Posted on February 4, 2015
Benjamin Millepied has announced plans for the 2015–16 season of the Paris Opéra Ballet, the first he has programmed as director. It’s an ambitious season, with many new works, including one by new associate choreographer William Forsythe and a new production of The Nutcracker, to be choreographed by Arthur Pita, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Liam Scarlett, Edouard Lock and Millepied.
Millepied announced his season alongside Stéphane Lissner, who has been general director of the Opéra since July 2014: the two leaders promise a new level of cooperation between the ballet and opera companies. The new Nutcracker will be performed as a double bill with Tchaikovsky’s opera Iolanta – as these works were performed together at their premiere in 1892. The five choreographers will create separate scenes for the new production.
Millepied has also commissioned new works from Justin Peck, Wayne McGregor, Jérôme Bel and himself. Peck’s work will be danced to Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, with designs by artist John Baldassari. McGregor’s piece will be set to Pierre Boulez’s Anthème II as part of an evening celebrating the composer.
Millepied, who danced at New York City Ballet (NYCB) from 1995 to 2011, brings an American slant with some of his programming. The season will include Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, Duo Concertant and Brahms-Schönberg Quartet, Jerome Robbins’ Opus 19/The Dreamer, Goldberg Variations and Other Dances. Justin Peck, the resident choreographer at NYCB, is represented by In Creases as well as his new commission; Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia, created for NYCB, also joins the repertoire. The season will also include company premieres by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Alexei Ratmansky and Maguy Marin.
There are just three evening-length revivals: Giselle and Rudolf Nureyev’s productions of Romeo and Juliet and La Bayadère. There will also be works staged in the foyer of the Opéra Garnier. Choreographer Boris Charmatz will stage a new event to open the season, with 20 dancers performing solos from the 20th-century repertoire in the public spaces of the Opéra Garnier.
Millepied and Lissner also announced a new digital platform, “3e Scene”, or “Third Stage”. Hosted on the Paris Opéra website, this will present new work by composers, choreographers, directors, visual artists, filmmakers and writers. There will also be a new Paris Opéra Academy, which will offer residencies to young choreographers from inside and outside the company. The choreographers will be mentored by William Forsythe. Millepied told the New York Times that the academy aimed to teach dance-making as a craft. “We won’t necessarily discover more geniuses, but there will be more competence,” he said. “Composers learn the principles of harmony, counterpoint, technique, and choreography is no different.”
Millepied has also announced touring plans, and works scheduled for later seasons. The company will visit one French city each season, touring to Brest in the 2015–16 season. Major tours to the US are being planned. Guest companies at the Paris Opéra will include Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s Rosas, Batsheva Dance Company and English National Ballet, who dance Le Corsaire at the Opéra Garnier in June 2016.
Looking ahead, Millepied has commissioned an evening-length work from Alexei Ratmansky for the 2016–17 season. He also expects to schedule some work by the iconic modern dance choreographer Merce Cunningham. At the press conference, critic Laura Capelle reports, Millepied explained that he had almost left NYCB to dance for the Cunningham company.
Picture: Benjamin Millepied at the Opéra Garnier. Photograph: Julien Benhamou