December is a festive month in Monaco in more ways than one, as Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo celebrates the 60th birthday of Choreographer-Director Jean-Christophe Maillot.
To mark the occasion, the Company is performing three of Maillot’s full-length ballets – Cinderella, Romeo and Juliet and LAC at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco.
In his version of Cinderella – which premiered in the Salle Garnier Opéra de Monte-Carlo on 3rd April 1999 – Jean-Christophe Maillot takes a fresh look at the well known fairly tale – turning the death of Cinderella’s mother into a positive force for her life, whilst delivering a witty comment on a society buoyed up by artificial values.
Instead of Cinderella’s stepmother being cruel, and her stepsisters ugly and stupid, the three of them are worldly and seductive, using their charm to achieve their aims. There is no room in their home for dwelling on loss or the past, but the Fairy who guides Cinderella and removes her from the influence of her materialistic step-family, is a reincarnation of her mother, demonstrating how one who is no longer around can shape the future of those who are left behind.
In a further departure from the original story, instead of a glass slipper, Cinderella’s bare foot becomes the focus of the ballet, highlighting the natural simplicity of the young girl’s character.
The stage design for this production is by Ernest Pignon-Ernest, costumes are by Jérome Kaplan and lighting by Dominique Drillot.
Maillot’s Cinderella is set to Sergei Prokofiev’s sumptuous score, played by the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra led by Russian conductor Igor Dronov. Maestro Dronov is Professor of Conducting at the Moscow Conservatory, a conductor of the Russian Philharmonia, and guest conductor of a number of other Russian orchestras.
Shakespeare’s story of Romeo and Juliet, with its feuding families and heartbreaking young lovers, is well known worldwide, and perhaps that was one of the reasons that the ever-creative Jean-Christophe Maillot decided to look at it from a different perspective – that of Friar Lawrence. In Maillot’s creation the decisions taken by the well-meaning friar become the focus of the events which lead to the death of the young couple.
This interpretation of Romeo and Juliet unfolds through a series of flashbacks on which Friar Lawrence reflects as he recalls the way in which their tragic ending came to pass – not the result of the hatred between the two families, but an accident driven by the innocence of two young people to whom love was paramount.
Maillot’s Romeo and Juliet, set to another gorgeous score by Sergei Prokofiev, premiered on 23rd December 1996, at the Salle Garnier Opéra de Monte-Carlo. Following a 2015 performance, nouvelobs.com described it as “A piece of flawless beauty” and the Company as “spectacular”.
As with Cinderella, the same creative team is responsible for stage design, costumes and lighting, and the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra is again directed by Igor Dronov.
Maillot’s interpretation of Swan Lake – entitled simply LAC – was written in collaboration with writer Jean Rouaud, and premiered on December 27th 2011 at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco. Although the ballet is set to Tchaikovsky’s glorious score, Maillot and Rouaud bring a dramatic new slant to this classic work. The transformation of Odette from swan to human being presents the Prince with the kind of nightmarish torments which leave him grappling with a series of contrasts, such as those between white and black, good and evil, innocence and eroticism – issues which resonate with our own questioning.
In a 2013 review, Figaro magazine described this production as “a turning point in the history of dance, a soaring feat of almost lyrical proportions …… [which] will undoubtedly remain a dazzling memory for all”.
Stage design for LAC is by Ernest Pignon-Ernest, costumes by Philippe Guillotel, dramaturgy by Jean Rouaud, additional music by Bertrand Maillot and lighting by J-C Maillot and Samuel Thery. The Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra is conducted by Principal Conductor and Artistic Director Kazuki Yamada.
All three productions take place in the Salle des Princes, Grimaldi Forum, Monaco – Cinderella on 19th and 20th December, Romeo and Juliet on 23rd and 26th December, and LAC on 30th and 31st December (***New Year’s Eve performance cancelled***) and 2nd January. Further information can be found on the website of Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo along with details of ticket sales.
Lead image © Alice Blangero