Leaving the theater where I saw the simulcast of the Bolshoi Ballet production of “The Lady of the Camellias” presented by FATHOM events, a woman commented that we are so fortunate to have access to the Bolshoi. I could not agree more. What an amazing resource this is, a little bit of Moscow accessed locally in 35 countries.
This Bolshoi performance follows other works that were also inspired by Alexander Dumas fils’s novel, The Lady of the Camellias, that was inspired by the real-life nineteeth-century courtesan Marie Duplessis who was his lover.
This story inspired Verdi’s opera La Traviata, the Oscar-winning musical Moulin Rouge, and numerous ballets, stage plays (starring Lillian Gish, Eleonora Duse, Tallulah Bankhead, and Sarah Bernhardt, and films (starring Greta Garbo, Robert Taylor, Rudolph Valentino, Isabelle Huppert, and Colin Firth).
On the same theme, Fredrick Ashton staged, Marguerite and Armand, a ballet he developed for Margot Fonteyn. Rudolf Nureyev, had recently arrived in London, and was all but unknown to Ashton at the time. However, he was young and charismatic and his partnership with the forty-three-year-old grande dame of British ballet – the incomparable Margot Fonteyn – fit the theme for the production. For Marguerite and Armand Ashton, Ashton used Franz Liszt’s Sonata in B minor, which shared a connection to Dumas’s own novel: the Hungarian composer had had an affair with Marie Duplessis, the real-life Marguerite. “The lady”, who was known to all as “the Lady of the Camellias” because she is never seen without her favorite flowers was Marguerite Gautier
The achingly beautiful performance on February 4th, was the1979 Lady of the Camellias that John Neumeier originally created for Marcia Haydée at Stuttgart Ballet set to music of Chopin, now a part of the Bolshoi Ballet repertoire. The original dramatic structure opens with an auction, indicating to the audience that the objects being sold off belonged to Marguerite. Armand enters and flashbacks are used from then onwards to narrate the story.
This ballet is so dramatic that it is essentially opera with the text told in the movement of the dancers. It opens with an auction and audiences soon understand that the objects being sold off belonged to Marguerite. Armand enters and flashbacks are used from then onwards to narrate the story. Marguerite and Armand meet at a performance of the ballet Manon Lescaut, and the characters of Manon and Des Grieux later appear as mirror images of the main couple, highlighting events that are common to both stories.
This full-length production in three acts was lavish with a very large cast, and gorgeous costumes. Chopin’s music was orchestrated in the first and third act but the second act, in which emotions changed dramatically had the accompaniment of two pianos, one on stage and the other in the pit.
To see the facial expressions along with the amazing dancing enhanced the viewing experience. There was some humor to break the intensity, a charming dance with a hat where Nanina played by Anna Antropova couldn’t get the steps right.
The principle dancers, Svetlana Zakharova as Marguerite Gauthier and Edvin Revazov as Armand Duval were breathtaking, while Anna Tikhomirova as Manon Lescaut and Semyon Chudin as Des Grieux were perfect “mirrors” Monsieur Duval was convincingly “evil” as danced by Andrei Merkuriev and Kristina Kretova as Prudence Duvernoy, the new woman, was also convincing.
The backstage interviews and explanations by Katya Novikova greatly enhance the experience.
Photos: Courtesy of Fathom Events
Upcoming events can be found on the bolshoiballetincinema website