Rome Opera Ballet

January 13, 2005

Rome Opera Ballet
Teatro Costanzi, Rome, Italy

January 13�16, 2005

Reviewed by Silvia Poletti


During her nearly five years as director of the Rome Opera Ballet, Carla Fracci has battled the common opinion that the company is lazy and bored. Under the public’s watchful eye, a new generation of dancers is budding under her care. Performances are often sold out, and accolades come from press and event producers. But Fracci’s greatest victory is to offer choreographic rarities that give audiences a new perspective on the evolution of dance by rediscovering the past.

To celebrate the Balanchine centenary, Fracci asked ballet reconstructionists Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer to research the budding genius’ last Diaghilev productions. On a program with Apollon Musagète (including the often omitted prologue with Leto’s labor depicted in a powerful, expressionistic way), Hodson and Archer reconstructed two prime examples of 1920s avant-garde inventiveness, La Chatte (1927) and Le Bal (1929). These works also represent Balanchine’s first attempts to blend his classical heritage with the influence of Lopukhov’s plastic expressionism and acrobatics.

La Chatte
, reconstructed by Archer and Hodson for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens in 1991, was inspired by Aesop’s tale about a cat transformed into a girl by Venus at the pleading of a lovestruck man. With input from dancers present at its creation, including Alexandra Danilova, Hodson and Archer re-created choreography true to Balanchine’s original concept, particularly in recapturing the whimsical cat-woman’s athletic stamina. Also true to the original were the transparent, gleaming set and costumes by Constructivist artists Naum Gabo and Antoine Pvesner.

Unfortunately, Le Bal, never before reconstructed, suffered from a lack of firsthand knowledge about the choreography. With steps re-created from reviews, the dancing had no stylistic unity. Only a few Balanchinian gems survived—strange, angular poses, the ballerina’s turns à terre—illuminated in twilight. But Surrealistic painter Giorgio de Chirico created a metaphorical Elysian world—ruined Greek columns and capitals, animated statues, and stylized Sylphides—that the ballerina escaped from, at last, with her lover, astride a fantastical horse.

The program, clumsily danced by the Roman troupe, was saved by the guest artists, including Canadian Anik Bissonette, as the Cat, and the brilliant Russian pair Andrian Fadeyev and Larisa Lezhnina, as Apollo and Terpsichore.