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La Bayadere


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 14 June 2010 - 07:35 AM

Marc Haegeman's review of a performance of Bayadere is now up on danceviewtimes. Did anyone else see this production this time round?


La Bayadere at Paris Opera Ballet

Mindful of the centenary of Marius Petipa’s death, the Paris Opera programmed a revival of “La Bayadère” in Rudolf Nureyev’s well-known version. Nureyev’s opus ultimum, “La Bayadère” suffered less from his interferences with the choreographic schemes and dramatic concept inherited from the St. Petersburg background and has always been one of the more convincing items in his Parisian legacy. Having been mounted for most of the previous runs at the spacious Opéra Bastille the ballet was now brought back again to the stage of the Palais Garnier, where it had been premiered back in November 1992. The more intimate feel of the Garnier secures a different experience, drawing you even more into the production yet without diminishing the splendor and theatrical impact of Ezio Frigerio’s striking scenic design or Franca Squarciapino’s eye-catching costumes. I just wish they were better lit and especially the Shades Act less overexposed than it was now.



#2 bart

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Posted 14 June 2010 - 08:13 AM

I was finally able to get tickets after several visits to the box office. I hadn't seen Bayadere in years, so it was a pure joy to be in the Palais Garnier and feel part of an audience clearly excited about being there. Marc comments that the return of this production to the Palais Garnier gave it a "more intimate feel" than it has at the Bastille opera house. I would add that the ornateness of the theater complemented the grandeur (sometimes over-the-top) of the production. It was "Grand Ballet" in the sense of "Grand Opera." A wonderful evening, all in all.

Our seats were poor: close to the stage 2 levels up. Wonderful for looking at the house, but not for concentrating on the stage. It's frustrating to see a manege of steps begin without seeing the conclusion. Or, getting your first glimpse of a dancer as they burst suddenly into your field of vision when they are already half-way through their combination. The Kingdom of the Shades scene is NOT improved by the periodic disappearance of the dancers as they chug their way down the ramp. :huh:

Our cast was Agnes Letestu and Jose Martinez, with Emilie Cozette as Gamzatti. I don't know enough about this ballet -- or, indeed, about the genre -- to comment in detail on their performances. My only basis of comparison for other Paris Bayaderes was the dvd with three magnificent dancers: Guerin, Hilaire, and Platel. On May 25, Letestu was a pleasure to watch, especially in the Act III adagios, including the Scarf variation (or what I could see of it). I found myself liking Cozette quite a lot as well. Gamzatti, which I think of as the Amneris part, is often hard to project as a plausible character. Cozette achieved that.

The women of the corps: beautiful and elegant,. The production: stunning, opulent, possibly too cluttered in the first and second acts. The music: s-l-o-w, to my ears, especially at the beginning. The story line: creaky as usual, but fun, and redeemed quite a bit by Act III.

#3 Marc Haegeman

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Posted 14 June 2010 - 12:45 PM

Cool that you finally made it, Bart. A visit to the Palais Garnier is by all means always something of a memorable event - no matter how many times you may have been there.

#4 silvermash

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Posted 14 June 2010 - 12:55 PM

I attended all the different casts of this round. Well, I disagree with the review quoted on first post on most of the points.

As a matter of fact, I rather prefer the ballet taking place in Opera Bastille where the stage is larger, where the set is on stage and not in the aisles, and where you can see well from everywhere. In the Nureyev version, I found that the collapse of the temple is lacking to understand what is happening in the storyline, the ballet finishing in peace in Solor’s dream.

Personally, I found the Bullion/Moussin cast the best mostly because of… Stéphane Bullion. He has his own particular style that you may like or not, but his characters are always well defined. He’s not very demonstrative, more of a very subtle actor and up to me he was the only one with Nicolas Le Riche to be able to give a depth in Solor thoughts and behaviours. Both of them chose to love Gamzatti as well as Nikiya and the moment they felt she was going to confront them with this, they were both so moving. I didn’t find any technical issue in his dance. He’s a powerful dancer and Solor’s role is suiting him very well, especially in the last variation which was very impressive. The partnership with Delphine Moussin was very emotional and with Stéphanie Romberg very joyful. Delphine Moussin is not a very technical dancer but she really has the talent to give life of any role with subtlety, something sincere than can become magic when she is in line with her partner. That was the case. Their two shows were excellent evenings which concluded with the inevitable, Mr Bullion being promoted étoile.

The other casts, although at a very high level, suffered from dramatic consistency and also a discrepancy between the dance and the acting, with most of the time one or the other main role being not tuned at the same level. The main roles are very demanding, especially in the Nureyev version and this is difficult to reach the emotional level Stéphane Bullion and Delphine Moussin gave.

Bart, I found Agnès Letestu and José Martinez not at their top form and I was quite disappointed with their shows, but as said, this was still good shows.

#5 bart

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Posted 14 June 2010 - 01:41 PM

As a matter of fact, I rather prefer the ballet taking place in Opera Bastille where the stage is larger, where the set is on stage and not in the aisles, and where you can see well from everywhere. In the Nureyev version, I found that the collapse of the temple is lacking to understand what is happening in the storyline, the ballet finishing in peace in Solor’s dream.

It would be fascinating to see and compare this production on the two stages during the same run. It has such plenitude (richness of detail and color), and so much dancing, that it would certainly look different, and possibly more striking, in a large, austere, and neutrally colored space like the Bastille.

The 1994 video was shot at the Palais Garnier. Closeups -- and the technique of darkening the background so one can focus on the dancing in the foreground -- increased the sense of intimacy (a plus) but also reduced the sense of spectacle in the big scenes.

As to the different casts, I confess that I had been hoping for Aurelie Dupont -- largely because of her performances in other ballets. silvermash, what did you think of Dupont? Who was her partner?

#6 silvermash

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Posted 14 June 2010 - 09:59 PM

Aurélie Dupont danced with Nicolas Le Riche. They like to dance together and the partnership is perfect, technically speaking, but very “professional” in a sense it’s too much dancing a ballet called La Bayadère than telling the story of Nikiya and Solor. Everything that is happening on stage is expected. They smile when they must, look away at the perfect moment, are always in the right place, it lacks spontaneity and also inspiration. I haven’t been drowned into the story like with Bullion/Moussin or Bélingard/Osta. I found it lacked an emotional aspect in different parts of the ballet which is very important for me. Even Nicolas Le Riche who was astonishing from an acting point of view in the first two acts was a bit lagging behind in the third and it didn’t render the “dream aspect”. They were too earthly grounded. But a very good show for sure, my favourite couple for different reasons with Bullion/Moussin and Bélingard/Osta. The latter one lacks also that emotional third act. I think Jérémie Bélingard has a lot too much charisma compared to Clairemarie Osta who gave a chiselled Nikiya but a lot too modest with this partner. But this is my opinion of course and I have friends who found them matching perfectly.
Having said that, I must say that having seen all these couples a few times and in a row (POB piled up all the shows in just a little bit more than 2 weeks) is a lot different from only seeing one performance. You inevitably have the eve performance in your mind when you seat in the theatre and expecting a lot from the next one. You’re expecting something more and that something more was for me brought by Bullion/Moussin, but if you attended only Dupont/Le Riche, that was probably a perfect evening.

#7 bart

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Posted 15 June 2010 - 12:10 PM

Having said that, I must say that having seen all these couples a few times and in a row (POB piled up all the shows in just a little bit more than 2 weeks) is a lot different from only seeing one performance. You inevitably have the eve performance in your mind when you seat in the theatre and expecting a lot from the next one. You’re expecting something more and that something more was for me brought by Bullion/Moussin, but if you attended only Dupont/Le Riche, that was probably a perfect evening.

I think you are right, silvermash. Seeing one only performance rather liberated me to sit back and enjoy the best of what was there. On the other hand, seeing mutliple casts in a single work -- especially if one loves the work and knows it well -- has its own rewards. We are fortunate when we can do both.

Thanks for the review of Dupont and LeRiche. Based on videos, I have been fascinated by both dancers -- though for different reasons. I would have been thrilled to have the chance to see them, but am grateful to have had the chance to see Letestu on stage as well as the women of the POB corps.

Did anyone else attend?

#8 hydraulix

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 07:45 AM

I did attend and it was definitely a dream come true. After the first time I saw the renown video from 1992 with Isabelle Guérin and Laurent Hilaire, I was completely in love. In my first post on this board where I introduced myself I even stated it, that my biggest wish was to attend this ballet in Paris. Last year they announced the program for season 2009-2010 and my exciting grew when I saw La Bayadère included in the list. I waited untill March this year where I could buy my ticket and in a couple of hours everything was set: seat at catégorie 1, my train ticket and a hotel. I would spend a long weekend in the beautiful city of Paris and I would finish my trip with this ballet.

In May it was finally time. I would be at the performance on May 17th. I was all alone in Paris and I definitely had the time of my life. This trip consisted mainly of highlights and the best was still bound to happen. The evening of Monday the 17th I made my way to Palais Garnier. I made my way to the left of the building where the temporary entrance was (they were renovating the building), but a security officer told me that I had to take the main entrance with the words: "c'est la grande spectacle." Well he couldn't have said it better! Indeed it felt amazing to enter this beautiful building through the main entrance, and inside it was a complete shock to me: such splendour, luxury and beautiful details. I was even impressed by the other spectators; they were elegantly dressed up and I saw a lot of ladies in complete evening gowns. Such a contrast to the Netherlands, where most of the people going to a happening dress up like they just came back from the local bar.

I entered the auditorium and was escorted by a chic employee to my seat. I sure was in for a treat! I had a terrific seat and the auditorium was breathtaking! I was still in a state of excitement so I didn't pay any attention what the lady who escorted me to my seat gave to me (a paper). At home I didn't check the internet who the cast would be. Ofcourse I hoped to see my favorite ballerina, Agnès Letestu. I've seen plenty of footage of her and for me she has that certain charisma, style, classical elegance which reminds me of the ballerinas from the early days. Althoug I didn't really care who would perform this evening, I suddenly remembered that small paper. I checked the program book I just purchased and found it in between the pages. It was the list with the cast and when I opened it, I could almost cry: Agnès Letestu with José Martinez. Althoug the show wasn't even started, it couldn't get any better...

The show started and I had the chills all over my body. Such beautiful stage setting and costumes. José Martinez was introduced, a couple of variations further and suddenly you could hear a slight change in music; through the door of the temple on stage you could see the shadow of someone who was bound to give an entrance. She stepped through the doors, light falling like a waterfall on the presence. There she was; Agnès Letestu as heroine Nikiya. It sure was a delight to see her dance. Although she is in the final years of her career (I believe the female dancers must retire at POB when they are 40), she still showed excellent control combined with elegance and subtle acting. She is such a technical gifted ballerina with beautiful lines. She indeed has a great flexibility, but knows how to dose it. Her movements are well thought and her extensions looks natural. I do had the feeling I was looking at a hurt Nikiya and the last variation (the one which is followed with the dance with the basquet) was the epitome of despair; it was convincing how Letestu showed her grief and it was truly heartbreaking.

Somehow I do had the feeling José Martinez was showing his age. As the partner of Letestu, the lifts weren't really convincing and I had the feeling he was quite struggling with them. Although he is an accomplished technical dancer, I have to say his acting was a little 'bland'. When I watched him, it was more that I was looking at a dancer dancing Solor's part, instead of seeing the 'real' Solor. His part lacked emotion, depth and Letestu was emotionally overpowering him on stage. Audric Bezard danced with Letestu in the pas de deux with the esclave and you could notice the difference between him and Martinez; this young dancer had power and freshness in his dancing.

Emilie Cozette was Gamzatti and she brought her role with verve. I really liked her dancing; she did lack some refinement, but she was definitely going for it and didn't held herself back. Through her movements and raw uncompromising style of dancing, Emilie Cozette portraited an excellent Gamzatti; desperate, trying to win Solor's heart, emotional and full of passion. Technically she was extraordinary and she flawlessly performed the variation and coda in the second act. The fight at the final of act I didn't convince me though. You can have two great actresses but there have to be a connection between these two which was unfortunately lacking.

Act III, the Kingdom of Shades was ofcourse the act I was looking for. The showcase of the corps the ballet, which in my opinion is one of the best in the world. Nureyev asked a lot from his dancers; not only from the soloists, but also of the corps the ballet. The entrance of the shades was beautiful, but I couldn't help to have some mixed feelings afterwards. It had more to do with the stage and lighting. I expected to be the stage of Opéra Garnier a lot bigger. It wasn't bad, but with so much dancers on one stage it has the tendency to feel too 'compact'. I think I agree with Silvermash here, and although I've never been to Opéra Bastille, I understand what Silvermash says. Next to that was the harsh lighting. You could see everything on stage during the entrance of the shades and it lacked intimacy and mystery. The Three Shades (Ludmila Pagliero, Mélanie Hurel and Marie-Solène Boulet) were good; excellent coöperation and fluidity. Ludmila Pagliero danced the first variation and she was struggling a bit with it. Ofcourse it's a difficult variation with the combination of balance and strenght, but I think the music was a tad too slow. Kevin Rhodes was the conductor and he could have paced the tempo a bit more up. This Nureyev production definitely requires a slow tempo (you can see/hear that clearly during the entrance of the shades), but there were moments that it was too slow and demanded a bit too much of the dancers. One of the examples was the first shade variation, but this was also noticable during the Gamzatti variation and the pas de deux with the veil.

In this third act Agnès Letestu was beautiful. The first pas de deux, where Nikiya comes to Solor was even too much to handle; the beautiful violin solo in combination with the breathtaking adagio was my highlight of the evening. Agnès Letestu really shines when it comes to the more adagio parts. I held my breath during the pas de deux with the veil, because the pirouettes at the end are always a part where the fluidity of the dance is being tested. Unfortunately Letestu was struggling with it a bit, but composed herself instantly. José Martinez still didn't impress me as Solor, but technically he was good and his variation was flawless.

After some hours the performance was at its final stage, the coda started and it was time for the curtain calls. It was a beautiful evening, everything I hoped for. I fully agree a 100% with Silvermash about Letestu and Martinez; their dancing wasn't on top form and I didn't feel much emotion on stage, particulary from Martinez. Letestu was impeccable, so was Cozette, but the cooperation between all the main characters weren't on the same level. Other than that it truly was a spectacle and even with these minor 'observations', Paris Opéra Ballet gave me a magical evening.

Curtain Call - Agnès Letestu with José Martinez
Curtain Call - Trois Ombres (Ludmila Pagliero, Mélanie Hurel, Marie-Solène Boulet)
Curtain Call - Le Rajah (Stéphane Phavorin), l'Idole dorée (Mathias Heymann), le Fakir (Allister Madin) and le Grand Brahmane (Yann Saïz)
Curtain Call - Gamzatti (Emilie Cozette)
Curtain Call - Everyone
Curtain Call - Conductor Kevin Rhodes

My photos from Palais Garnier

#9 silvermash

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 01:23 PM

Many thanks for this interesting review. I quite felt the same at this show, very unfortunately, it was the Premiere and Agnès Letestu and José Martinez improved a lot technically, especially in the lifts, in the two others. The 25th being was their best up to me where José Martinez did the last Solor variation as written by Nureyev, which wasn't the case the two others shows. This is rather disturbing when you're familiar with the ballet because you're expecting this variation, which is nearly concluding the ballet. It is often assumed that Solor's role is just a technical role, mostly because of this last variation which is extremely difficult. Only Stéphane Bullion and Mathias Heymann made it shone this time around anyway and to the merit of the first one I think because it's not fit for tall dancers. José Martinez is tall and rather a danseur noble. He didn't make his career on acting skills. He did his best but hardly looked like an Indian Warrior! Personally, I find that good actors can give another dimension to Solor and in the meantime to the story. Obbviously as I said before, this was only done by Stéphane Bullion and Nicolas Le Riche.

About the slow tempo of some parts, I must say that the dancers are asking for it. Nureyev choreography is full of steps and sometimes it can looks like a fight to have it rightly, so perhaps it's better when the music is slower. I'd rather have a slow tempo and the real choreography than the right one and something up to what the dancer can do at the moment he's on stage... I think Karl Paquette asked to slow down the last Solor variation for example to manage all the doubles assemblés and we noticed different tempi with the three shades depending the dancers. This was more obvious last Christmas with the Nutcracker and the usually called "Sugar Plum" variation.

#10 bart

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 05:07 PM

hydraulix, I can't express how grateful I am for those photos. (I saw this cast on the 25th.) I share your excitement about attending ballet at the Palais Garnier. Your photos of the theater are magnificent -- and, along with those of the curtain calls -- are memento of a great evening..

Silvermash, thank you for the following:

I quite felt the same at this show, very unfortunately, it was the Premiere and Agnès Letestu and José Martinez improved a lot technically, especially in the lifts, in the two others. The 25th being was their best up to me where José Martinez did the last Solor variation as written by Nureyev, which wasn't the case the two others shows. This is rather disturbing when you're familiar with the ballet because you're expecting this variation, which is nearly concluding the ballet. It is often assumed that Solor's role is just a technical role, mostly because of this last variation which is extremely difficult.

When I see a performance of dancers I hardly know, or of works I don't get to see very often, I always enjoy hearing from others with more experience. I wish I had been able to see multiple performances, as you did. :tiphat:

#11 hydraulix

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Posted 07 July 2010 - 03:33 PM

Thank you for your replies Silvermash and bart (also thank you for the kind words about my photos, these really means a lot to me as I love to photograph). Indeed it would be amazing to have witnessed multiple performances of the Paris Opéra Ballet, something I can only dream of!

#12 4mrdncr

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Posted 07 July 2010 - 05:54 PM

Thank you for your replies Silvermash and bart (also thank you for the kind words about my photos, these really means a lot to me as I love to photograph). Indeed it would be amazing to have witnessed multiple performances of the Paris Opéra Ballet, something I can only dream of!


I,too, must thank hydraulix for posting the photos, and all others for their perceptive comments on these POB performances of La Bayadere. I am very interested for a number of reasons:
(a) having filmed La Bayadere, I'm always interested in other versions and other stagings
(b) I'm half French, so anything about France is also of interest.
©* Kevin Rhodes is the maestro of my home symphony orchestra (10+ yrs now), and has done much to advance its technique and popularity. (He also once programmed an evening of ballet music including Swan Lake-Black Swan pdd, Prokofiev's R&J-this was an incredibly long excerpt from all three acts in logical order, not the usual orchestral suites, AND played at the correct dancing tempos (finally!) as part of the Symphony Orchestra's subscription season.

*someone please tell the computer editing program that a "C" with parentheses around it is NOT a copyright symbol!

UNE GRANDE MERCI A TOUS


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