Le Jeune Homme et la Mort — one more Roland Petit Premiere for the Bolshoi.

Roland Petit, Svetlana Zakharova, Ivan Vasiliev.

The main condition for the success of this ballet are dancers with bigger than life personalities, particularly in the case of the male cast. And it has always attracted dancers of this caliber. The 22-year-old Jean Babilee, the creator of the role of the Youth who became famous right after the first night, was one of the most intriguing and unpredictable dancers of the 20th century. In their interpretation of Le Jeune Homme et la Mort,the great Russian emigres, Rudolph Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov, added to their own fame and to that of the ballet itself. There were productions of Le Jeune Homme et la Mort at the Paris Opera, ABT, the Maryinsky, La Scala....

The 22-year-old Roland Petit (he was a fellow classmate of Babilee) created a work, which has stood the test of time. A few years ago the Belgian choreographer of Spanish origin, Olga de Soto, created a video-collage of 8 interviews with people who had seen Le Jeune Homme et la Mort in 1946.This video which aroused great interest was a study of memory and its interaction with a work of art (production). It was called Histoire(s). And the fact that it was this ballet which was chosen for the study speaks for itself. The stories in themselves were striking. People who remembered that age said that, after the nightmare of the wartime years, it was comforting to see Death on stage rather than stalking beside them in the street. They recalled their own encounters with death, or those of which they had been witness. The recollections of the ballet and of real life incidents acted as a stimulus to each other and eventually took on clear-cut form...

The premiere of Le Jeune Homme et la Mort took place in Paris at the Theatre des Champs Elysees on 25 June 1946. Author of the libretto and of many of the ideas incorporated in the staging concepts was the Paris intellectual Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) — poet, writer, artist, theatre director and actor, whose artistic outlook was formed to a large extent under the impact of Sergei Diaghilev’s Saisons Russes.

The first series of first night performances of Le Jeune Homme et la Mortat the Bolshoi will be held on 4, 5 and 6 June. The ballet will be shown together with George Balanchine’s Serenade, to music by Tchaikovsky, and Roland Petit’s La Dame de Pique, also to music by Tchaikovsky. This is Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur and Russia State Prize winner Maestro Petit’s sixth ballet to be included in the Bolshoi Theatre repertoire. (In 1973 he produced La Rose malade for Maya Plisetskaya at the Bolshoi; in 1988 — Cyrano de Bergerac; in 2001 — La Dame de Pique and Passacaille; in 2003 — Notre-Dame de Paris). The part of Death will be danced by Svetlana Zakharova, who has already appeared in this ballet at Tokyo’s New National Theatre. Ivan Vasiliev, one of the Bolshoi’s most famous and gifted young dancers, will interpret the Youth.

Ivan Vasiliev.
All the photos — Damir Yusupov.