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8.9.04

The Spectacle of Versailles

In an article (Bartabas et le chevalier de Saint-George, August 26) for Le Figaro, Armelle Héliot describes this year's events at the Fêtes de nuit de Versailles. This year, the nighttime entertainment on the grounds of the château is an

equestrian and pyrotechnical symphony dedicated to a surprising figure that we have been learning about for some years, Joseph de Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-George, a refined swashbuckler and man of the Enlightenment, son of a slave-girl named Nanon and an aristocrat, born in 1745 in Guadalupe and died in Paris in 1799. A mulatto raised like a prince, intelligent and daring, cavalier of the King's Guard, seducer, secret agent, colonel of a regiment of Africans and Antillese in Revolutionary Year II. He is a cross between Laclos and the Chevalier d'Eon, General Dumas and Philippe Egalité, Mirabeau and Haydn, since Saint-George was indeed a musician according to his biographer, Claude Ribbe, who also wrote the entertainment's script.
The choreographed horses in the show are the work of Bartabas, founder of the equestrian theatrical group Zingaro and director of the Grande Ecurie at Versailles.
In the court and garden, two horseways lead to a platform, a large surface installed over the Basin of Neptune. [...] On the steps—8,000 spectators, with some on the edge of grass, in the cool air!—they will applaud these colorful scenes (costumes by Marie-Laurence Schakmundès), in a fluid sequence where sounds (the careful and passionate André Serré), voices, music, and not a few horses, Lusitanians, Criollos, Argentines, in the field, in the park, horses from Zingaro and from the Académie, plus those pulling carriages, will call to each other in the night. And the moon will be full, and you will dream of sweetness and wonder.
I've added the links in the quoted sections. I love the fact that this sort of spectacle is being produced again at Versailles, which was created as the grandest possible stage for the day-to-day staged drama that was the life of Louis XIV. It reminds me, but is only a modern shadow, of some of the incredible entertainments hosted by the Roi-Soleil, like Les Plaisirs de l'Isle enchantée, staged from May 7 to 14, 1664. It was the first grand celebration given by the king at his new home, in honor of his mistress Mlle de La Vallière.

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