’Bolshoi Ballet’ of Honore de Balzac


In 2005, 28 years after the last time it did this, the Bolshoi Theatre released the premiere of a specially commissioned work — the opera The Children of Rosenthal, which was acclaimed by opera buffs in our country and abroad — Latvia and Finland. It was virtually then it was decided that the creative alliance with its author — the very interesting and very much in demand composer Leonid Desyatnikov, should be continued in the field of ballet.

Jerome Kaplan, scenographer of the production:
In Europe it is very hard to find a composer who would write good music for a full-length, narrative ballet. It seems to me everyone has forgotten how this is done. I like Mr. Desyatnikov’s music very much — it is both romantic and, at times, quite unromantic, strange, but spellbinding. Leonid has definitely hit on the key for creating the musical world of Lost Illusions.

Alexei Ratmansky:
It is very sincerely written. One has the impression it comes straight from the heart. The music tells one everything that happens in this story.

Lost Illusions, after the novel of the same name by Balzac, was first premiered at the Kirov (today the Maryinsky) Theatre, in 1936. The music was by Boris Asafiev, the choreography by Rostislav Zakharov. The libretto was written by the marvelous theatre designer Vladimir Dmitriev. With the exception of the acting work and, first and foremost, of Galina Ulanova’s interpretation of the part of the main heroine Coralie, the ballet left no vivid memories.

The Bolshoi’s New Production
This production is a new ballet, with new music and totally new choreography, but it owes its birth to the old libretto.
Alexei Ratmansky was thumbing through the anthology 100 Ballet Librettos when he came across the Dmitriev Lost Illusions and immediately noticed its dramaturgical merit and personally found it very attractive. (Good librettos are few and far between and a rare find for a choreographer). Dmitriev’s libretto was later highly praised by the staging consultant for the ballet, Comedie Fransaise actor and director Guillaume Gallienne, and its scenographer, the well-known theatre designer Jerome Kaplan. (Though, of course, the text had to be freed of its patina of Soviet ideology).

Production Team
Alexei Ratmansky had worked before with Desyatnikov’s music, including at the Bolshoi Theatre — when he mounted the ballet Tumbling Old Women (2007) to the music of the vocal cycle The Love and Life of a Poet, and Russian Seasons (2008). A year before its Bolshoi premiere, in 2007 Ratmansky had produced Seasons for Dutch National Ballet. It was then that Jerome Kaplan saw this ballet in Amsterdam and found it very inspiring. And the idea cropped up of working together — and last year it was realized with the same Dutch company who received, thanks to this cooperation, a new version of the ballet Don Quixote. In the choreographer’s view, this French designer was ideally suited to give form to Illusions. And Jerome Kaplan himself suggested that lighting designer Vincent Millet and staging consultant Guillaume Gallienne join the production team.

Our Contemporary Honore de Balzac
The power of money, the power of banality and glamour — and the loss of all illusions: is a very topical subject for our age, which would do well to reread Balzac with renewed interest and sympathy.

Alexei Ratmansky:
This is a story for all times. It has timeless situations, the motivation for the actions is understandable to all. It is a novel about human nature. In so far as concerns manners and everyday life, Guillaume Gallienne’s assistance was most opportune. He knew all there was to know about each personage and was able, in one word, to convey the meaning of a scene to the artists, for example, to give flight dramatic tension all that needed to be said was “Run as if you were going to throw yourself in the Seine”.

Leonid Desyatnikov
Balzac’s Lucien, undoubtedly, deserves a certain degree of condemnation. But Lucien in the ballet is... simply a restless youth — that is all there is to him.
A major role in the orchestra is played by the solo piano, Lucien’s instrument. At times the music virtually amounts to a concerto for piano with orchestra. But when Lucien writes In the Mountains of Bohemia — for money rather than ’at the dictates of his heart’ - the piano falls silent.

Very Cloudy Weather
Jerome Kaplan:
The main scenographic idea is very simple. I decided to play with the title and came to the conclusion that the stage design should give birth to an image of something quintessentially elusive and diffuse, like memories. And hence clouds. But I wanted to unite these ephemeral clouds with an absolutely realistic decor — with the Opera house building, Coralie’s room or the Duke’s palace. In other words architecture is everywhere present, but this architecture is always covered with clouds. And for all its reality, under these clouds, it suddenly loses its material essence, retreating into the sphere of memory. Work on the scenography of a historical, narrative ballet is always pregnant with the danger of falling into excessive materialism, of making sets which are just as realistic as those used in cinema. It is something else one needs to create — the world of the ballet. And for me the world of Lost Illusions is as vague and elusive as a cloud.

Characters and Cast
Lucien — Ivan Vasiliev, Vladislav Lantratov, Vyacheslav Lopatin, Andrei Merkuriev
Coralie — Nina Kaptsova, Svetlana Lunkina, Natalia Osipova, Anastasia Stashkevich
Florine — Yekaterina Krysanova, Anastasia Meskova, Anna Rebetskaya, Yekaterina Shipulina
First Male Dancer — Andrei Bolotin, Alexander Volchkov, Artem Ovcharenko

(Photo-reportage from the rehearsals — Damir Yusupov).

The first night series of performances will be on 24, 25, 27, 28 and 29 April.
Performance on April 26 will be held in the framework of Bosco di Ciliegi festival. Starring Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev.