Seduction, passion, obsession - RNZB’s first ballet of 2017
The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s 2017 season begins with two New Zealand premieres of French master choreographer Roland Petit’s landmark works L’Arle´sienne and Carmen, which will be staged at the Regent on Broadway on March 17 and 18 at 7.30pm.
The season opens in Christchurch on February 16 ahead of touring to Invercargill, Dunedin, Blenheim, Rotorua, Palmerston North, Wellington, before closing in Auckland on April 1.
This is the first time that the RNZB has performed works by Roland Petit (1924 – 2011), one of the great choreographers of the 20th and 21st centuries. Renowned for his uniquely theatrical vision of ballet, he created works for many of the world’s finest dancers including Margot Fonteyn, Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Zizi Jeanmaire (who become his wife), Alessandra Ferri and Natalia Makarova to name a few.
His collaborators included artists such as Picasso, writers Jean Cocteau and Orson Welles, designer Yves Saint Laurent, and musician Serge Gainsborough. He also spent four years in Hollywood, as choreographer on films that included Daddy Long Legs with Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron (1954), and
Anything Goes (1955) with Zizi Jeanmaire and Bing Crosby. His ballets continue to be performed by the world’s leading ballet companies.
RNZB Artistic Director Francesco Ventriglia was a 19-year-old dancer with La Scala in Italy when he first met Roland Petit.
"Maestro Petit had an extraordinary impact on me as an artist. He not only cast me in my first major roles but he also became my mentor. I feel very honoured to be introducing his genius to the dancers of the RNZB and to nurture them as artists through this experience," Francesco says.
"I really believe that Maestro Petit’s works should be seen by everyone who loves the arts, and I am thrilled New Zealanders now have the opportunity to see these masterpieces," says Francesco.
Carmen has become Roland Petit’s signature work and is in the repertoire of ballet companies throughout the world. It was created for Les Ballets de Paris, and premiered in London in 1949 with Zizi Jeanmaire in the title role, and Petit himself as Don Jose´. Petit created L’Arle´sienne in 1974 for the Ballet National de Marseille, a company he founded. Both ballets are set to the well-known and powerful music of composer Georges Bizet and are stories of passion and obsession.
Artistic Director of the Roland Petit repertoire, Luigi Bonino, who danced for many years in Petit’s ballets and who went on to be his assistant, has travelled to New Zealand especially to teach the RNZB dancers these two masterpieces with the assistance of Gillian Whittingham.
Francesco Ventriglia has invited two guest artists to join the company for the season. Natalya Kusch, originally from the Ukraine and a former dancer with The Australian Ballet will be one of the dancers in the lead role of Carmen, and dancer Daniel Gaudiello who also joined the RNZB for 2016’s acclaimed Giselle returns to New Zealand to be one of the dancers in the lead role of Don Jose´.
In the ballet and opera story Don Jose´ meets Carmen as she fights with another woman at the cigarette factory. Despite initially being sent to arrest her, he is attracted to her and invites her to meet him at a tavern later that evening. At the tavern, Carmen dances for Don Jose´. When he has eyes only for her, her bandit friends rob him. Carmen and Don Jose´ leave and spend the night together.
Driven by passion and a desire to prove himself to Carmen, Don Jose´ kills a man. Nonetheless, she abandons him for the glamorous Toreador, leaving Don Jose´ broken and despairing. Don Jose´ cannot bear to see Carmen with another man. As the Toreador fights in the arena, the lovers meet one last time, and Don Jose´ stabs Carmen to death.
The RNZB gives two performances in Palmerston North on March 17 and 18.
DancerMayuTanigaito as Carmen. Photo: ROSSBROWN