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Subject: "A disappointing Don Q in Paris" Archived thread - Read only
 
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eugdog

08-05-02, 05:35 PM (GMT)
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"A disappointing Don Q in Paris"
 
   LAST EDITED ON 08-05-02 AT 05:38 PM (GMT)

The Paris Opera was very off form last Saturday (May 4, 2002) in their performance on Don Quixote at the Bastille Theatre. Marie-Agnes Gillot had some good moments but was not the same dancer I saw last year in Paquita. Her Act 3 variation was so slow it could hardly be called dancing. I am also sorry to say that her weight is close to the limit to what I would consider acceptable. This might be rather unfair but not to point this out would be unfair on the other dancers. Jose Martinez performance was also very subdued with no “pyrotechnics” in his act 3 variation. In fact he used far simpler steps then what we have seen at the Royal Ballet.

The Street Dancer (whom I will not name) took a very bad fall and danced tentatively through the rest of her variation. But I also saw the most unsatisfactory Dryad Queen (again I shall not named her) – she was too short and the steps were completely beyond her ability. She had very poor extensions, her jumps were low and she required two footed landings. There was not comparison with her compatriot at the Royal Ballet, Zenaida Yanowsky.

But not every thing was bad. Fanny Fiat did a lovely “amour/cupid” variation and in act 3 a lowly quadrille (as the lead wedding party dancer) showed what the French company is capable of. The corp de ballet was, as usual, superb – the best in the world in my view. The final closing curtain scene at the end of Act 1 and 3 looked stunning - of course it helps if you have twice as many danders on the stage then the Royal Ballet could ever do!

The Paris Opera Don Q is choreographically identical to the Royal Ballet version. This is no criticism. Nureyev’s Don Q is very competent. Moreover the Paris Opera have the ability to do full justice to the work. They can put on far more dancers on the stage. The result is a bigger and more splashy Don Q then the RB’s version. I also very much like the new sets and costumes which were based on figures and scenes from the paintings of Goya.

Ultimately Don Q is a ballet with no feeling and thought. Not even the choreography is all that good. It lives and dies by superb pyrotechnical dancing from in its main stars. When, for whatever, reason the stars give nothing more then a perfunctary performance then the entire ballet becomes totally facile and forgettable. I am afraid that best describes the Don Quixote I saw that night in Paris.


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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris Estelle 09-05-02 1
     RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris Robert 09-05-02 2
         RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris Estelle 09-05-02 3
             RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris alymer 09-05-02 4
             RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris Robert 09-05-02 5
                 RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris Estelle 10-05-02 6
  RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris Cordelia M 12-05-02 7
     RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris katharine kanter 13-05-02 8
         RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris eugdog 13-05-02 9
             RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris AnnWilliams 13-05-02 10
             RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris MAB 13-05-02 11
                 RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris katharine kanter 13-05-02 12
                     RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris Estelle 13-05-02 13
                         RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris eugdog 13-05-02 14
             RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris JosephCE 14-05-02 15
                 RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris Viviane 14-05-02 16
                     RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris JosephCE 14-05-02 17
                         RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris Estelle 14-05-02 18
                             RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris JosephCE 14-05-02 19
                             RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris Estelle 14-05-02 20

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Estelle

09-05-02, 00:27 AM (GMT)
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1. "RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris"
In response to message #0
 
   I saw a performance of that production of "Don Quixote" a few hours ago at the Opera Bastille, with a similar cast.

Eugene, I think that the "lowly quadrille" you mention as the "demoiselle d'honneur" (wedding party dancer) is Dorothée Gilbert. Actually she almost became a coryphée, she ranked second
among the quadrilles in the last competition, but unfortunately there was only one available position (for more than 20 quadrilles). She is very talented in my opinion, and I hope that she'll be luckier next season. I found her lovely in that role, very charming and joyful.

I appreciated a lot Fanny Fiat too as Cupid (what a pity that she didn't get promoted as premiere danseuse at the last competition- there were two positions, but one of them wasn't filled). But I beg to differ about the two main dancers: perhaps they were off form on Saturday, but today I found both of them excellent. And I'm a bit surprised about your comment about Gillot's weight: her silhouette looks very nice to me (except that the fact that she's very tall and with large shoulders makes it harder for her to find suitable male partners), and it's the very first time that I hear such comments about her.

About the Street dancer: today I found her satisfying, not exceptional but really good. She might deserve some indulgence, as she's just back on stage after three years of absence for health reason, and in fact nobody thought she'd be able to recover and to perform again (she's about 35-36). Of course I understand that it's not a good excuse if you found her performance bad, but all dancers are humans...


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Robert

09-05-02, 04:27 PM (GMT)
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2. "RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris"
In response to message #1
 
   Lucky old you to see any ballet in Paris. I shall be there at the end of the month and guess what, no ballet at all. Last time they were on strike the time before the trains were on strike, now I visit when there is nothing on anywhere no Opera, Ballet, Classical music bar Wagner, one night at the Opera. I do not think it could happen in London!


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Estelle

09-05-02, 06:00 PM (GMT)
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3. "RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris"
In response to message #2
 
   Robert, on what date will you be in Paris exactly? There are opera performances every day between May 20 and May 31, except on May 25 and May 29. Also you might try to have a look at what is programmed at other theatres, like the Chatelet, the Champs-Elysees, the Theatre de la Ville, etc. Also sometimes there is more dance in some theaters of the suburbs (like Saint-Quentin en Yvelines, Nanterre, Massy, Bobigny, etc.) that in Paris itself.


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alymer

09-05-02, 08:29 PM (GMT)
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4. "RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris"
In response to message #3
 
   Eugene, in fact there are a number of differences between the Paris and Covent Garden versions of Don Quixote. To name only two, the prologue in Paris is very different and the pas de deux for Basilio and Kitri in Act II is considerably extended.
I'm sorry you didn't like Gillot, I think she's a lovely dancer and I've enjoyed her dancing in a number of roles - not least as Cathy in Hurlevent. But I would never have described her as even approaching overweight - unless she'd gained about 20lbs in less than two months, which seems a bit unlikely - especially in that company.


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Robert

09-05-02, 11:48 PM (GMT)
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5. "RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris"
In response to message #3
 
   Estelle
I will be in Paris on 23 24 25 of May. I have looked at the Chatelet and used a computer search without much luck.


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Estelle

10-05-02, 02:47 PM (GMT)
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6. "RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris"
In response to message #5
 
   Well, so far I have found:
-at the Paris Opera, Puccini's "Tosca" on the 23rd and "Le vaisseau fantome" on the 24the
-at the Theatre du Chatelet (I agree that their web site isn't very convenient), some concerts:
Orchestre de Paris on the 23rd (Mozart- Verdi- R. Strauss, with Renee Fleming) and Orchestre Philarmonique de Radio-France on the 24th (Wagner, act 2 of "Tristan und Isolde")

http://www.chatelet-theatre.com/sommaire/concerts.htm

-at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees, a concert by the Orchestre National de France on the 23rd (Janacek- Mozart- Dvorak)

http://www.radio-france.fr/chaines/orchestres/national/concerts/fiche.php?saison_id=176

-at the Opera Comique, a musical show by Jerome Savary "Chano Pozo" on the 24th and a concert by the Orchestre de Paris on the 25th in the morning ("Entartete musik", I think it's some music from German composers censored by he Nazis in the 1930s)

-at the Mairie of the 18th arrondissement, a concert of hornpipe
(with the Royal Scottish Country Dance of Edimburgh ) on the 23rd

-the Orchestre National d'Ile de France in the 8th arrondissement (but I don't know exactly where) on the 25th (Varese, Matalon, Revueltas)

-the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, directed by Claudio Abbado (lieder of Schubert sung by Anne Sofie von Otter) on the 25th at the Cite de la Musique (19th arrondissement)

The only dance I've found so far is modern/ contemporary, and I'm not sure you'd be interested...

Once in Paris, it might be a good idea to buy Pariscope or "Lofficiel des spectacles", it's two small weekly magazines (about 35-40 cents of euro) listing all the concerts, operas, exhibitions, films, etc. and usually it's quite exhaustive. Hope this helps!


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Cordelia M

12-05-02, 12:51 PM (GMT)
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7. "RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris"
In response to message #0
 
   EugDog,what do you mean by"her weight is close to the limit..."
I suppose you mean that she is too skinny,isn`t it?
Because,in fact she IS very skinny.


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katharine kanter

13-05-02, 10:22 AM (GMT)
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8. "RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris"
In response to message #7
 
   With excuses to everyone for putting up a longish posting. It seems to be appropriate on this thread.


WHERE WAS BEAUTY, IN ALL THAT ?


On May 2nd, lightning struck at the performance of Don Quixote, following which Laetitia Pujol was appointed étoile. I was watching the conductor attempting to follow events on stage, and was just about to pump myself up into my usual "why isn't he watching the stage ?" frenzy, when it happened. I suddenly realised that here was a decent conductor, with a fair amount of experience in this particular mine-field, and he was going nowhere - pedalling through thick sauerkraut, as the French put it.

There is no way, absolutely no way, that any conductor, even Wilhelm Furtwaengler, could make the events on the Bastille stage that night, tally with the music.

And why ?

There are, I think, three reasons. One, the choreography. Two, the way the choreography is now being taught. Three, the fact that the dancers have simply given up on listening to the music. A long way behind, comes rotten conducting.


The choreography

How Nureyev, who was an able musician himself, and a very musical dancer, ever got round to choreographing the rubbish he did, is a mystery. We would all agree that Nureyev had a lot going for him, but not that ! He was fussy, he was obssessive, he did stuff that no-one in their right mind would ever do to the music –an obstacle course. Anyone who does not come out on the other end maimed or blind, wins, or becomes premier danseur, or whatever.

The point about music for dancing, is that any composer who knows what he is doing, always writes in less events per square millimetre – I mean per bar line – than in purely instrumental music. The reason is simple: the bod' simply cannot move as fast as the human voice, or one's fingers on a stringed instrument, for example. Ballet music resembles operatic music, with the dance line replacing the vocal line, except that in terms of musical events, it is still less dense. That is a fact of life, like it or not. The dancers, and the audience, can then concentrate on what they are supposed to be doing, rather than rushing about like madmen unleashed by Pina Bausch.

19th Century ballet music is, as a rule, cleverly written with all that in mind. Even Minkus can be listened to, without being sick, provided the choreographer has left his little ego in the cloakroom. In fact, even a Minkus ballet can look like a work of art, if the dancers are tippie-top, and Other Things are not allowed to get in their way.

Is that asking too much ? Ask a silly question, get a sillier answer !

Nureyev, to name only one pathological case, wanted every member of the the audience to know what an absolute genius he was. So he took Petipa's steps – and I'm not the first to have remarked that Petipa was perhaps not the world's greatest mind – and twiddled and piddled about with them. The result: chaos.

Two, the way the choreography is now being taught

As Mlle. Pujol came out, shaking with nerves – she had to take on the role of Kitri a fortnight in advance owing to an injury to Mlle. Osta – and somehow survived that bone-breaking first variation, something else struck me. What was terribly, awfully wrong, was not Mlle. Pujol, who, after all, was doing what her teacher had told her to do, but the chain-reaction of rotten choreography, the instructor working with a rehearsal pianist, then transferring the whole thing to a full orchestra, and sending the girl out with a muddled concept.

Over the past thirty years, Kitri's dances in Don Q have undergone the same shift that has often been discussed on this Website: bigger, louder, faster, more extreme. Maia Plitseskaya has a lot to answer for, as it was she who started the trend towards Dancing to Impress.

Those dances were probably, originally, meant to be light, lilting, graceful, with gypsy buzz round the edges, but, withal, PERFECTLY in synch with the music. Instead, what do we see ? A tiny little woman, Mlle. Pujol, about five foot three, dancing the steps in a way suited to a six and a half foot giant – everything big, everything exaggerated, everything for effect on the cavernous Bastille stage. Net result: a conductor tearing his hair out, reining in the orchestra as though manoeuvring a teetering diligence. One half expected to hear him bellow WHOA BOYS!!!!!!!

Now, could Mlle. Pujol have known this ? No. Could her experienced, much older instructors, who had led the piano rehearsals, not have known
- that a tiny woman must always dance WITHIN her own size, within her own ambitus of articulation, or she is going to be way off the music,
- that the rehearsal pianist is going to be far more flexible, one foot away from the girl, than a one-hundred man orchestra buried in the pit, and the pianist is going to cheat like mad to make HIS playing fit the variations, rather than the other way round,
- that none of the above is going to work, once you get out on stage with a hulking great orchestra,
- and, that Kitri's variations cannot be danced that way, if we are to remain within the area of classical ballet ?

In ballet, there is a world of a difference between bravura dancing, tremendous brio, virtuosity, that you have got to be able to turn on and off like a spigot, as needed, and dancing for EFFECT. The latter, is circus.

To get the jetés as huge as possible, here we had Mlle. Pujol rushing for them with arms flailing as though we were heading for a rugby scrum. No, no, and no ! Her instructor must have seen it, he undoubtedly did see it, and let her get away with it. That is slipshod teaching indeed, because, with this particular Kitri, we have got a first-rate technician, who does not need to pull on rugby shorts and spiked shoes to succeed.

Three, the fact that the dancers have simply given up on listening to the music

Most of them have. They feel that the music is completely out of their control. With this sort of choreography, they are simply trying to start, or finish, their steps on time.

Rotten conducting

There is, of course, rotten conducting. But what is a conductor to do, when he's got a choreographer, an instructor, an orchestra – bored out of its collective skull – and half the dancers acting as though the music were just there to provide counts ?

The net result of this sort of experience, is that Beauty did not make it to the appointment. Beauty, moreover, appears to have a marked aversion to dancers - unless they be in character roles - wearing wigs or hats, especially mock-torero hats.

As an aside, one cannot help but be a little concerned by Mr. Paquette's peculiar lack of affinity, in the role of Espada, with props and accoutrements of any kind, be they capes, shawls, swords or bits of stage furniture. And, if I may be allowed to make one small remark, in relation to Mlle. Fiat: unjustly, in the eyes of many, the beautiful redhead was passed over, in the 2002 Concours, for promotion to première danseuse. Although Mlle. Fiat has the face and figure of a dainty porcelain doll, she is a very strong dancer, indeed so strong, that most of the ladies simply fade away alongside her. Her beats are a full foot off the ground, her feather-light jetés the height of a man, without a shadow of apparent effort. No matter how irritated one might be at being "stuck" for another year in demi-soloist roles, care has got to be taken not to "disrupt the picture", not to give the impression, albeit unconsciously, that one is elbowing the weak out of one's way, because, at the end of the day, art suffers.

As in all things, there were exceptions. Myriam Ould Braham and Emmanuel Thibault (ninety-seventh from the left in the seventeenth row, as usual), had strapped Hermes' wings to their sandals and somehow lent a few instants of Dancing with a capital D. Despite a fall, that I would tend to attribute to perplexity generated by the fiddly hand movements Nureyev has given to Cupid, Mlle. Ould Brahm was a positive enchantment.


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eugdog

13-05-02, 01:32 PM (GMT)
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9. "RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris"
In response to message #8
 
   LAST EDITED ON 13-05-02 AT 04:37 PM (GMT)

LAST EDITED ON 13-05-02 AT 01:34 PM (GMT)

When I saw Don Q I was in the third row of the stalls - perhaps a bit too close to be ideal. I am afraid I am going to a have to stand by what I said about Gillot. There quite a lot of other dancers around so comparison are quite easy to make! This is the first time I have ever reviewed a performance and felt obliged NOT to dislose the names of the dancers!

Estelle - the "lowly quadrille" who danced so enchantingly in the third act was indeed D. Gilbert (very French name?).


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AnnWilliams

13-05-02, 01:46 PM (GMT)
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10. "RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris"
In response to message #9
 
   'This is the first time I have ever reviewed a performance and felt obliged to dislose the names of the dancers!'

Eugene, I am puzzled by this statement. Isn't it normal, when reviewing dance performances to disclose the names of the dancers?


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MAB

13-05-02, 01:49 PM (GMT)
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11. "RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris"
In response to message #9
 
   I think we will have to bow to Eugdog's judgement on this one. I know three people who went to Paris over the new year to see La Bayadere and all three commented very unfavouably indeed on the size of Ms Gillot.


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katharine kanter

13-05-02, 02:29 PM (GMT)
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12. "RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris"
In response to message #11
 
   With respect to Mlle. Gillot, I cannot help but feel that there is a psychological aspect to what people see as "size".

Personally, I have a rather entrenched prejudice against tall dancers, probably because they tend, with a few rare exceptions, not be good at Bournonville. This is a prejudice, and I try to avoid building it into a principle !

A case in point is the Danish étoile, Silja Schandorff, a sensitive, and quite remarkably musical dancer. She is, I believe, about 5'10''. A woman of keen intelligence, she has honed her technique, and succeeded in disguising what would otherwise have appeared a show of strength, proving a serious Sylphide or Giselle - to a degree that her great size has but seldom been remarked upon. Her dancing is marked by a vivid mental activity, an inner life, that focuses one's concentration immediately.

My feeling in the case of Mlle. Gillot, who is of a similar height and build, and, like Miss Schandorff, a very beautiful woman, is that there is a psychological element in her dancing, almost of "bullying", which leads people to see her - unfairly - as "bulky" or "unfeminine". In fact, she is an unusually lovely-looking woman, with translucent skin, and a cloud of soft auburn hair. But, as I see it, and leaving to one side for a moment the fact that pesonally, I have not yet found her interpretations to be satisfactory, her technical ability does not, at the present time, suffice to disguise the mechanics, the application of force, which, in a tall woman, with the "coarsening" illusion created by distance and the stage, will give almost the impression of brutality, and sometimes, of laxness.

One should bear in mind that it is more difficult to train a large body, than a small neat one; the centrifugal forces at work in the tall are both hard to master, and very wearing on the ligaments and vertebrae. That sort of body, unless carefully worked at, tends not to weather the years as well.

Owing to the current obssession with the body beautiful, with film, photography and fashion models, rather than with MUSIC, schools and troupes have, over the last two decades, tended to favour precisely this body type. They favour it, but it is not really doing a favour to the ballet ! Of course, there are a few truly brilliant "giants", like Miss Schandorff, or the "young whippersnapper" Matthieu Ganio, who will always slip through the net, but I cannot help but hope that we will get back to the small and strong ! Jumps and beats ! Flight ! That is where the small and strong come into their own !


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Estelle

13-05-02, 02:52 PM (GMT)
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13. "RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris"
In response to message #12
 
   There seems to be some sort of misunderstanding about
the notion of "size" and the notion of "weight"...

Eugene's first message was about Marie-Agnes Gillot's "weight".
It was not very precise (and Eugene, you didn't answer Cordelia's question: did you mean overweight or too skinny?), and other people mentioned her "size".

As katharine mentioned, Ms Gillot is a very tall dancer
(about 5'9'', I think), and she has large shoulders (larger than most female dancers), she's quite athletic. But either there is something I haven't noticed, or I really don't think that "overweight" would be a suitable word for her- she may starve herself, it won't make change her height or her shoulders anyway... I understand that some might be disturbed by her rather unusual body type (and it isn't easy for her to find suitable partners, as there are very few POB male dancers tall enough for her), but there's little which can be done about it.

By the way, I agree that her style is a bit too "athletic" sometimes, with much strength. So far, I have preferred her
in modern works, or in roles such as the Queen in Robbins' "Cage" or the soloist in "Capriccio", rather than in purely classical works.


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eugdog

13-05-02, 04:37 PM (GMT)
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14. "RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris"
In response to message #13
 
   I have tried to be as tactful as possible - but I am compelled to be more direct - I thought Gillot was rather heavy COMPARED TO THE OTHER DANCERS (in reality she is probably thinner then most woman but on the stage dancers gain "optical" pounds).

Perhaps being very close to the stage gives an optical illusion of extra wieght but I have sat close to the stage before once or twice before.

I really enjoyed seeing Gillot in Paquita last year! As well as having great technique ( a terrific jump) she was very tall and beautiful!


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JosephCE

14-05-02, 07:55 AM (GMT)
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15. "RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris"
In response to message #9
 
   If you going to see a ballet performance in Opera Garnier or Opera Bastille, please open this site.
http://web.axelero.hu/bparczen
With corps de ballet section in this site we would like to help you who is who on the stage.
PointHU



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Viviane

14-05-02, 08:54 AM (GMT)
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16. "RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris"
In response to message #15
 
   Joseph, thanks, this is great !!!
Any idea if it will be updated for this weekend ?


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JosephCE

14-05-02, 09:49 AM (GMT)
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17. "RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris"
In response to message #16
 
   Yes naturally, but exact information we will get on performance day afternoon.
For example actually is missing some name from the today evening corps but you can see them about 17.00 (GMT)


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Estelle

14-05-02, 11:52 AM (GMT)
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18. "RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris"
In response to message #17
 
   That's an interesting site indeed.

But please note that my first name is Estelle with a "e" at the end, and I would have appreciated if you had asked for my authorization before putting some text from my own pages on your "company" pages


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JosephCE

14-05-02, 05:11 PM (GMT)
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19. "RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris"
In response to message #18
 
   Excuse me Estelle,
I have corrected the mistakes in the company site and in links section too.
I flattered myself that the text is a detail from Ivor Guest's book - but not, this is your translation.
Sorry… Just as you please I will change it…
Joseph


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Estelle

14-05-02, 05:17 PM (GMT)
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20. "RE: A disappointing Don Q in Paris"
In response to message #19
 
   Actually, the text is adapted from what I've read in Guest's book and also in Fernandino Reyna's book, it's not really a translation.
No problem, you can keep it! I was just a bit surprised to find it, and would have preferred to be asked first. But it's OK...


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