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Stendhal, time has stopped

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Now that Roland Petit and Maurice Béjart are gone, Pierre Lacotte remains the last great old man of French choreography. All for him the honors that the Paris Opera gives him by staging “Le rouge e le noir” in world premiere at the Palais Garnier. Stendhal, full romance, overwhelming passions. Perfect novel for a ballet that Lacotte prepares in the old way. With him, time has stopped: French school, high-class dance, a few more contemporary moments. After all Lacotte is also known for the reconstruction of some important titles of the French romantic repertoire for the maison such as “Paquita”, “Sylphide” and “Coppélia”.

Spectacular in three acts. Splendid costumes and scenography by Lacotteche chooses black and white backdrops that reflect vintage prints.

The choreography includes ensemble scenes and two steps, variations for everyone, God forbid. Just as it used to be.

For music, another great master stroke, selected pages by Jules Massenet. With waltzes, Polishes, languorous or overwhelming Leitmotifs, which return in moments of maximum tension. With four themes that characterize the four main characters. All French, therefore, all top class.

A grandiose operation that the Opéra had not carried out for some time and that Lacotte deserved: at the age of 89 he declares that it will be his last ballet. But never say never. Narration that does not know the ellipsis but must tell everything. Then seminary, French province, Paris, prison, guillotine. And in the center he, Julien Sorel, handsome and dark conqueror, social climber, who in the 1950s in the cinema had the face and charm of Gérard Philippe who died prematurely a few years after the film by Autant-Lara. Legend within legend. It is normal that in the audience there are also elderly groupies and that Lacotte wanted as protagonist fascinating étoiles like Hugo Marchand or first dancers like Florian Magnenet.

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Madame de Rénal is Amandine Albisson, who at the end of the first act has a scene of amorous desperation worthy of yesterday’s greats like Galina Ulanova. Mathilde de la Mole is instead Léonore Baulac. While the role of Elisa (here Nais Duboscq) is expanded, the housekeeper who is also in love with Julien and whose intrigues, an anonymous letter, will cause the breakup of the engagement with de la Mole. Revenge of Julien who kills Madame de Rénal with a pistol shot in church, who he believes to be the author of the letter. Finale on the gallows, with madam guillotine clearly visible and at work.

For all Lacotte builds a choreography that brings the company back to a dance to a language that is part of its DNA. May 1. But also the opportunity for the Opéra to pay homage to a master who took his first steps in the Parisian corps de ballet. Finally, we are at the time of Covid and therefore it is not surprising that many of the corps de ballet dance with the mask.

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