Review of ‘Paquita’

On the last weekend of May, I was fortunate to witness the magnificent tale of Paquita performed by the Paris Opera Ballet, one of the most prestigious  companies in the world. The troupe was invited to perform at Copenhagen’s Opera House for three days.

We attended on Saturday afternoon in the company of the queen herself (I must say I felt honoured to watch the show in her presence), which made the experience even more unforgettable.

The ballet was majestic, inspiring, overpowering – submerging me in the story through their magical dancing to the point I forgot time was passing.

A gypsy in the skin of a noble
Composed by Ludwig Minkus with a libretto by Joseph Mazilier and Pierre Foucher, Paquita was first staged in 1846. Later, it was modified by Marius Petipa in 1881. Different from most other ballets at the time, which involved supernatural elements, this one occurs in the real world.

The action takes place in the province of Zaragoza during the Napoleonic occupation. Abducted by gypsies during her infancy, Paquita is a young woman who manages to save the life of  a French officer, Lucien d’Hervilly, the target of a macabre plot concocted by the Spanish government and the leader of the gypsies, who want to murder him. The plot unravels and Paquita finds out in the end she is noble from birth and can therefore marry the officer, who has become increasingly drawn to the exotic gypsy.

The two acts
During the first act, Germain Louvet, Aubane Philbert and Ida Viikinkoski threatened to steal the show with a pas de trois that blew us all away, although it was most particularly Louvet’s captivating solos that left a clearly euphoric audience breathless. He spun, turned and jumped, holding himself in the air for seconds that seemed like an eternity. All one could think was: “Wow, how does he do that?”

In the second act, the ‘Mazurka des enfants’ was adorable as the child ballet dancers endeared themselves to the audience’s heart with their svelte moves. And likewise at the final ball, Paquita (Laura Hecquet) and d’Hervilly (Josua Hoffalt), made us all swoon at their majesty (except for the queen perhaps).

Hecquet was exquisite in every one of her scenes. She looked like a flying angel on stage. Her every step and move was performed with astonishing perfection and elegance, without ever losing her pose or smile. She was unreal.

While some scenes deserve special mention, the whole ballet itself was splendid. The choreography by Pierre Lacotte was dazzling, as were the costumes by Luisa Spitanelli and the orchestra.

Paquita is a masterpiece in every respect. Emitting grace from every pore, that evening in late May is one I’ll never forget.


★★★★★★

Paquita
May 29-31; Operaen Store Scene, Ekvipagemestervej 10, Cph K