Lady of the Camellias, American Ballet Theatre, Metropolitan Opera House – reviewed on 4th June
Alexandre Dumas' novel has inspired numerous artistic works, including films, ballets, musicals and most notably the Verdi opera La Traviata. ABT’s latest production uses John Neumeier's 1978 choreography, which shows clear characterisation and narrative but lacks the punch of other interpretations.
It tells the tale of courtesan Maguerite Gautier as she falls in love with Armand and tries to start a new, straightforward life. But her scandalous past is close behind and she ends up sick and alone. Neumeir chooses to parallel the story with that of the ballet Manon. We first meet Marguerite as she is in a theatre audience watching it, and Manon mirrors the main character’s behaviour and motivations throughout. It is an interesting concept which translates well in terms of narrative overlap, but proves an unnecessary distraction from the primary action.
Neumeir’s choreography is at times exquisitely understated, with minute hand gestures providing detailed insight into characters’ states of mind. At others, the dancing seems exaggerated and overdramatic, with Armand (Marcelo Gomes) falling on the floor melodramatically in his passion. Diana Vishneva saved some of the poorer choreography with her fabulous acting. She made Marguerite alluring and powerful whilst still credible and well-deserving of sympathy.
The score, mainly played on the piano, was beautiful but overly repetitive and lacking attention-grabbing highlights. Costumes were made of delightfully sumptuous velvets and satins, all detailed elaborately. Sets were contrastingly and frustratingly sparse; few items of furniture on an empty stage feebly represented luxurious apartments.
The ballet’s main failing was in its excessive length. The second and third acts dragged with endless ballroom scenes and a lack of pace in the narrative. A fall and several missed jumps also suggested dancers were under-rehearsed.
Lady of the Camellias was generally well-performed by ABT but music and choreography lacked the drama to bring the exquisitely heartbreaking story fully to life.