For music lovers of all persuasions, there’s no place like the Hollywood Bowl. From Frank Sinatra, Nina Simone and the Beatles to Vladimir Horowitz, Igor Stravinsky and yes, even Liberace, the Bowl has featured the biggest names in music on the planet over its 100 year history. And while world-class dance troupes – including the Martha Graham Dance Company, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Joffrey Ballet – jumped, pirouetted and stuffed on the iconic Bowl stage, the Opera Ballet of Paris (POB) is only now making its long-awaited debut in the Cahuenga Pass.
Indeed, on July 20 and 21, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, directed by its musical and artistic director Gustavo Dudamel, will accompany the members of the Paris Opera Ballet in a program of solos, duos and ensembles (tickets here). The auspicious performances also owe, in large part, the fact that in August last year Dudamel took over as musical director of the Paris Opera. So why not invite a few friends to dance under the stars in a hall that is celebrating its centenary?
For Aurélie Dupont, the engagement would turn out to be, well, a kind of swan song. Turning 50 next January, the ballerina has spent nearly 40 years with POB, first at school and then rising through the ranks from corps member to star (in 1998) to finally (in 2016) dance director . And while Los Angeles’ engagement will be her last with the company (she’s leaving in late July), Dupont is nonetheless excited to work with Dudamel and the LA Phil on their home turf.
“Gustavo invited us to dance and play with him. He is a kind and brilliant artist, ”she enthused. “He is also very funny and he loves dancing. We had decided to do ballet excerpts, and the music will be amazing. He will have Debussy, Mozart, Erik Satie, Schubert. It’s a beautiful encounter between dance and music.
The eight classic and contemporary works include Victor Gsovsky’s 1949 duet Grand Pas Classic; Chez Angelin Preljocaj The park (1994); Mikhail Fokine’s indelible solo made for Anna Pavlova, The Death of the Swan (1907), which will be accompanied by LA cello soloist Phil Robert deMaine; and Faunaa work choreographed by Sharon Eyal which has only recently premiered and is set to Debussy’s 1894 symphonic poem Prelude in the afternoon of a faun.
POB, which was founded in 1661, has an extensive repertoire of classical, romantic and modern works, and while it won’t be performing any of its signature story ballets, Dupont said it will bring about 30 performers to California. from South. “It’s not much,” she admitted with a laugh, “because there are 154 people in the company, but I wanted to bring all the superstars we got. And there are 20 people working in my team with the tickets, the visas, the client, the lights. For us, it’s like a small tour in a very big place.
Another work on display is that of Hans van Manen Three Gnossiennes. Choreographed in 1982, the duo uses piano music of the same name by Erik Satie from 1890 and will feature soloist Jean-Yves Thibaudet accompanying stars Ludmila Pagliero and Hugo Marchand, who performed the dance together in 2017.
“We love playing with music,” Pagliero explained, “and the great thing about this piece is that we have a live pianist. It’s more like a threesome, and it’s going to be a great experience to listen to it. [Thibaudet]. The way the pianist is going to play, it kind of gives us this interpretation, because there is no story in this pas de deux.
Pagliero added that for her, a good partner means being open to the music “and feeling the person next to me, listening to the other person, being aware of the skin, the eyes, the breath.”
While POB last performed in Southern California in 2001 at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Orange County, bringing his critically acclaimed sound The Bayadere, the troupe’s appearance at the Bowl could mark the start of many such concerts in the City of Angels. Renae Williams Niles, head of content and engagement at the LA Phil, said Dudamel’s Paris Opera nomination was obviously a big factor.
“Gustavo has such a love and appreciation for all forms of dance and ballet that it made perfect sense. I don’t think I’m the only one [who] hope this is the start, a start. And what a great way to illustrate the marriage of dance and music, and on such a big stage. You can always hope and make plans, and in this case, it seemed like all the pieces came together just fine.
“I know their work and what the dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet are capable of,” added Williams Niles. I can’t wait to see the faces of the dancers and this feeling that will invade them during their first performance.
The same goes for Dupont. But with a capacity of nearly 18,000 spectators, dancing at the Hollywood Bowl is not without its challenges. “We’ve been to France on tour in outdoor theatres,” the ballerina recalls, “but never with so many seats. I think everyone will be very impressed with the place – even me – but I think I’ll be also totally stressed.
“First, the dancers don’t know the stage,” she added, “so we come with our own floor. And I heard there weren’t so many dance parties there, [which means] we have no wings, a place where dancers can hide, breathe and drink water. We had to work on that, and I hope there will be [areas we can use].”
With the Bowl nestled in the Hollywood Hills, rain and high temperatures shouldn’t be a problem. “I haven’t seen the temperature in LA,” noted Dupont, “but I hear it’s absolutely fine now. What might be difficult for dancers is that there are so many They’ll feel really small, but because they’re dancing so big, they’ll be fine.
When asked if she was aware of how many famous people have graced the Hollywood Bowl stage over the years, Dupont immediately replied, “Don’t tell me, or I’ll stress out. But I’m proud to see them on this beautiful stage, and I know I’m going to be moved.