans une vallée de larmes. Sa façon d’enlacer Ganio de ses bras telle une vigne vierge – et j’ai été touchée de la manière dont Ganio s’entrelaçait lui-même dans ses gestes et dans ses pensées – définissait leur couple. […] Ici, aux mêmes moments, Albisson était moins dans les larmes que dans l’intensité de l’étirement des bras vers les cieux juste avant de reconnecter avec ceux avides de Marchand : « Je me souviens que tu as juré de m’aimer pour toujours et maintenant je suis certaine que tu disais vrai » […]

In Act II, Marchand doesn’t need to run around searching for Giselle’s grave. He knows where it stands and just can’t bear to deal with how real it is. He also knows how useless bouquets of flowers are to the dead. He has come to this spot in the hope that the vengeful Wilis of her mother’s horrifying tale will come to take him. But his un-hoped for encounter with Giselle in the “flesh” changes his mind. As in Act I, they cannot stop trying to touch each other. This pair risked those big overhead lifts with breathtaking simplicity, in the spirit of how, for their couple, love had been wrapped around their need to touch. The final caress bestowed by this Albrecht upon all he had left of the woman he would indeed love forever – the heavy stone cross looming above Giselle’s tomb — made perfect sense.

À l’acte II, Marchand […] sait combien les bouquets de fleurs sont inutiles aux morts. Il est venu là dans l’espoir que les Willis vengeresses […] le prennent. Mais sa rencontre inespérée avec Giselle en « chair » et en os le fait changer d’avis. Ces deux-là ne peuvent s’empêcher de se toucher. Ils ont osé le grand porté par-dessus la tête avec une simplicité époustouflante. […] La caresse finale que donne Marchand à tout ce qui lui reste de cette femme qu’il aimera toujours – la lourde croix de pierre surplombant la tombe de Giselle – avait tout son sens.

Hilarion (one and only).

Pallida Mors aequo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas/Regumque turris. Pale Death knocks with impartial foot at poor men’s hovels as at rich men’s palaces. La pâle mort frappe d’un pied indifférent les masures des pauvres et les palais des rois. (Horace, Epodes)

Audric Bezard, both times. Both times elegant, forceful, and technically on top as usual, but different and creative in his approach to this essential – but often crudely crafted — character. With Gilbert, Bezard reacted in a more melancholy and deeply worried manner. Some neophytes in the audience might have even mistaken him for a protective older brother. Hilarion opens the ballet with his mimed “she loves me not” and the way he nuanced it then and thereafter built up a backstory for Gilbert: « I grew up with the girl, everyone – even me – assumed we would live happily ever after. Why is this happening? » But, alas, “that nice boy next door” can sometimes be the last thing a girl wants, even if he be soulful and cute. Bezard’s rhythm in mime is magnificent in the way it takes its time inside and along the lines of the music. You see thoughts shaping themselves into gesture. With Albisson, one saw less of that long-term story. I appreciated his alternate approach, more reminiscent of the impetuous in-the-moment passion Bezard had already demonstrated as a leading partner to this same ballerina in other dramatic ballets…

Audric Bézard les deux fois. Chaque fois […] créatif dans son approche de ce personnage essentiel – mais si souvent interprété trop crûment.

Avec Gilbert, Bezard réagissait d’une manière plus mélancolique et soucieuse. […] Hilarion ouvre le ballet avec sa scène mimée « Elle ne m’aime pas » et la façon dont il la nuançait ici et plus tard fabriquait un passé à Gilbert : « J’ai grandi avec cette fille, et tout le monde – moi y compris – était persuadé que nous serions heureux pour toujours. Pourquoi cela arrive-t-il ? » […] La façon qu’à Bezard de rythmer sa pantomime est magnifique en ce qu’il prend son temps à l’intérieur et aux côtés de la musique. […] Avec Albisson, on voyait moins une histoire au long cours. J’ai apprécié cette approche alternative réminiscence de l’impétuosité de l’instant que Bezard avait déjà développé dans un rôle principal aux côtés de la même ballerine.

Myrtha(s):

Nunc pede libero pulsanda tellus. Now is the time to beat the earth with unfettered foot. Il est temps maintenant de battre le sol avec des pieds sans entraves. (Horace, Odes).

If Valentine Colasante’s Queen of the Wilis on the 11th proved the very vision of a triumphant and eerie ectoplasm so beloved by 19th century Victorians, Hannah O’Neill’s on the 15th seemed instead to have risen out of an assemblage of twigs and bones (which is not potentially a bad thing). Let me explain.

As a dancer, Colasante’s elongated neck now connects to eased shoulders that send the word down her spine, releasing pulsating energy. The result? Probably among the most perfectly fluid series of bourrées I have ever seen. The feet or legs should start from the head, from the brain, but most often they do not. These tiny tippy-toe steps – pietinées in French — often seem to have been designed to make dancers look like scuttling crabs. Colasante’s bourrées, so fluid and expressive and instantly in character, were those of someone who has really evolved as an artist. Control and release extended out from a really intelligent core informing her big, juicy, regal jumps and expressive back [Myrtha spends a lot of her time downstage facing away from House Right]. Mind-body intelligence infused even the tiniest of Colasante’s calm and unhurried gestures. Each of the umpteen times she had to mime “thanks for your thoughts and prayers, but now you must die ” — raise arms, clench fists, bring them down across the wrists– Colasante gave that gesture variety, reactivity, and lived in the moment.

[Le 11] Le cou de [Valentine] Colasante désormais allongé se connecte à des épaules déliées qui transmet le mouvement dans toute sa colonne vertébrale, libérant et pulsant de l’énergie. Le résultat ? Probablement parmi les plus fluides séries de piétinés qu’il m’ait été donné de voir. Car les pieds ou les jambes doivent commencer de la tête, du cerveau même ; et cela arrive si peu souvent. […] Ce contrôlé -relâché se diffusait depuis un centre très « intelligent » et infusait de larges, de savoureux et souverains sauts ainsi qu’un dos intelligent.

For the moment, O’Neill is on a learning curve and her stage presence has retrograded to more serious and studious than I would like for her to be doing at this point in her career. It’s if she’s lost that something so fresh and lively she used to have. Yes, you might say, “who do you think you are to expect fresh and lively from a Queen of the Zombies?” O’Neill did the job with full-out dedication, but seemed so…dry, despite perfectly executed steps. She needs to add some more mental flesh to the twigs and bones of her overly reserved phantom. My mind drifted way too often in the direction of impressive technical details. I couldn’t believe that this was really Myrtha, not the dancer named Hannah O’Neill. Until then, during both performances, I had completely been swept into the zone by all of the dancers described above as well as by the delicious demi-soloists and corps de ballet

Pour l’instant, [Hannah] O’Neill semble en phase d’apprentissage et sa présence scénique a rétrogradé vers quelque chose de plus sérieux et studieux qu’il ne le faudrait à ce stade de sa carrière. […] O’Neill a « fait le travail » avec une totale implication mais semblait tellement … aride, en dépit des pas parfaitement exécutés. Il lui faudrait ajouter de la chair émotionnelle sur les os de son trop réservé fantôme.

Hannah ONeill

Cléopold saw a distinct delicacy in her version of Myrtha from where he was sitting, and I do not wish to be harsh. But in a poetic story-ballet, technique must learn to serve the story above all else.

Ut pictora poesis. As in painting, so in poetry. Telle la peinture est la poésie (Horace, Ars Poetica).

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