Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Rite of Spring in Fall

Alice Renavand and 31 dancers from the Paris Opera Ballet take their bows on an earth‑covered stage at the Palais Garnier for Pina Bausch's The Rite of Spring (score by Stravinsky). Photo: JH.
Wednesday, November 15, 2017. Sunny and mild, yesterday in New York, with temperatures in the mid-40s and down to the high 30s at night.

We received an enormous amount of condolences about the passing of Liz Smith this past Sunday here in New York. Many wrote about their reader's relationship with her and how much they appreciated her honesty and fairness about people. The experiences they related (about reading her column) were very much like the experiences of us who knew her personally. She was one and the same person.

Liz was born with Curiosity and that was her ticket to a helluva life.
She could be bawdier, as her associate and later collaborator Denis Ferrara expressed in his column yesterday. She could be very serious about matters that required it. She was very respectful in her conduct and attitude about others. And she loved her life, her job, her friends, her acquaintances.

Denis, who had worked for her for almost three decades is going to publish one last column of hers, the same one we published last Thanksgiving. It was her annual and one that Denis considers her essence. After that Denis will resume writing a column on the NYSD, his column, on November 27th.

Meanwhile, JH and Danielle were in Paris for a long weekend to celebrate their 5th anniversary. Like a lot of us, they love Paris, just being there. Naturally JH, being the intrepid photojournalist that he can be, couldn't resist taking a few pics during their three days in the City of Light. He even offered up a little commentary ...

In his words: We specifically organized our trip to coincide with a very special performance of Igor Stravinsky's Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) to be performed by the Paris Opera Ballet at the Palais Garnier.

After having seen Pina Bausch's choreography of the ballet in Pina — a beautiful 3-D film which captured a rich representation of Bausch's choreography — it became a minor obsession to see this dance live.

The bill at the Palais also included Agon (Music by Igor Stravinsky; Choreography by George Balanchine) and Grand miroir (Saburo Teshigawara was commissioned to create this new work for Esa‑Pekka Salonen's haunting Violin Concerto) before concluding with The Rite of Spring. The Paris Opera Ballet, which has performed Bausch's Rite since 1997, is the only company other than the Tanztheater Wuppertal to whom Pina Bausch entrusted her legendary work.

A little background: The Rite of Spring was first created by Stravinsky for the 1913 Paris season of Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. When first performed in Paris, the music and choreography caused a near-riot in the audience. In 1975 Bausch choreographed the version we would be seeing.
Part of Nicholas Roerich's designs for Diaghilev's 1913 production of The Rite of Spring.
This is Aurelie Dupont's, the POB's current directrice, first curated current season with the POB. And so we have her to thank for including this piece in the lineup (Benjamin Milliepied brought back the Rite during his season two years ago).

The ballet. On an empty stage at the Palais Garnier, 32 dancers stomped through a carefully plowed layer of earth, hurling themselves against each other, thrusting, punching, huddling, hopping, swooping — as if under a trance. There were flows, jerks, slaps, punches, and violent elbows to the midsection. We were watching humans transform into a pack of wild animals enveloped with fear; hearts pounding.

As the music stopped momentarily, we could hear the loud, heavy labored breaths of the dancers. All while we were breathing in the smell of sweat and moist earth. Here we were in the Palais Garnier trembling in the face of a vast, unknowable universe; re-created on stage. It was almost a primal experience.

The 33 minutes finally ended with a sacrifice of one of the dancers (the extraordinary Alice Renavand ) coinciding with a collective gasp from each dancer and audience member in the theater. Stravinsky's score put us in a trance and Bausch's choreography slayed us.

Danielle called it the single greatest dance performance she has ever seen. I would have to agree.
Arriving at the Palais Garnier for the main event.
Entering the auditorium. Chagall's frescoes on the ceiling of the Opéra Garnier always thrill. The ceiling pays homage to 14 major composers of opera and lyrical music.
Amandine Albisson, Karl Paquette, Fanny Gorse, Roxane Stojanov, Mathieu Ganio, Hannah O'Neill, Pablo Legasa, and Paul Marque take their bows for their beautiful representation of Agon (Music by Igor Stravinsky; Choreography by George Balanchine).
Cocktails along the balcony of the Opera Garnier during the first Intermission.
Émilie Cozette, Héloïse Bourdon, Lydie Vareilhes, Juliette Hilaire, Amélie Joannidès, Mathieu Ganio, Germain Louvet, Grégory Gaillard, Antonio Conforti, Julien Guillemard, and Samuel Bray take their bows for Saburo Teshigawara's masterfully staged Grand miroir ...
Violinist Akiko Suwanai joins in.
A stroll through the grand foyer during the second intermission.
A sliver of a view of Rue Scribe from inside the Palais Garnier.
During the second intermission, the audience was privy to a dozen stagehands spreading and raking a special soil across the stage to create an even surface for the performance of The Rite of Spring.
More brooms and mat drags. This was a choreographic operation unto itself.
Bravo! Alice Renavand and the 31 dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet exit the stage before returning.
The dancers, covered in soil and sweat, stand in unison amid rounds and rounds of applause.
And take their bows ...
Maestro Esa-Pekka Salonen joins the dancers. The ovation lasted for what seemed like 10 minutes.
There was a steady rain as we exited the theater. It was a night to remember.
Here are some of the other sights and sounds JH took in during his 72 hours in Paris.
Our first view of the City of Light from the 7th floor of Le Bristol was lacking a little light. But still an overcast Paris sky has its charms, too.
Off to the Grand Palais for Paris Photo, a massive exhibition of photographs for sale.
It was mobbed inside.
So much so that we hardly saw any photographs.
Back out on Avenue du Général Eisenhower, it started to rain.
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these Parisians from a cigarette break.
A number of galleries off the rue Saint-Honoré were open late into the evening.
This shop was closed, but the bag "open."
A typical Parisian bistro opens its doors.
Grilled vegetables on a bed of hummus at Monsieur Bleu, a trendy Parisian dining spot on Avenue de New-York.
The view of the sparkling Eiffel Tower from our table.
Exiting Monsieur Bleu onto the Palais de Tokyo.
The next night we were craving Italian food (Yes, Italian food in Paris!) so we went to dinner at Daroco. Once the boutique of Jean-Paul Gauthier, it is now a hip Italian restaurant with great pizza and fabulously inventive cocktails at the back of the house.
Back at "home" in the lobby of Le Bristol, we were greeted by a fabulous display of seasonal foliage.
A must-see on seemingly everyone's list was the Dior retrospective at the Musee Les Arts Decoratifs.
The lines were long.
Entering the "House of Dior."
This was Dior's first creation and the first dress in the exhibit.
The exhibition celebrates the 70th anniversary of the creation of the House of Dior.
This lavish and comprehensive exhibition takes visitors on a voyage of discovery through the universe of the House of Dior's founder and the illustrious couturiers who succeeded him: Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and, most recently, Maria Grazia Chiuri.
André Derain's Arlequin à la guitare, 1924, alongside harlequin outfits inspired by the painting.
Unfortunately, the exhibition was jammed and so a number of rooms we had to bypass. Dior's favorite color was red. There were dozens of miniatures of original designs replicated to the slightest details by the Haute Couture ateliers.
Dior featured on the covers of hundreds of magazines through the years.
The '50s was an extraordinary beautiful period in Dior's history.
The modern creations, however, held their own.
The Dior style was steeped in flowers; Dior's dresses were scattered with individual bouquets, decorated with embroidered meadow flowers.
Dior actually loved to draw his collections in the middle of his garden surrounded by flowers.
Pink, the color of happiness and femininity. The consensus: If you can handle the crowds, it's an absolute must while in Paris.
Sunday Brunch in the 7th at Zia restaurant consisted of a breakfast burrito ...
... and a baby spinach salad with roasted butternut squash and chickpeas.
Zia is owned by proprietor/chef/chief bottle washer Justin Kent, who also happens to be Jill Krementz's nephew. The French are loving his American food made with a French technique. Justin worked in the kitchen at L'Arpège (sometimes working 80-90 weeks) so he really knows how to cook. He's outgrown the space in less than a year so we expect bigger plans (and a bigger space) in the near future for Justin.
While we were eating at Zia, it rained, then hailed, before the sun came out for a minute.
Sunset along Avenue Montaigne.
A classic Citroen station wagon parked along the Avenue.
Crossing the Seine.
Passing the Arc de Triomphe.
Back in our room at Le Bristol, rain clouds threatened.
Our last dinner in Paris at Frenchie Wine Bar on Rue du Nil.
We had this fantastic butternut squash as a starter. The rest of dinner consisted of (it was so good I forgot to photograph it) a ricotta salad, Pollack with turnips, and a cheese plate, of course.
A cigarette (and phone) break.
Passing by Place de la Concorde the morning of our departure.
A Chagall baiting in the window along the rue Saint-Honoré.
Christmas decorations have begun along Rue Royale.
Sitting on the steps of the Église de la Madeleine along Place de la Madeleine.
Looking west along Boulevard Malesherbes.
Searching for the next shop.
Passing by the Élysée Palace, the official residence of the President of France since 1848.
Café Antonia in the lobby of Le Bristol where the perfect tea service takes place.
One last snack at Le Bristol (consisting of yummy mini tea sandwiches).
And one last look around the hotel ...
... and its grounds.
One last breath of fresh air (at the outdoor smoking lounge) at Charles de Gaulle airport.