La Dame aux camélias, Ballet by J. Neumeier
The literary intensity of Alexandre Dumas fils, the sensual romanticism of Frédéric Chopin, and the complex, engaging choreography of John Neumeier – La Dame aux camélias is an artistic cocktail like no other. The now-classic ballet was first performed in Germany on 4 November 1978 at the Württemberg Staatstheater by the Stuttgart Ballet. Ever since then, it has been a widely recognised masterpiece of ballet among audiences as well as critics worldwide. This season, Gran Teatro La Fenice in Venice opens its stage for this innovative and highly impressive dance work.
In creating La Dame aux camélias, John Neumeier drew inspiration not only from the brilliant Dumas novel of the same name that was also at the heart of Gisueppe Verdi’s beloved opera La Traviata. To add another layer to the central theme of doomed romance, the American choreographer also referenced Manon Lescaut, Giacomo Puccini’s famous opera that started his notorious run of tragic heroines. Much like Violetta Valéry and Alfredo Germont as well as Manon Lescaut and Des Grieux, the protagonists of the two famous operas, Neumeier’s main characters Marguerite Gautier and Armand come from different worlds which invariably collide. The sparks from this turbulent clash give rise to a flame of love that burns bright – until the harsh winds of reality slowly but surely blow it out. As Marguerite and Armand explore Paris, their every step overflows with unbridled emotion and the foreshadowing of their tragic end.
There is hardly a better musical accompaniment to John Neumeier’s intense and complex choreography than the similarly emotion-laden and technically challenging music of Frédéric Chopin. The French-Polish composer is as much responsible for the high dramatic charge of La Dame aux camélias as Dumas’s original story and Neumeier’s creative dance routines. Taken all together, these elements produce a transporting, mesmerising dance performance. Venice’s Gran Teatro La Fenice hosts a truly special event, the roots of which run far and deep in art classics across genres and centuries.