Ignite Your Desire with Boston Ballet’s ‘Lady of the Camellias’

Cornelia Tzana ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Boston Ballet in Val Caniparoli’s Lady of the Camellias, Act I. Photo Credit: Gene Schiavone
Boston Ballet in Val Caniparoli’s Lady of the Camellias, Act I. Photo Credit: Gene Schiavone.

Boston Ballet is dancing away its 51st season with a great lineup of performances and it is now inviting us to a journey of passion in its production of Lady of the Camellias.

This ballet, first choreographed by John Neumeir for the Stuttgart Ballet in 1978, is based on Alexander Duma’s 19th-century French novel La Dame aux Camélias, a story that has inspired many adaptations including the opera La Traviatta, the film Camille (1936) staring Oscar nominee Greta Garbo and Moulin Rouge (2001) staring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor . With Boston Ballet’s production, choreographer Van Caniparoli celebrates the 20th anniversary of his version of the ballet, which he created in 1994.

Lady of the Camellias follows the story of Marguerite, a sought-after courtesan in Paris and her passionate affair with a young gentleman, Armand. The curtain rises to reveal Marguerite’s apartment where she returns with her guests after an evening at the theater. Their dance and enjoyment is interrupted by Armand’s entrance. An ex-courtesan and milliner, Prudence, escort him. It doesn’t take long for Armand and Marguerite to attract each other’s attention. When the two happen to be left alone, she hands him the key to her boudoir.

Boston Ballet in Val Caniparoli’s Lady of the Camellias, Act II. Photo Credit: Gene Schiavone
Boston Ballet in Val Caniparoli’s Lady of the Camellias, Act II. Photo Credit: Gene Schiavone.

Act two takes place on a warm summer day in the countryside, where Armand and Marguerite have travelled with their friends to escape Paris. Their love is blooming and their dance and play the day away with their guests. The festivities are interrupted when Baron de Varville, Marguerite’s former escort, demands her return but is rejected. As the day is coming to an end, she receives another unexpected guest, Armand’s father. He requests that she renounce her love for his son so that he and his family can avoid the social judgment that might stem from her reputation as a courtesan. Marguerite, who is becoming sicker and sicker with consumption, reluctantly agrees and convinces Armand that she no longer loves him and wishes to return to the Baron.

The ballet is concluded with the third act. On the stage, guests are dancing in a beautiful ballroom. Marguerite is weakened and escorted by the Baron de Varville. A passionate and hurt Armand appears at the ball and humiliates the courtesan. The Baron challenges him to a duel and the challenge is accepted. Marguerite, alone and ill in her room is letting her mind run wild and envision the duel, imagining the worst for Armand and realizing her loss. In her last moments, she relives her love for Armand and their passionate relationship.

Lady of the Camellias is differentiated in many ways from the rest of the classical ballet repertory. Caniparoli has brought with his choreography a medium for the dancers to express the passion and emotions of the characters and the story. He has managed to take the feel of the classical ballet choreographies and push it one step further with his multiple challenging pas de deux, the beautiful lifts in his pas des trois and the careful composition of each scene. The choreography is perfectly complimented by the music of Frederic Chopin. For this production, Caniparoli made the choice to have the composer’s “Nie ma czego trzeba” sung live in the second and third acts by tenor Rockland Osgood and soprano Alexandra Whitfield. This was an exceptional choice that enhanced the dancers’ already overflowing passion.

Boston Ballet in Val Caniparoli’s Lady of the Camellias, Act II. Photo Credit: Gene Schiavone
Boston Ballet in Val Caniparoli’s Lady of the Camellias, Act II. Photo Credit: Gene Schiavone.

Anais Chalendard and Eris Nezha flawlessly perform the choreographies Caniparoli has thrown their way as Marguerite and Armand. Their pas de deux in Marguerite’s boudoir during the first act is breathtakingly graceful and Chalendard presents an emotionally charged final scene as the dying courtesan which was met with a standing ovation. The roles of the two lovers are also performed by Kathleen Breen Combes with Yury Yanowsky, Erica Cornejo with Lasha Khozashvili and Ashley Ellis with Sabi Varga. The Corps de Ballet brings nothing less than exceptional technique and unwavering energy.

Credit should also be given to Robert de La Rose, the costume designer of Lady of the Camellias. De La Rose was the principal costume designer and creative consultant to Metropolitan Opera’s choreographer Norbert Vesak for over twenty years. In this collaboration he designed costumes and sets for more hundreds of ballets and theater works for productions all around the globe. His detailed costumes and sets for this Boston Ballet production, combined with the beautiful and meticulous sets created by David Gano and the mesmerizing lighting design by John Cuff make the performance visually simple and stunning all at once.

If there is one word that can describe Boston Ballet’s Lady of the Camellias it’s elegance. The costumes, sets and lighting compliment the talented dancers and manage to transport the audience to a different time, where they can feel the passion and “ignite their desire for true love”.

Lady of the Camellias will be playing at the Boston Opera House until March 8th


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