Beethoven at Bercy
Not so cheap entertainment for the masses
By Patricia Boccadoro
6 July 1999 - At 420 Francs a seat for Béjart's elaborate
fresco at Bercy Stadium on 22 and 23 June, the IXe Symphonie de
Beethoven, lasting a bare hour and a half, the evening worked out
at a cost of 5 Francs a minute, excluding the parking and hot dogs.
Those who paid less saw less, while anyone with failing eyesight saw
not at all. Was it worth it?
The dancers, led by Laurent
Hilaire, Kader Belarbi, Nicolas Le Riche, Isabelle Guérin and
Agnès Letestu, the cream of the Paris Opera Ballet, were
The choreography of the plotless ballet, which Béjart
refers to as a "danced concert" was extremely beautiful.
Written in 1964 by a Maurice Béjart at the summit of his art,
it was constructed around the orchestral score.
of the Opéra National de Paris played competently, and the
choir sang lustily. But, both were without conviction. Certainly, the
13,000 strong audience applauded enthusiastically at the end, but the
work did not get the standing ovation it received at the Opéra
Bastille when it was performed there in the summer of 1996, nor the
hysterical reception when I first saw it at the Palais des Sports in
1969, when the cast of the magnificent Ballet du XXe Siècle was
led by the irreplaceable Jorge Donn.
It is a show which, in
its time, has reached out to huge audiences in sports stadiums and
public places throughout the world, including the Kremlin.
those who might have personal problems with dance set to such sublime
music, for no composer is sacred to Béjart, a 1996 Paris Opera
programme tells us that several of Beethoven's own writings attest to
the fact that he had dance in mind while writing his last symphony.
Preliminary outlines for the finale apparently bear the mention, "with
choir and dance".
Yet the cry of Schiller's Joy
did not leave me feeling uplifted. I left Béjart's concert, his
"manifestation", where he takes such pains to point
out that all men are brothers, with a puzzled feeling of emptiness. To
all intents and purposes, this erstwhile masterpiece has now become a
slick commercial product.
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