Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Paris Opera Ballet's Don Quixote

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Opera National de Paris  Don Quixote Opera Bastille 25 Dec 2017, 19:30

Although Don Quixote is not one of my favourite Petipa ballets it does have some spectacular choreography. Similarly, while I greatly prefer his score to La Bayadère, Minkus's score has some lovely tunes including the Queen of the Dryads's solo and the rumbustious final pas de deux.  Also, Don Quixote makes a change from The Nutcracker which the Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, English National Ballet and Scottish Ballet are all serving up for Christmas at home.

I had only seen the Paris Opera ballet once before in the Palais Garnier some 45 tears ago. I remember a grand défilé by the ballet students. I was told by my companion, Pamela (who had some to Paris to study with Madame Preobrajenska at the Salle Wacker) that the students were referred to disparagingly as les petits rats.  The stage seemed massive. Much bigger than Covent Garden's.  However, I can't remember anything else about the show which means that it could not have impressed me very much.  My second experience of the company came last night when it performed Don Quixote at the Opera Bastille.  I can safely say that I won't forget that show in a hurry.

Spectacular choreography needs virtuoso dancers and Isabella Boylston is a virtuoso par excellence.  She launches into grands jetes almost as soon as she appears on stage and hers seemed as graceful and effortless as any I have seen before. She danced Kitri who ends the show with spectacular fouettés.  I have seen plenty of those from lots of Odiles but the excitement that Boylston generated with hers at the Bastille last night could not have been exceeded by Legnani herself.

Boylston was partnered by Mathieu Ganio who was magnificent. He danced Don Basilio in which I had previously seen Carlos Acosta. Though I greatly admired Acosta in that role, Ganio surpassed him both as a soloist with the spectacular jumping and turns in his final solo and in the way that he helped Boylston to shine. That is the sort of partnership of which legends are made like Sibley's with Dowell.  Whether it can develop and flourish with Ganio in Paris and Boylston in New York is anybody's guess but if I ran the Paris Opera Ballet or American Ballet Theatre I would do my best to make sure it did.

We saw lots of other excellent performances last night: Erwan Le Roux as Sancho Panza, Fanny Gorse  as the street dancer, Amandine Albisson as the queen of the Dryads and Yann Chailloux as Don Quixote himself. Everyone was impressive not least the corps de ballet which was one of the most polished and disciplined that I have been fortunate enough to see.

With costumes  by Elena Rivkina and sets by Alexandre Beliaev the production was gorgeous. The Opera Bastille was designed as an ideal venue for ballet and although it lacks the charm of Covent Garden or the majesty of the Garnier it is probably one of the best places in the world to see a full length ballet by a major company. 

I sat towards the back of the stalls and enjoyed a perfect view.  The theatre has been designed to ensure easy access and egress.  If you want a drink you enter a cordon where you wait your turn.  No ostentatious waving of bank notes or sharp elbowing here. Having paid about £10 less for seats in the stalls than I was charged by Covent Garden for the back amphitheatre I was ready to sing the Bastille's praises .................  until I was stung for €5 for a tonic water and €12 for a programme (albeit a very thick and informative programme much of it in English).  Like a budget airline the essentials are cheap enough and if that's all you want well all well and good. But if you want any extras - even a postcard from the well stocked theatre shop - caveat emptor.

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