La Bête et la Belle

La Bête et la Belle (The Beast and the Beauty) ballet to a libretto by Josseline Le Bourhis and Kader Belarbi, after the tale Beauty and the Beast. Music by Louis-Claude Daquin, Joseph Haydn, György Ligeti, and Maurice Ravel. Staged and choreographed by Kader Belarbi assisted by Susanna Campo. Recorded 2013 at the Théâtre du Capitole, Toulouse. Stars Takafumi Watanabe (The Beast), Julie Loria (Beauty), and Kazbek Akhmedyarov (Toroador). Cranes: Juliana Bastos, Caroline Betancourt, Emilia Cadorin, Julie Charlet, Lauren Kennedy, Eukene Sagues-Abad, Silvia Selvini, Peirre Devaux, and Shizen Kazama. The Swan: Valerio Mangianti. The Vulture: Demian Vargas. The Pimp: Jérémy Lyedier. Ostriches: Taisha Barton-Rowledge and Solène Monnereau. Goose feet: Maki Matsuoka and Vanessa Spiteri. Magpie tails: Matthew Astley, Petros Chrkhoyan, Giuseppe Depalo, Evgueni Dokoukine, and Nicolas Rombaut. Snake tails: Virginie Baïet-Dartigalongue, Juliette Thélin, Alexander Akulov, and Théodore Nelson. Aristocrats: Juliana Bastos, Lauren Kennedy, Matthew Astley, Valerio Mangianti, and Demian Vargas. Whippers-in: Juliette Thélin, Giuseppe Depalo, and Jérémy Lyedier. Hounds: Virginie Baïet-Dartigalongue, Taisha Barton-Rowledge, Caroline Betancourt, Emilia Cadorin, Julie Charlet, Maki Matsuoka, Solène Monnereau, Eukene Sagues-Abad, Silvia Selvini, Vanessa Spiteri, Petros Chrkhoyan, Pierre Devaux, Evgueni Dokoukine, Shizen Kazama, Théodore Nelson, and Nicolas Rombaut. Designs by Valérie Berman assisted as to sets by Sophie Kitching and as to costumes by Jean-Jacques Delmotte; lighting by Marc Parent; directed for screen by Luc Riolon; produced by Fabienne Servan Schreiber and Laurence Miller. Released 2015, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: B

This work has the thinnest plot conceivable: true love transforms all and deifies the lovers. I can't see any reason to reverse the names of the lovers in the title except to try to trick you into staying awake. Since this show is based on perhaps the most shopworn of clichés, all that counts is the execution. I'll give you my interpretation of what the dancing relates---you can have fun coming up with a better one.

Beauty (Julie Loria) pops out of the armoire in her bedroom:

In a parallel universe, the bedroom is a rose garden, palace, and forest ruled over by a Beast (Takafumi Watanabe):

Beauty manages to reach the realm of the Beast and is astonished and amused by his subjects, some of which you see in this lineup:

The Beast also has an armoire full of cranes:

A swan (Valerio Mangianti) appears:

A pimp (Jérémy Leydier) and two ostrich girls (Taisha Barton-Rowledge and Solène Monnereau) try to recruit Beauty:

The "toroador" (Kazbek Akhmedyarov) arrives on his surreal horse and tries to seduce Beauty. Note the head of the Beast mounted on the wall like a trophy:

After more strange inhabitants appear, the Beast and the Beauty finally fall in love:

A weird lovers' duet:

The inhabitants of the Beast's realm are incensed that their master would love a human. They revolt:

And Beauty is forced back to her own universe:

Now we learn that Beauty is an aristocrat. She goes hunting with her friends:

The remaining members of the corps become hounds:

The hunted:

Beauty abandons her universe to join the Beast and they are caught in the hunters' net:

The aristocrats and the hounds celebrate the prey they have captured:

The Beast and the Beauty have now each abandoned everything to be together. Their love transforms men and beasts alike:

And apotheosis is the reward for Beast and Beauty:

This show reminds me of the Neumeier major ballet The Little Mermaid (creature and human get together and go to heaven). La Bête et la Belle, with its canned music and scaled-down everything else, is not a major ballet, but it will challenge a smaller company to do the best they can. Julie Loria doubtless deserved the role; and I enjoyed watching her even though she's not particularly pretty or young. Takafumi Watanabe looks a bit exotic to most westerners, which helps him portray the Beast with considerable eland. But I guess I've been ruined by Ed Watson in similar roles. Key dancers in character roles were adequate, but the corps dancing looked ragged to me for lack of adequate rehearsal and drilling. The sets are neat but modest. The costumes in Part I (the universe of the Beast) are outstanding and pump everything else up a notch. But I think the design team ran out of ideas in Part II (the hunt and Beauty discovers her true self) and cheapened the show with those silly dog masks.

If a choreographer can't commission original music, he has to find great recordings of immediately arresting music. I wish Kader Belarbi had looked harder. Of course, if you are a fan of Ligeti, you might adore this title for that reason alone. If I get opportunity to learn more about Ligeti, I'll come back to this title to see if I then like the music better. SQ is OK. Luc Riolon's video is commendable especially in view of the low lights conditions he faced in many scenes.

Grade: I probably should give this a "C+", but all those wild characters in Part I inspire me to grade this a "B."