Betrayal, Back-stabbing … Ballet?

The popularity of The Czech National Ballet's 'Valmont' has required additional performances. Apparently we all love a little evil mixed with our elegance.

The popularity of The Czech National Ballet’s ‘Valmont’ has required additional performances. Apparently we all love a little evil mixed with our elegance.

Meddling, back-stabbing, and decadent betrayal: a timeless equation, but this piece was made to disparage the likes of Marie Antoinette. Welcome to the Czech National Ballet’s performance of Valmont.

Based on the 1782 novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, Valmont exposes the distasteful nature of some pre-French revolutionary intrigues not only for our entertainment but to incite revolution. Aristocratic elegance shields games of depravity and deceit.

In the Sept 3 performance at the Estates Theatre, Tereza Podařilová (Marquise de Merteuil) shone as the very embodiment of evil decadence along with her co-conspirator Alexander Katsapov (Valmont).

Win 2 FREE TICKETS to Valmont, Oct 20 at 7 pm at The Theatre of the Estates! Email with the subject “Valmont” by Thurs, Sept 25 at 12 noon, Prague time. The name of one winner will be drawn at random and notified by return email. Your contact information is never shared.

The initial curtain is raised to reveal this elegant pair resplendent in period costumes and wigs, more caricature than real life, engaged in a game of chess.

The chess metaphor is repeated throughout the ballet to illustrate the vile and detached perspective the main characters have of their victims.

Choreographed by Libor Vaculík, with costumes by Roman Šolc, the entire production is simply magnificent. The casting is superb, supporting a very credible portrayal of situations and events. The costumes are beautifully lush, and yet so cleverly designed that they do not inhibit the dancers.

The performance is supplemented with spoken excerpts (with English sur-titles) from correspondence between the characters. Even without a program, the plot is easy to follow.

Valmont is ultimately a magnificent production.

‘Valmont’ is ultimately a magnificent production.

The seduction of Cecile de Volanges (Andrea Kramešová) is one of many memorable scenes. The symbolic portrayal takes us inside the mind of the young girl, illustrating how the distinction between seducer and lover blurs in the moment of passion.

Similarly, the swordplay between Valmont and Danceny (Ondřej Vinklát) is suspenseful without being overly dramatic.

The balance and pacing along with captivating set design intertwine to mesmerise and fascinate. With a production this splendid, the only detractor that comes to mind is the lack of a live orchestra.

The cathartic accounting of the conclusion is both fairytale and true to life. The villains get their just desserts.

And yet there is a sprinkle of sympathy for unattained redemption, tragic demise, and human perseverance.

The performance concluded with a much-deserved standing ovation. – oo

– Hana Trollman, Opus Osm writer

The next performances of Valmont will be Sept 23 and Oct 20, 28, and 29 at The Theatre of the Estates. You can win 2 free tickets to the Oct 20 performance – see box, above.

Photo Credits: The Czech National Ballet

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