Arts and performance

A fresh look at season 15/16

By Octave 17 August 2016

© Eléna Bauer / OnP

Arts and performance

During the summer break, we offer our readers a retrospective glaze on Stéphane Lissner’s first season at the Paris Opera. Criss-crossings between scenography designed by plastic artists, electronic music and haute couture costumes… Art in all its forms was put forward and honored during this Ballet season.

“Creation feeds off exchange, in a flow of permanent inspirations, of shared breaths” underlined Benjamin Millepied, whose programming added a new chapter to the Paris Opera Ballet’s history of artistic collaborations. In line with those between Carolyn Carlson and Olivier Debré, Christian Lacroix and George Balanchine or yet again Olivier Messiaen and Roland Petit, many were, during season 15/16 the dialogs between great names of the choreographic art and plastic arts, contemporary music or fashion.

« Alea Sands » de Wayne McGregor
« Alea Sands » de Wayne McGregor © Julien Benhamou / OnP

Stage designers

For Alea Sands, his third creation for the Paris Opera Ballet, Wayne McGregor entrusted a major contemporary artist with his scenography. Allowing himself a few ventures away from museums and galleries, London-based Haroon Mirza came to sculpt his favorite material, light, in the Palais Garnier’s precious casket, electrified by his association with the choreographer and Pierre Boulez’s music . Laureate in 2011 of the “Lion d’Or” award of the Venice Biennale, the British artist offered a subtle and complex scenography, adding visual and sound elements such as light beams. 

Never denied, the plastic qualities of light and its capacity to redesign our environment are also at the heart of the United Visual Artist’s research, leading figure in today’s spatial installation. If the collective is well-known for creating scenography for the famous trip-hop band Massive Attack, it’s the neoclassicism of Benjamin Millepied which they decided to take on, last September, on the occasion of the creation of the ballet Clear, Loud, Bright, Forward. An inaugural event which demanded an equally strong counterpart for the season's final bow. Challenge faced with the creation of Entre chien et loup, by resident choreographer of the New York City Ballet Justin Peck, and his association with one of the greats of 20th century plastic art, John Baldessari. On Bastille’s stage, the young American’s elegant gesture was drawn up by the rhythm of the great conceptual artist’s paintings, rich in colors and pop culture references.

« Entre Chien et Loup » de Justin Peck
« Entre Chien et Loup » de Justin Peck © Francette Levieux / OnP


As faithful as contemporary choreographers are to classic music, they remain curious for contemporary music and essential contributors to its broadcast. This is evidenced by the long and fertile collaboration between composer Thom Willems and choreographer William Forsythe. To their three pieces programmed this season was added Blake Works 1, a creation for which the former Director of the Frankfurt Ballet called upon an electronic music festivals regular guest: James Blake. Multi-instrumentalist and composer of a music considered by many to be a soundtrack of our times, Blake’s dialogue with Forsythe achieved to spread the echo of his electronic ballads from radios to the temple of French academism. Very fashionable at the moment, the hypnotic loops of electronic music are widely tributary to so-called minimalist music, as practiced since the 70s by Steve Reich of Philip Glass, among others. It is precisely the repetitive aesthetic of the latter that Nico Muhly’s creations remind us of, third voice of the ballet Clear, Loud, Bright, Forward. Perfectly accomplished musician, author of music for ensembles, percussions, voice, and chorus as well as an opera, he delivered at the Palais Garnier a score perfectly in balance with the choreographic and scenographic intentions of his partners.
James Blake
James Blake © 1-800-Dinosaur

Fashion designers

Another major event this season was the creation of costumes for the Paris Opera Ballet by Karl Lagerfeld. His highly cultured fashion magnified the revival of Brahms-Schönberg Quartet, a challenging choreography by George Balanchine, full of finesse, by offering it haute couture tulles. During the same evening, associated with the creation of Entre chien et loup by Justin Peck, the audience could appreciate the costumes designed by Mary Katrantzou, rising star of British fashion, acclaimed notably for the originality of her printed fabrics and the architectural shapes of her gowns. Trademarks she was able to distill in designs full of lightness, giving the dancers’ bodies freedom of movement and grace. 

© Christophe Pelé / OnP

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