By Patricia Boccadoro
5 June 2002 - Invited
to the Palais Garnier for the first time, the Ballet of La Scala Milan
brought overweight luggage with it . Vastly overweight luggage. Excelsior,
according to the programme, is an allegorical fresco in celebration of
the advent of Electricity and a hymn of praise to scientific progress
. Performed as it was this season, it is kitsch pushed to its most
extravagant and inglorious worst. Knowing little of Luigi Manzotti's
original version created in 1881, except that history tells us it was
one of the greatest successes in the history of Italian ballet, this
re-staging by Dell'Ara in 1967, when Tudor, MacMillan and Ashton were
creating timeless works at Covent Garden, barely falls short of
If such a work, created only ten years after the
unification of Italy, and presumably of intrinsic historical value is
staged, must be performed, then it has to be brilliantly danced. It
wasn't. With the notable exception of Viviana Durante as Light, there
wasn't a ballerina in sight. Some members of the troupe had a certain
technique, but were devoid of artistry, grace or charm. There was no
distinction, no class, no feeling for style whatsoever, and no
enjoyment or entering into the spirit of things from anyone apart from
guest artist Roberto Bolle. Grim faced Isabel Seabra as Civilisation
did not smile once. This was not dance by anyone's standards.
mime scenes were especially embarrassing, with awkward young men in
crude make-up pretending they were old men or eccentric professors.
Not one member of the company was credible.
evening was spent watching an army of young people, rows and rows of
them, dressed in old curtains or lampshades, kicking their legs high
in the air, philosophising about peace and the civilising role of
Europe. By moments, I caught glimpses of what the work must once have
been, but they were drowned in a sea of indifference.
the crowds in Italy flock to the lyric opera. So would I.
Orchestre Colonne thumped out Romualdo Marenco's pop music, conducted
by the courageous Paul Connelly.
No photographs were
available for the press.
Boccadoro writes on dance in Europe. She contributes to The Guardian,
The Observer and Dancing Times and was dance consultant to the BBC
Omnibus documentary on Rudolf Nureyev. Ms. Boccadoro is the dance editor