La Scala Ballet

March 20, 2007

Teatro alla Scala, Milan, Italy
March 20-30, 2007

Reviewed by Silvia Poletti

Pictured: Alessandra Ferri

Photographer: Marco Brescia

Courtesy: Teatro alla Scala

For her last time with La Scala Ballet before retiring, Alessandra Ferri realized a dream: to dance John Neumeier’s Lady of the Camellias. A moving dance-drama based on Alexandre Dumas’ unforgiving novel, Neumeier’s ballet focuses on the devastating effects of a romance with the young Armand Duval on the ill-fated courtesan. At first considering it merely a drawing-room romance, Marguerite is gradually deeply touched by Armand’s sincerity. For the first time she lets herself find true love. But Armand’s father’s bourgeois common sense stops the liaison and condemns the girl to live her last days alone and desperate. With cinematic devices like flashbacks and fades, Neumeier alternates the courtesan’s social life with her intimate hopes and sorrows. The duets wonderfully portray the lovers’ growing intimacy with nuance. There are some choreographic leit motive —as the expressive port de bras, the way the characters offer their hands to each other or also a simple run— gradually changing their moods during the story. In Neumeier’s storytelling everything has its close-up: the glances, a hand hanging by Marguerite’s side, her melancholy while she watches Armand courting Olympia.

Marguerite needs to have a powerful, and yet fragile presence. Alessandra Ferri has the expressive strength to realize a lively portrait of Marguerite, with all the grace of Neumeier’s neoclassic idiom. It’s amazing how clearly she communicates the heroine’s suffering. She dances and lives with all her body; her eyes dance too, revealing all that she thinks and feels.

Roberto Bolle is handsome, proud, and naïve as Armand. A strong, clean dancer, he gives his role the passion and anger it needs. The company dances with enthusiasm, if not always with complete assurance.

But it is Ferri’s performance that keeps the audience under a spell. What a pity she is Marguerite for so few times!