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After nearly two months of strikes, Paris Opera Ballet returned to the stage at last with Giselle on Saturday.  And what an evening it was!
 

Firstly, I should explain that although we had excellent seats seven rows from the front of the stalls, two extremely large (tall and wide) people came and sat in front of us restricting the view of my six foot partner, let alone short dumpy me.  This meant that all I could see for the whole evening was the right and left sides of the stage but nothing in the middle!  It wasn’t a fault of the rake, nor the large people who after all didn’t choose their exceptional size, but it did mean I missed a lot of the action.  So bear that in mind when reading my review.
 

Before the performance began there was a speech from the Union, which elicited a rowdy response from the spectators with some clapping support whilst others booed loudly.  However after this the audience behaved itself very well .  The ballet-starved attendees seemed to be mainly French, with a good number of well-dressed and well-behaved children in spite of the late hour.  In fact I witnessed none of the poor behaviour we have recently discussed on another thread, and the audience showed their sophistication by applauding appropriately throughout but not (as annoys me at other venues) when the star dancers appear, before having even danced one step, and not after every little solo.  (Having said that I plead guilty to what I am criticising in the case of Zakharova, and a couple of others, so I’m a hypocrite.)
 

The dancing was superb.  Honestly, I could not fault either the étoiles nor the corps who were very ‘together’ and homogeneous.  Giselle (Léonore Baulac) was delightfully pretty and seemed full of joy at being back on stage.  At first I found her interpretation a little too ‘cute and playful’ – I always feel terribly sad and serious throughout the whole of Giselle, whereas the first act in Paris had a feeling of light-hearted jollity.  However once she came to the mad scene she was more convincing than any other dancer I’ve seen in the role.  She seemed to age visibly as you watched (an effect of sudden grief I have noticed in real life) and her movements were so authentic that it was difficult to imagine this was the sweet young girl who had been dancing so merrily just minutes before.  Kudos to Baulac for such a powerful transformation.  I realised at that point that she had emphasised the innocent charm earlier in order that the contrast be as dramatic as possible.
 

Germain Louvet danced Albrecht – the embodiment of stylish, entitled aristocracy, he entered with a great flourish and long run from the back of the spacious stage, his cloak flowing out dramatically behind him.  He was a splendid dancer, and I especially appreciated his perfect entrechats (which I have noticed some other male dancers closer to home cheating on a little). Hilarion’s appearance was a bit of a shock to me.  He was a stocky-looking man with an oversized, shiny bald head, and was almost comic in his portrayal.  It was all too clear why Giselle would prefer Albrecht.  However when I looked at the programme I found that the dancer (François Alu) is actually a good-looking chap with a full head of dark curly hair so obviously this portrayal was intended, but it did somewhat remove sympathy for the man who is the real victim of this tragic tale. Myrthe was danced with suitable menace by Hannah O’Neill – in spite of her name she looked Japanese to me, and was a rare exception to most of the dancers who were French-born and trained.

 

The scenery and lighting were exceptional; for example, during the mime scene where Berthe warns Giselle about the Willis, it is as though the sun goes temporarily behind a cloud and an unnerving atmosphere washes over the stage, sending a shiver down one’s spine. Then, of course, there are the stupendous surroundings of Palais Garnier itself – the statuary, the all-pervading layers of gold leaf, the multiple painted ceilings, the chandeliers… although I have visited many times it never ceases to take my breath away.  You could say that our Royal Opera House looks, in comparison, like a minimalist Scandinavian interior.  I love both buildings in their different ways.

Edited by maryrosesatonapin
Pressed send too soon!
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Thank you for the review maryrosesatonapin, POB will be bringing this Giselle on their tour to Japan at the end of the month. I hope this situation will be solved and the dancers could keep their rights in the pension system. 

 

Hannah O'Neill is half New Zealand and half Japanese. There are several Asian dancers at POB currently,  including the fabulous Sae Eun Park. 

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I was fortunate to be there last night and the cast had the same principals. Top marks to all of them and beyond beautiful dancing from the corps.  My first POB Giselle and I would watch it again in a heartbeat.
(The two ladies sitting in front of me had giants blocking their view and came back with booster cushions after the interval.)

 
Thinking that the strike is now behind us I was gutted to learn at 3pm that tonight’s Balanchine Triple Bill has been cancelled 😢

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Thanks so for this review, maryrosestantonapin.  It is hugely appreciated.  Louvet is one of my current favourite POB dancers.  A prince among men has the most beautiful male port de bras this side of Dowell I seem to recall.  As far as Alu is concerned - another favourite:  The Hilarion you caught was total luxury casting.  He will make a brilliant Mayerling I'm sure when the POB do it later this year.  Well done you.  

 

I very much hope the cancellation of the Balanchine Triple might well be because of a lack of time to adequately prepare due to the strikes.  I was looking forward myself to seeing this in a few weeks time.  Fingers crossed.  

Edited by Bruce Wall
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9 hours ago, maryrosesatonapin said:

Firstly, I should explain that although we had excellent seats seven rows from the front of the stalls, two extremely large (tall and wide) people came and sat in front of us restricting the view of my six foot partner, let alone short dumpy me.  This meant that all I could see for the whole evening was the right and left sides of the stage but nothing in the middle!  

 

Oh dear.  I do sympathise, having had the same problem at Sadler's Wells recently, but to go all that way, actually manage to get to a performance among all the strike action and then not be able to see it properly is really sad.  Thanks for the detailed review, though.

 

Edit: and double thanks, assuming it was you who put all the tags in, too!

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Luxury casting indeed! Lucky you, @maryrosesatonapin! Miss Baulac and Mr Louvet, both étoiles, with premier danseur Mr Alu and première danseuse Miss O'Neill - who yes is half New Zealand and half Japanese, and trained at the Australian Ballet School (where former principal Marilyn Rowe fully supported her desire and aim to dance in Paris).

 

She and Sae Eun Park have had remarkable careers in Paris, especially as neither trained at the Opéra School.

 

The POB Giselle was wonderful in Sydney some years ago: we were treated to a beautifully-drilled corps of Wilis, Audric Bezard was a very handsome Hilarion, Marie-Agnès Gillot as the ultimate Myrthe, and the debut in the title role of Ludmila Pagliero, wowzas.

 

By the way, Mr Alu hasn't had a head of dark curly hair ever...it's a cleverly-angled photo, his hair is actually quite light in colour and very much thinning on top. The shaved head is his look of the last 12 months. Amazing dancer, have a look at his Instagram which often includes videos and some stunning shots by Julien Benhamou, the photographer who took that clever head-shot!

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  • 3 weeks later...

If anyone happens to be in France at the moment - a performance of Giselle with POB is currently available via https://mobile.francetvinfo.fr/culture/spectacles/opera-garnier/video-giselle-a-l-opera-de-paris-un-ballet-eternel-a-voir-en-integralite-sur-france-tv_3813433.html. I think this is the performance that was broadcast in cinemas across France earlier in February, with Dorothee Gilbert and Mathieu Ganio as the leads. The video is geoblocked, I have been unable to watch this from Germany & don't know whether it is accessible from the UK or any other place outside France. The article doesn't state until which date the video will remain online - it was still online on Friday evening when I was just across the border in France (... I tried to watch it there and then but wifi wasn't good enough ...).

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Duck said:

The video is geoblocked, I have been unable to watch this from Germany & don't know whether it is accessible from the UK or any other place outside France. 

 

sadly it seems we can't watch from the UK either.

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