Love Lost and Love Found : Les Grands Ballets Transfigured Nights

La Nuit Transfiguré. Photo Richard Champage La Nuit Transfiguré. Photo Richard Champage

Maisonneuve Theatre hosts an exclusive program of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens staged by Stijn Celis together with honoured Belgian choreographer and Les Grands’ artistic director Gradimir Pankov, Les Grands. The show offers a world première two masterpieces: Ovid’s Orpheus’ Gaze and Richard Dehmel’s Transfigured Night.

La Nuit Transfiguré 2. Photo Richard Champage

La Nuit Transfiguré 2. Photo Richard Champage

The performance opens with the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice – the story of love and devotion accompanied by lyrical compositions of Zemlinsky, Webern, Mahler and Strauss. Orpheus, the singer, is the son of god Apollo and the muse Calliope. He invented music and verse and with his masterful play on the cithara, a kind of lyre, and in doing so, conquered the hearts of the people. His wife, the nymph Eurydice, dies from a snakebite. Inconsolable Orpheus goes down to the god of underworld and softens his heart with sorrowful singing. Orpheus is allowed to retrieve Eurydice from the underworld in order to bring her back to life but under one condition: when traveling back to Earth he should neither look back at the shadow of his beloved nor have a dialogue with her. But the groans and grievances of Eurydice, and Orpheus’ passionate love for his wife, push him to violate the conditions. Near the end of his journey, Orpheus glances at Eurydice and loses her forever to the world of darkness and despair.

La Nuit Transfiguré 3. Photo Richard Champage

La Nuit Transfiguré 3. Photo Richard Champage

The second part of the show features an intense scene of love and forgiveness. The unforgettable experience emerges from one of the most significant lyrical works by Arnold Schoenberg. Transfigured Night was inspired by the original poem of Schoenberg’s contemporary Richard Dehmel. A walk through a moonlit forest puts a young woman and her beloved in the spotlight; she confesses her tragedy to the man. Earlier, she had married a man she never loved; she was unhappy and lonely in this marriage, however she forced herself to remain faithful. Obeying her maternal instincts, she is now carrying a child from a man she does not love. She now walks beside the man she loves but is in despair, fearing his sentence will destroy their relationship and their love to one another. The man comforts her restlessness with his profound love. In harmony with the splendidness and joy he is able to ignore the dreadful aspects of his lover’s situation.

La Nuit Transfiguré 4. Photo Richard Champage

La Nuit Transfiguré 4. Photo Richard Champage

Celis has prepared a rare and exquisite gift for Montreal’s ballet and music lovers. Each piece of Celis’ creation is unique. For instance, Orpheus’ Gaze uses a lot of garments and masks whereas the second part, Transfigured Night, is less scenically graphic, while being very dynamic in terms of performers’ movements because the use of point shoes is dismissed in this half of the show. The music flows and emphasizes the beautiful artistic performance distinguishing incredible emotional strain, thumping the expression of faith in the victory of love over hate and dualities between good and evil, life and death, hope and grief. The staging is very talented, original and makes a strong emotional impression. The dance performance is inventive, very musical, sensual and charming. In short, Stijn Celis has established a very interesting theatrical incarnation of two very emotion-stirring narratives by Ovid and Richard Dehmel.

La Nuit Transfiguré / Transfigured Night is at Place des Arts May 22-24. 8 p.m. $51-116.

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