LAST EDITED ON 14-Jun-00 AT 03:20 PM (GMT)
LAST EDITED ON 08-Jun-00 AT 12:12 PM (GMT)
Ballet National de Marseille came to Shanghai and gave two performances of Eric Quillere¡¯s new version of Gisille on June 2 and 3, and a triple bill (Who Cares by Balancine, Stetl by Richard Wherlock, and Le Sacre du Printemps by Maryes Delente) on June 4 at the Shanghai Grand Theater. I went to Shanghai to see these performances.
Ms. Pietragalla used to be one of my most favorite dancers in the world. But I have to say that I did not like (could not enjoy) the new production of Giselle very much. Estelle has posted a detailed report on this new production at balletalert.com after its world premiere (unfortunately I found that report after I came back to Beijing). And I think Ng. Kevin will give us another report on the performances in HK and Macau. So I would like to explain what I think about the performances only.
There were some points in this new production of Giselle. There were no noble persons and farmers, but some girls and boys from labor class families in a small town (called Friends of Giselle in this production) and some young people from Bourgeois families (of higher status. They are called Friends of Albrecht here). Giselle doesn¡¯t have a mother, she has a father instead (I think he was an artist. Because we can see a portrait of Giselle, apparently painted by her father at her home. By the way, it is always said that Father-daughter connection is stronger than Mother-Daughter¡¯s in China. So this change is quite acceptable for us. Actually Giselle and her father seemed to love each other very much in the ballet). According to the program notes, Ms. Pietragalla had asked Eric Quillere to keep most of the original (?) dances and steps of this ballet (because these dances are the real treasures of classical ballet, she said) but to bring something new to the story. Eric Quillere has cut some love scenes (including the flower telling. The video displayed a big flower on the back screen when the two lovers danced together st the beginning hough) from Act 1, and added a pdd between Albrecht and Bathilde and a shorter one danced by Giselle and Hilarion. The biggest change in Act 2 was Bathilde became Myrtha (and returned to Bathilde at the end. My friend and I think it¡¯s quite logical because we guess the choreographer has treated Bathilde as one of the girls hurt by the men. So it¡¯s quite natural for us to see her become a Willi to revenge the guy who cheated her).
I did not like this production very much because sometimes it looked a little bit strange. The strangest thing is: it is not very logical for the girls in the modern days (I think the costume was a kind of everyday clothes in 1940s¡ª1960s) to become Willis even if they were cheated by their lovers (I think Mats Ek¡¯s interpretation is more logical). When Giselle went mad she repeated the similar steps as usual, but actually she had not given us much impression of those steps before (most of the dances between Giselle and Albrecht were danced when they were among their friends). The music sometimes sounded strange too. The hunting horns were to call Bathilde and her friends come out of a small inn (or a bar? On the right side of the stage), but this music does not suit the normal people in modern time (instead of the ancient noble people) at all. I did not like the costumes either. They looked neither beautiful nor comfortable for dancing. Willis were still in white, but the style of their dresses was totally different from the original romantic one. The corps de ballet of that company was rather small. There were only 16 Willis, including Giselle and Myrtha, in Act 2. To make the scenes more effective, sometimes they displayed video (of Willis for example) on the back screen.
Ms. Pietragalla was not as great as I had expected. I had not seen her for about 8 years. I think she has changed a lot. I could not recognize her at the beginning. She had been so beautiful and so brilliant when I last saw her in Tokyo in 1992. (She was dancing Push Comes to Shove and Crystal Palace and In the Night with P. Dupond, Nicolas and POB. It was one of the most excellent ballet performances I have ever seen). I think there must be some problems with stage of the Shanghai Grand Theater, because dancers are very easy to make shoes noise on that stage. I know Pietragalla is a better Kitri than Giselle, and this time it seemed to me that she paid more attention to avoid shoes noise and could not concentrate on acting. The mad scene was not very touching, largely because there were only 5 persons left on the stage then. Pietragalla¡¯s Albrecht was Julien Lestel, he was a handsome guy with quite steady technique. But his acting was not very convincing either. I enjoyed Julien Derouault¡¯s acting more. He was an emotional Hilarion in the opening night. Bathilde/ Myrtha was danced by Valentina Pace. She was a beautiful girl but I did not like the way she danced. I think Viviana Marrone (Bathylde/ Myrtha in the second night) was much better. She is an Italian girl with good dancing style, very light on feet We enjoyed her dancing and acting very much. Francoise Maillard did Giselle in the second night. She was lighter than Pietragalla and acted better. But I think the dances she did (I mean the choreography) was technically easier than Pietragalla¡¯s. Jean-Hugues Feray danced Albrecht in the second show. I think he was a more appealing Albrecht than Julien Lestel because he acted better (but slightly less handsome than the latter). Gilles Porte (Hilarrion) was the second Hilarion. He was less emotional than Derouauls, but technically better (and more stylish, because he was trained at POB, I think). Tierry Hauswald did the role of the Father in both nights, he was a good actor, but needs very little dancing.
Quillere has not changed many major dancing parts, but the problem is that this production of Giselle is no longer romantic and beautiful, and he could not give us very new (and unique) interpretation as Mats Ek has done for us. It was something in the middle way. I respect the effort that Pietragalla has made to improve the artistic quality of the company, but there are only 45 dancers in the company. It is still very hard to do a big classical production at present. Maybe it will be easier for her the next year because I guess the company will have some new graduates from the Marseille ballet school.
When I saw the dancers doing Stetl (by Richard Wherlock) on June 4, I really felt that Ballet de Marseille was still a company for contemporary things. I did not have any knowledge about the choreographer and the composer (Jonef), but we enjoyed this piece (of about 40-minute length) very much. Dancers looked more at home with this piece, and much more comfortable without pointe shoes, and they dances the piece very well. The story was quite simple. Some young people came to the stage (very dark background ) with their suitcases and danced there and left. There were many dances in different styles and with different feelings (dances by a girl and a boy, by 3 boys or by 3 couples and so forth). The choreography was quite contemporary for me (some dancing scenes reminded me of pdd from Mats Ek¡¯s Sleeping Beauty) but the atmosphere was a kind of memory of old good days. We like these dances and the music (usually solo songs in old style) and the costumes (quite simple, mainly in dark colors) and the lighting (by Paul Taylor, I do not if it¡¯s the choreographer) and the whole stage and performance very much. I think with this piece alone I could get my travel cost back.
The Rite of spring was also quite interesting. Pietragalla did this piece with the other 5 girls, all in long red dresses. We like the way they tell the story (it was more story like than abstract). I think Ms. Pietragalla likes this piece very much and she did it very well.
Who Cares was not that enjoyable because dancers seemed less good at Balancine because. many of the dancers can not dance the music. The only dancer impressed us was Viviana Marrone, who appeared as one of the three female soloists.
PS. Kevin says the Act 2 of Marseille's Giselle was treated as a dream.
Estelle says Jontef (the composer of the piece Stetl) was a German klezmer (Yiddish music) band, most of the music is traditional Yiddish music
The story of Marseille's the Rite of Spring was like is:
I think most of ballet productions of the Rite of Spring were like ceremonies and danced by many dancers. But this one was different. It was like a story about how a girl was chosen to sacrifice her virginity (devote to the lord, I think) and how she tried to escape from her fate and failed.
There were 7 big chairs (looked like the imperial chairs in Forbidden City, only a little bit smaller) on the stage. A big man (Actually it was a waxwork. But I think he was the lord) sitting in the center, while 6 girls in long red dresses (with bare feet ) were sitting in the sides. At the beginning, the girls moved their bodies on the chairs. Then they stood up and made a circle and turned round. Suddenly a blond girl was spilled out of the circle. She looked terrified and tried to get back to the circle. But the other girls did not let her in. She tried very hard again and again but failed. I thought she must be the one who had been chosen. But I was wrong. When the girls tried to return to their chairs Pietragalla was suddenly spilled out and the blond girl gradually come back to her former position. Pietragalla tried to join the circle again but failed. She tried to struggle against her fate by some violent dancing. When she realized she was hopeless she got very nervous. She sat down on the floor. Her head was trembling. The other girls tried to calm her down by casting over her some spells (I guess). They had almost succeeded but Pietragalla suddenly got her conciseness back and the girls had to try again. They repeated this many times but the all efforts were in vain. As the time approaching, Pieattragalla got even more nervous than ever. She trembled and stood up. She shook her head and then her whole body violently. When the time came up, she finally made her mind and decided to accept the fate. The girls returned to their chairs and Pietragalla went to the Load, pushed her legs into the man¡§s body. Then she disappeared from our sight. (She went through the man and the chair and went behind of the chair. The body of the man was actually a hole). No one died in this ballet.