Archives de Tag: pas de deux

Mayerling in Paris : deadly…

img_6284

Mayerling. Hugo Marchand and Dorothée Gilbert as Rudolf and Marie.

As Joseph II of Austria once purportedly said, even a Mozart can produce something with “too many notes.”

After descending the grand staircase at the Palais Garnier, I stopped at one of the pulpits to buy the illustrated program. Before I could say “bonsoir,” the clearly exhausted usher, without looking up, launched into the bilingual mantra she had obviously been repeating all evening: “there is a plot summary in it! Cast list! Y’a un synopsis dedans, of course!”

That’s not a good sign for a story ballet. Especially one based on history that has become a film and television and touristic cliché: the Decline of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

But if we are in SissiLand, as one visitor to the Palace of Schönbrunn once called Vienna, exactly which one of these equally young women on stage is the Empress Sissi? Despite Scene One, my young neighbour and seatmate admitted during intermission that he had no idea that the tense and sad pas de deux with Rudolf in Scene Two had been with his mother. “Maybe she should have stayed inside the same costume from Scene One? “

My neighbour made a nostalgic reference to how Ophuls’s film of Schnitzler’s La Ronde, set in the same Viennese fin de siècle twilight as this, still makes who is who so easy to follow nearly a hundred years later. Then he began to enumerate silent movies that aren’t that hard to understand, either. “Do they ever use inter-titles in ballet?” he suggested, full of hope.

As to this scene, it turns out that consulting the illustrated program afterwards – the one with a Plot summary! Cast list! – won’t help in any case. “SA peine” [a feminine noun in French despite the object] was translated as “HER grief.” Instead of clarifying that Rudolf was reaching out to his mother with HIS grief, he had been somehow upset for her.  Which was not the case at all. Confusing.

After that scene with “her” grief, we discovered the anti-hero in a different bedroom playing with guns and skulls and yet another young woman. Who she?

You get the picture, it takes an age to figure out who is who, sort of, as there are just too, too, many anxious women and men in fancy wigs buzzing around.  Actually, the wigs help: the redhead, the blonde, the one with bangs.  But do wigs mean anything dramatically? I wonder how many in the audience inhaled and sat back and then sat up straight: “oh damn now who is this new woman with long loose dark hair” during Act Three Scene Two? Ha! fooled ya, it’s Sissi’s New Look.

Let’s not even mention my neighbour’s confusion concerning “those four guys who hang out and seem quite loyal to Rudolf, but seem a bit threatening.” “They are Hungarians who want their country to leave the Empire.” “Really? Wow. I never would have guessed that.” It doesn’t help that they do parallel turn-ins à la Russe and in the cast list are not even given one of that plethora of given-names that only a historian could identify (Count Hoyos? Are you serious?) Upon reflection, my neighbour thought that announcing them as “These four mystery men who lurk on the stage and then on the apron have been added to cover the noise and tedium of scene changes” would have been clearer.

I could go on and on about the “hunh?” factor concerning the narrative: imperial boyfriends and girlfriends galore. Then there is Bratfisch, oh god. (Marc Moreau was both funny and touching and danced with zest, but nobody in the audience had a clue as to why he kept popping up in the narrative in the first place). FYI Bratfish is not an old boy-friend, he is the designated Imperial Coachman Loyal To Rudolf Until Death Do Us Part.

Of course I’ve seen this ballet before. But every single time it takes me ages to finally concentrate on the dancers dancing and acting out about something because I’m just too distracted by trying to channel the Almanach de Gotha. I usually fight hard to get to see every cast for a ballet. I only had a ticket for this one. But should another pop up, I will probably say, “not in this lifetime.” Or better yet: “over my dead body.”

*

 *                                 *

So, now, as to the leads: Hugo Marchard’s Rudolf is a brusque and sardonic Laurence Olivier-y Hamlet, utterly confused and repulsed by his compulsive need for women’s approval.  Dorothée Gilbert’s Mary Vetsera is more Nureyev’s Clara: she has seen too much of adult life, and tries to mimic it. She has had a theoretical understanding of love, gleaned from overheard gossip provided by the, many, many, women whooshing around her. Her role makes it clear that long before the Internet naive young women were already being groomed by their environment to pleasingly submit to dominant males. I can’t say this pair clicked as “gilbertmarchand” at first, but by the end they convinced me of their “folie à deux.”

I am looking forward to seeing them in Manon”s last pas de deux this summer instead. Perhaps that illustrated program in English translation will contain no more oxymorons such as: “The tragedy reached its tragic conclusion.” And have you ever heard of a “twin suicide?” I’ve heard of the Twin Towers, but as far as I know, few twins were on stage. What was demonstrated at the end of the ballet by the leads was a “murder-suicide.”

Hannah O’Neill, identified as Countess Marie Larisch in the program, grew on me and my seatmate and the audience. She’s the one in the blue dress at first, reddish wig, etc…but with glinting eyes and a unique elegance that went beyond all that — so easy to partner, like Dorothée Gilbert, that every trick seems effortless. O’Neill’s Larisch was the character my seatmate “got” almost at once as an old flame/friend/pimp à la Pompadour. He rooted for her, a discarded girlfriend (out of those too many discarded girlfriends who dominated space on the stage).

As poor Princess Stephanie, the ugly duckling Belgian devout political pawn married off to an Austrian sex maniac, Silvia Saint-Martin came off more as spoiled and stiff rather than frightened or anguished. As Rudolf’s woe-begotten bride remains in costumed variations of white and cream, my neighbour DID understand later on that a woman standing stiffly downstage-left in Act Two was the same character who had been flung about and humiliated at the end of Act One…But then he said, ”but who is she supposed to be in the first place, exactly? She never reacts to anything.”

Mitzi Caspar, what a great role and what waste at the same time. This character appears onstage in Act Two for One Scene that’s all and then hangs around somewhere backstage in costume for an hour and a half waiting for the final curtain calls. Valentine Colasante’s prostitute  — joyful and easy-going and gorgeously all there — finished every whirl with unfussy, light, and impressive suspension. With her long neck and relaxed tilts of the head, she was lit from within. Her dance with Marchand’s Rudolf felt trusting and warmly in synch. They even gave us the illusion that the heavily re-orchestrated Liszt had lifted up its head too for a while. That’s so cool: dancers making the music sound better.

Let it be said: the cast on stage was not helped by the languidly-conducted Liszt score that dragged us down. The orchestra provided zero swing or swoop, especially in the last act. My neighbor noted that a lot of the musicians were awfully young. “Is that normal for a Grand Opera?” “No.” Poor dancers, poor us.

As stunning and challenging as MacMillan’s passionate acrobatic pas de deux can be for dancers, this thing called Mayerling ends up delivering an exercise in narrative tedium.

img_2648

The Family-Crypt of the Habsburgs in Vienna.

Publicité

2 Commentaires

Classé dans Humeurs d'abonnés, Retours de la Grande boutique

Pas de deux at the Paris Opera Ballet : Baby Can YOU drive my car?

The extended apron thrust forward across where the orchestra should have been gave many seats at the Palais Garnier – already not renowned for visibility — scant sightlines unless you were in a last row and could stand up and tilt forward. Were these two “it’s a gala/not a gala” programs worth attending? Yes and/or no.

Evening  Number One: “Nureyev” on Thursday, October 8, at the Palais Garnier.

Nureyev’s re-thinkings of the relationship between male and female dancers always seek to tweak the format of the male partner up and out from glorified crane operator into that of race car driver. But that foot on the gas was always revved up by a strong narrative context.

Nutcracker pas de deux Acts One and Two

Gilbert generously offers everything to a partner and the audience, from her agile eyes through her ever-in-motion and vibrantly tensile body. A street dancer would say “the girlfriend just kills it.” Her boyfriend for this series, Paul Marque, first needs to learn how to live.

At the apex of the Act II pas of Nuts, Nureyev inserts a fiendishly complex and accelerating airborne figure that twice ends in a fish dive, of course timed to heighten a typically overboard Tchaikovsky crescendo. Try to imagine this: the stunt driver is basically trying to keep hold of the wheel of a Lamborghini with a mind of its own that suddenly goes from 0 to 100, has decided to flip while doing a U-turn, and expects to land safe and sound and camera-ready in the branches of that tree just dangling over the cliff.  This must, of course, be meticulously rehearsed even more than usual, as it can become a real hot mess with arms, legs, necks, and tutu all in getting in the way.  But it’s so worth the risk and, even when a couple messes up, this thing can give you “wow” shivers of delight and relief. After “a-one-a-two-a-three,” Marque twice parked Gilbert’s race car as if she were a vintage Trabant. Seriously: the combination became unwieldy and dull.

Marque continues to present everything so carefully and so nicely: he just hasn’t shaken off that “I was the best student in the class “ vibe. But where is the urge to rev up?  Smiling nicely just doesn’t do it, nor does merely getting a partner around from left to right. He needs to work on developing a more authoritative stage presence, or at least a less impersonal one.

 

Cendrillon

A ballerina radiating just as much oomph and chic and and warmth as Dorothée Gilbert, Alice Renavand grooved and spun wheelies just like the glowing Hollywood starlet of Nureyev’s cinematic imagination.  If Renavand “owned” the stage, it was also because she was perfectly in synch with a carefree and confident Florian Magnenet, so in the moment that he managed to make you forget those horrible gold lamé pants.

 

Swan Lake, Act 1

Gently furling his ductile fingers in order to clasp the wrists of the rare bird that continued to astonish him, Audric Bezard also (once again) demonstrated that partnering can be so much more than “just stand around and be ready to lift the ballerina into position, OK?” Here we had what a pas is supposed to be about: a dialogue so intense that it transcends metaphor.

You always feel the synergy between Bezard and Amandine Albisson. Twice she threw herself into the overhead lift that resembles a back-flip caught mid-flight. Bezard knows that this partner never “strikes a pose” but instead fills out the legato, always continuing to extend some part her movements beyond the last drop of a phrase. His choice to keep her in movement up there, her front leg dangerously tilting further and further over by miniscule degrees, transformed this lift – too often a “hoist and hold” more suited to pairs skating – into a poetic and sincere image of utter abandon and trust. The audience held its breath for the right reason.

Ce diaporama nécessite JavaScript.

Manfred

Bewildered, the audience nevertheless applauded wildly at the end of this agonized and out of context solo. Pretending to themselves they had understood, the audience just went with the flow of the seasoned dancer-actor. Mathias Heymann gave the moment its full dose of “ah me” angst and defied the limits of the little apron stage [these are people used to eating up space the size of a football field].

Pas de deux can mostly easily be pulled out of context and presented as is, since the theme generally gravitates from “we two are now falling in love,” and “yes, we are still in love,” to “hey, guys, welcome to our wedding!” But I have doubts about the point of plunging both actor and audience into an excerpt that lacks a shared back-story. Maybe you could ask Juliet to do the death scene a capella. Who doesn’t know the “why” of that one? But have most of us ever actually read Lord Byron, much less ever heard of this Manfred? The program notes that the hero is about to be reunited by Death [spelled with a capital “D”] with his beloved Astarté. Good to know.

Don Q

Francesco Mura somehow manages to bounce and spring from a tiny unforced plié, as if he just changed his mind about where to go. But sometimes the small preparation serves him less well. Valentine Colasante is now in a happy and confident mind-set, having learned to trust her body. She now relaxes into all the curves with unforced charm and easy wit.

R & J versus Sleeping Beauty’s Act III

In the Balcony Scene with Miriam Ould-Braham, Germain Louvet’s still boyish persona perfectly suited his Juliet’s relaxed and radiant girlishness. But then, when confronted by Léonore Baulac’s  Beauty, Louvet once again began to seem too young and coltish. It must hard make a connection with a ballerina who persists in exteriorizing, in offering up sharply-outlined girliness. You can grin hard, or you can simply smile.  Nothing is at all wrong with Baulac’s steely technique. If she could just trust herself enough to let a little bit of the air out of her tires…She drives fast but never stops to take a look at the landscape.

Ce diaporama nécessite JavaScript.

As the Beatles once sang a very, very, long time ago:

 « Baby, you can drive my car
Yes, I’m gonna be a star
Baby you can drive my car
And maybe I’ll love you »

Evening Two: “Etoiles.”  Tuesday, October 13, 2020.

We were enticed back to the Palais Garnier for a thing called “Etoiles {Stars] de l’Opera,” where the program consisted of…anything and everything in a very random way.  (Plus a bit of live music!)

Clair de lune by Alistair Marriott (2017) was announced in the program as a nice new thing. Nice live Debussy happened, because the house pianist Elena Bonnay, just like the best of dancers, makes all music fill out an otherwise empty space.

Mathieu Ganio, sporting a very pretty maxi-skort, opened his arms sculpturally, did a few perfect plies à la seconde, and proffered up a few light contractions. At the end, all I could think of was Greta Garbo’s reaction to her first kiss in the film Ninochka: “That was…restful.”  Therefore:

Trois Gnossiennes, by Hans van Manen and way back from 1982, seemed less dated by comparison.  The same plié à la seconde, a few innie contractions, a flexed foot timed to a piano chord for no reason whatever, again. Same old, eh? Oddly, though, van Manen’s pure and pensive duet suited  Ludmila Paglerio and Hugo Marchand as  prettily as Marriott’s had for Ganio. While Satie’s music breathes at the same spaced-out rhythm as Debussy’s, it remains more ticklish. Noodling around in an  absinth-colored but lucid haze, this oddball composer also knew where he was going. I thought of this restrained little pas de deux as perhaps “Balanchine’s Apollo checks out a fourth muse.”  Euterpe would be my choice. But why not Urania?

And why wasn’t a bit of Kylian included in this program? After all, Kylain has historically been vastly more represented in the Paris Opera Ballet’s repertoire than van Manen will ever be.

The last time I saw Martha Graham’s Lamentation, Miriam Kamionka — parked into a side corridor of the Palais Garnier — was really doing it deep and then doing it over and over again unto exhaustion during  yet another one of those Boris Charmatz events. Before that stunt, maybe I had seen the solo performed here by Fanny Gaida during the ‘90’s. When Sae-Un Park, utterly lacking any connection to her solar plexus, had finished demonstrating how hard it is to pull just one tissue out of a Kleenex box while pretending it matters, the audience around me couldn’t even tell when it was over and waited politely for the lights to go off  and hence applaud. This took 3.5 minutes from start to end, according to the program.

Then came the duet from William Forsythe’s Herman Schmerman, another thingy that maybe also had entered into the repertoire around 2017. Again: why this one, when so many juicy Forsythes already belong to us in Paris? At first I did not remember that this particular Forsythe invention was in fact a delicious parody of “Agon.” It took time for Hannah O’Neill to get revved up and to finally start pushing back against Vincent Chaillet. Ah, Vincent Chaillet, forceful, weightier, and much more cheerfully nasty and all-out than I’d seen him for quite a while, relaxed into every combination with wry humor and real groundedness. He kept teasing O’Neill: who is leading, eh? Eh?! Yo! Yow! Get on up, girl!

I think that for many of us, the brilliant Ida Nevasayneva of the Trocks (or another Trock! Peace be with you, gals) kinda killed being ever to watch La Mort du cygne/Dying Swan without desperately wanting to giggle at even the idea of a costume decked with feathers or that inevitable flappy arm stuff. Despite my firm desire to resist, Ludmila Pagliero’s soft, distilled, un-hysterical and deeply dignified interpretation reconciled me to this usually overcooked solo.  No gymnastic rippling arms à la Plisetskaya, no tedious Russian soul à la Ulanova.  Here we finally saw a really quietly sad, therefore gut-wrenching, Lamentation. Pagliero’s approach helped me understand just how carefully Michael Fokine had listened to our human need for the aching sound of a cello [Ophélie Gaillard, yes!] or a viola, or a harp  — a penchant that Saint-Saens had shared with Tchaikovsky. How perfectly – if done simply and wisely by just trusting the steps and the Petipa vibe, as Pagliero did – this mini-epic could offer a much less bombastic ending to Swan Lake.

Suite of Dances brought Ophélie Gaillard’s cello back up downstage for a face to face with Hugo Marchand in one of those “just you and me and the music” escapades that Jerome Robbins had imagined a long time before a “platform” meant anything less than a stage’s wooden floor.  I admit I had preferred the mysterious longing Mathias Heymann had brought to the solo back in 2018 — especially to the largo movement. Tonight, this honestly jolly interpretation, infused with a burst of “why not?” energy, pulled me into Marchand’s space and mindset. Here was a guy up there on stage daring to tease you, me, and oh yes the cellist with equally wry amusement, just as Baryshnikov once had dared.  All those little jaunty summersaults turn out to look even cuter and sillier on a tall guy. The cocky Fancy Free sailor struts in part four were tossed off in just the right way: I am and am so not your alpha male, but if you believe anything I’m sayin’, we’re good to go.

The evening wound down with a homeopathic dose of Romantic frou-frou, as we were forced to watch one of those “We are so in love. Yes, we are still in love” out of context pas de deux, This one was extracted from John Neumeier’s La Dame aux Camélias.

An ardent Mathieu Ganio found himself facing a Laura Hecquet devoted to smoothing down her fluffy costume and stiff hair. When Neumeier’s pas was going all horizontal and swoony, Ganio gamely kept replacing her gently onto her pointes as if she deserved valet parking.  But unlike, say, Anna Karina leaning dangerously out of her car to kiss Belmondo full throttle in Pierrot le Fou, Hecquet simply refused to hoist herself even one millimeter out of her seat for the really big lifts. She was dead weight, and I wanted to scream. Unlike almost any dancer I have ever seen, Hecquet still persists in not helping her co-driver. She insists on being hoisted and hauled around like a barrel. Partnering should never be about driving the wrong way down a one-way street.

Commentaires fermés sur Pas de deux at the Paris Opera Ballet : Baby Can YOU drive my car?

Classé dans Retours de la Grande boutique