La Dame aux camélias - Ballet - Season 18/19 Programming - Opéra national de Paris

  • Ballet

    La Dame aux camélias

    John Neumeier

    Palais Garnier - from 30 November 2018 to 03 January 2019

    Svetlana Loboff / OnP

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La Dame aux camélias

Palais Garnier - from 30 November 2018 to 03 January 2019

Ballet

La Dame aux camélias

John Neumeier

Palais Garnier - from 30 November 2018 to 03 January 2019

3h00 with 2 intervals

  • Pre-opening night : 30 November 2018

    Opening night : 4 December 2018

About

In few words:

John Neumeier draws on the romantic essence of Alexandre Dumas’ novel to evoke the tragic life of its heroine, Marguerite Gautier. Bringing genuine psychological depth to his characters, he renders the famous courtesan’s emotions palpable. Amid sumptuous ball scenes and sublime pas de deux, the choreographer superposes memories and dreams, converging the destinies of Marguerite and Armand with those of Manon Lescaut and the Chevalier des Grieux. Chopin’s music gives the work an intimate quality whilst Jürgen Rose’s sets and costumes suffuse it with the perfume of a bygone era.

  • Opening
  • First part 40 mn
  • Intermission 20 mn
  • Second part 40 mn
  • Intermission 20 mn
  • Third part 55 mn
  • End

Performances

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Audio clips

La Dame aux camélias

Backstage

  • La Dame aux Camélias, a cinematic story

    Article

    La Dame aux Camélias, a cinematic story

  • Vibrations of the soul

    Video

    Vibrations of the soul

  • Podcast La Dame aux camélias

    Podcast

    Podcast La Dame aux camélias

La Dame aux Camélias, a cinematic story

Article

La Dame aux Camélias, a cinematic story

Alexandre Dumas fils on stage and screen

05’

By Paola Dicelli

Written by Alexandre Dumas fils in 1848, the story of Marguerite Gautier, a courtesan with a tragic destiny, has never ceased to inspire works of art: opera, of course, with Verdi’s La Traviata (1853), plays and films (around twenty adaptations), and even ballets. La Dame aux camélias has often fascinated choreographers and the best known version remains that of John Neumeier. First performed in Stuttgart in 1978, this ballet entered the repertoire of the Paris Opera Ballet in 2006 in a production highly faithful to the novel and resolutely cinematic.


“A film script”: it was thus that John Neumeier defined La Dame aux camélias, in an interview given in 2006. The staging of the ballet conserves the analeptic structure of the novel, each work beginning with the auctioning of Marguerite Gautier’s personal possessions, a few days after her death from tuberculosis. Whilst the flashback only appears in Dumas late in the narrative (when the narrator meets Armand, her former lover, and is told his story), Neumeier gets rid of the narrator to leave only the heart-broken lover at the centre of the action. It is he who takes charge of the narrative – his impetuous arrival at the auction even modifies the musical theme by Chopin – and, clutching the dress of his former mistress to his heart, he evokes his meeting with Marguerite Gautier at the Opera.

Paradoxically, most film adaptations of La Dame aux camélias adopt a more linear narrative approach. Gone is the flashback in Ray C. Smallwood’s 1921 film Camille which begins directly at the opera house, where the two main characters meet. At the end, when Marguerite is on her deathbed, the flashback technique is used, but as a means of heightening the melodrama (she reminisces over her happy memories with Armand) rather than for narrative purposes as in the novel or the ballet.    

Moulin Rouge, film de Baz Luhrmann, 2001, avec Nicole Kidman
Moulin Rouge, film de Baz Luhrmann, 2001, avec Nicole Kidman © Twenthies century fox/ Collection Christophel

Under the guise of being only a free adaptation of Dumas’s work, Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 film, Moulin Rouge, seems closest both to the book and to Neumeier’s staging, particularly in its structure. On this head, the first shot in the film and the opening of the ballet construct their heroes in virtually the same way. Christian in Moulin Rouge and Neumeier’s Armand are weeping over the death of the woman they loved, and it is an object (the dress in the ballet, the typewriter in the film) that plunges them back into the past.

Although the flashbacks are not indispensable to the different adaptations, there are, on the other hand, frequent references to Manon Lescaut. Alexandre Dumas fils even acknowledges the parallel in his work. On rereading the novel by the Abbé Prévost, which he has bought at the auction, the narrator declares: “The sort of comparison drawn between Manon Lescaut and Marguerite drew me unexpectedly to this work, and increased my sense of pity, almost of love for the poor girl to whose legacy I owed this volume.” Indeed, the careers of the two heroines are rather similar, both of them prostitutes who fall in love with an impoverished young man (Des Grieux for Manon, Armand for Marguerite), before suffering an agonising death. Thus, in the film Camille, the courtesan dies hugging the book by the Abbé Prévost to herself, sealing their shared destiny in death.

How then to transpose this literary reference on stage. Not having recourse to close up photography, John Neumeier abandoned the idea of a book, its cover having little visual impact for the spectators.

Camille, film de Ray C. Smallwood, 1921, avec Alla Nazimova et Rudolph Valentino
Camille, film de Ray C. Smallwood, 1921, avec Alla Nazimova et Rudolph Valentino © Collection christophel / RnB © Nazimova Productions

To compensate for its absence, the choreographer lifts Des Grieux and Manon from the novel and offers a skilful mise en abyme through dance: during the second tableau at the Opera, the dancer-characters watch another ballet, that of Manon Lescaut. Whilst in the work of director Ray Smallwood, Camille presses the book to her as she dies, in the ballet, Des Grieux, Manon and Marguerite launch themselves into a final pas de trois, uniting in the same way their fateful ends.

Marguerite’s death, like that of Manon Lescaut, contrasts with the luxurious life she has led, and this is true whatever the adaptation of La Dame aux camellias. In Neumeier, she breathes her last after exhaustedly penning a final note to Armand with only her servant for company. The film, Camille, presents an even more pitiful version, in which her creditors are the only people with her at the end. Finally, even in Moulin Rouge, as Satine performs on stage to thundering applause, she dies behind the curtain in the wings (in Christian’s arms). This, doubtless, was the intention of each adaptation of Dumas the younger: to portray Marguerite Gautier as a heroine who becomes vulnerable as soon as the world deserts her, and whose tragic destiny, even today, profoundly touches our hearts.    

© Julien Benhamou / OnP

Vibrations of the soul

05:13’

Video

Vibrations of the soul

Rehearsing La Dame aux camélias with Eleonora Abbagnato

By Aliénor de Foucaud

A choreographic transposition of Alexandre Dumas fils' famous novel, John Neumeier's La Dame aux camélias focuses on the sacrifice of absolute love, the interiority of feelings and relations between beings. To a score by Frédéric Chopin, the ballet is pervaded by the romantic spirit, from the sumptuous ball scenes to the sublime costumes by Jürgen Rose. Dancer Étoile Eleonora Abbagnato, who performed the ballet when is first entered the repertoire in 2006, was deeply marked by this work that, stripped of all sentimentality, asks no more of the dancer than to be herself on stage. With her partner Stéphane Bullion and under the watchful eye of Agnès Letestu - dancer Étoile and former great performer of this ballet - she continues to draw a wide range of emotions from the ballet and bring truth to every movement. To dance love, you have to be sincere.    

© Davis Ayer

Podcast La Dame aux camélias

Podcast

Podcast La Dame aux camélias

"Dance! Sing! 7 minutes at the Paris Opera" - by France Musique

07’

By Jean-Baptiste Urbain, France Musique

"Dance! Sing! 7 minutes at the Paris Opera" offers original incursions into the season thanks to broadcasts produced by France Musique and the Paris Opera. For each opera or ballet production, Nathalie Moller (opera) and Jean-Baptiste Urbain (dance), present the works and artists you are going to discover when you attend performances in our theatres.  

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