“The Flames of Paris”
Bolshoi Theatre (New Stage)
June 04, 2023 (matinee)
by Ilona Landgraf
Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf
“A highly unlikely work” – commented the late Clement Crisp in his Financial Times review about “The Flames of Paris”, which the Bolshoi Ballet performed at the Royal Opera House as part of their 2016 London tour. He argued that the dramatic scheme was papery and the chief roles were predictable.
I checked myself, watching the 85th performance of the latest production at the Bolshoi Ballet’s home base in Moscow.
“The Flames of Paris”, first staged in 1932 at the Kirov Theater in Leningrad (today’s Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg) is about how French revolutionaries turned politics and society upside down. Its rousing score by Boris Asafiev draws on music by Lully and Rameau, including the Marseillaise, and climaxes in the powerful revolutionary song “Ça ira”. In 2008, the Bolshoi Ballet’s then artistic director Alexey Ratmansky restored and revised Vasily Vainonen’s original choreography. Nikolai Volkov’s and Vladimir Dmitriev’s libretto, initially spanning four acts, was condensed to two acts. It tells the story of the revolutionaries’ march to Paris and their storming of the Bastille in July 1789. Oblivious to the people’s fury, the monarchy and its representatives continue to debauch in festivities (including a court ballet) at Versailles, but eventually apprehend the looming danger. Puppets of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette are already mangled by the crowd, soon to seize the palace. (more…)