Le Jeune Homme et la Mort

1 07 2011



2 responses

2 07 2011
Arturo Vasquez

I chose to post this video since Bach for large modern orchestra upsets me. I don’t know why. Maybe one day I will get over it, like Back keyboard pieces for piano.

2 07 2011

This is probably Roland Petit’s masterpiece. The libretto is by Jean Cocteau and was originally choreographed to jazz, until dress rehearsals when Cocteau (it seems) decided a Bach passacaglia was a better choice.

In some productions, the music is orchestrated, giving (in my opinion) a cheap Eurotrash feel to this ballet: overly serious, intense, melodramatic to the point of silliness, etc.

There’s a great youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2S0G8gEr-w of four different danseurs performing this ballet. It also shows the originator of the role of the Young Man, Jean Babilee (starts around 1:00). This ballet is at the beginning of “White Nights” (Baryshnikov) and in addition to the Patrick Dupond and Nureyev performances, Nicolas Le Riche (POB) is recorded in this ballet (all on youtube).

I think what one can see through these performances is the smoothing out of wildness and harshness in the role and a move to a more impersonal classicism. Classical perfection in line, form, even expression, has become more dominant. It is the age of the technician, and Babilee’s angel-thug (credit Arlene Croce) seems downright vulgar. However, performing it with full classicism, a la Baryshnikov, screams “This is serious ART.”

As for the ballet itself, it’s so clearly a product of its time (1946), and it’s interesting for that alone.

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