Opera ballet

Cri de coeur from the Paris Opera Ballet – a three-hour collage of nervous breakdowns

A “cry from the heart” — to use the title of Alan Lucien Øyen Cry of heart — filled the Palais Garnier this week, and it didn’t come from the stage. As the curtain fell on the first half of Øyen’s never-ending world premiere, someone shouted, loud enough for the entire audience to hear, “Let’s all thank Aurélie Dupont for this shitty production.”

Dupont resigned from the artistic direction of the Paris Opera Ballet at the end of last season and Cry of heart is a late entry in the list of confusing commissions that defined his six-year term. With no replacement for Dupont (the recruiting process is ongoing), there was presumably no one to tell Øyen that his three-hour collage on nervous breakdowns needed drastic editing.

The Norwegian Øyen has long been inspired by Pina Bausch; in 2018 he was one of the first external choreographers to create a one-night work for his Tanztheater Wuppertal. Alas, he is not Bausch, just as the Paris Opera is not the Tanztheater. (It’s not for lack of trying: Kontakthof will be Bausch’s next work to enter the repertoire, in December.)

The depth of research and lived experience that is integral to Tanztheater’s best work is simply not there. Cry of heartThe great novelty of POB is to have POB dancers speak on stage – which makes the experience of non-French speakers having to rely on captions above the stage all the more painful, even if the actors acquitted themselves as well as the scenario heavy with platitude allowed.

The light and fragmentary narrative is structured around Marion Barbeau, a charismatic soloist whose acting career was recently launched by the latest film by Cédric Klapisch In Body, interpreted here as a woman dying of cancer. Around her, there is Antonin Monié as a sort of imaginary friend, Nobody; former Wuppertal star Héléna Pikon, underutilized as a mother figure; Laurène Levy as a pet lizard, who frolics talking about flies; and Simon Le Borgne, Barbeau’s real-life ex-boyfriend.

We know it, awkwardly, because the whole trick of Øyen is to blur the boundaries between fiction and reality. (Did you know the two cross paths sometimes? Huge if true.) The dancers joke about POB’s hierarchy and, at one point, have an AA-style reunion that may or may not be about their own depressive episodes. There are plenty of these random, self-indulgent scenes, interspersed with choreography that could have worked in small doses – limbs reaching precariously into space, darting hands and deep bends, as if the dancers were rewinding repertoire. recent by Ohad Naharin, Hofesh Shechter and Mats Ek.

It all culminates in the corps de ballet writhing lugubriously to music by Max Richter, the coup de grace in a cutesy, uncredited score, as Barbeau finally dies. If that sounds appealing, grab Cry of heart while you can, because there probably won’t be another opportunity.

★★☆☆☆

As of October 13, operadeparis.fr