Paris Opéra Ballet – June '02

March 4, 2002

Paris Opéra Ballet

Opéra Garnier
Paris, France

March 4?13, 2002

Reviewed by Karyn Bauer-Prévost

When the Paris Opéra Ballet premiered Hurlevent, an adaptation of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights created by POB principal dancer Kader Belarbi, the Palais Garnier stage was transformed into a Victorian field. This piece (the first Belardi has created for his home company) told of Heathcliff’s undying love for Catherine with a successful mix of passion, possession, and death, set to Philippe Hersant’s original score.

The curtain rose over the servant Joseph (played by Jean-Marie Didière), perched above real flickering flames. The air was thick and hot. The slight howling of the wind heralded the oncoming storm. The mood was ominous, suffocating, until, with a deafening thud, dozens of iron-weighted flowers dropped from the sky, illuminating the stage in a brilliant array of colors.

It is here that the youthful romance blossomed between Heathcliff, powerfully danced by Nicholas

Le Riche, and Catherine, sublimely interpreted by Marie-Agnès Gillot. To the sound of chirping birds and bustling crickets, Gillot and Le Riche performed a most endearing pas de deux, barefoot in the fields, mirroring one another’s actions, delighting in each other’s boundless energy. Rolling on the floor or twirling through the air, they cooed and cuddled under the watchful eye of the governess, Nelly, subtly interpreted by Céline Talon, and the toiling peasants whose Cossack-style round dances and heavy-soled boots clearly evoked their social standing.

That blissful moment was shattered, however, when Catherine discovered the luxurious, velvet-coated life of the Lintons on the occasion of an evening gala. Barefoot and in braids, she sneaked onto the family couch and made a most delicious discovery of wealth and opulence, squealing and giggling as she unknowingly seduced the sophisticated Edgar Linton (Jean Guillaume Bart) in this unforgettably theatrical passage.

The stage then separated in two, setting the scene for a long passage of parallel seduction as a confused Catherine, fluttering indecisively with flowing arabesque movements, was swept away by Linton, unaware that an untimely death awaited her.

When youthful romance gives way to the attraction of wealth, those clearly defined feelings of love and joy are transformed into far less identifiable sensations of remorse and longing for a world long gone. The second act explored such dark states of mourning and revenge amidst a minimalist decor of projected images designed by Peter Pabst. The music darkened, accompanying Catherine and Heathcliff as they came together for eternity in a slow-paced duo that was no longer marked by lust but by resignation.

With three vacant slots for female principals at the POB, Gillot proved that she has every hope of enjoying that coveted promotion. For choreographer Belarbi, 40, approaching his own mandatory retirement, nearly a dozen works to his name make it seem likely that his departure will be a turning point toward a long and equally promising career behind the scenes.