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The Marie-Antoinette Ballet

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The Marie-Antoinette Ballet

Post  Elena on Thu Nov 10, 2011 8:30 pm

At Versailles:
http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/8113337e-09f5-11e1-85ca-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1dLXQq06H
It’s a marketing department’s dream: the Vienna State Ballet dancing Marie-Antoinette’s life on the stage of the Versailles Palace’s own opera. Since the former Paris Opera Ballet star Manuel Legris took the helm last year, the Austrian company has steadily become more adventurous and Patrick de Bana’s Marie-Antoinette, one of the many premieres Legris scheduled in his first season, is an ambitious effort: a new, two-act narrative ballet taking the fabled queen from her native Vienna to the guillotine.

All would be well if the ballet lived up to its promise, but in the small, delightful Opéra Royal, which was inaugurated for the wedding of the future Louis XVI to Marie-Antoinette in 1770, it fell oddly flat. The production’s subdued modern sets looked cheap against such an ornate setting, and while De Bana professes to show the woman behind the myth, his take on the Queen is about as generic as it comes, a harmless medley of neoclassical lines and contemporary twists.

Act I walks us through the heroine’s life in Austria, her move to France and her life at court, but where the story needs individuality and contrast, De Bana’s vocabulary is too limited to sustain the narrative arc. The most distinctive images (a low supported turn in arabesque, legs darting out in lifts) are repeated ad nauseam to a collage of Baroque music and electronic transitions, and there are some annoying gimmicks: robot-like choreography for the presumably unpleasant French court, tiresome ciphers named Shadow and Fate who seem to be around every corner.

This lounge version of Marie-Antoinette’s life has its charms, from the witty short tutus based on period dresses designed by the Paris Opera Ballet’s Agnès Letestu to the quirky introduction of the royal couple, but the Vienna Ballet proved the main attraction in Versailles. The company boasts strong Russian soloists, often trained in St. Petersburg or Moscow, and while their acting was uneven, they sold the choreography with gusto. Kirill Kourlaev’s razor-sharp precision redeemed the role of Fate, and the exemplary Olga Esina made a luminous if slightly elusive Marie-Antoinette.

The choreography briefly hints at what could have been at the end of Act II, when Marie-Antoinette is trapped in prison. Madame Elisabeth, her sister-in-law, is thrown in the same cell, and the two women attempt faint curtsies before crumbling into despair. A ghostly Louis XVI later draws Marie-Antoinette into a few court dance steps, and as they sit proudly on imaginary thrones, Marie-Antoinette suddenly curls up like a frightened child. In those moments, the destruction of her world becomes real: the tension between the formal body language ingrained in the characters and the situation is too much to bear, and De Bana finally gives us the steps to understand.

www.chateauversaillesspectacles.fr


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