Opera ballet

Paris Opera Ballet: An Evening in Paris

This Saturday, attend a magnificent recital tribute to the city of love, with Agnès Letestu, the great lady of Paris Opera Ballet.

In 2014, to the deafening applause of a delighted French audience who attended her performance in La Dame aux camélias by John Neumeier, the official career of Agnès Letestu, the great lady of the Paris Opera, came to an end. The rule of the oldest national ballet company in the French capital is that, however exceptional and phenomenal, a dancer is obliged by law to bow definitively when he reaches a certain age. Letestu, an iconic figure among famous French star dancers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries – with a career spanning over thirty years – will be in Mumbai to perform at the Paris Ballet Legends recital tomorrow.

In homage to Paris, the city of love, where ballet was born four centuries ago under the reign of King Louis XIV — this show promises to take Indian audiences on a journey through the most iconic classical and contemporary ballet repertoire. Letestu will be joined by a cast of principal dancers from Rome and Madrid for the show, which is organized under the auspices of Hello IndiaOrganized by The French Embassy and French Institute, India.

The performances of the show will be a collection of classic French ballets such as Giselle and La Sylphide, created in the 19th century and will move on to more recent and contemporary pieces such as Non Rien de Rien and Le Parc, designed by French choreographers Ivan Favier and Angelin Preljocaj. All the pieces, as well as their composers and choreographers have one thing in common: they are all from Paris. “The show will have music by Chopin, who lived in Paris until his death. It will also feature works by 19th century ballet legend Marius Petipa who premiered some of his great works in Russia and later brought them to Paris,” shares Frédéric Fontan, the artistic director of Paris Ballet Legends during a phone call from Delhi where the troupe performed recently.

The troupe’s latest achievement is to transform the highly acclaimed French film Les Enfants du Paradis into a contemporary ballet. “We personalize our show according to the country in which we perform. For example, we included Petipa’s La Bayadère, because the story takes place in India,” he adds. The troupe’s most famous dancer is Agnes Letestu, who was introduced to dancing at the age of six, after seeing a video of Rudolph Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn at Swan Lake and telling her parents that she wanted to “do the same”. Ironically, it was Rudolf Nureyev who “defied the rigid corporate hierarchy” to consider her for the role of Princess Gamzatti in his 1992 production of La Bayadère.

“I think my most iconic role is in Swan Lake, as I have danced there countless times in many prestigious opera companies such as Mariinsky Theater, Tokyo Ballet, Universal ballet, Zagreb Ballet, Teatro Comunal Di Firenze and of course, the Paris Opera Ballet,” she says. But her favorite is still Lady of Camélias, choreographed by John Neumeier. “It’s an original ballet based on La Traviata which also requires a lot of acting,” she adds.

The show will go through more exotic pieces like Don Quixote, and neo-classical pieces like Renaissance. Letestu also designs the costumes – a dream she has had since she was a child. “Costumes are very important because they help artists understand the interpretation of their characters. Dancers need to feel comfortable moving in them, so they need to be breathable, light and beautiful,” explains the dancer who created 300 costumes for Les Enfants du Paradis (Paris Opera Ballet) and 150 costumes for Echos of Eternity (Shanghai Ballet). ).

In recent years, the art form has engaged with new works and artists. Although there is always a risk of rejection by the public, Fontan believes there is a new energy in the way choreographers experiment, try new things and combine them with the traditional in different ways. Letestu feels that choreographers are now re-reading great classical pieces with a neo-classical or contemporary dance language, which gives an interesting point of view. “There are more recent interpretations of Juliet and Romeo and Giselle by Mars Ek, but also Cinderella, Swan Lake, Taming of the Shrew by Christopher Weldon, Alexander Ekman or Jean Christophe Maillot. Emerging choreographers such as Crystal Pite are also very interesting and refreshing, but what remains constant is the fact that ballet without a story or theme still doesn’t work for audiences,” adds Letestu.

Paris Ballet Legends will take place on January 13 at 7 p.m. at Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point. Admission: from Rs 640. Call: 66223737