Sunday, June 9, 2019

Marie-Antoinette or "Marie" at the Houston Ballet

As I have said before, Marie-Antoinette was known as "Antoinette" or "Antoine" by her family. But the ballet looks charming, although I wonder why Shostakovich is used. Why not Gluck? From The Houston Press:
It's a part that was specifically created for her and one that Houston Ballet Principal Melody Mennite holds dear. And with the upcoming production of Marie, a story of Marie Antoinette, Mennite has prepared once again to dance the title role with Artistic Director Stanton Welch's choreography to close out its 2019-20 season. 
"In 2009, Stanton was creating this ballet for the first time as a world premiere and he chose to go with me as his Marie. And he created the role entirely on me and I got to premiere it. It has really felt like my ballet," Mennite says. It is a challenging role - she never leaves the stage except for intermissions in the three art - but it gives the dancer a welcome opportunity to dive deeply into the character of Marie Antoinette. 
"I do like dancing it. It’s always hard to describe; the question I got a lot this year was whether it was exciting to go back to Marie. I don't know if I can describe it that way. It is a tremendously emotional and painful journey that she takes. So I fell very close to the role but it's also very challenging to immerse myself in. I think that's what what I appreciate about it. There’s no other role where I am so deeply immersed in another person's story and I love that Marie Antoinette was a real person. I feel like I'm honoring her life and her story when I'm dancing that role and that's pretty special." 
With sweeping music from Dmitri Shostakovich, the ballet picks up the story from the time Marie is a young girl sent from her Austrian home to France to become the bride of Louis XVI to her eventual decision to stay with her royal husband and face the guillotine. 
"She experienced a tremendous amount of trauma and loss in her life," Mennite says. "[As a teenager] she was ripped from her entire family and her country and never returned and was stripped naked at a border and had everything taken from her and was sort of told 'You’re French now.' So going through the arc of her life on stage is almost emotionally unbearable sometimes." 
Mennite describes Marie — whom she described as one of the first celebrities — as "kind of the first victim of propaganda. You look at what we do and how we kind of dehumanize celebrities now, I would say that absolutely she was misunderstood and painted as only one facet of who she was and what she did." 
Asked why the Marie Antoinette story continues to be told in all its forms, Mennite says "She was the first celebrity in a way and I think we still become fascinated with people are raised to that status. We have a fascination when someone receives that much blame and huge circumstances surrounding her as the icon of that fall of the monarchy and these people doing these insane things, I think that as human beings we want to look at that and understand it. How could that be? Not only her part of the story but what humans are capable of." 
Just as she takes a kinder view of Marie Antoinette, Mennite says Louis XVI was probably misunderstood as well. "I love their relationship through out the ballet. It was absolutely a rocky start and from what I've read the poor guy had some serious health issues. I know sexually there was a big problem there that caused chaos and drama. "It was an arranged marriage and they were meant to produce an heir. According to historians he had some really painful problems that prevented them from being able to consummate their marriage for years and years. He was also very young so I have empathy for his character and compassion. I also think it must have been so frustrating for her to be thrown into those circumstances and then on top of it feeling rejection and inadequacy with him. 
"He seems like kind of an awkward guy who had a sweetness to him. The whole thing is pretty unfortunate how it all turns out." (Read more.)
"The whole thing is pretty unfortunate how it all turns out." That's for sure....


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