A special production of two works by Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky, Iolanta and Casse-Noisette, presented as a double bill as they were for their original première in 1892, will bring together all the artistic forces of the Paris Opera (Orchestra, Chorus and Ballet) at the Palais Garnier. In collaboration with stage director Dmitri Tcherniakov and conductor Alain Altinoglu, 5 choreographers will each work on a specific passage of the ballet: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Edouard Lock, Benjamin Millepied, Arthur Pita and Liam Scarlett.
The role of Iolanta will be sung by Sonya Yoncheva and the Étoiles, Premiers Danseurs and Corps de Ballet will perform Casse-Noisette. The mysterious, unwavering chant of the English horn, punctuated by notes from the bassoon and the clarinet, follows its chromatic descent over twenty bars as if plunging into an unknown world. A world where Iolanta has lived in seclusion since her birth. She is unwittingly blind, since no one has the right to reveal the fact to her. This simple tale of collective denial at the court of Provence as narrated by the Danish writer Henrik Hertz in his play King René’s Daughter, was discovered by Tchaikovsky in 1883.
However, moved beyond words by the presence of the young actress Elena Konstantinova Leshkovskaya in the title role, it would be another five years before the composer decided to transform it into an opera. Should we believe him when he claims that “the dukes, knights and noble damsels of the Middle Ages had captivated his imagination, but not his heart”? Would the fate of the heroine, like a rite of passage from darkness to light, from lies to truth, not rekindle his own wounds which ended up carrying him to his grave less than a year after the double premiere of Iolanta and The Nutcracker at Saint Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre on December 18th 1892? Like a twosided mirror reflecting the dreams of a composer who took refuge in the realms of the imaginary, the Paris Opera is reviving the original diptych. Alain Altinoglu conducts and Dmitri Tcherniakov stages this production that symbolises the link between opera and ballet.