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Paris Opéra Ballet

Petipa/Rudolf Nureyev's "La Bayadère"

Orange County Performing Arts Center, Costa Mesa, CA
May 12, 2001

By Basheva

I don’t think Rudolf Nureyev ever cheated an audience in his life. Whatever it was in his power to give, he gave with a generous hand. And last evening the full measure of his gift was spread before us. A beautiful company, a beautiful ballet. Paris Opera Ballet is well aware of their debt to him as evidenced by a full page in the program detailing the major events in Nureyev’s life.

I came to this performance with three biases: excitement at finally seeing this historic company, a tremendous admiration for Nureyev’s work and “La Bayadère” is one of my favorite ballets. My biases remain intact. Nothing was spared to bring to life the panoply of a Rajah’s court. The odalisques and arabesques of the East were superbly filtered through the prism of the classic dance of the West.

Costumes by Franca Squarciapino and sets by Ezio Frigerio were wedded to one another in a palette of delicate but ornate designs and colors. Architecture and fabric suited the time and place and said "This is the Orient".

What a marvel Manuel Legris is as Solor! His light, clean technique disguises every difficulty and flows across the footlights. Aurelie Dupont was a convincing Nikiya. She quite captured me in her flower basket dance. Her weeping heart was made visible through her sorrowful melting spine. While her feet danced the beat, her legato arms filled out the phrase. Soft arms, lovely hands, beautiful dancer. Gamzetti, danced by Delphine Moussin, was a regal demanding daughter of a Rajah, claiming Solor as her own unaffected by a Bayadère’s fate and death. She, too, is a lovely dancer.

The Golden Idol, Jeremie Belingard, was a bit less than golden. I missed the gold body paint of American Ballet Theatre’s production. His bare skin reminded us of his humaness. Also reminding us, was a rather shaky and heavy execution of his dance.

Imaginative lighting designed by Vinicio Cheli, created a fiery red stage for the men at the beginning of Solor’s dream, while the blue green for the entrance of the Shades was suitably other worldly. However, the truly wonderful solo variation by Solor just before succumbing to his opiate trance deserved more light. It was a wondrous adage and Manuel Legris was utterly superb.

The grand pas de deux in the final act is a sterling example of pure classical ballet. Nothing was overdone. No displays for the sake of display. No oversplits. No exorbitant penchés or extensions. But, every phrase was fully danced and so this dream of nirvana was attained. I wondered, however, if Solor and Nikiya might be less cool. This is, after all, a man’s dream of meeting again the woman he loves. And, she died because of her love for him. Perhaps a smile of recognition should have warmed their dance.

In the end, this ballet belongs to the corps de ballet. And this corps de ballet owned the stage. They were mesmerizing. Not a break, not a tremble marred the beauty of so many artists melding their individual talents to the increase of the whole. The member of the audience who sang out “Brava!”, sang out for all of us. This corps de ballet is the true jewel in the crown of the Paris Opera Ballet.


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Edited by Marie.



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