When it comes to seeing Paris Opera Ballet, I do not mess around. From the moment I heard about the U.S. tour, I basically checked on a daily basis, where, when, and how to get tickets. I do not exaggerate. Tickets for Chicago came up for sale first, so those tickets were purchased first… then Washington and New York came up around the same time but Washington offered the same programs as Chicago. New York, however, offered Pina Bausch’s Orpheus & Eurydice. I’ve never seen a Pina Bausch performed and I love the story of Orpheus & Eurydice ergo, tickets purchased. And since I was going all the way to NY anyway why not take in another Giselle!
Why not indeed. As luck would have it the Giselle in NY on the date before opening night of O&E would be danced by Nicolas Le Riche and Clairemarie Osta!!! I LOVE Nicolas Le Riche and how cool to see Clairemarie Osta after her retirement! I loved Clairemarie as Giselle, she’s tiny and fragile. Nicolas as Albrecht was simply breathtaking. When he sees the his betrothed’s necklace on Giselle, the expression on his face! As dawn breaks in the forest and bolts up at the base of Giselle’s tomb marker, he looks as thought he has just wakened from a nightmare. So now I’ve seen Nicolas dance Bolero and Albrecht, I am a happy happy camper!
The next night was Orpheus & Eurydice. We had a busy day all over NYC and barely had time to change clothes before heading over to Lincoln Center where we had to sprint across the square since we still had to pick up tickets at the box office – where I literally found myself standing next to Alessandra Ferri!!! After recovering from a mini-stroke where I was rendered speechless, we took our seats. Let ballet begin! The program was a tad bit confusing with regard to the story line. It was divided into segments – Mourning, Violence, Peace, Death – which didn’t exactly make sense to my understanding of the myth. So I decided not to try to figure it out and let the story unfold. If it was different from my original tale, so be it.
The scenes were gorgeous – modern and symbolic. The lighting was beautiful and rich. The orchestra was wonderful with a full choir in the pit with them. Opera singers sang the roles of Orpheus, Eurydice, and Love while the dancers danced the story. I love opera but I was concerned about how Bausch was going to incorporate the two, opera and ballet, and not muddle the impact and importance of one or both. Well, she did it with such skill, I wish there were more like it. The singers were not static characters to the side but almost ghosts or souls that wandered and gestured and interacted with the story as much as the dancers did.
The costumes were amazing, also modern and symbolic. Leather aprons on Hades’ henchmen; long sweeping and transparent gowns; a McQueen-esque white dress and headpiece on Eurydice during the first scene and the flowing red dress in the last scene – all amazing and well-integrated into the story.
My Orpheus was Stephane Bullion and my Eurydice was Marie-Agnes Gillot. I adore them both. Stephane is very masculine and precise in his movement, precise and soulful. Marie-Agnes is one of the rare dancers that you simply cannot take your eyes off of… and not just her arms or her legs or her feet… you know how sometimes one aspect of a dancer is so compelling you become obsessed with a “part.” With Marie-Agnes the movement of her body is so complete as one perfect unit that you are never distracted by one aspect but engrossed by the fluidity of her whole self as a dancer.
The dance was all very big and sweeping, hints of Martha Graham but never feeling like poached choreography. A myth offered up in German operatic song and modern dance with balletic sensability. In the final scene Orpheus loses Eurydice out of their deep love for each other and Orpheus’ despair leads to his own death. Stephane played his death so fully, so intensely, so painfully that there were several people in the audience not only in tears but the sobbing was audible. It was perhaps one of the most intense and beautiful death scenes I have ever scene. Pina Bausch’s Orpheus & Eurydice is gorgeous, painful, beautiful agony. I was exhausted. I was still in a daze in the lobby of the Koch Theater when Alessandra Ferri walked right up to a person standing next to me, she literally stood less than two feet from me. Then she turned and looked at me still smiling, I dropped dead, and she walked away by herself, probably not in slow motion but I swear to you it sure seemed like it!
It was a great evening… only in New York. Thank you, Paris Opera Ballet. Thank you, New York. Thank you, ballet.