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11.5.07

Modern Dance Version of Handel Pastoral Ode

Other Reviews:

Rosita Boisseau, Robyn Orlin parasite la culture sud-africaine (Le Monde, April 29)

Noël Tinazzi, Robyn Orlin décape Haendel (La Tribune, April 25)

Eric Dahan, A Garnier, Haendel version zouloue houleuse (Libération, April 25)
South African, Berlin-based choreographer Robyn Orlin and American, Paris-based conductor William Christie collaborated on a danced version of Handel's L'Allegro, il penseroso ed il moderato at the Ballet of the Opéra de Paris (from April 23 to May 12). Isabelle Danto published an interview with the two artists (Christie, Orlin : première attendue à l'Opéra, April 21) in Le Figaro (my translation and links added):
You are collaborating for the first time, to make a contemporary version of Handel's L'Allegro and of the John Milton poem [L'Allegro and Il Penseroso]. How did you meet and what was the genesis of this work?

William CHRISTIE. - It was because of Brigitte Lefèvre and Gerard Mortier that we met at the Opéra Garnier, and we immediately liked each other. The desire to collaborate came to us without us knowing each other's work, and that's when I proposed to Gerard Mortier this Handel work, which I adore.

Robyn ORLIN. - I accepted this musical backup immediately, betting that the experience of music new to my ears would be the determining factor in how I worked out my conception of the work. It was the Milton poem that touched me at first, then the voices and the Baroque sound of the music started to make me think of the blues, which sent me back to my imagination and my childhood memories. I realized that what is at play in this opera are emotions that had much in common with my own memory, from South Africa and beyond historic, geographic, and cultural boundaries.
The dancers interact with a large video presentation, created by Philippe Lainé. The scenario is set in South Africa and deals with the problems of that country, such as apartheid, AIDS, urbanization. The choreography is phantasmagoric, as you can see in the image shown here. The orchestra of Les Arts Florissants is in the pit, with Kate Royal and Toby Spence singing, and that is all I need to know. The reviews were generally very positive. It sounds like the sort of thing that could be possible only in Paris.

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