By Anna Schwan
The window on floor 4S of the Paris Opera is round, round and more than one meter wide. It’s decorated with ornate wrought-iron bars and leads straight to the Opera’s roof. Here I have the most beautiful view of Paris. The city is at my feet, I see the domes of the palaces, the church towers and not far from the horizon also the Eiffel Tower. Our dancers currently get this view almost every day. Because on the 4th floor is the ballet studio “Noureev”, where they rehearse daily, except when they are dancing on stage.
I can’t walk through the corridors of the Paris Opera without thinking of the famous phantom. Even if the man in the black cape and the white mask doesn’t exist, how many other ghosts are haunting these walls, which have seen more ballet and opera than almost any other theater in the world? There must be many of them, because the aura in the Opera is so strong that it feels completely different to walk through the corridors here, in comparison to Hamburg.
My favourite room is a hidden ballroom – or is it just a richly decorated ballet studio? – directly behind the stage. Two tall candelabras are standing in front and a large grey velvet curtain conceals this magical place. The ceiling must be five meters high and is decorated with frescos and gold, as are the walls hung with mirrors. Ballet bars run along the sides. The room is never empty, I always see a couple of our dancers warming up and enjoying the beauty of this place.
But our makeshift office for the Direction of the tour also has something to offer: the four of us – the CEO Ulrike Schmidt, tour manager Katharina Benthaak, John Neumeier’s assistant Birgit Pfitzner and I – sit in a room about 12 square meters in size which is actually a cloakroom for the artists. And such a cloakroom: a large, wall-sized make-up mirror, chairs covered in red velvet and, the best, a Chaiselonge also covered in red velvet. It’s standing in front of the French window and waiting for the next diva who wants to collapse on it.
However, we don’t have time to act like divas. Because six performances of “Parzival – Episodes and Echo” in six days need to be rehearsed, positioned and, most importantly, danced. And this with only two casts. I have just heard that the Ballet of the Paris Opera – which, instead of our 57 dancers, believe it or not, attends to 157 dancers – is dancing “Swan Lake” next week with six different cast groups. Impossible for us. We are all the happier that we mastered our first performances, and that the Paris public is just as enthusiastic as we wished. This is already the 11th time we are in Paris, John Neumeier is as famous here as in Hamburg. At the beginning of the tournee a book came out, which documents his work for the Paris Opera: “John Neumeier. Trente ans de ballets à l’Opéra de Paris“. Eleven times in Paris. One can almost talk of a “Artist in Residence”, this term for artists who are regularly invited to show their abilities, but also to find new inspiration.
Translated by Evgeniya Koptyug