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Paris Opera Opens
Etoiles de l’Opéra at the Palais Garnier
5 October 2020
FRANÇOIS FARGUE reviews the first live performance since the Paris Opera closed its doors in March
The Paris Opera finally reopened on 5 October following a long break due to strikes last winter and Covid since March. Outside, the lines of people are thinner as attendance is cut by half, if not more, on account of physical distancing. Inside, the deep stage has been replaced by a stark and stylish grey proscenium that covers the orchestra pit and gives the spectator a closer view of the dancers, seven of them, all étoiles except for first soloists Vincent Chaillet and Hannah O’Neill. Opening the evening, Clair de Lune by Alistair Marriott is a romantic piece that allows Mathieu Ganio to show off his perfect lines and bare torso, but which looks choreographically a little affected.
Next, Trois Gnossiennes, by Hans van Manen, was by far one of the highlights of the evening, and very warmly applauded by the masked audience. A beautifully choreographed duet, it also owes much to the astute casting of Ludmila Pagliero and Hugo Marchand - she, a porcelain ballerina of infinite perfection, while he moves like a grand tiger. The combination works wonders.
In Martha Graham’s Lamentation, Emilie Cozette, hardly visible under that elastic costume, was slightly abrupt in her interpretation. No one, it seems, can quite surpass former Paris Opera dancer Céline Talon in that role. During the reverence, Cozette revealed a new look. With her hair cut very short, she exudes a charismatic Joan of Arc aura.
William Forsythe’s Herman Schmerman is the epitome of cool in ballet. In this extract, Hannah O’Neill, with her fabulous body, legs and feet and ravishing smile, is impressive and beautiful to watch. And she performs the piece with just the right attitude. Opposite her, Vincent Chaillet, a long-limbed, excellent dancer, demonstrated some cool dude attitude too. Pagliero returned to the stage for The Dying Swan, in which she etched beautiful port de bras. Then Hugo Marchand returned, too, for Robbins’ A Suite of Dances, which he performed with the youthful swiftness and charming languor the role requires. Definitely another of the performance's highlights.
Closing the evening was an extract from Neumeier's Dame aux Camélias, with another well-chosen couple, Mathieu Ganio and Laura Hecquet: he as the guileless lover and she, the femme fatale letting her guard down, which Hecquet pulls off with quite some style in that short extract.
All the pieces were accompanied by Elena Bonnay on the piano and Ophélie Gaillard, cello. It was a privilege to be there and see those beautiful dancers again.
Performances of the programme continue on 7,9, 13, 14, 19, 20, 23, 27 & 29 October.