DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
Angelin Preljocaj’s ballet “Le Parc” (1999)
Published on July 30, 2008
Performers: Soloists/ Ballet of the Paris Opera/ Paris Opera Orchestra/ Stephane Deneve
Studio: BelAir Classiques BAC209 [Distr. by Naxos]
Video: 16:9 widescreen color
Audio: PCM stereo
No region coding
Length: 103 minutes
Great full-length ballets are rarer events than pitching a perfect game in baseball. That is because of the inherent difficulty in telling a lengthy story in dance, which lacks the verbal skeleton that can lift a well-told tale into a universally recognized realm of meaning. The famous full-evening ballets number around an even two dozen or so. Beyond those fortunate few, watching the latest attempt at creating a full-length classic often leaves one wandering through the mental equivalent of an old churchyard cemetery, filled with the remains of failed ambitions.
“Le Parc” features the vision of choreographer Angelin Preljocaj, who searches for what still remains of the “art of loving” by turning to French literature of the 17th and 18th centuries. The Era of Enlightenment in France spawned literature ranging from the loftiest platonic sublimation to the rankest licentiousness. Using music by Mozart, especially some of his most beautiful adagios from the piano concertos, Preljocaj constructs a three-act drama of amorous adventures.
“Le Parc” is entertaining, intriguing, thought-provoking and often beautiful. Because Preljocaj frames each act with an introduction danced by enigmatic modern gardeners (as well as some of the principals) to mechanical or electronic music composed by Goran Vejvoda, time itself becomes a focus of the ballet. These interludes are jarring enough to suggest an element of pastiche to the work – perhaps the strongest criticism one can direct at what is, in all other respects, a work of great originality and power. The dancing stars of the ballet are Isabelle Guerin, a true premiere danseuse in technique and bearing, and Laurent Hilaire. Both have lengthy resumes dancing for some of the great companies in the major classical and modernist ballets. Guerin is especially moving when the choreography exhibits a more limpid gravity, conveying the sorrow that often afflicts love. The frenetic, angular movements that accompany love’s excitement are danced by both artists with grace and a fluid poetry of movement that is the source of much of this ballet’s greatest beauty. The Paris Opera Corps de Ballet are superb, bringing their consistent artistry to every facet of the work. This Ballet is quintessentially Gallic in its ethos and no other company could bring this work to life as they do.
Mozart is the work’s other star. His music, with its sonorous beauty, sensual sheen and emotional ambiguity serves as the perfect harmonious center for a questing ballet, striving to uncover love’s bitter mysteries through time. Some of his German Dances make an obvious choice for a ballet, and they are wonderfully effective. But it is his more ambitious music, especially the slow movements of the Piano Concertos No.14, 15 and 23, K. 449, 450 and 488, that lift the ballet into a magical realm of beauty, emotional resonance and the eternal stasis of art. It is during these sections that Preljocaj is most successful in conveying his narrative through dance. One naturally wonders how much of this success is simply due to the utter brilliance of Mozart’s music. The Paris Opera Orchestra play with grace and expressiveness, if not exhibiting the emotional depth which Mozart’s music usually leads an orchestra to explore. The ballet appears to have originally been filmed in high definition and it looks splendid. The sound in PCM stereo is rich and full, with a clarity and warmth that is perfect for Mozart’s glorious music.
– – Mike Birman