Grands Ballets Canadiens
Marie Antoinette by the Houston Ballet
This April, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal welcomes to the stage the Houston Ballet at La Salle Wilfrid Pelletier of La Place des Arts, to perform the sumptuous, narrative ballet Marie Antoinette.
“No one understands my ills, nor the terror that fills my breast, who does not know the heart of a mother.” - Marie Antoinette
This April, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal welcomes to the stage the Houston Ballet at La Salle Wilfrid Pelletier of La Place des Arts, to perform the sumptuous, narrative ballet Marie Antoinette. The three act ballet started its four day run in Montreal with great panache complete with a gala opening ceremony and complimentary champagne for all attendees.
This glitzy production was originally choreographed by Stanton Welch in 2009 for his 55-member company. The ballet premiered on February 26th, 2009 at the Wortham Theater Center in Houston Texas and was met with wide acclaim. With romantic dance music by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) and elaborate scenic and costumes designs by Canadian Kandis Cook, the ballet draws us into the tumultuous life of the legendary young queen of France - consort to Louis XVI, until her ultimate demise at the hands of the guillotine.
A symbol of the excesses of the monarchy, Marie Antoinette was one of the key agents that provoked the popular unrest that led straight to the French Revolution and the eventual overthrowing of the monarchy. Until today, there remains much misconception as to the real personality and nature of the young queen. Descriptions of Marie Antoinette as being frivolous and uncaring towards the populace have often been fuelled by rumors and false quotes such as the infamous line ‘Let them eat cake’.
For his production, Welsh performed elaborate character research based on an enlightening documentary that successfully portrayed the character of Marie as a softer, more motherly and sympathetic figure. Principal dancer Melody Mennite, decked out in full 18th-century regalia including a resplendent gown and powdered wig, held the title role as the ill-fated queen. From the opening act at the French border, where a vulnerable, adolescent Marie is stripped of all her possessions and is dressed in French accoutrements for her marriage to France’s heir Louis, her subsequent years of marital problems right up until the moment of her beheading, Mennite danced with a grace and sensibility that fully evoked Marie’s inner turmoil, vivacity and beauty.
This narrative ballet also recounts the sweltering romance between Swedish Count Axel Fersen and Marie Antoinette. Their close proximity within the walls of the small Trianon Palace blossomed into a torrid love affair that would span several years and would raise much gossip and speculations. Act two was a burst of vivid colors and playful dance acrobatics and gestures from the lively members of her court. Although the court women’s costumes were elaborate, it is interesting to note that Kandis Cook used light materials that allowed versatility in the dancers’ expansive movements.
Past all the pomp and glitz of the court, act three brings the ballet to its dramatic conclusion, with the entire royal family facing trial and judgment before the Revolutionary Tribunal. The audience draws in their breath as Louis, followed closely by others members of the royal family are inescapably kissed by Madame guillotine. Soon it will be Marie Antoinette’s turn…
Representing a whole span of French history in a little over two hours, «Marie Antoinette " remains a magnificent historical narrative piece, performed with bubbling energy from the Houston Ballet, that explores the grand majesty and beauty of a fallen French queen that remains one of history’s most prominent figures.
" Marie Antoinette " , presented by the Houston Ballet is running from the 9th to the 12th of April 2014 at Salle Wilfrid Pelletier of La Place des Arts in Montreal.
For more information please visit : http://www.grandsballets.com/en/performance/marie-antoinette/
For more info on Houston Ballet, visit: www.houstonballet.org