Nombre de messages : 38 Date d'inscription : 15/04/2015
Sujet: Houston Ballet brings Marie Antoinette to life Mar 18 Juin - 23:09
A decade after the debut of Stanton Welch’s “Marie,” his muse appears as youthful as ever.
Not the figure of Marie Antoinette, but Melody Mennite, the remarkable ballerina who portrays the ill-fated French queen, wearing the whole roller coaster of a story in her pliant face and her fragile-but-unbreakable qualities of movement.
Houston Ballet hasn’t performed “Marie” at the Wortham Theater Center since 2011. Much can happen to a dancer’s body during that many years, but Mennite has somehow only gotten better. Although you do have to buy into the entirely sympathetic viewpoint that this Marie Antoinette is entirely an innocent victim of her circumstances, because it’s hard to understand why the mob of revolutionaries would have any issue with her.
Friday’s opening-night performances, following runs of “Coppelia” and “The Merry Widow,” again showed the entire company in excellent form. Mennite’s partners also returned to roles they originated. Connor Walsh, in valiant, poetic mode as the queen’s lover, the Swedish Count Axel von Fersen, sweeps her around effortlessly in the ballet’s most romantic pas de deux; while Ian Casady makes her aloof husband, King Louis XVI, as stiff as a cardboard cutout until he finally shows a glimpse of tenderness in their final pas de deux.
Yuriko Kajiya’s Comtesse de Noailles, the fussy dame d’honneur whom the rule-weary, real-life queen derisively called Madame Etiquette, comes off as one of the court’s most interesting and multidimensional characters. Esheysis Menendez is captivatingly regal, then torn, as Maria Theresa, the Empress of Austria (Marie Antoinette’s mother). Jessica Collado brings a bubbly dimension to the role of Madame du Barry, Louis XV’s mistress. Charles-Louis Yoshiyama, Oliver Halkowich, Hayden Stark and Chun Wai Chan are standouts in brief solos; and Karina González elicits pure pity as Marie’s confidante Princess de Lamballe, the first aristocrat to be brutalized and killed by an angry mob.
Aside from those solo parts, the cast list of more than 30 characters is barely developed. Did I really say, the first time I reviewed “Marie,” that I liked the ballet’s lack of variations? Now its mime-heavy structure seems like a lost opportunity. For most of the dancers, it’s primarily an acting exercise. There is more dancing in it than one might realize, but people walk out with the sense that the production hardly has any.
The lush score helps keep things moving. A collage of Dmitri Shostakovich compositions, the music captures arcs of formality, playfulness, romance and tragedy — not just in its melodies but in its variety of featured instruments. Conductor Ermanno Florio and the Houston Ballet Orchestra played all of it with sensitivity and vividness Friday.
The “Marie” synopsis only dips its toes into a complex arc of history that lasted 22 years — from the political alliance that would send the young Austrian archduchess to the gossipy, ritualized French court at the age of 15 to her death at the guillotine at age 37, the climax of the bloody French Revolution.
While the party scene at the Petit Trianon, the queen’s playhouse, is quite entertaining, it reads more as youthful silliness than extravagance. Not until a couple of paupers appear inexplicably off to the side, and some of the aristocrats grow agitated and leave with their suitcases, is there even a hint that people outside this drunken world are suffering and revolution is brewing.
Then we have angry crowd dances, heavy on unison movement, that look like “Les Mis” meets “Thriller.” Can these people do nothing more than point accusingly at the aristocrats and thrust their jazz hands in the air?
Would Welch choreograph “Marie” the same way today? Not likely. His new “Sylvia,” earlier this season, was considerably more multidimensional, and he gave it three heroines.
But the company does need to get its money’s worth out of the big production. Kandis Cook’s costumes for “Marie” are magnificent, and the framing devices of her sets suggest the layers of situations and history involved. The Trianon set flies apart into pieces as the revolution erupts, capturing the chaos most effectively.
A few casting notes: Nozomi Iijima, who was quietly promoted to the rank of principal earlier this season, is scheduled to dance the leading role during Sunday’s matinee. (González also had a turn with it last weekend.) Linnar Looris, the tall, elegant first soloist who appears alternatively as the Duc d’Orleans and Prince Rohan, bids farewell to Houston with these performances. After 12 years as one of the company’s most dependable men, he is returning to his native Estonia to direct that country’s ballet company.