June 13, 2021

At the Paris Opera, Roland Petit’s expressiveness hailed in three ballets

The Ballet de l’Opéra national de Paris is resuming its quarters at the Palais Garnier and the Opéra Bastille in Paris. If the premiere of the evening dedicated to Roland Petit (1924-2011), which was to take place on May 31 at Garnier, had to be postponed to June 2 due to computer problems in the hangers, everything has been fine since. As for the version of Romeo and Juliet, Directed and choreographed in 1984 by Rudolf Nureyev (1938-1993), it will occupy Bastille from June 10 to July 10.

It is the great refrain of fate that the Roland Petit program, a tribute to the artist who died ten years ago, hammers out in three ballets – The appointment (1945), The Young Man and Death (1946) and Carmen (1949) -, on three powerful and nervous musical scores. Presented chronologically, these works are still proving to be as exciting to detail in their visual, gestural and theatrical watchmaking. So who is fate? It’s the woman, of course, who has the hard, crunchy tooth, the quick match, the equally sharp stab, and the lasso ready to turn into a rope to hang on.

The traceability of fatality leads these short but dense pieces. Everything is said, and quickly. A sinister and caricature character makes his appearance in The appointment, Parisian miniature, whose atmospheric face is very much based on the argument of Jacques Prévert and the music of Joseph Kosma. The depression of the male character, already palpable in The Young Man and death, on an argument by Jean Cocteau and the Passacaille of Bach, signs his planned loss. As for the knife given the air of nothing by Carmen’s friends to Don José, it will quickly turn him into a murderer and thief.

Resist the weight of the tragic

This dramaturgical evidence does not prevent these ballets from capturing the imagination. The fascinating decorations of Brassaï for The appointment, accompanied by a stage curtain signed Pablo Picasso, by Georges Wakhévitch in The Young Man and Death and Antoni Clavé for Carmen can be savored like so many inexhaustible paintings. The sequence of scenes in different spaces, with the exception of the Young man and death, involves in a flow of energies and atmospheres. The corps de ballet, especially in Carmen, Not only knows how to lift his leg and elbow well but also how to get on all fours to clap his hands while accompanying the love games that sing Bizet at the top of his lungs.

Expressive, very articulate, Roland Petit’s writing regularly poses bombs under his classic virtuoso to twist his hips or explore his guts.

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