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#Throwback Thursday: Flames of Paris

This week's #ThrowbackThursday is the Russian ballet Flames of Paris.

Maria Alexandrova, Bolshoi Ballet

The four-act ballet opens in a forest near Marseilles. A peasant, Gaspard, and his children, Pierre and Jeanne, are gathering firewood. The appearance of a Count and his hunting party causes the peasants to scatter, but Jeanne has caught the attention of the Count, who attempts to embrace her. Her father intervenes, but is beaten by the Count's servant and hauled away. Jeanne tells the people in the city square what happened to her father, and the people's anger at the aristocracy grows. They storm the local prison and free the prisoners of the Marquis de Beauregard.

Ivan Vasiliev, Mikhailovsky Ballet

Meanwhile, at the court of Versailles, a court theatre performance is followed by a banquet. Officials enter, presenting a petition to the king requesting permission to deal with the revolutionaries. An actor, Antoine Mistral, discovers the document and is killed by the Marquis de Beauregard. He manages to pass on the document to Mireille de Poitiers before he dies. Mireille escapes the palace to the sound of the Marseillaise.

Bolshoi Ballet

In a square in Paris, the people are preparing to storm the palace. Mireille rushes in with the document, which proves the conspiracy against the revolution. The officers of the Marquis arrive to control the crowd, and Jeanne, recognising the man who assaulted her in the forest, rushes over to slap him. Thus encouraged, the crowd begins to attack the officers. They rush the palace and burst into the hall. Pierre kills the Marquis, but one of the crowd, a Basque girl named Therese, is killed. The people return to the square to celebrate their victory over the old regime.

Ivan Vasiliev, Mikhailovsky Ballet

As may be guessed, Flames of Paris is based on the story of the French Revolution. The music, by Boris Asafyev, is based on revolutionary songs and the libretto written by Nicolai Volkov and Vladimir Dmitriev was based on a book by Felix Gras. The ballet premiered in Leningrad with the Kirov Theatre on 7 November 1932; the cast included Natalia Dudinskaya as Mireille de Poitiers, Vakhtang Chabukiani as Jerome, Olga Jordan as Jeanne, Nina Anisimova as Therese, and Konstantin Sergeyev as Mistral. The ballet premiered at the Bolshoi on 6 July 1933, with Aleksey Yermolayev as Jerome, Abramova as Jeanne, Nadezhda Kapustina as Therese, and Marina Semenova as Mireille de Poitiers.

Ivan Vasiliev and Natalia Osipova

The choreographer was Vasily Vainonen, who drew many different styles of dance together for this work. While the choreography is mainly classically grounded, the part of Therese (made for folk dancer Nina Anisimova) consist of character dancing. There is also a great amount of traditional mime, and during the court scene the aristocracy dance a traditional minuet. The revolutionary overtones were of course perfectly suited to 1930s Soviet Russia, but the ballet gradually died. Small pieces continued to be performed but the full work was rare. In 2008, Alexei Ratmansky reconstructed the original ballet for the Bolshoi, and this production is available on film with Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev.

Finale, Mikhailovsky Ballet

Here's Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev of the Bolshoi Ballet in the final pas de deux:

And here's the full-length ballet, from the Mikhailovsky Theatre (I don't read Russian, but I'm fairly sure):

Thanks for reading!

- Selene


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