Genevieve PM Roy
From October 16th to the 19th, Les Grands Ballets Canadians in conjunction with the Paris Opera Ballet worked collaboratively to bring Pierre Lacotte's exciting and colorful revival production of Paquita to the Montreal scene.
Set in picturesque 19th century Napoleonic Spain, Paquita is a tale filled with plot twists, political intrigue and suspense, combining character dances with pantomime in a display of dazzling technical virtuosity enhanced by sumptuous sets and costumes dually designed by Luisa Spinatelli.
The heroine, the young gypsy Paquita – unbeknownst to her of noble birth and abducted as a child by gypsies, saves the dashing French officer Lucien Hervilly from the malicious plots of both the Spanish Governor and Iñigo, the gypsy chief equally in love with Paquita. Through the portrait in her birth medallion she discovers her true origins - being in fact the cousin of Lucien. Social ranks set aides; the two are able to wed.
Originally produced by Joseph Masilier, Paquita was first performed at the Paris Opera in 1846. Marius Petipa then took the ballet abroad to Russia where it knew tremendous success. In 2001, it was enthusiastically revived by Pierre Lacotte and brought to Montreal in 2014 at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier of La Place des Arts.
Founded in 1669, the Paris Opera Ballet is the world’s oldest and perhaps finest classical ballet company. For this very special Montreal production, Air France graciously flew in 83 of the company’s 154 dancers, including 18 leads and 14 principal dancers whose average age is 25, also making it as one of the world’s youngest companies.
From the opening scene, I was completely drawn into the emotion of the story of the little gypsy through the very realistic pantomime of the soloists. Technique wise the principal dancers demonstrated brilliant virtuosity. The ballet is performed in “Bournonville style” which is essentially the unfiltered 19th century technique of the French school of classical dance that is noted for developing quick footwork, and exemplifying a style in which the dancer should perform with a natural grace, dramatic impact and harmony between body and music without much visible effort.
Twenty five year old Amandine Albisson who was recently appointed principal dancer and “star” of the Opéra national de Paris Ballet in March, danced with such grace, ease and poise that she fully embodied her appointed role as Paquita. Stars asides, the entire company performed skillfully displaying impeccable technique. I was truly amazed at how precise twelve guys with billowing red capes in the corps de ballet could be so synchronous with their shoulders held high, legs flying and every count having a distinct associated step.
Music and Visuals also played a quintessential role to understanding the 19th century Napoleonic Spanish world of Paquita. Colorful and lively rhythmic music composed by Edouard Marie Deldevez and Ludwig Minkus was performed with gusto by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens Orchestra, conducted by Fayçal Karoui. The use of pantomime explored character communication and the sumptuous set and costumes burst with colors and meticulous period detail. Spinatelli pushed the boundaries between fashion, art and craft to fluidly combine sculptural, practical and fanciful elements to enhance the look of the ballet.
Paquita was definitely a unique and well received collaboration piece between Les Grands Ballets and the Paris Opera Ballet. As the curtain fell on opening night, the crowd gave a thunderous applause that visibly demonstrated their appreciation. A true masterpiece of excellent technique, stunning visuals and storytelling beauty.
Paquita, presented by Paris Opera Ballet in conjunction with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens ran from the 16th to the19th of October at La Place des Arts in Montreal.
For more information on up-coming 2014- 2015 performances, please visit: