Benjamin Millepied takes Paris by storm

 12th November, 2006

The warning signs had been there for weeks: flattering articles in the press, from Danser to Le Monde or Le Figaro , and a generalised, well-managed buzz: it’s pretty obvious M Millepied pays close attention to his public relations. The first performance had sold out ages ago. Then all my New York friends called to say they would be in Paris over the week-end of November 10. When the big day finally arrived, I was joined by François, who I knew would enjoy it, at Palais Garnier in the midst of a huge concourse of people, from both Paris and New York. Curiously, the two groups did not mix at all.

I had been expecting a lot from this new production. I had read in Ligne 8 , the Paris Opera’s newsletter, that the costumes for Benjamin Millepied’s ballet, Amoveo , were designed by Marc Jacobs, and I had also heard elsewhere that Jacobs’s forty-two different laminated gold, silver and bronze outfits had been inspired by the music of Philip Glass.

The cast were just perfect: about twenty ballet dancers, including Aurélie Dupont and Nicolas Le Riche as principals; Philip Glass’s music, an original adaptation of extracts from Einstein on the Beach , which he wrote jointly with Robert Wilson in 1976. The obvious determination to only allow the trendiest artists to perform in this production can alone explain the participation of the fashionable Accentus choir, directed by Laurence Equilbey. This, in my humble opinion, was a mistake: I simply can’t understand why the French are so enthusiastic about Accentus; they hiss away happily at every opportunity, whereas any newly-arrived eight-year old choirboy in a decent English choir will have learnt to keep his s sounds down to the minimum. Maybe I’m just too much of a maniac. I also found the poem recited by some trendy East-cost chap exceedingly ridiculous. But there agin, it’s just me. Maybe the target was actually sixteen-year-old schoolgirls.

There were three parts to the evening, as is always the case with Brigitte Lefèvre (in great form tonight, I thought). Amoveo is thus preceded by two other ballets, André Auria , created in 2002 by Canadian choreographer Edward Lock, and White Darkness , by Nacho Duato, which is a new arrival in the Opera’s répertoire. The Lock piece was minimalist and subtle, with original music by David Lang; but I thought the lighting was too subtle to do justice to the choreography. The Duata was technically superb, but its overall style was clearly heavily influenced by his mentor Jiri Kylian,a nd I found it too physical to my liking. I didn’t like the costumes either. Duato himself stated that in White Darness , he wanted to show so-called normal people ; but to see normal people, you don’t need to go the Palais Garnier, there are lots of them in the street. As usual, no one agreed with me: François disliked the Millepied and liked the other two. At least that way, the evening catered to most people’s tastes.