Thursday 10 November 2016

George Balanchine – Mozartiana/Brahms-Schönberg Quartet/Violin Concerto – Paris Opera Ballet, 25 October 2016

Brahms-Schönberg Quartet
© ZsaZsa Bellagio
This autumn, the Paris Opera Ballet pay tribute to Balanchine, as well as his muse Violette Verdy, who sadly passed away earlier this year. The three abstract ballets - Mozartiana, Brahms-Schönberg Quartet and Violin Concerto demonstrate the diversity of his choreography.

Mozartiana is a pleasant, pretty start to the evening. Students of the Ballet School join the principals on stage seamlessly - a sure sign that they're not short of future talent. Probably the most traditional of the night's ballets, it is not without its Balanchine signatures. A beautiful, clean piece.

The curtain fell and rose again on an empty stage, a screen suspended above. A video tribute to Violette Verdy was shown - her energy and bright spirit clear. Mathias Heyman and Myriam Ould Braham then danced Sonatine, a treat for the first five performances of the run, and a piece that was danced by Verdy at its premiere in 1975. Two dancers and a pianist on stage create an enchanting trio. Balanchine always placed emphasis on the important relationship between music and dance, and the presence of the piano on stage makes this explicitly a conversation between the two dancers and the music. They dance as though responding to each other's movements rather than following strict choreography. It feels a connected, intimate piece.

Following the interval we were treated to the Brahms-Schönberg Quartet, an addition to Paris Opera Ballet's repertoire earlier this year. Designs by Karl Lagerfeld evoke the grandeur of historic royalty, an impressive achievement without a heavy set - a simple backdrop and gorgeous costumes more than fulfilling the brief. The four movements are distinct yet all fit together with their romance, lyricism, and clean lines. It exudes the rosy, carefree lifestyle of the privileged in ages past and has a celebratory air to it. A joy to behold.

The final piece of the evening, Violin Concerto, is a stark contrast - gone are the flowing romantic tutus, replaced by plain leotards that would not look out of place in an RAD exam. The movement however, is the most experimental of the night. It is symmetrical and at times almost acrobatic, and once again Balanchine's focus on the music is apparent - his choreography clearly showing his personal response.

All in all a stunningly beautiful evening that pays homage to the diversity and skill of a truly great choreographer. 

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