Darkness fills the auditorium, the first notes rise from the orchestra and the elegant figure of a woman moves across the stage. She picks some flowers, and as she tries to pluck a white one, she changes into a swan. That is the prologue that will unfold as the curtain raises on 28 December at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, a short distance from Termini station. The performance is Swan Lake, “the ballet to end all ballets,” according to Eleonora Abbagnato, étoile of the Opéra Garnier in Paris and director of the ballet company in the opera house in Piazza Gigli.
“We have a strong desire to bring the best out of ballet culture in Italy with quality productions” through “a programme that is balanced between a classical and neo-classical repertoire, and an opening to the most contemporary language” is how the étoile from Palermo explains her goals and her work at the Teatro dell’Opera.
Since her arrival in 2015, Abbagnato has focused on the young talents of the Rome Opera and continues to do so with increasingly complex works, and new creations: “We are beginning the new season with Tchaikovsky, with Benjamin Pech's choreography, who from the Paris Opéra now works closely with me here in Rome. Our étoile Alessandra Amato will perform, as will the principal dancers Susanna Salvi and Claudio Cocino, and our soloists, together with the splendid ballet company.”
There will also be no lack of international guests: “From the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, the principal dancers Anna Nikulina and Semyon Chudin, from the Paris Opéra the étoile Germain Louvet, again in Swan Lake. After this scintillating beginning, another big talent from the world ballet scene, Jiří Bubeníček, will join us and we have entrusted him with the choreographic creation of Carmen, with sets and lighting by Gianni Carluccio and starring Amar Ramasar, principal dancer of the New York City Ballet.”
The programme also includes a much-awaited return “with Angelin Preljocaj and his Blanche Neige, a mesmerising and captivating narrative ballet with costumes by Jean-Paul Gaultier.” The season ends with the “return of Laurent Hilaire's joyful Don Quixote, inspired by Mikhail Baryshnikov's original version for the American Ballet Theatre, with Evgenia Obraztsova, principal dancer of the Bolshoi Ballet, and Isaac Hernández, who is lead principal at the English National Ballet, and who this year won the prestigious Benois de la Danse competition, for his role as Basilio in this version.”
In March, Abbagnato herself will take the stage: “I decided to dance in Nuit Blanche, a creation by the talented young man Sébastien Bertaud, together with an exceptional partner, Friedemann Vogel, because I believe in the new generations and the new material that they have to offer. Bertaud, as well as being a sujet at the Opéra, has received prestigious awards and in 2017 created Renaissance for the stars and the company of the Paris ballet, with costumes by Olivier Rousteing of Balmain.”
“I decided to dance in Nuit Blanche, by the young and talented choreographer Sébastien Bertaud, because I believe in the new generations and in the fresh new material they have to offer”
As well as paying great attention to the choice of names, there was also the commitment to bring new generations closer to ballet: “Our audience is very mixed. Since my arrival we have seen a significant increase in the number of spectators, with a marked increase in young people attending.”
This is an outcome that has resulted from “good programming of the classical repertoire with our dancers and with artists of an international level like, for example, Marianela Nuñez, who we had here in September for Sleeping Beauty.” It was also influenced by “involving new choreographers, for the first time in Rome, by programming contemporary triptychs, and the theoretical and practical meetings I coreografi, i ballerini e noi. We also implemented a pricing policy with discounts for people under 26,” concludes Abbagnato.
There are big names, many marketing initiatives, but behind it all there is the passion that only the magic of the stage and the power of music can inspire.
Homepage: © La Presse/Fabrizio Corradetti
P. 1: © Corrado Maria Falsini
P. 5: © Yasuko Kageyama
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