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Paris Opera Ballet - La Bayadere

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Well nothing, not even dreadful atrocities such as those wrought on Paris the week before last, will stop me travelling, so it was that I went to Paris last week to see a performance of Nureyev's La Bayadere.  My first viewing was most unsuccessful at the Opera Garnier a few years ago with the worst seat I have ever had at a ballet, so I determined that next time POB were doing La Bayadere I would have to go.  Thankfully after the Garnier run they started to perform the ballet at the Opera Bastille because the Garnier is just too small to cope with demand - La Baydere just seems so popular and it is in fact much much better performed at the Bastille with its massive stage.  After all the years of waiting and then the effort to secure a ticket (it's always a bun fight on "ticket on sale" day for Paris!) you can imagine my sheer delight when I found out the cast I would be seeing was Dorothee Gilbert, Mathias Heymann and Hannah O'Neill.  

I'm afraid I'm not much good at relating technical details but to my eye all of the ballet was beautifully danced - this was only the 3rd performance in the run so everyone was fresh.  Act 1 opened with usual dances of slaves, the hunting scene, complete with fake dead tiger and then the Bayaderes and then we finally got to see Nikiya, danced by Dorothee Gilbert, and she was beautiful - her arms were exquisitely languid. She was excellently partnered by Mathias Heymann, as Solor, who is another favourite of mine at POB and he and Dorothee are very well suited as partners.  Of course Solor and Nikiya fall in love and Solor declares his love for Nikiya in the second scene of Act 1, but then Gamzatti comes on the scene and Solor is told to marry Gamzatti by The Rajah.  Gamzatti was danced by Hannah O'Neill, newly promoted to First Soloist (Premier Danseur)  and by golly you can see why.  I think she was my favourite dancer in the whole show.  Of course Gamzatti does get the firework choreography and I loved the tussle between her and Nikiya they really went for it!  (One performance that does stick in my mind though is the Bolshoi at The Coli years ago when Osipova played Gamzatti to Lunkina's Nikiya - wonderful bitchy fight!)  I had to chuckle at how the slaves in Act 1 were all "coloured up" and with the pale grey floor being used this did make for patches of brown all over the flooring - needless to say this had been cleaned by Act 2!  

In Act 2 we had lots of beautiful colourful dances - the flames, the parrot girls etc, and the children from the ballet school did a great job in their dances too.  The Golden Idol was danced by Pierre-Arthur Raveau who was very good (but Vasiliev is better).  I really enjoyed Gamzatti and Solor dancing together and then in Gamzatti's solo Hannah O'Neill performed some lovely Italian Fouettes and then normal fouettes.  Her dancing was just great and I loved her more than Dorothee Gilbert I think!  She seemed to suit the feisty character very well.  Mathias Heymann deserves mention for his fantastic jumps he jumps really high and he performed circles of multiple jumps and pirouettes which drew huge applause from the audience (I'm thinking this role would suit young Mr Corrales at ENB!!).  

In the final Act we find a sad Solor mourning the loss of Nikiya and in his dreams he sees a multitude of Nikiyas - the Shades.  32 ballerinas beautifully descended the stage and this is a stage that fits 32 dancers comfortably!  The Shades were gorgeous and the 3 variations were well danced by Marion Barbeau, Melanie Hurel and Valentine Colasante.  Gilbert and Heymann danced the pdd beautifully and all in all it was a lovely Act.  The corps kept fairly straight, and a few wobbled in the balances as always but this compared well to the Mariinksy.  I can't really say I felt much emotion as I was sitting miles away from the stage but I thoroughly enjoyed the show and I was delighted at the curtain call that they brought on the stars from the earlier Acts - the Golden Idol, High Brahmin, Rajah and  especially Gamzatti/Hannah O'Neill.  I would definitely say go and see Hannah O'Neill if you get a chance!

I have to say the music was beautifully played by the orchestra, the sets and costumes were just amazing - Paris Opera Ballet usually do have exquisite costumes but these ones are particularly gorgeous - and I really liked the 2 deep purple costumes for Gamzatti - one in traditional sari style with lots of gold and then a tutu with fabulous dark red tulle under the purple saucer.  Dorothee Gilbert had lots of costumes as well and again these were all stunning.  

There are some very nice photos of the production on the website here  https://www.operadeparis.fr/en/season-15-16/ballet/la-bayadere/gallery#slideshow0/15 and here https://www.operadeparis.fr/en/season-15-16/ballet/la-bayadere/gallery#slideshow2/1 well worth a look.

Overall the show was lovely but could not eclipse the sheer wow of ENB's performance of Le Corsaire that I had seen earlier in the week!

Edited by Don Q Fan
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