Paris Ballet Legends

Date: May 11, 2017
Location: Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Hong Kong.

Coralli and Perrot – Giselle Act 2 pas de deux, with Lucie Barthelemy and Alessandro Riga
Meehan after Ivanov and Petipa – Black Swan pas de deux, with Ge Gao and Ryo Kato
Robbins – In The Night, with Muriel Zusperreguy and Josua Hoffalt, Aida Baida and Esteban Berlanga, Agnes Letestu and Stephane Bullion
Cue – La Mort du Cygne (The Dying Swan), with Esteban Berlanga
Fontan and Sarrat – Carmen Toujours! pas de deux, with Lucie Barthelemy and Olivier Sarrat
Martinez – Les Enfants du Paradis pas de deux, with Aida Baida and Esteban Berlanga
Caniparoli – Lady of the Camellias pas de deux, with Yao Jin and Lucas Jerkander
Van Cauwenbergh – Les Bourgeois, with Alessandro Riga
Favier – Non, je ne regrette rien, with Agnes Letestu and Stephane Bullion
Prejlocaj – Le Parc final pas de deux, with Muriel Zusperreguy and Josua Hoffalt

Balletomanes in Hong Kong will certainly remember two of the pieces this evening: Les Bourgeois, danced by Carlos Acosta in 2016, and Le Parc, danced by Alice Renavand / Florian Magnenet in 2015. Van Cauwenbergh’s choreography is not so much dancing as it is acting, and here Riga romped the stage as a cigarette-smoking bombshell, with the sort of clownish smile and gestures that aroused delirious laughter in the auditorium. Aided by a younger and more flexible body, Riga’s rendition in contrast with Acosta’s felt less muscular and more natural. In Le Parc, Zusperreguy and Hoffalt’s flawless techniques would stand out more if only they did not beam with great chemistry, which they certainly did. Zusperreguy flowed just as graciously as Renavand (and Guérin – their inspiration), and seemed to enhance the role by adding a hint of nervousness and uncertainty, as if she is well aware of life’s reality even as the couple, in ecstasy, momentarily escapes from it. This display of insight was well in contrast with Jin/Jerkander in Lady of the Camellias. The Hong Kong Ballet pair displayed all of Caniparoli’s visual language while managing to find, seemingly, no chemistry between themselves. Jin’s Marguerite, often looking towards the audience, was more eager to please them than Jerkander’s Armand – something that was unfortunate, especially since the pair found good chemistry dancing together in Hong Kong Ballet’s full version back in October 2016. Alas, such was the fact of life with galas where getting into character could be a monumental task. In the Favier, Letestu and Bullion displayed great efficacy of movement and precision while dancing within the confines of a carpet barely larger than the average bathroom stall. Fontan and Sarrat’s Carmen Toujours! was perhaps one of the most exciting new choreographies I have seen lately. Physical moments switched back and forth between cruel violence and sappy tenderness, in deference to the wretched history between Carmen and Don Jose. In the frenetic scene where Jose was about to stab Carmen a la Sweeney Todd, the psychological intensity seemed most and appropriately intertwined with the visual physicality. It would have been perfect, if only the corresponding music was not the flower song, which opera lovers would find out of place. I look forward to comparing it against Yuh Egami/Ricky Hu’s new choreography for the Hong Kong Ballet later this month. Robbin’s In The Night looks and feels Parisian without actually programming as such. All three pairs’ dancing was precise, especially the dancing between Letestu and Bullion. The seasoned pair moved their legs cleanly without unnecessary jitters. Their dancing revealed not a word of flamboyance but a waterfall’s worth of human sensibility. Motions flowed with generous profundity of thought and conviction. Henri Barda, who for decades has been Robbins’ most trusted collaborator, colored the moment with delicious live rendering of Chopin’s nocturnes, among other music. His piano, situated in the pit area (stage right), was spotlighted loosely but prominently from above and was clearly programmed to be an equal partner to the dance proceedings onstage. His performance, full of voice and sentimentality, was worthy of the standing ovations the auditorium lavished him.

Robbins’ In The Night: Paris Opera Ballet legends in Hong Kong. Photo credit: Le French May website.

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James Galway recital

James Galway, the flautist well known for making a lucrative career as a touring soloist, delighted the Beijing audience with an evening of impressionist and a pair of late-19th century Doppler arrangements. Beginning the evening was Faure’s Fantasie for Flute & Piano, Op. 79, which Galway had to restart twice due to nuances with his flute. Perhaps because of the restarts, a brief trip to the backstage in between to work on his flute, and a pause due to a poorly-timed cellphone ring, Galway seemed a little hesitant and not fully immersed in Faure’s buttery melodic arches. His delivery of Clair de Lune by Debussy was also problematic, sounding choppy and somewhat limping. His first Doppler, Andante & Rondo for Two Flutes & Piano, Op. 25, in which he shared the stage with his wife, Lady Galway, sounded a lot better. Sir Galway seemed very much at ease with his wife’s presence, and harmonically in control of the trio (with Michael McHale as the accompanying pianist) even as Lady Galway and McHale had respectively the bulk of the melodic and rhythmic lines. The second Doppler was the deliciously crafted Rigoletto Fantasy for Two Flutes, Op. 38. The exquisite arrangements on the Caro nome theme were marred by a dynamic imbalance that Lady Galway seemed desperate to correct. While her open embouchure produced a bigger, breathier sound, her air-stream was audible, with an especially annoying diffusion at the top notes.  The regular program ended with Francois Borne’s Carmen Fantasie, in which Galway seemed to have missed a few notes and looked more laborious than in complete control. A sublime rendition of Danny Boy as encore, paired with an expert control over the Irish tune’s pianissimo, partially redeemed the virtuoso, but left me wondering whether he has fully recovered from the physical and mental trauma of going through his arm injury a few years ago.

James Galway in Beijing.

James Galway in Beijing.