Paris Opera Ballet

Article excerpt


Although Joseph Mazilier originally choreographed Paquita in Paris in 1846, the Paquita that we generally see these days has very little in common with its origins. The ballet was judged too difficult by the dancers of the time, and by 1851, it was dropped from the Paris Opera Ballet repertoire. It subsequently moved to St. Petersburg, where in 1881, Marius Petipa pushed the ballet to a greater, more complicated level. Petipa's grand pas and the pas de trois have, until now, been the ballet's only surviving moments.

All that changed when, in February, the Paris Opera Ballet opened the new year with the full version of Paquita as imagined by both Mazilier and Petipa. This extraordinary event was inspired by POB Artistic Director Brigitte Lefevre, while the indefatigable Pierre Lacotte undertook restoration work.

What spectators discovered and rediscovered was a fresh and lively interpretation of this timeless love story between a seductive young gypsy and a French officer. From the choreography to the magnificently glittering costumes designed by Luisa Spinatelli, this full-length nineteenth-century ballet was immensely beautiful, bringing both a new shine to an old jewel and revealing the young talents blossoming in the halls of the Palais Gamier.

With the help of Lubov Egorova, whose memory of dancing Paquita under Petipa's direction from 1900 to 1910 was the first source of information, Lacotte, 69, set off on his fact-finding mission like a modern-day sleuth. Both oral recollections and written documents were helpful, but it was during a trip to Germany that the detective struck gold. There he discovered a copy of the original choreography as imagined by Mazilier, explaining the production's staging, its inventive array of pantomimes, as well as two additional variations. …