Ballet on the Riviera for the month of December features two grand productions – Ballet Nice Méditerranée’s Don Quichotte and Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo’s Casse-Noisette Compagnie

In addition, in the lead-up to the Festive Season, the Monaco Dance Forum Festival presents two works – Maurice Béjart’s L’Heure Exquise, and Juan Kruz Diaz de Garaio Esnaola’s La Danse du Soleil with Geneva Camerata.

Maurice Béjart took his inspiration for L’Heure Exquise (The Exquisite Hour) from Samuel Beckett’s play Oh! les beaux jours (Happy Days). Originally created for Carla Fracci and Micha Van Hoecke in 1998, this production stars former Royal Ballet Principal Alessandra Ferri and Carsten Jung, who was a Principal Dancer of the Hamburg Ballet. The ballet opens with Ferri submerged to the waist by a mound of pointe shoes – 2000 in all – which, as it opens, sets her free to capture, in fragments, aspects of her past. Set to sections of music by Webern, Mahler, Mozart and Léhar, the ballet premiered at the Teatro Carignano in Turin on 13th September 1998. The new staging co-producers are AF DANCE, Ravenna Festival, The Royal Ballet and the Ministero della Cultura ‘Progetti Speciali’.

L’Heure Exquise is presented at the Salle Garnier Opéra de Monte-Carlo in Monaco on 11th December at 19h30, and 12th December at 15h00. More information is available on Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo’s website.

La Danse du Soleil – a most unusual work – was said by the New York Times to be “one of the most beautiful shows in the classical world”. Depicting a hypnotic journey between music, dance and theatre, it’s described as “an ode to life, to hope, to surrender and love”. Thirty musicians on stage play music by Lully (his orchestral suite Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme) and Mozart’s Symphony No 40, with the dancer Juan Kruz Díaz by Garaio Esnaola moving between them. The work had its premiere on 21st November, 2017, at the Bâtiment des Forces Motrices in Geneva.

La Danse du Soleil will be performed at Monaco’s Salle Garnier Opéra de Monte-Carlo on 18th December at 19h30, and 19th December at 15h00. More information can be found on Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo’s website and tickets for both presentations may be reserved online.

Next we go to Nice, for Éric Vu-An’s production of Don Quichotte (Don Quixote) for Ballet Nice Méditerranée – a joyful, lively and festive ballet, with dazzling choreography and a wonderfully melodic score by Ludwig Minkus.

Don Quichotte and La Bayadére were the best known of the ballet scores written by Czech composer and violinist Ludwig Minkus. Don Quichotte – which he wrote in for Petipa’s 1869 production for the Bolshoi Ballet – was his first great success, and led to his appointment as official composer of ballet music to the Imperial Theatre in St Petersburg, where he and Marius Petipa enjoyed a fruitful creative relationship.

Ballet Nice Artistic Director Éric Vu-An pays homage to the traditional, classical 1902 staging of Don Quichotte by Marius Petipa and Alexander Gorsky, with his own interpretation of the tale of the delightful young Spanish couple, Kitri and Basile, whose story is intertwined with that of Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes’ chivalrous knight errant who dreams of slaying windmills. Unexpected adventures and misunderstandings are introduced by Kitri’s father who wants his beautiful daughter to marry a rich nobleman, bringing an air of pantomime to this colourful production, but it ultimately ends in happiness for Kitri and Basile.

Don Quichotte will be staged at Opéra Nice Côte d’Azur from 22nd to 31st December. Further information, and details on performance times, are available on the Nice Opera website. Tickets may be reserved on this link.

We return to Monaco for the final production of 2021, Jean-Christophe Maillot’s production of Casse-Noisette Compagnie for Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo. This interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker is Maillot’s very own, and, like Clara – in the traditional story of The Nutcracker – whose dreams magically come true, Maillot also had a dream – to create an artistic world in Monaco. Casse-Noisette Compagnie relates this story, paying tribute to the Royal patron, HRH the Princess of Hanover, who made it possible. “Casse-Noisette Compagnie,” he says, “is a new choreography that puts the leading characters that I have created in Monaco on stage together”.

Maillot’s story retains the characters of the Stahlbaum family, featuring Clara and her dollhouse, and Fritz with his tantrums, but instead of setting the work in the Stahlbaum family home, the background is a ballet studio run by the Stahlbaum parents. Uncle Drosselmeyer becomes the Fairy Drosselmeyer, who – instead of giving Clara a nutcracker doll – presents the Company with the unexpected gift of a new choreographer.

The contests and battles of the toys are played out, the Prince appears, and Clara is transported through her beautiful winter journey among the snowflakes, until she arrives in the magic land of Confiturembourg. Here, the story takes on a new twist, for instead of variations based on a selection of confectionary delights, the series of festivities that takes place in the kingdom are representations of the various ballets which Maillot has created for the Company – works such as Cinderella, La Belle, Le Songe and Romeo and Juliet.

This highly acclaimed work premiered on 26th December 2013 at the Salle des Princes, Grimaldi Forum in Monaco, where it will be staged this month from 28th December to 5th January 2022. Kazuki Yamada leads the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra. Tickets may be reserved on this link.

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Lead image ‘Don Quichotte’ courtesy Opéra de Nice Côte d’Azur

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