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Don Q Fan

Swan Lake Paris Opera Ballet

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Well After a 3 hour delay to my flight on Christmas Eve (the plane had a wheel change right in front of me!) I got to Paris in plenty of time for 2 performances of Swan Lake.  I had been really looking forward to this anyway then posters here said that posters on asimilar French site were raving about Miriam Ould Braham - she was Odette/Odile for my performance!  The POB Swan Lake is by Nureyev after Petipa and Ivanov.  Act 1 opens with a sleepy Prince on a throne played by the wonderfully elegant Mathias Heymann and while he slumbers Rothbart (Karl Paquette) appears rear stage and makes off with Odette (I presume at this early stage danced by Ould-Braham) who has been dancing rear stage and turns her into a swan!  Rothbart then reappears as the tutor to the Prince (a slightly more sinister tutor than usual I found).  Once the Prince is awake the corps de ballet take to the stage and engage in lots of ensemble dances including a nice solo for the Prince and then a PdT with some of the lady friends of the Prince.  Mathias Heymann is infinitely watchable with beautiful lines and movement.  I found the corps de ballet a little untidy at times but what I really liked was the use of the male members rather than the female members - such a refreshing change and a nice show case for the men.  Time and again throughout this ballet we saw geometric formations and I think a lot of work in groups of 4 and 6 going on - for the men the front four right would move out of the main group of 16 and move across the stage then be followed by the 3 other groups of 4 etc... There were joint male and female dances as well but at times the already large stage looked a bit overcrowded!  

The icing on the cake of Act 1 though was the Pas de Trois.  Enter FRANCOIS ALU! Wow wee what a power house of a dancer!  I don't think I've been this excited by a dancer since Ivan Vasiliev burst onto the stage in DonQ years ago or Cesar Corrales in Corsaire as Ali.  He was ably partnered by Leonore Baulac and Hannah O'Neill both of whom were beautiful too but Francois stole the PdT for me!  He performed a circle of 12 tours en l'air each one as perfect as the next right to the end, no flagging and he put his own interpretation into the turns with one slightly straighter leg - it looked really difficult to do. His other jumps and cabrioles were similarly powerful and high, just amazing!  So glad I got to see him!  He reappeared in Act 3 in the Czardas was again great.

As we move without interval into Act 2 Odette appears and meets the Prince.  There was good mime displayed as well.  Ould-Braham had lovely arms.  But the piece de resistance was the swans:-

I LOVED the choreography for the swans in particular.  I was seated in the 2nd tier - so very high up - a perfect place to see all the intricacies of the choreography and intricate it was.  32 swans at some times on the stage and it was sight to behold.  The swans entered the stage La Bayadere Shades style snaking their way across and down the stage to line up.  Their lines were so straight and the moves so well executed and together that there can only be the Mariinsky that's better. The swans moved effortlessly around the stage going from a circle to a fabulous V moving forward towards the audience.  Then they would break off into groups again and 4 smaller Vs would make a pattern with the points in the middle of the stage so overall a square and then move again into another shape - I was mesmerised by the geometry.  How on earth did Nureyev do it?!  The cygnets were great and that all went fine.  I can't say much about Ould-Braham and Heymann as I was so taken with the swans!  They were good of course but I'm not sure I can adequately describe them.  After the single interval we moved on to Act 3 and all the national dances and a Queen desperate for her son to marry.  The dances were nice but none stood out for me.  Rothbart is given a solo just before the Prince and Odile do their fireworks so that disrupted the ballet flow for me a little bit BUT on the other hand it made use of Rothbart a bit more and showed that Karl Paquette still has it.  Ould-Braham managed her 32 fouettes although she did travel quite a bit if I am being super critical, her "mistake" was doing a double right at the end, after having done all singles, as she landed a little awkwardly.  Mathias Heymann did his 16 pirouettes perfectly as well and it all quite exciting to see.  After the Prince realises he has been duped there was a brief pause the the final act started.  The wonderful swans returned to the stage and were just a fabulous as in Act 2 with their precise lines and patterns.  The ending is most tragic with Odette throwing herself off a cliff followed by Rothbart and then going up to heaven whilst the Prince is lying on the stage - I presume dead.

 

Photo from the curtain call Karl Paquette/Miriam Ould-Braham/Mathias Heymann

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On Sunday (Christmas Day) I watched a the matinee of Swan Lake this time the main roles danced by Ludmilla Pagliero one of the few non french Etoiles at POB and Germain Louvet a Sujet.  Rothbart was again Karl Paquette (it was earlier supposed to be Mathieu Ganio so I was disappointed to miss him).  Pagliero and Louvet were very nice dancers as well.  Considering Germain Louvet is a Sujet I think his future is bright as he coped extremely well with the role of Prince and he was a lovely dancer not dissimilar to Mathias Heymann.  The Pas de Trois was nowhere near as thrilling as that on Christmas Eve.  It was danced by Marine Ganio, Eleonore Guerineau and Axel Ibot.  Ibot was far more slender than Alu and he did begin to flag at the end of his 12 tour en l'air so not quite the treat that the PdT had been the night before. In Act 3 Pagliero did her 32 fouettes as well and she managed to stay on the same spot better than Ould-Braham but she did mainly doubles and ended facing the back of the stage. The swans were just as fabulous as the night before, you would never know that they had done it all less than 24 hours earlier - the majority of dancers were the same so kudos to them.  For me nobody stood out in the matinee performance in the way Alu had the night before, but don't get me wrong both performances were wonderful and I was thrilled I got to see them and would love to see it all over again!  

The orchestra under the baton of Vello Pahn was magnificent.  The music alone would have been worth the ticket price.  The Saturday audience was much quieter than the Sunday matinee which suffered slightly from a few nattering ladies and some sweet rustlers, but still not as bad as some theatres here!

If you are not fussed on Christmas like me a trip to Paris was the perfect antidote even some of the shops (patisseries in particular!) were open on Christmas Day and buses and trains were running!  After the show I went straight off to the airport to fly home.

 

Photo of the curtain call - Karl Paquette/Ludmilla Pagliero/Germain Louvet

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The magnificent corps de ballet swans take their applause.

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Edited by Don Q Fan
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"what I really liked was the use of the male members"

 

well, I had to stop and read that again.... :huh:

 

sorry, sorry, sorry...

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Thank you so much for post, Don Q Fan!

 

I nearly bought a ticket for the matinee on 25 December, purely to see Germain Louvet perform, one of my favourite dancers with POB following his Romeo earlier in the year.

 

With this, I am delighted to read on Twitter that he was promoted to Etoile following the performance tonight https://twitter.com/operadeparis/status/814221233176899589.

 

Someone took a video of the promotion - https://www.instagram.com/p/BOk4eXzgp14/

 

Sujet since 2015, he won the annual concours in November for promotion to Premier Danseur.

 

--------

 

edited to add last two sentences

Edited by Duck
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Yes Duck!!!! I just saw that Louvet was promoted after the show tonight. One day I'll be there to see a promotion I've missed this one and some at DutchNB by days grrr!!!

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"what I really liked was the use of the male members"

well, I had to stop and read that again.... :huh:

 

sorry, sorry, sorry...

Well if you read it out of context like that I guess it could be misconstrued???? LOL.

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Thanks for your wonderful review, DonQFan, and to you, Duck, for posting the video!

 

As the dancers have to do a concours in November, do they know the results before the onstage announcement? Louvet certainly seemed very surprised! Many congratulations to him. ☺

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The icing on the cake of Act 1 though was the Pas de Trois.  Enter FRANCOIS ALU! Wow wee what a power house of a dancer!  I don't think I've been this excited by a dancer since Ivan Vasiliev burst onto the stage in DonQ years ago or Cesar Corrales in Corsaire as Ali.  He was ably partnered by Leonore Baulac and Hannah O'Neill both of whom were beautiful too but Francois stole the PdT for me!

 

Every single time I saw Baulac and O'Neill in the Pas de Trois, they were overshadowed by the male soloist. I expected much more from O'Neill. Her single appearance with Fabien Revillon was a disappointment too. The most interesting female soloist in Pas de Trois was predicatbly Héloïse Bourdon. Unfortunately, she was permanently relegated by Dupont to Big Swans with occasional appearances in the four couples in the Valse, characteristic dances of the Third Act, and on two occasions only, in Pas de Trois. The real star of this bloc of «Swan Lakes» has been fantastic corps de ballet in two white acts. Ganio and Heymann were remarkable each in his way as Siegfrieds, despite regularly occurring lapses and signs of weakness, but there is so much class in either of them... Ludmilla Pagliero in her first performance on Sunday produced the first Odette and Odile that was worthy of the Grand Opéra. In fact it was more than worthy, hers was artistically an outstanding performance, very rarely seen nowadays. She repeated it today with the debutante Germain Louvet, a dedicated partner, who was much cleaner than on Sunday; today he indeed looked like a future star of the company.

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My goodness, promoting someone from Sujet to Etoile?  That'll put the cat among the pigeons, won't it?

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Thanks for your wonderful review, DonQFan, and to you, Duck, for posting the video!

 

As the dancers have to do a concours in November, do they know the results before the onstage announcement? Louvet certainly seemed very surprised! Many congratulations to him. ☺

 

I think the concours relates to promotion as high as Premier Danseur only.  So it was his already announced promotion to Premier Danseur (announced early November, but presumably to be effective on January 1, 2017, as he is still listed as a Sujet on the website?) he won at that stage.  I believe promotion to Etoile is unrelated to the concours and is effectively in the sole discretion of Dupont (technically I think she has to recommend it to the Director of the Paris Opera and he makes the promotion), so I assume that while she would have decided on the promotion and discussed it with Stephane Lissner beforehand, she would have pulled the trigger only when the performance had been seen to go well.  Given that Paquette and Pagliero are already Etoiles, as soon as Lissner and Dupont appeared on stage there presumably wasn't much doubt that Louvet was about to get promoted.

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A former POB dancer told me that sometimes the direction will casually say things to the etoile-to-be like "Are your parents coming to the show tonight by any chance? No? Wouldn't they like to see you dance Swan Lake? Here, we have some extra tickets..."  :lol: But otherwise no, they don't know.

In the case of Mathieu Ganio, who was promoted to Etoile straight from Sujet at the age of 20, apparently Brigitte Lefevre was in the audience sitting next to Dominique Meyer and at the intermission of Don Q she said, essentially, "Whaddya think, should we make him an etoile tonight?" and so they did.

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I think the concours relates to promotion as high as Premier Danseur only.  So it was his already announced promotion to Premier Danseur (announced early November, but presumably to be effective on January 1, 2017, as he is still listed as a Sujet on the website?) he won at that stage.  I believe promotion to Etoile is unrelated to the concours and is effectively in the sole discretion of Dupont (technically I think she has to recommend it to the Director of the Paris Opera and he makes the promotion), so I assume that while she would have decided on the promotion and discussed it with Stephane Lissner beforehand, she would have pulled the trigger only when the performance had been seen to go well.  Given that Paquette and Pagliero are already Etoiles, as soon as Lissner and Dupont appeared on stage there presumably wasn't much doubt that Louvet was about to get promoted.

 

 

Barton22, your understanding is correct - the annual concours only goes up to promotion from Sujet to Premier Danseur. While the results are published right away, the promotions are effective on 1st January. So Germain Louvet in fact bypassed the stage of Premier Danseur.

 

This was only his second performance as Siegfried, the debut being on Christmas Day.

 

Someone posted a longer video of the announcement on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-iKROTSHJ4.

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Thanks for the extra info about Pagliero and Louvet I had not realised it was their debut on Christmas Day. I just wish I had been a bit closer to the stage to see their acting closer to. I was a long way back and high up so even with opera glasses it was hard to see nuances. The swans were absolutely fabulous do they made it for me regardless of the leading roles! So glad I saw it.

Edited by Don Q Fan
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Thanks for the extra info about Pagliero and Louvet I had not realised it was their debut on Christmas Day. I just wish I had been a bit closer to the stage to see their acting closer to. I was a long way back and high up so even with opera glasses it was hard to see nuances. The swans were absolutely fabulous do they made it for me regardless of the leading roles! So glad I saw it.

 

Louvet's debut was on Sunday; Pagliero had danced Odette/ Odile previously :)     apologies if my earlier post gave the wrong impression of Pagliero.

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"what I really liked was the use of the male members"

 

well, I had to stop and read that again.... :huh:

 

sorry, sorry, sorry...

Shame on you, Toursenlair. Although I can't imagine what you could mean!

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Pagliero had danced Odette/ Odile previously

 

Prior to this bloc of "Swan Lakes" she danced it twice in December 2010 and twice in March 2015.

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Leonore Baulac has been promoted to Etoile tonight https://twitter.com/operadeparis/status/815309079891574784. This was her debut in the role of Odette/ Odile.

 

Here a link to the only video I've been able to find so far https://twitter.com/chedloiret/status/815311036723134464

.

I am very happy, she was such an incredibly expressive Juliet in spring 2016.

 

She and Germain Louvet have been cast together quite a bit (Nutcracker, Romeo & Juliet, Sonatine, Brahms Schoenberg Quartett; possibly others?). Fingers crossed this will continue.

 

 

edited/ added last two sentences

Edited by Duck
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I am certainly unhappy. I would say this is a dancer lacking in distinction, her first serious part, Juliet in the Spring, was singularly lacking in nuance, depth or understanding of the choreographic text she was dancing. I saw Baulac many times, this is not a superficial view based on one-two performances.

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A longer video of last night's promotion https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zM_gt1hVO4w

 

 

I am certainly unhappy. I would say this is a dancer lacking in distinction, her first serious part, Juliet in the Spring, was singularly lacking in nuance, depth or understanding of the choreographic text she was dancing. I saw Baulac many times, this is not a superficial view based on one-two performances.

 

It seems that views differ. I found her Juliet deeply involved in the choreography.

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She was, in a wrong way. Talking about the qualities of the dancers -- Dupont's casting decisions for the recent bloc of 19 Swan Lakes clearly indicate that she disregards emploi and suitability of a dancer for a particular role. None of her original choices had a quality of a Swan, Albisson and Ould Braham, moreover, with very average data. Even more surprisingly, Albisson and (added later) Baulac, are non classical ballerinas, the latter was made étoile on the day she danced her first big classical part (!), even though her several appearances in the Pas de trois were showing her as an unnuanced classical dancer. Pagliero at least turned in highly mature, remarkably nuanced performances, in the field of her competitors she proved to be a class to herself. The ballet troupe of the Opéra is blessed with a lot of talent among the men. In contrast, there are few young danseuses of promise and real interest. It is a pity that the most interesting one is relegated by Dupont to dancing in the mass of corps de ballet while a pale colleague of hers is promoted to the status of étoile.

Edited by assoluta
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It will be interesting to see where Dupont takes POB.  I had high hopes but now doubts are creeping in.

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I was apprehensive last summer when I read the various headlines with regards to "return to hierarchy". At the moment, I am just lucky as the dancers that I like are cast in lead roles.

 

I was struck, however, by the number of performances with the same cast (it started with just 4 casts for Odette/Odile and Siegfried for such a long and dense run; Mathieu Ganio was also cast as Wolfgang; Francois Alu was cast as Wolfgang and in the PD3, the PD3 often had the same dancers). A wider casting would give additional chances for other dancers.

 

edited to add second paragraph

Edited by Duck
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Mathieu Ganio was only dancing Prince Siegfried (all 6 times with Amandine Albisson). To have 4 casts of principals in big programme blocs has been a custom at the Opéra, with each cast dancing 4-5 times on average. Lefèvre and Millepied have been usually selecting one or two principals plus those who were best suited for those parts. In Classics this usually meant sujets like Giezendanner, Guérineau, Marine Ganio, more recently Héloïse Bourdon, dancing big classical parts. If Dupont thought that such an approach was an aberration (to some extent it was), she set out to correct it from the wrong end: instead of promoting the best, the most interesting, classical dancers in the company, she is now assigning those big classical parts to dancers considered by her predecessors to be unsuitable for such parts. Now she creates étoiles out of nowhere on a whim: making a dancer with essentially zero experience (and no demonstrated promise) in Classics an étoile is perhaps the most bizarre thing to do and sends a strong and unwelcome signal to the dancers of the troupe. There is a very strong sense of unease in balletic circles in Paris.

Edited by Janet McNulty
edited in agreement with poster
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A former POB dancer told me that sometimes the direction will casually say things to the etoile-to-be like "Are your parents coming to the show tonight by any chance? No? Wouldn't they like to see you dance Swan Lake? Here, we have some extra tickets..."  :lol: But otherwise no, they don't know.

 

 

Ha, it would seem that this method still applies.  An interview with Germain Louvet's brother:

"Mercredi soir, toute la famille du jeune homme était présente pour la représentation du "Lac des Cygnes" à l'issue de laquelle Germain a été nommé danseur étoile. "Il y avait des indices sur cette nomination", explique Marius Louvet, le frère de Germain, "la direction de l'Opéra avait demandé à Germain si nous étions bien présents le 28 décembre. Et puis Aurélie Dupont, la directrice du Ballet et Stéphane Lissner, le directeur de l'Opéra de Paris, étaient dans la salle pour la représentation. Cela n'arrive pas tous les jours".

 

"Wednesday night, the young man's entire family was at the performance of Swan Lake at the end of which Germain's promotion to etoile was announced "There were some clues about the promotion," explains Marius Louvet, Germain's brother, "the Opera management had asked Germain if we would be there on December 28. And then Aurelie Dupont, the director of the ballet, and Stephane Lissner, the director of the Paris Opera, were in the audience for the performance. That doesn't happen every day".

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