FAUST & The Ballets de Monte-Carlo – January 2008

Ballets de Monte-Carlo in FAUST at the Grimaldi Forum – January 2008

Following the mixed bag of offerings at the Cannes Dance Festival, I had been looking forward to the new season by the Ballets de Monte-Carlo. I have been impressed over the past three years by the company’s consistently high standard and the interesting juxtaposition of a neo-classical dance technique and original contemporary ideas.  In 2007 Jean-Christophe Maillot was invited to mount a new production of Gounod’s opera Faust for the Staatstheater in Wiesbaden, Germany. No doubt this experience inspired him to translate the eternal themes of good and evil, youth and ageing as described in Goethe’s famous play of 1808, as a ballet for his own Ballets de Monte-Carlo’s Christmas season.

His collaborator in Wiesbaden, the designer, Rolf Sachs, has provided a series of striking stage sets in the fashion of today’s post-modern opera design – a huge open stage with a brilliantly lit cyclorama, backcloths and panels which constantly descend and rise, an outsize armchair, a huge cross, an oversize bed, a suspended upside-down tree and enough chairs to fill a furniture shop. The set and the costumes, by Maillot’s usual designer in Monte-Carlo, Philippe Guilloche, are in strikingly contrasted blacks and whites slashed with scarlet. Alas, Maillot has lumbered himself with the heavy, melo-dramatic Faust Symphony by Franz Liszt which appears to be at odds with his very fluid choreographic style and despite excellent performances by all the principals, scene follows scene with little impact. Bernice Coppieters, as a ghostly charcoal grey clad Death is given full range to exploit her her exceptional physical and dramatic talents and Jerome Marchand is a powerfully evil, homo-erotic Mephisto. But both artists were given very similar choreography in Maillot’s The Dream leaving the first act with little choreographically to excite one, and only partially successful in holding one’s interest in a rather convoluted plot.

The second act, apart from a best-forgotten Walpurgis Night romp, is of more interest. Mimoza Koike as a touchingly innocent Marguerite has a long, expressive solo, a duet with Coppieters, and the final scene together with Marchand and the impressive Asier Uriagereka as Faust has depths lacking in much of the ballet. As with so many choreographers’ new works today, Maillot appears to have relied on the visual elements (which also include multiple video and photo images), decorative posing from his dancers and constantly changing lighting effects to produce an impressively theatrical work at the cost of his choreographic language.

I shall look forward to seeing again his successful production of The Dream in the company’s  summer season in Monte Carlo.