Nice Ballet stages new production of ‘Giselle’

Poster courtesy Nice Opera

Nice Ballet Méditerranée presents a new version of what is regarded as the most famous of the Romantic era ballets – Giselle – staged and choreographed by Martin Chaix, with a sumptuous score by Adolphe Adam.

Giselle was the result of the collaboration of the three French artists – Ballet Masters Perrot and Coralli, and composer Adolphe Adam – who in 1841 were commissioned by the Ballet du Théâtre de l’Academie Royale de Musique to create a new work. Adam had previously composed for this company, and he co-opted librettists Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Théophile Gautier to assist with the storyline.

It was Gautier who initially started working on the story, drawing inspiration from two sources – the poem Fantômes from Victor Hugo’s Les Orientales, which told of a Spanish girl who died after a night of frenzied dancing, and a passage in prose entitled L’Allemagne by German poet, writer and literary critic Heinrich Heine, about a Slavic tale of supernatural maidens called Wilis, young brides-to-be who die before their wedding day. Perrot and Coralli were then brought in to choreograph the work, and Giselle premiered at the Théâtre de l’Academie Royale de Musique in Paris on 28th June, 1841, with Carlotta Grisi in the title role.

The ballet tells of a frail young peasant girl who is betrayed by her beloved, the aristocratic Count Albrecht, as a result of which she dies of a broken heart. Giselle finds herself in a moonlit glade surrounded by the supernatural Wilis and their queen, Myrtha. Albrecht enters the glade to lay flowers on Giselle’s grave, and is summoned by Myrtha and her Wilis to dance to his death. The spirit of Giselle – ever forgiving, and touched by his exhaustion – pleads for mercy on his behalf, and Myrtha ultimately frees him from the vengeance of the Wilis.

Martin Chaix says of the work: “Giselle is the perfect example of a ballet from the romantic era which, beyond its ethereal and magical dimension of the second act, speaks to us in the foreground of the romantic and social-cultural relationships of the time in which it was created.” In his version of Giselle Chaix has set the ballet in our time, balancing pointe with modernity, questioning the place of women and committing himself to restoring the balance of power.

He has created a number of ballets in different styles and techniques, from classical to modern. As a dance student he was accepted at the École de Danse de l’Opéra National de Paris in 1993, and joined the Paris Opera Ballet six years later, where he made his choreographic debut. From there he moved to the Leipziger Ballet, as a soloist, and then to the Ballett am Rhein Düsseldorf Duisburg where he was a soloist until 2015, in which year he became a freelance choregrapher.

This production of Giselle by Ballet Nice Méditerranée takes place at Nice Opera from December 21st to December 29th. Adolphe Adam’s score, supplemented by the music of Louise Farrenc, is played by the Nice Philharmonic Orchestra led by Beatrice Venezia. Information on tickets and times of performance are available on the Nice Opera website.

Information sourced from Ballet Nice programme notes

Artists’ websites

This article first appeared in Riviera Buzz

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Monte-Carlo Ballet continues celebration of Centenary of HSH Prince Rainier III

Poster courtesy Monte-Carlo Ballet

As part of the Centenary Celebrations of HSH Prince Rainier III, Monte-Carlo Ballet presents Jean-Christophe Maillot’s new interpretation of George Balanchine’s L’Enfant et les Sortilèges. The programme opens with another of Balanchine’s works, La Valse – both ballets being set to the lovely music of Maurice Ravel.

A friend of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier III, Balanchine choreographed La Valse in 1925 to a commission by Sergei Diaghilev for his Ballets Russes. The impresario rejected the work, however, regarding it as “untheatrical”. Nevertheless when Balanchine created waltzes for the Metropolitan Opera in 1934, he choreographed a ballet to music from Die Fledermaus, and finding the work too short, he preceded it with Ravel’s Valse Nobles et Sentimentales.
The ballet, of which Prince Rainier was very fond, features a number of couples waltzing in a cavernous ballroom where a woman in white is both horrified by, and attracted to, a mysterious uninvited stranger – who ultimately lures her to her death.

In 1915, Jacques Rouché, director of the Paris Opera, commissioned the French writer Colette – whose 150th anniversary is being celebrated this year – to write the text for a fairytale ballet, L’enfant et les sortilèges. Maurice Ravel was actually the third choice of composer, and as he was on active duty on the Western Front during the First World War, he didn’t receive the commission until 1917, and therefore started work on it after the War had ended. The completed work was ready for publication and production in 1925, and L’enfant et les sortilèges, with choreography by a young George Balanchine, was premiered on March 21st of that year by Opéra Monte-Carlo. It was a triumph, and the score was also a favourite of HSH Prince Rainier III. It is now one of the most beloved of French operas.

Jean-Christophe Maillot rehearses a dancer in ‘L’Enfant et les Sortilèges’ © Alice Blangero

In 1952, Jean-Christophe Maillot choreographed his first version of the ballet based on the opera, following which he met HSH Prince Rainier who praised the work. Now, thirty years later, Mr Maillot has created a new version of it.
A story based on the wonder of childhood imagination, L’Enfant et les Sortilèges tells of a young boy, consigned to his bedroom for bad behaviour, who wreaks havoc with everything in his room. Falling into a deep sleep, he dreams that the objects of his rage come to life and turn against him – the armchair, the grandfather clock, the teapot and cup, the fireplace, the characters on his wallpaper and even his arithmetic homework. Out in the garden, and still in his dream, the boy exacts his revenge on the tree, a dragonfly, a frog, a bat, a nightingale, and even his pet squirrel, but after an act of mercy in which he binds up the squirrel’s paw with a ribbon, the creatures take pity on him and lead him back to the house, leaving the garden bathed in the magic of moonlight. Full of regret on waking, he turns to his mother for forgiveness.

This production, led by David Molard Soriano, Assistant Conductor of the Orchestre National de France, will feature 240 artists in all. The Monte-Carlo Ballet and the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra will be joined by an Academy of young singers – created for this occasion by Cecilia Bartoli – and The Children’s Choir of the Rainier III Academy.

La Valse and L’Enfant et les Sortilèges will be staged in the Salle des Princes, Grimaldi Forum, from 20th to 23rd December. Tickets may be obtained from the Ballets de Monte-Carlo website.

Information sourced from:
Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo programme notes
The Balanchine Trust
Artists’ websites

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