Monday, January 14, 2013

REVIEW: William Forsythe / Trisha Brown by Paris Opera Ballet (Paris)

Palais Garnier (Paris), Friday December 28

On to the 11th show of my 14 shows in 13 days marathon. The choices were Don Quichotte or this William Forsythe/Trisha Brown program. The Paris Opera Ballet, I believe, tends to celebrate Christmas by splitting the company into two divergent programmes for their two houses (Bastille and Garnier). Personally, I would have preferred Don Quichotte, but my companion has never seen the inside of Garnier, thus this programme was chosen instead without much hesitation as I am actually quite interested to see these modern ballets that has become a classic of their own as performed by different well-known companies. In fact, when I am in Paris during this time of the year, I do tend to see an opera at the Bastille and a ballet at the Garnier.

Overall, the evening was a disappointment, more because of the programming rather than the performance itself. Now that I have the benefit to look back, it was not too bad, but when I was sitting in the theatre in not the most comfortable seat, the four pieces seemed to be just a series of deconstructed classical ballet pieces with mind-numbing electronic music and monotonous sound-scape! Okay, the music was not THAT bad, but when played sequentially, they became less exciting.

The evening opened with Forsythe creation for the company in 1987, In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated. It was a strong opening that showed so much promise until slowly Forsythe’s signature incisive language gave way to a few missteps usually associated with opening night or lack of rehearsal. But it was not an opening night; thus I can only conclude that the demand of the work in terms of the fast yet precise moves, abrupt attacks, and technical coolness were just a tad above the ability of this group.

Trisha Brown’s O Zlozony/ O Composite followed. This work for Paris Opera in 2004 had poetry set to the music of Laurie Anderson, which was a welcome divergence from the throbbing music of Thom Willems in the previous piece. However, it didn’t take long before the poetry and music became bland just like the dance. I tried so hard to like it but it was a seriously somber piece of insipid choreography that was at start exciting, but became repetitive. I am not sure why it was in fact inserted in this mostly-Forsythe programme? I suspect that it was there to make the Forsythe’s pieces look good! Dancers Melanie Hurel, Christophe Duquenne and Marc Moreau did a wonderful job though with sustained fluidity in emotions and movements.

Back to Forsythe after the interval, the second half did fare better. The juxtaposition of Woundwork 1 and Pas. / Parts made a huge difference in the appreciation of Forsythe’s language. Woundwork 1, for Paris Opera in 1999, extracted the nucleus of the language and presented it through an exploration of two confident couples (Emilie Cozette, Laetitia Pujol, Mathieu Ganio, Benjamin Pech). Then what followed was that same language expanded to a larger cast matched with the same intensity and magnitude in music in the form of Pas. / Parts (also for Paris Opera in 1999). While the execution was less clean, the choreography with its series of themes and variations showcased exactly what is expected from Paris Opera Ballet – exactitude. The music of Thom Willems saturated both pieces with the same electronic oddness. In the end, it is this last piece that saved the evening.


Thom Willems, Original score
William Forsythe, Choreography, scenography, costumes and lighting (Paris Opera, 1987)

Laurie Anderson, Original score
Trisha Brown, Choreography (Paris Opera, 2004)
Vija Celmins, Scenography
Elizabeth Cannon, Costumes
Jennifer Tipton, Lighting

Thom Willems, Original score
William Forsythe, Choreography, sets and lighting (Paris Opera, 1999)
Stephen Galloway, Costumes

Thom Willems, Original score
William Forsythe, Choreography, scenography and lighting (Paris Opera, 1999)
Stephen Galloway, Costumes

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