Sleeping Beauty at the Paris Opera House

Sleeping Beauty,  Opéra de Paris I really wanted to title this post “David Hallberg’s Amazing Coup de Pied” but I wasn’t sure if that would be a title anyone would really understand, let alone click on to read the post.

Chéri took me to the ballet at the Opera de Paris (this time at the Bastille opera house). I was disappointed that the show wasn’t being held at my favorite Paris monument (Palais Garnier), but I do find the seats more comfortable at the Bastille location. The ballet we watched : Sleeping Beauty. The choreography by Rudolf Noureev and the music by Tchaikovsky, it couldn’t be anything less than a pure delight. I was beyond excited. It has been a while since I have found the time to go to see a performance and I was starting to miss the incredible shows the company puts on. The costumes and sets are always at the height of perfection, made with talented hands and designed by great stage artists.
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La Source – “Le public n’a pas de fesses”

I went to see the ballet La Source recently at the Garnier Opera house, one of my favorite places in Paris as many of you know! And I was once again dazzled and amazed by the beauty of the production they put on.

The phrase “Le public n’a pas de fesses” means literally that the audience doesn’t have a rear end (meaning, the public is so enthralled in the show that they do not feel how uncomfortable their rear end is in those seats!) That’s how I felt about this beautiful show. I didn’t feel my rear!

La Source, Opera De Paris

I was thrilled to discover Allister Madin in the role of Zaël, and elf of the water spirit Naïla, who was herself danced by Charline Giezendanner. Both of these two powerhouse dancers not only showed incredible technique and physical talent but they also had an acute sensibility for the characters they were portraying. Zaël is both zealous and secretive, “malin” as we would say in French. He carries the show on his green clad shoulders so well. And received thunderous applause as he took his bows. Miss Giezendanner was as graceful as a dewdrop and a fairy with the most delicate gestures that reached to the ends of her limbs.

Discover Allister Madin in this video :

Set in mythical Persia, the story involves a hunter, Djémil; The water spirit Naïla; her elf Zaël; Khan the emporer; and Nouredda who is to be promised to Khan by her brother Mozdock. It is a love story full of betrayals and hesitation, ruse and sacrifice. This ballet was first created in 1866 and has been revived by the one of the Opera house’s star dancers, Jean-Guillaume Bart. Eric Ruf created the magical set and Christian LaCroix designed the breathtaking costumes. See in the artists speak about their creations following video (in French).

Eric Ruf’s décor for this piece was captivating to me because he managed to create a magical fairy-like set that gives us the idea of water falls and foliage, simply by using typical things you would find in a theater : rope and red velvet. It seemed so fitting to use such elements, but they are so far removed from what they were meant to represent. Yet, it worked theatrical wonders on the imagination. It seems so natural coming from him though as he is based in theater, being from the Comédie Française theater. His décor oozes the stage theatrical inspiration. I fell in love with the work as the curtain rose. It was perfect.

La source

La source

(Sorry for the photo quality, I only had my phone camera on me. Find some better pictures at brieuc75 blog)

The costumes were just as stunning (if not more so) than the decor and the dancing. GORGEOUS creations by LaCroix that sparkled so much I thought I might need sunglasses! Crystals sewn into the silk and organza fabrics, shined under the theater lights like the sparkling sunlight on the sea or the twinkling Eiffel tower at midnight. Sumptuous and stunning, these creations are pure works of art. And the color! Oh my the color! LaCroix really does do color better than most designers. As he says in the video inserted above, he was fulfilling a childhood dream with these creations for the Opera de Paris.

Well he’s got me dreaming!
I left the Opera house in a ballerina la-la fairy land state-of-mind…

Caligula – Riche en Emotion

Un tragédie en 5 actes…

Tout juste une heure et demi ce ballet sans entracte, chorégraphié par Nicolas LeRiche en 2005, nous raconte l’histoire de l’empereur romain, Caligula, amoureux du spectacle avec des accès d’âme poétique, maladif et mégalomane. Il se croit en relation avec le dieux, il disait que la lune descendait le voir dans son lit, il aime son cheval à la folie jusqu’à lui faire bâtir un palais. Un personnage plein de complexe il ne règne que pendant un peu moins de 4 ans, et il dépense sa fortune colossale, une fortune qu’aucun empereur n’a eu auparavant, en un an et demi.  Sa règne commence à rencontrer des problèmes surtout avec les sénateurs, qu’il humilie, et il tombe dans la débauche. Il est mort assassiné par des coups de couteaux.

Leriche, danseur étoile de l’Opéra, qui a eu l’idée de faire un ballet sur ce personnage suite à la lecture des Vies des douze Césars de Suétone, prend comme collaborateur le dramaturge Guillaume Gallienne. Ensemble ils on créé un ballet surprenant avec le plein d’émotion. Chorégraphié à la musique des Quatre Saison de Vivaldi, et parsemé de musique électronique de Louis Dandrel on voit une vrai drame se dérouler sur scène avec une danse très moderne imprégné de théâtre. C’est comme Leriche et Gallienne veulent atteindre le spectateur par tous les moyens possible. Il y a une étude sur le mouvement et sa traduction dans les émotions qui est puisée dans une réflexion riche et une volonté de communiquer énorme. On attend pas moins de cela de Nicolas Leriche. Le tout est augmenté par l’emploie de l’expression faciale des danseurs qui font des grimace géantes à des moments précis, ou par le bruit lourd de leurs pas forts, leurs bras, leurs corps qui frappent sur le sol. Parfois on n’entend que cela.

Le corps du ballet jouent les sénateurs et les suivants. On voit parmi eux un sénateur, Chaerea, serait à l’origine du complot contre Caligula. Mnester, un pantomime pour qui l’empereur avait une admiration sans bornes, danse des interludes avec trois autres figures. Des pas de deux magnifique sont dansés entre Caligula et la lune. Une scène surtout reste dans le mémoire, celui entre Caligula et son cheval Incitatus, où le corps humain semble séffacer et celui d’un animal apparaît. C’est aussi une scène que l’on peut voir comme une fantaisie, car elle n’ajoute rien à l’histoire du spectacle, mais seulement rajoute l’anecdote du sentiment de Caligula envers son cheval.

J’ai eu la chance de voir Mathieu Ganio dans le rôle de Caligula, Clairemarie Osta dans le rôle de la lune, Nicolas Paul dans le rôle de Mnester, Aurélien Houette dans le rôle de Chaerea, Audric Bezard dans le rôle du cheval, et Eleonora Abbagnato dans le rôle de Caesonia, l’épouse de Caligula.

Ce spectacle me laisse avec une envie énorme de voir encore d’autres créations de Nicolas Leriche… vivement que Brigitte Lefèvre le laisse entamer un autre projet!

Jusqu’au 24 février 2011, Opéra de Paris, Palais Garnier.

A tragedy in 5 acts…

Only just an hour and a half, this ballet without intermission, choreographed by Nicholas Leriche in 2005, tells the story of the Roman emperor, Caligula, who loved the art of the stage and who would often have bouts of poetic feeling, or would be become an angry megalomaniac. He believed that he was in direct relation with the gods, that the moon would come down from the sky and into his bed, and he loved his horse so much that built it a palace. A character full of complexity he only reigned for just under four years, and spent his immense fortune, the largest fortune any emperor had ever had before him, in a year and a half. His reign began seeing problems especially with the senators, whom he would often humiliate, and his reign fell to debauchery. He dies, assassinated by stabbing.

Leriche, a star dancer of the Opera, who had the idea to create a ballet on this character after having read the Lives of twelve Cesars, by Suétone, took as a collaborator the dramaturge Guillaume Gallienne. Together the have created an astonishing ballet full of emotion. Choreographed to the Fours Seasons of Vivaldi and interludes of electronic music by Lousi Dandrel, a true drama is danced out on the stage with a very modern choreography that is impregnated with theatrics. It is as if Leriche and Gallienne want to reach the spectator by all means possible. There is a true study of movement and how it is translated into emotion that seems to have been inspired by a rich reflexion and an enormous desire to communicate. We wouldn’t expect anything less from Nicolas Leriche. The entire thing is then augmented by the use of facial expression by the dancers who make giant grimaces at certain precise moments, or by the heavy sound of their feet, arms, bodies striking the floor with force. Sometimes that is all that is heard.

The corps de ballet dances the roles of the senators and the senators followers. On of the senators, Chaerea, would be at the origin of the assassination conspiracy against Caligula. Mnester, a pantomime for whom the emperor had a limitless admiration dances interludes with three other figures. The magnificent pas de deux are danced by Caligula and the Moon. And one scene in particular stands out, the one danced between Caligula and his horse Incitatus, here the human body seems to transform into that of an animal. It is also somewhat of a frivolous and fantasy scene, as it does not add anything of importance to the drama on stage, but merely includes the anecdote concerning Caligula’s sentiments towards his horse.

I was lucky to be able to see  Mathieu Ganio dance the role of Caligula, Clairemarie Osta dance the role of the Moon, Nicolas Paul dance the role of Mnester, Aurélien Houette dance the role of Chaerea, Audric Bezard as the horse, and Eleonora Abbagnato as Caesonia, the wife of Caligula.

This show left me with an enormous desire to see more and more creations of Nicolas Leriche… hopefully Brigitte Lefèvre will let him choreograph more shows for he Opéra de Paris!

Until February 24th 2011, at the Opéra de Paris, Garnier Palace.

En pointe – On pointe

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Vicente Rey
Vicente Rey


La Générale

(The dress rehearsal)

I am lucky to know someone that can invite me to visit at his place of work which happens to be the Palais Garnier. He was quite gracious to invite me the night of the dress rehearsal of the very exclusive Gala that was performed for the AROP (l’Association pour le Rayonnement de l’Opéra de Paris) which is a group of the big, Big, BIG sponsors of the Opera house and company. Their soirée is complete with a lavish dinner and a show with both displays of dance and opera.


I was lucky to be able to watch the show, preparations, commentary (by Brigitte Lefèvre) and all! The first half, la partie dansé (I didn’t stay for the entire second half which was the opera pieces, plus my battery died), consisted of the défilé of the ENTIRE dance company and school, from the little ones all the way to the danseurs étoiles. Imagine an entire stage full of dancers!

Then there was an excerpt of Balenchine’s Pas De Deux with Tchaikovski, excerpts of Paquita by choreographer Pierre Lacotte -I have fond memories of doing these very same excerpts at my dance school on Cape Cod –


And then… MY FAVORITE piece of choreography in the whole world : Boléro, by Maurice Béjart (to the music of the same title by Ravel of course) danced by the very stunning very muscular Nicolas Le Riche….swoon!

And of course I thought of all of you, my faithful readers… I wouldn’t leave you hanging! (Here’s just a few excerpts of the excerpts)


Décrocher la lune – Shoot the moon

Photo : Opera de Paris

Kaguyahime, the moon princess, descends down to Earth with a message of peace and spirituality. Her incredible beauty inspires love and desire, and many men vie for her hand. She refuses them, knowing that her time on Earth is limited, and she is secretly in love with the Emperor, Mikado. A war breaks out and the inhabitants of Kaguyahime’s village are forced to defend themselves against a nobleman and his warriors. Her time on Earth finished, the moon princess must leave her adoptive parents and the Emporer and she reascends back to the moon cloaked in a golden mantle.

The Opera de Paris showed it’s premier yesterday evening, of their version of this timeless Japanese tale, with Marie-Agnès Gillot dancing the title role. Clothed in a glowing white unitard she carefully and gracefully moved through Jiri Kylian’s astonishing choreography. The entire spectacle moves with a fluidity that is painstakingly practiced and perfected. The décor and lighting (done by Michel Simon) harmonizes so well with the dancers and the music that is represents a seamless flow of artistry and creative ideas that the spectator is carried away by each and every moment of this amazing show.

In reality there were two spectacles in one, the dancers and the orchestra. The music composed by Maki Ishii is dominated by percussionists, who execute a dance of their own as the beat their large base drums in a choreographed unison.

But the dancers were obviously the most thrilling. In an almost unstoppable movement they performed a story punctuated by more than just pirouettes and jetés, they were characters, letters even, from a Japanese parchment paper telling a story that has endured for almost two thousand years. Their bodies took on forms that traditional classical and modern dance do not know.

Run, fly, but do not wander slowly to see this masterpiece. You will not be disappointed. It lasts until the 15th of July on selected dates only, at the Opera de Paris, Bastille.

Théâtre des rêves – Dream theater

L’Opéra Garnier… I always dreamed to one day step onto the stage at the famous Parisian theater where so many elegant point shoes have brushed the floor in fervent fouettés… and I did. I did, and I did a pirouette on that most illustrious stage where just minutes before the dancers of the Paris Opera ballet company had been gracefully floating. I did a pirouette… aaaaand almost fell over. I almost fell over because the floor is slanted 5% and if you are not used to it, it can be quite destabilizing. This is where the terms “upstage” and “downstage” come from.

After catching my fall, I looked up to see Brigitte Lefèvre, company director, giving post-performance notes to dancer Alessio Carbone. She raised an eyebrow and said with a kind chuckle in her voice “Si vous allez commencer à faire ça, il faut venir en cours demain!”… I was literally trembling with awe and excitement. She was speaking to me! And (jokingly, but still) inviting me to ballet class!
I was lucky enough to be given a private tour of the entire, I mean ENTIRE, opera house, after the Tuesday night performance of Hommage à Jerome Robbins this past May 4th 2010. From rafters to the belly, I will share some of what I saw with you dear readers…

A lofty rehearsal room under the dome of the Opera house. I couldn’t resist a pose.

Melissa Ladd

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Une seconde Chance – A Second chance

As much as I love the ballet, never have I ever shed a tear for the heros and heroines, until I saw Aurelie Dupont dancing the choreographie of John Neumeier in La Dame Aux Camelias = the Lady With the Camillas, at the Paris Garnier opera house. I know the novel by Alexandre Dumas fils very well, and did certainly shed many a tear for the Marguerite Gautier on paper, one of the most delicate and heart-wrenching characters to come out of 19th century literature. But I had no idea what I was in for at the Palais Garnier.

The lead role was shared by five different star dancers over the course of this run of the ballet which is part of the Parisian company’s repertoire. Aurelie Dupont was dancing on the 21st of February when I attended, perched on a balcony seat just over stage right.
The funny thing is, almost two years ago, I was at the same theater watching the same ballet, but couldn’t stand to stay after the first act, let alone the following two (it’s a 3 hour show with 2 entractes). My excuse? I was recovering from heavy wisdom-tooth surgery and felt like I had a brass ball attached to my face, and was completely unable to enjoy the beauty of the spectacle for all the painkillers they had me stuffed with. So I was more than thrilled to return this winter for a second chance.
The story is about love, devotion, loss, solitude and human emotion. Neumeier’s carefully crafted choreography seizes all of the desire and pain that pours out of the heroine’s heart like so many tears that smeared my mascara as the end drew near. Chopin’s notes give the ballet wings, and lifts it beyond the ordinary; the costumes by Jürgen Rose wisk you away from contemporary Paris and into another time, a time of elegance and grace that seems only a fantasy to us now; and the whole accented with lighting by Rolf Warter… the effect was enthralling.
I forgot to scrutinize and critique the dancers’ feet, I omitted to count pirouettes, I hardly remembered to notice the patterns in the choreography… I was so engaged within the story and the characters. In front of a full house, Aurelie Dupont was not only stunningly beautiful, and she did more than give us great technique, perfect steps, timing and stage presence, she gave everything. She put every ounce of herself into Marguerite Gautier and she took my breath away.

Today being the final show for the season, you also will have to wait for your second chance to see this stunning spectacle at the Opera Garnier Paris. Until then…