Of Nymphs and Nymphos: ’Sylvia’ at the Bastille
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Spot on etymology, John Neumeier. Wrong context. Umberto Eco, come back, we need you to explain this woozie little bit of wordcraft.
"Sylvia" has been on, and on, and on at the Bastille, playing, relentlessly, night after night, to a half-empty house. The ushers don’t even bother seating one anymore - they just wave the public into the parterre. Not your everyday experience in the theatre, eh ? Lovely sitting there in 80 Euro seats, for which one has just paid 6 Euros.
What a spectacle.
Take twenty of the world’s most beautiful women, scantily clothed, and put them on stage, doing very little, without music. What do you get ? Miss World.
An audience - any audience - will look at that for about 53 minutes before becoming restless.
Take twenty of the world’s most TALENTED and beautiful women, scantily clothed, and put them on stage doing very little, to charming ballet music. What do you get ? Neumeier’s "Sylvia".
An audience - any audience - will look at it for about 123 minutes before becoming restless. That is precisely how long "Sylvia" lasts.
What else can one say ?
Well, you are all waiting for the Nympho bit. Hang on, it’s on its way.
Raining heavily yesterday evening, and a car had splashed me with mud. My spectacles were streaked and stained.
Thus, just before the curtain fell on Act I, I THOUGHT I had seen the étoile - who shall be nameless here - in the role of Amor, falling to the ground, legs splayed and playing like a baby in the bath with his....XXX(family website).
As I am known to have intense, though very short-lived, attacks of BLINDING paranoia, I thought such an attack had just come on, and that I’d imagined it. Then I thought perhaps it was the streaked specs. Or that perhaps I’d bought the wrong ticket, to the wrong place, and I’d wandered into a Théâtre de Cochons by mistake.
So the moment the curtain fell, I turned to the fellows sitting next to me, and said: Excuse me, gentlemen, but I’m prone to paranoia-attacks, and I think I may have seen something, but I’m not sure. And they said: "Madam, without wishing to be uncouth, we all clearly saw what you had thought might have been the effect of unwashed spectacles, or paranoia".
In a way, I was happy, confirmed that I am not, completely, a nutter. But in another way, may I ask why an étoile of one of the world’s greatest theatres, who happens, by the by, to be the father of young children, has agreed to do this thing ?
We should be told.
In Act II, I consoled myself for Radio City Roquette-level choreography, by watching the lovely Ould Braham, and that clever youth Matthieu Ganio, in the corps de ballet.
Nicolas LeRiche very much the self-indulgent, petulent bore throughout. And the quality of the little dancing he gets to do, is slipping noticeably as well.
Be that as it may, the new étoile Laetitia Pujol was on as Sylvia. As she lacks what our Clement would call the "thrilling physicality" of a Marie-Agnes Gillot in the part, the press has tended rather to ignore her. Mistake ! This is a dancer of great tenderness, not a single harsh or coarse gesture in her. Neumeier’s Nymph is a flimsy being, at best, but Mlle. Pujol was, incredible as that may seem, very touching.
Let us try to bear one thing in mind: "thrilling physicality" is all well and good, until one is 27 or 28. Then, it’s GONE ! The ol’ bod no longer can no longer grind out that kind of electricity, the erotic magnetism. It must be replaced by style, taste, and artistry. So when Hugues Gall cast his personal vote for Mlle. Pujol, he was, I believe, looking a little further down the road than one might imagine.