The Man in the White Suit & Daphne Birnley
Paris Opera Ballet
March 26th and 31st 2007
'The Man in the White Suit'. Truthful and terrific - a film by Scots film-maker Alexander McKendrick (1951), that is, allegedly, a comedy.
Sidney Stratton is a maverick scientist, bent on inventing a new and indestructible fibre to clothe the world's poor. Mobbed by mill-owner and trades-unionist persuaded, en masse, that he is Bad for Business and therefore, mad, Stratton soldiers on, crossing swords with all and sundry, until one day he encounters Daphne Birnley. The rest is history, and so forth.
What matters here is that Sidney Stratton is not mad. Everyone else though, is. Except perhaps Miss Birnley.
Amongst the players, all men of the theatre, one finds Ernst Thesiger as the hoary old mill-magnate swathed in furs against "le froid éternel", Alec Guinness, and Joan Greenwood as Daphne, the only female player to whom the author of these lines has ever considered raising a Hindu temple in the living-room.
As it happens, my husband is wont to say that the expression in Thibault's eyes when he is dancing, greatly reminds him of Guinness' character, Sidney Stratton.
One sees why.
As I say, Sidney Stratton was not mad.
Nor is Thibault.
Who has come across a Daphne Birnley, in the person of Ould Braham.
But do not take my word for it.
Others too know that neither he, nor she, are mad.
Some attended at the Bastille on March 26th and 31st, and this is what they had to say, variously, to Agence France Presse, www.dansomanie.net, www.balletto.net...
I too am struggling from a daze. That a ballet like 'Don Quixote', little more than flash-and-dash, might inspire feelings of purity and nobility, is a phenomenon of transfiguration, due to these interpreters. Last night, the Paris Opera pulled from under a bushel what it may never have suspected to be the company's brightest light : a couple in perfect harmony. A grave, though delightful cooing of doves, as though hearing a Mozart duet, a sense of victory over the forces of gravity and over all human servitude, instants of Paradise. (...) the public staggered from the theatre, stunned, wondering what it was they had just seen. For once, not a bullfight, but a miracle.
I too was there last night, and dream of returning Saturday, though unfortunately, my budget won't allow it - But I've heard there is standing room, please explain how one can get those places? How much they cost, when to join the queue ...
What emotion - what perfection! An unheard of event ...
Indeed, a beautiful evening that will remain engraved upon our hearts! How harmonious this partnership, filled with energy and the joy of the dance. And what mime! The way the pair incarnate their two personages is more touching still than their technique. Like so many in the room, I eagerly awaited a double-appointment to étoile, though, Alas, in vain!
That said, E. Thibault and M. Ould-Braham were indeed anointed - by the fervour and sincerity of the public.
A few short hours after the performance - and I would venture to say that I was not alone in tossing and turning during the night ! - one has still not recovered from the shock (...)
(...) Over and above technique and virtuosity, in which both are past masters, what stirs the heart is the image of a perfect, ideal pair (a theatrical pair, mind you!), as one sees Myriam Ould-Braham and Emmanuel Thibault dance, act and take such delight (...)
Others have rightly praised their acting, their mime, the way they live every gesture on stage, because they are so entirely at one, so attuned one to the other, that a trivial tale of flirtation in a cardboard Spain appears cast in an entirely fresh light.
Myriam, astonishing, radiant in Act I, reveals herself in a completely unexpected way, proof of her creativity, her temperament as an artist, inseparable from that special grace that make her the ballerina at the Paris Opera who is possessed of something more, something over and above temperament and presence. Act II is of course, more along lines that would come naturally to her: lyricism, nobility, mystery (...) in the pas de deux ([Nureyev version, opening Act II - translator's note], the pair express an infinite tenderness and goodness, to a degree that one almost fears to intrude upon a magical intimacy (...)
Emmanuel, stronger and more powerful than in 2004 [début as Basilio, translator's note], shining with a still brighter light, deployed, in Basilio's variations an incredible virtuosity, not to speak of a presence that can only be described as awe-inspiring (in the language of aesthetics, would this not be what is known as the Sublime?), taking command of the stage with an authority equal to the Russian masters. But what was infinitely touching was the extraordinary stagecraft - so un-French ! - demonstrated, I dare to add, against all odds and obstacles (...)
The stage is the Agon of time immemorial, and whatever the genre or register, its duty is to be the sublime mirror of our own conscience, our own humanity. The miraculous in last night's event, that left us all bewildered and as though suspended in time - we were already wishing that we could watch it all over and over - was to finally see artists grow before our very eyes, in utmost intensity, living their personage and its story side by side, free of all narcissism or passive self-admiration (...) freely giving of their spiritual self. And when the marriage of Kitri and Basilio is celebrated at the ballet's end, to the applause of their friends, it was no surprise at all to suddenly find members of the public join in and applaud with those on stage, as though the mirror dividing the stage from the room had finally shattered!
Truitonne (on another Website)
I too was there. Just a word at speed, to say that Thibault deserves the title of étoile. He stands well apart from the general gloom swamping the Paris Opéra. I shall return to recount in detail, why I believe that it is a matter of urgency to appoint this man étoile.
Unalloyed joy stirred by the magnificent partnership of Thibault/Ould-Braham ... A perfect understanding, details that only they two can invent, beautifully thought-out stagecraft, and a Third Act beyond all belief, that brought the Bastille to its feet. Blessedness !
Storm the Bastille on the Saturday for their second performance - they have already scaled the heights, if one is to judge by what one heard here there and everywhere last night!
(A fuller account by "Azulynn" can be found on www.ballet.co, May 2007 Internet magazine issue.)
Pier (on balletto.net)
(...) Never have I seen nor heard so enthusiastic an audience for a ballet. Neither hysteria, nerves or fanatical outbursts - I mean joy!
Last night at Bastille was a great celebration (...)
Myriam Ould-Braham and Emmanuel Thibault are two prodigious artists.
Thibault's desire to get across his own joy in the dance is vast and manifest to all, this is an artist of great generosity (...). The atmosphere he creates on stage is quite extraordinary. At his side, the Paris dancers, staid bourgeois, awake with a start (...)
As though reciting poetry (...) Thibault recalls to mind that dancing is as much an art of metrics as classical poetry (...) the in-between, the linking steps are lent a peculiar dignity (...) just as in music, each note carries a specific, an indispensable value (...) he lets the dance emerge between the poses, composing phrases that are most expressive, because well-punctuated. The way he 'versifies' - he can read an orchestral score - is worthy of a great poet. Somehow, even the horrid Lanchberry arrangements come to seem tolerable!
As for his pantomime, here too (...) we find a study rich in every detail (....)
Myriam Ould-Braham (...) would normally be deemed a danseur noble, rather than demi-caractère (...) To have her dance Kitri in Nureyev's brutal and dangerous choreography was taking a major risk. But sparkling intelligence has given her to create an original, sympathetic and sparkling personage, droll and unexpected. Everywhere, she finds elements of surprise, attaining the sublime in the Vision scene.
Both dancers took huge risks (...) Finally, here we have two people who were really dancing!
I sign off, in expectation of an official, double appointment to the rank of étoile.
Miky81 (on balletto.net)
Don Quichotte, Opéra Bastille 26-3-2007
Usually, I like to wait a bit before telling my thoughts, put them in order, reason about what I've just seen. But on this occasion, I can't - I simply must write it down straight away, even if that means being carried away by a wave of emotion, and therefore I do declare that this is the finest Don Q I've ever seen.
Indeed, an utterly exceptional night that marked Myriam Ould-Braham's début as Kitri alongside Emmanuel Thibault, her third "major" role after Aurora a year or two back, and Coppelia this past December.
From the first instant, we knew the event would be indelible.
And so with Ould-Braham's first entry: ballon, distinction, stage presence, and that exquisite perfectly-centred triple pirouette - all serve to declare Kitri's intentions - her motto seems to be, 'Art, first and foremost'.
The public exulted in Thibault's variation, in his dancing free of all excess or vacuous athletic gesture; in rapt silence, the public followed the pair's splendid adagios, was swept up in their lover's quarrels and hide-and-seek, jeered the orchestra when conductor Pavel Sorokin came out - and, as the curtain fell, expressed its disappointment when - to unending applause - expecting the icing on the cake - an event that should have happened [appointment to étoile rank - translator's note], did not happen.
Agence France Presse, Despatch, March 27th 2007
Myriam Ould-Braham made her début as Kitri alongside a partner who sets the stage on fire , as fine a technician as he is an actor, Emmanuel Thibault. Without ever disrupting the lyrical quality of her dance, the premier danseur, who will dance with her again on March 31st, quite broke through her reserve. Their partnership thrilled the Bastille public.
In the "supporting" roles, support in its most poetic incarnation was indeed forthcoming from Fanny Fiat, as one of Kitri's friends, a whirlwind of batterie so fast the eye could hardly take it in, glorious ballon and elevation, and exquisite upper-body positions. And from Alice Renavand as the Street Dancer, who made the tawdry into a thing of delight. Our Queen of all Dryads, sawdust-Dry choreography notwithstanding, was beyond doubt Sara Kora Dayanova. Lest we forget - Eric Monin, a most gifted mime, who was masterly as Catalabutte in "Beauty", has here, despite the obstacle posed by Nureyev's grossly vulgar mime-text, made another little jewel of his Gamache. Finally, what of Mlle. Ould-Braham's unbridled fondness for hyper-extensions? Well, as Sidney Stratton would say - "NO! Not even she can persuade me of this!" But let that lie for today: he who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.