A Swiss in Petersburg – at the ballet Пламя Парижа or The Flame of Paris

 The French revolution illustrated with Russian classical ballet and music

To celebrate the 15th anniversary of the October revolution, a spectacle was needed that showed a collective hero, the people that are fighting the despot. This is why, based on the work of  Nikolaj Wolkow, Vladimir Dmitriew and Boris Acafew created this ballet “The Flame of Paris”. The story comes in three acts:

1. In a suburb of Marseille, Gaspar and his children, 18 year old Jeanne and 9 year old Jacques, pull a cart with firewood, lose a wheel, come across Marquis de Beauregard who throws over the cart and beats Gaspar, and receives then support from the revolutionary squad led by Philippe. Then there is a ball in the palace of Louis xvi – he signs an order to call the Prussians for support against the revolutionary uprisings. A couple, Mireille and Antoine, dance for the court, Antoine is shot, Mireille gets ahold of the signed order and carries it away.

2. In Paris the squads from various regions of France come together, see the order to call the Prussians, and storm the palace successfully.

3. The people celebrate the victory and the marriage of Philippe and Jeanne.

Getting ready at the Michailovsky Teatr

Larissa picks me up, and we soon find a parking slot directly in front of the Michailovsky Theatre. This theatre is a place full of atmosphere with red carpets, and the Russians dress up nicely for it. I enjoy this very much. We buy a program brochure and order a table and champaign for the entr’act to avoid the queue at the buffet. Larissa is well organized, as always. Our seats are in the parkett.

This ballet is a surprise for me

In the first act, the dancing in the palace is very long. In the pause, we share our glass of champaign and read about the background of the ballet. Larissa laughs. Look, when they played this ballet in the 30-ies, a man sat next to the director Nemirovitsch-Dantschenko. The man was in the theatre for the first time in his life and he asked  the director: “Why are they just running around, will they soon start to sing?” The director explained to him that this is a ballet and not an opera.” But now the choir started to sing, as planned in the ballet. The man kindly looked at the director and said:” Well, so – this also your first time in the theater…”

We go back to watch the second act, where the revolutionary troops capture the palace. And the third act, where the victory and the marriage are celebrated. The dancers show all their skills, spnning and spinning elegantly on their toes. jumping and then landing perfectly, Philippe carrying Joanne on his hands, while the music matches the dancing nicely. But I start to feel, it is almost too perfect and too virtuous dancing demonstrating all skills of the classical ballet. Why was the classical ballet brought to perfection used to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the October revolution? Is such a ballet not a pre-revolution thing? Well, I agree  that Russia can really not be understood with rational thinking, as even the Russians say about themselves. Yes, Russia has its special character.