LAC (After Swan Lake) ballet. Music by Tchaikovsky. Choreographed by Jean-Christophe Maillot for Les Ballets de Monte Carlo. Recorded 2013 at Grimaldi Forum, Monaco. Stars Bernice Coppieters (Her Majesty the Night); Anja Behrend (The White Swan), April Ball (The Black Swan), Stephan Bourgond (The Prince), Alvaro Prieto (The King), Mimoza Koike (The Queen), Jeroen Verbruggen (The Prince's Confidant), Asier Uriagereka and Asier Edeso (Two Archangels of Darkness), Simone Webster (The Conceited Woman), Gaëlle Riou (The Indifferent Pretender); Anjara Ballesteros and Noelani Pantastico (The Two Libertines), and Maude Sabourin (The Insatiable Woman). Corps members dance the following roles: Hunters by Raphaël Bouchard, Leart Duraku, Ediz Erguc, Julien Guerin, Alexis Oliveira, George Oliveira, Daniele Delvecchio, Bruno Roque, and Stefan Stewart; Hunters' Friends by Sivan Blitzova, Quinn Pendleton, Francesca Dolci, Anne-Laure Seillan, and Kaori Tajima; Chimeras by Anjara Ballesteros, Sivan Blitzova, Francesca Dolci, Liisa Hämäläinen, Vanessa Henriques, Frances Murphy, Noelani Pantastico, Quinn Pendleton, Gaëlle Riou, Maude Sabourin, Anne-Laure Seillan, Beatriz Uhalte, and Simone Webster; and Court by Anjara Ballesteros, Sivan Blitzova, Francesca Dolci, Frances Murphy, Noelani Pantastico, Anne-Laure Seillan, Maude Sabourin, Beatriz Uhalte, Simone Webster, Raphaël Bouchard, Leart Duraku, Ediz Erguc, Julien Guerin, Alexis Oliveira, George Oliveira, Daniele Delvecchio, Bruno Roque, and Stefan Stewart. Leonard Slatkin conducts the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. Dramaturgy by Jean Rouaud; visual designs by Ernest Pignon-Ernest; costumes by Philippe Guillotel; lighting by Jean-Christophe Maillot and Samuel Thery. Directed for the screen by Denis Caïozzi; executive producers were Antoine Perset and Denis Morlière. Released 2014, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: B+
Monaco, as best I can tell, is a country owned by casino and tax-shelters interests. It has only 255 acres, but a lot of people live there, mostly rich, and the citizens have the the longest life expectancy on earth. It's an elite tourist destination. Such a tiny place could not possible have a heavyweight classical ballet competitive with the big national houses in cities like Paris, Moscow, or London. Nor would you expect to find gritty avant-garde fare there like you might seek out in Berlin. But Les Ballets de Monte Carlo does have a large repertoire of entertaining works using 5-position classical ballet steps performed by women on point together with high-fashion contemporary pieces. A good example of this would be the Le Songe HDVD, based on A Midsummer Night's Dream, which we graded "B+."
Now I review LAC (or Lac), a new production based on Swan Lake. The Tchaikovsky score, which usually runs in the Petipa version for 130 minutes or more, is shortened to 101 minutes. So this is Lac light. Because Maillot and Rouaud rewrote the book, the remaining score is cut-and-pasted. I've seen Swan Lake many times, and I associate most of the tunes with specific parts of the Petipa choreography. With Lac, all is churned. This bothered me at first because I was afraid I might suffer an avalanche in my mind. After all those neurons reconnected, would I be able to find the way to the Post Office? Well, in time I got used to Lac with no bad side effects. The new score was performed by Saint Louis Symphony---I bet the revised sheet music kept them wide awake! This HDVD was danced in studio to the recorded music. My impression would be that Les Ballets de Monte Carlo performed this live to the same recording.
I watched Lac cold, and I didn't understand much. So I'll give you some tips as well as screenshots to head you in the right direction. Here are some differences between Petipa [P] and Maillot [M]:
- In P, the Queen is a widow. In M, there's a healthy, active King
- In P, the Queen doesn't dance. In M, the King and Queen are the best dancers around and are constantly at it
- The evil character in P is Rothbart, a man. In M, Her Majesty the Night, a female, is evil incarnate
- In P, the swans are virtuous, kidnapped girls. In M, we encounter the evil Chimeras, who are girl/black swan combos
- In P, the Prince is asked to marry one of 6 hand-picked Princesses. In M, the Prince gets introduced to 5 women (commoners?) all of whom have obvious faults
- In P, Rothbart wants to have his harem. In M, Her Majesty wants her black-swan daughter to marry the Prince. One day, Her Majesty will be mother-in-law of the King
Now to some screenshots. The show opens with a video prologue. The Prince is on a pick nick with his parents when he meets a mysterious fair girl and falls in love with her:
The pick nick is interrupted by Her Majesty the Night (Bernice Coppieters) with her young brunette daughter. Her Majesty, seeing the affection the Prince has for the fair girl, kidnaps the child. Why? Well, as you will see, Her Majesty is playing a long, long game:
Twenty years have passed. Meet the Queen (Mimoza Koike), the Prince (Stephan Bourgond) as a young man, and the King (Alvaro Prieto):
I told you this Queen can dance:
A group of young men are called the Hunters. Here the men, including the King and the Prince, are engaged in mock combat. Even though the stage is way too big for this, Maillot and videographer Caïozzi manage to keep this scene looking pretty:
Now we meet 5 Friends of the Hunters. (There are only 5 Friends because most of the women dancers have been assigned other roles.)
Some of the Friends claim Hunters---at least for one night:
It's time for the Prince to marry. Five women are introduced to the Prince as prospects, and all flunk miserably. Here we see the Queen put down The Conceited Woman (Simone Webster) after her dance with the Prince:
The Prince is offended by the Two Libertines (Anjara Ballesteros and Noelani Pantastico):
What is that?
Now Her Majesty enters the lives of the royal family again. She's not on stilts. Her two Archangels of Darkness are under her skirt carrying her:
The Archangels are Asier Uriagereka and Asier Edeso:
Her Majesty introduces the Prince to her daughter, the Black Swan (April Ball), who now appears to be normal woman, except that she has very flexible arms:
This new girl is more like it, but the Prince remains aloof. He's still dreaming about the fair girl he met at the pick nick so long ago:
Everybody is on deck for the finale to Act 1. Now for a word about the dancing. All of Maillot's dancers are beautiful/handsome. They are terrific in solo and ensemble roles with super-fast, smooth, and seemingly effortless execution. Maillot keeps them going all the time with a huge variety of moves including many I've never seen before. Maillot also weaves in sub-plots that require acting skills. For example, The King and Queen, not that different from commoners, have their differences and issues that you can pick up if you watch closely:
Now the Black Swan makes her claim, which seem impertinent to the King and Queen:
The Prince, walking through the woods to the lake, thinks about the fair girl who was taken away. Her Majesty has turned the fair girl into a White Swan. Her Majesty allows the White Swan to approach the Prince:
But before the Prince can do anything dramatic, he's surrounded by the Chimeras:
Her Majesty, the Black Swan, and the Chimeras mock the virtue of the White Swan:
The Prince's love has the power, at least for a short while, to turn the White Swan back into the fair woman:
But the fair woman knows how hard it will be to gain freedom. She feels a power turning her back into the bird:
The Prince promises to marry and protect her:
The Prince reports to his parents that he has found a bride. The King and Queen throw a ball to celebrate and officiate the marriage:
Her Majesty will give the fair woman in marriage to the Prince. Here the fair woman arrives. (This image is the cover art on the HDVD keepcase):
The fair woman lasciviously kisses the Prince at the altar:
The marriage vows:
Suddenly the White Swan appears. The King should have had a dog named Kerberos (as I do) to bite impostors. The Prince should have known it's OK to marry a woman with a veil, but not to marry one wearing a mask:
Now we understand the long game of Her Majesty. She kidnapped the fair girl to use as bait. The Black Swan (look at her dress now above) is the wife of the Prince!
If the King would hire me to be his lawyer, I could get this marriage annulled pretty fast. But the King doesn't like lawyers. I'm not going to tell you how this ends. Find out for yourself by buying this nice title through one of the convenient buttons below.
The story line of LAC is a bit awkward. Otherwise, this is a terrific show. I'll grade it "B+."
Here are a couple of LAC clips: