With fundraising becoming an increasingly pressing concern, glittering opening night galas have become de rigueur for many ballet companies. The Paris Opera Ballet woke up a few years ago to the potential for a star-studded evening with the arrival of Benjamin Millepied, and the red carpet remained a must under Aurélie Dupont.
Exclusivity is key to the proceedings, and for the benefit of Lenny Kravitz and Monaco royal Charlotte Casiraghi and others, this year’s gala brought together two company premieres, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui Wildlife and Hans Van Manen Three Gnossiennes. Unfortunately, neither are part of the current POB season. Wildlife should return in 2018-19, but it wouldn’t hurt regular audiences to see these works sooner.
In this case, they were the highlights of the evening. Wildlife was Cherkaoui’s memorable contribution to a 2009 Diaghilev-themed program at Sadler’s Wells in London. The original cast, Daisy Phillips and James O’Hara, are hard to match for supple finesse, but Juliette Hilaire and Marc Moreau stabbed at the tangled limbs and animalistic sensuality of the choreography.
The last time Dutch master Hans Van Manen worked with the Paris Opera was in 1986 – a decades-long omission, if Three Gnossiennes is something to pass. Ludmila Pagliero and Hugo Marchand carried its austere tension to perfection. Their mature, understated articulation embodies the best of French style, and the simplest imagery – Marchand catching Pagliero’s flexed foot, a motionless elevator – lingered and echoed alongside Satie’s music.
The evening was preceded by the traditional Parade, a review of the troops in which dancers and students of POB School parade by grade. Small steps have been taken recently towards more diversity, but the talent pool remains hopelessly homogeneous.
The company returned for another parade at Diamondsfrom the Balanchine triptych Jewelry, which kicks off a three-week tour today at the Palais Garnier. Unlike the French theme Emeralds, Diamonds is all Russian greatness, but the POB has found its way there in the past.
The corps de ballet was precise at the gala, but everyone seemed to be dancing on a smaller scale than Tchaikovsky required. Myriam Ould-Braham, who projects more vulnerability than majesty, has been misinterpreted as the queen of this realm, and her looks from Odile to Germain Louvet in the central pas de deux set the wrong tone. the Diamonds ballerina does not dance for her partner, she embodies a classical ideal that he venerates (above all). I hope that other actors will arrive at the heart of Jewelry in the next weeks.
“Jewels” on October 12, operadeparis.fr